The occasion of a family member’s death is never easy. Not only does a family begin the grieving process, but they must plan funerals and events to honor the life of the deceased, but oftentimes, they must also face the overwhelming task of settling the estate. Estate planning is not often a point of consideration for most until it’s too late. Perhaps the largest contributing factor to this procrastination is a lack of clarity regarding estate plans, their purpose, and how to develop one.
Simply put, an estate plan is a map of how you wish to have your personal and financial affairs to be handled in case of death, OR incapacity. The plan also includes subsequent implementation of the strategies that will fulfill your objectives.
Many think estate planning is just for the wealthy, but this is a myth. In fact, an estate plan may actually be more important if you have a smaller estate, because your final expenses will have a much greater impact on your estate and there’s a much greater possibility that your loved ones could suffer from a lack of financial resources. The fact is, without an estate plan, you can’t control what happens to your property if you die or become incapacitated. Generally, people create estate plans because they want to make sure that their wishes are clear in order to avoid family disputes. In addition, they care about preserving their property for their loved ones and want to ensure that their loved ones are properly provided for.
Estate planning should include details upon death, but also for incapacity. Incapacity describes a condition in which you are legally unable to make your own decisions. We like to discuss planning for incapacity first because this could happen to anyone at any time. Consider if you were to become the victim of an accident that puts you in a coma for several months. How would your doctor know what medical treatments you would want or not want if you can’t speak for yourself? In these instances, family members have to scramble to obtain legal permission to make decisions, which would require going to court each time permission is needed. This can become quite burdensome. Incapacity plans include health-care directives, as well as property management for clarity on how your home is to be taken care of.
Since death is certain for each of us, one might think that everyone would have an estate plan. The fact is, though, that’s just not the case. So, what happens if you die with no estate plan? There are laws that govern the distribution of property and wealth, and while they vary from state to state, they are similar. This doesn’t allow for your voice to be heard, or for your complete control, creating opportunities for familial disputes. Creating a will solves this problem, and to be valid, your will must be in writing and signed by you. Your signature must also be witnessed, although the number of witnesses required varies from state to state. These requirements are important because if you aren’t careful, your will may be invalid. So, see an estate planning attorney to take care of this for you, and avoid any “do-it-yourself” solutions.
The considerations of Estate Planning are vast and detailed, and we will be doing a FREE seminar on this topic on November 5th at the Dewitt Community Center at 7pm. Make plans to join us for this in-depth presentation about Estate Planning, which will include incapacity, Will process, takes, giving, trusts, life insurance, and more.