March 12, 2018
Estate planning is not just for the rich and elderly. Every adult should have an estate plan or else the law may distribute your assets in a way that differs from your wishes.
For example, if you are married with children at death, your spouse will inherit only one half of your estate plus $50,000 and your children will inherit the rest. Without an estate plan in place, there can be confusion about what assets you own, and your loved ones can be easily overwhelmed without your guidance. At a minimum, an estate plan should include a Power of Attorney, a Health Care Proxy and a Last Will and Testament.
A Will is especially important if you have minor children. Naming a guardian for your children is paramount to making sure your kids are taken care of by the person(s) you choose, rather than a court choosing a guardian, in the event of a life changing disaster.
Additionally, minors cannot inherit money directly. It is critical to name a guardian or trustee of the property in your Will to be responsible for managing the money that an underage child will inherit. Otherwise, the court will likely appoint a guardian of its choosing along with associated fees.
It is important to remember that even if you do not own much in the way of assets now, if you die in an automobile accident or some other disaster, a post-death litigation matter may result in your estate receiving significant monies of which minor children may be beneficiaries.
In addition, many of the most important items you own are not the ones with the highest monetary value. Items with sentimental value of family heirlooms all need to be distributed to your heirs upon your death. Without a Will, memorializing how you would like those assets distributed, they too would be doled out according to state law, which would result in these items being distributed in a manner that does not match your wishes.
A Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy are equally important. These documents allow for someone to make decisions and/or act for you when you are unable to do so while still alive. If there is a tragic accident and you are incapacitated, who is going to be able to handle your affairs? Without a proper Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy in place, a guardianship proceeding may need to be initiated in which the court may appoint a stranger to control your personal and financial affairs.
No matter what stage of life you are in, having a visible estate plan in place is essential. Come in and let us help you make sure you and your loved ones are prepared for both the unpredictable and the inevitable.