We are taking the day off tomorrow to attend the beautiful lake-front wedding of a family member! The weather is just starting to change for the better, so it should be a fantastic long weekend.
Life-changing events warrant the review of a family’s long-term planning. No one enjoys talking about “estate planning” – especially when we are young! However, it’s important to you and your family that these decisions are made well in advance of when these events happen. It will relieve stress on surviving family members and reduce the chances there will be dissension among family members.
An estate plan is much more than just a will – although, a will is an important element of such a plan. An estate plan is also much more than just what happens to your stuff when you die – although, again, that’s an important element. The term “estate plan” is what is used to encompass the various tools that individuals can use to make “end of life” decisions about themselves and their property.
An estate plan…
- can include decisions on who will care for your children if you pass before they become adults;
- can include guidance on who will care for you and make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated;
- can provide for the care of family members that need it;
- can withhold property from those that would not be able to manage it competently;
- can be used to reduce the tax burden on your estate or family members in receipt of inherited property; and
- can be used to provide for your church or favorite charity.
The following are the most basic elements of an estate plan:
- Will – A will controls how your property is distributed after your death.
- Power of Attorney for Healthcare – Designates an agent capable of making medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Your agent is capable of carrying out your end-of-life directives.
- Power of Attorney for Property – Designates an agent capable of controlling your property. Your agent can be given authority to buy or sell property on your behalf, access bank accounts and many other powers related to your real and personal property.
- Living Will – Not really a will, but directions to your family, friends and medical professionals regarding your end-of-life wishes. What life-saving measures do you want taken? At what point do you want life-sustaining medical care to be suspended?
- HIPAA Authorization – Gives access to your agent(s), family or friends, or attorney to review your medical records in order to make decisions regarding your capacity or care.
- Land Trust – If you own real estate, a land trust is an excellent way for you to control how your real estate is distributed after death. Property held in land trust will pass to designated beneficiaries outside of your probate estate. Land trusts also provide privacy and fraud protection because your identity is not revealed in the public land records.
- Revocable or Irrevocable Trusts – Personal & real property is owned by the trustee for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Trusts are useful both during your life and after you pass. Trusts can protect property from creditors, can be professionally managed, protect assets from tax liability, and can completely avoid probate.
An estate plan can be quite varied and depends heavily on the individual’s or family’s unique situation. Since no two situations are exactly the same, creating and implementing an adequate estate plan requires competent legal guidance.
Give The Kaman Law Firm, P.C. a call if you have any questions or want to discuss putting a plan in place.