The Estate Planning Discussion We Keep Putting Off

Estate Planning.  Talking about death and dying is not high on the list of conversations we are comfortable having.  If this describes you, you are not alone.  According to AARP, approximately 60% of Americans do not have a Will. Without a Will, your probate property will be distributed according to the laws of the State that you live in. In addition, a Probate Judge will appoint your executor/personal representative and decide who will be the guardian of your minor children.

Essential estate plan documents that everyone should have include a Will, durable power of attorney and health care proxy.  These documents allow you to make critical decisions regarding your property, family and health. These are decisions that we should be making, not a Probate Court Judge.

As important as a Will is, an estate plan is not complete after you sign your Will.  In the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself, consideration should be given as to who will step in to make those decisions for you.  A durable power of attorney addresses any financial decisions that need to be made, and a health care proxy covers medical decisions that need to be made if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Without these documents, a petition would need to be filed requesting guardianship and/or conservatorship. As with any legal proceeding, this process is usually time consuming, costly and public.

As note above, everyone needs a basic estate plan. Additional questions that should be discussed during the planning process include:

  • Should you avoid the probate process (estate administration)?
  • Do you have family with special needs?
  • Do you have family with addiction, gambling or spendthrift issues?
  • Do you have family that have pending or potential divorce or bankruptcy issues?
  • Are you in a subsequent marriage or have children from a prior marriage?
  • Do you have assets that you would like to preserve for family in the event you require long-term care?

If you answered yes (or don’t know the answer) to the questions above, then additional estate planning strategies should be discussed.  Please call our office to request a free resource to help you begin the planning process.