Estate planning is the process of arranging your affairs to preserve your assets and transfer them after your death to all designated heirs, whether they are friends, family, or even a favored charity. It can be a complicated undertaking, given the shifting federal tax laws, but once you take certain issues into account and decide accordingly, estate planning becomes easier.
Here are four important issues that need to be considered in order for your plans to be solid and sound.
1. Professional advice. Make an appointment with a qualified estate planning attorney who will listen to your needs and wishes, assess your situation, and help you put together a plan that you and your family find acceptable. Professional input will result in the strongest possible estate plan.
2. Wills and trusts. Wills are essential documents that dictate how your assets should be distributed after your death. If your estate-planning needs are more complex, consider establishing a trust as well. Assets such as property can be placed in the trust to prevent taxation and bypass the lengthy and expensive probate process. An appointed trustee will manage it, simplifying things for your family once you pass on.
3. Power of attorney. This is a document that appoints someone to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated. The person you select should be trustworthy and have a good understanding of financial matters – and they should also understand your needs and your desires. A proper power of attorney can prevent your family from having to open a guardianship case, an expensive and cumbersome process, with the court should you become incapacitated.
4. Health care designation and a living will. You need to decide who will represent your interests with medical personnel if you become incapacitated to the point that you cannot make medical decisions yourself. A health designation will name and authorize the person you choose. You should also consider creating a living will, which communicates your wishes should you be placed on life support.
A well-crafted estate plan protects your finances and your family after your death. From writing a comprehensive will that passes easily through the probate process to a careful consideration of current estate taxes, attention to these details now will ensure peace of mind in the future. If you’d like assistance with your estate plan, please contact me today!