The purpose of estate planning is to protect your financial goals in the event you suffer some catastrophic health emergency or die. With proper planning, you can make certain that your intentions are followed, even though you may no longer be able to make your own decisions. Generally, there are four basic tools that you will use for this purpose:
- Last will and testamentA will is the document where you give instructions about what should happen to your property upon your death.
- Power of attorney for health care decisionsA power of attorney for heath care decisions is the document where you designate the person or persons who should make health care decisions for you in the invent you cannot make your own decision.
- Power of attorney for financial mattersA power of attorney for financial matters is the document where you designate someone to manage your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so.
- Living willA living will is the document where you give instructions about the kinds of measures you want taken, or not taken, in the event you are in a terminal condition.
In addition, it may be appropriate to consider the creation of one, or maybe more, trusts. By creating a trust, you can direct when and how your assets are distributed. You may also be able to use trusts to: reduce estate or gift taxes; provide additional support for a disabled person; create college funds for children or grandchildren; protect assets from creditors or lawsuits; or avoid costly delays in managing businesses when you die.
We have additional information on our Wills and Trusts page.
In order to begin preparing these documents, we will need to know several things. First, what are your assets? Once we know what you own, we can begin to discuss various methods of protecting those assets. Then, we will need to know your wishes about what should happen in the event you are incapacitated or should die. You will need to appraise your family relationships and needs. Do you want a family member to make decisions if you are unable to do so, or do you want someone else to do so? Who should inherit your assets if you die? If you die, should assets be distributed immediately, or would it be better to create a trust and distribute them over time?
All of these matters are addressed in our Estate Planning Questionnaire. When answering the questions on the form, and others when we meet to discuss your needs, keep your desires in mind. The possibilities for future planning are endless and may seem overwhelming. We will work with you to assess your situation and help you make decisions that fit your circumstances and needs. We don’t shoe-horn you into some pre-determined plan that really isn’t quite right for you. Our goal is truly to help you take control.
We will also advise you on the risks of not planning properly. We will discuss inheritance taxes. We will discuss the pitfalls of dying without a will. And, we will address all the concerns you may have about probate and other inheritance concerns.
If you have questions about any of these topics, or need advice on some other Estate Planning issue, please contact us to set up a consultation appointment. We can help.