Your Estate Plan is Much More than Asset Protection.
When I talk to my clients about preparing an Estate Plan, they always think of the house, the bank accounts, retirement and all of the other things they wish to pass down and protect. While the assets are important, they are just half of the picture. What most don't realize is that a good Estate Plan not only provides a way to transfer assets upon death or incapacity, but it also tells our loved ones what our wishes are when we are incapacitated and can no longer make important decisions on our own.
A good Estate Plan will include the following documents:
1. Durable Power of Attorney: This document assigns an agent or agents that you select who will manage your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity. This means that if you are suddenly in a coma, you need someone that you trust to manage your affairs because you will be unable. Someone to pay your bills, pay your mortgage, manage your business affairs, transfer money or even sell stocks.
2. Advance Healthcare Directive: This documents also assigns an agent or agents that you select who will manage your healthcare decisions. Do you want life saving methods? Do you want to receive chemotherapy if you are in a coma? Do you want to be fed through a tube if you are senile and cannot feed yourself? Do you want to donate your organs if you should pass away? These are all questions that you can answer for your loved ones if a situation arises and you cannot speak for yourself. Imagine how difficult this would be for your family members if they didn't know what your wishes are. This should also include a HIPAA Authorization, this allows your loved ones to access your medical records in order to get proper treatment/care or possibly apply for benefits you may qualify for.
3. Final Disposition Instructions: This document explains what you wishes are upon your death. Would you like a burial, cremation, do you have a plot purchased? Whatever your wishes are should be laid our clearly so that your family or other loved ones never have to question what you would have wanted.
4. Special Instructions: You can also include any special instructions. I have told many of my clients that it is great to keep information about bills, debts, assets, location of important documents, keys and passwords to accounts to make it easier for their loved ones to take care of business if/when the time comes.
When I think of Estate Planning I think of it as an opportunity to lessen the burden your loved ones will face if something happens to you. It really is one of the best gifts you can give your loved ones.
If you have not prepared your Estate Plan, contact me today to discuss your needs.
Please note that I am not an attorney, I cannot provide legal advice or represent you in court. I can provide self-help services at your specific direction.