Estate planning serves many purposes, including maintaining your family’s privacy, making charitable donations and passing assets across generations.
Everyone needs estate planning, regardless of their age or asset level. As reported in The Tulsa World’s article, “Business viewpoint: Estate planning important tool after your death,” an estate plan ensures that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes after you die, but that is far from the only reason to have an estate plan. An estate plan can help your heirs avoid the costly and time-consuming probate process. The process of creating an estate plan can spur discussions and decisions on big and often difficult issues.
Prior to speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney, take some time to think about these questions:
- Who you want to inherit your assets, such as your kids, grandchildren, or your favorite charity?
- If you own your business, who is going to succeed you?
- Who will manage your affairs, if you’re unable to do so?
Parents should also think about who would care for their children, if they were to die prematurely. If there are special personal property assets like grandma’s silver or a valuable baseball card collection that you’d like to see go to a specific individual, you should make a list for these gifts. Speak with your estate planning attorney, who will suggest available strategies and assist you in creating and implementing your estate plan. Many people think that a will is all you need in an estate plan. However, you really should have these four basic estate planning documents:
- Last will and testament provides direction on how your assets should be dispersed. You should nominate an executor or a personal representative, as well as a guardian, if you have minor children.
- Power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes another person to act on your behalf, called the attorney-in-fact, should you become incapacitated. He or she has to be the age of majority. It ends at your death.
- A health care directive and health care power of attorney lets an individual who you select, make decisions on your behalf on health issues, such as whether to withhold future medical treatment and whether or not to use medication and/or provide life-sustaining care.
- A trust is a legal entity created when you transfer property to a trustee for the benefit of another, the beneficiary. By placing your assets in a trust, you can avoid probate. You select the beneficiary and the trustee. A trustee manages the property for the beneficiary in accordance with the terms of the trust document.
Don’t forget to complete the details on your estate plan. Make sure to sign any documents and follow your estate planning attorney’s instructions. If you have created a trust and you need to fund it, don’t forget to do that. Your attorney will be able to guide you through the process.
Finally, remember that an estate plan needs to be aligned with your life. It should be reviewed every few years, or more frequently if there are life-changing events occurring, such as marriage, birth, divorce, or if relationships with heirs change.
One of the advantages to creating a Trust over a Will is privacy. Legacy Counsellors, P.C. recommends creating a Trust, no matter how much wealth you have, because of many advantages. If you would like to create an estate plan, please call our office today.
Reference: Tulsa World (December 11, 2016) “Business viewpoint: Estate planning important tool after your death”