What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a process that lets you maintain future control over anything of legal value belonging to you now, no matter what happens. In this process, you decide who will get your assets and how they will be divided.
Personal care and health care management are also addressed, in addition to material assets.
Estate planning is a holistic process that goes much further than asset division under Last Will and Testament. A thorough estate plan lets you designate individuals to manage your health care and personal care as well as your assets, in case you are no longer able to do it yourself.
Documents drafted by a lawyer give your decisions legal force. These documents may address financial, business, medical, and tax planning, and a qualified lawyer can advise you on which ones you need. Multiple documents are frequently needed to make sure all your wishes are honored.
Wills and living trusts, for example, foresee future circumstances and allow you to plan accordingly. A Last Will and Testament becomes effective at your death. A living trust, however, usually becomes effective during your lifetime after a certain condition is met.
Appointing individuals to act on your behalf is a valuable part of estate planning. Creating a living trust means naming a trustee to manage your assets. A Last Will and Testament lets you appoint an executor, who is authorized to see that all of your wishes are carried out at your death. For health care decisions, you can name agents to act for you.
Estate planning also gives you a chance to arrange for the future care of your children by naming a guardian to take your place if necessary. Issues like this are far too important to leave to chance.
If you never plan your estate, impersonal state laws will intervene and make these important, life-changing decisions for you when you become physically or mentally unable to make them.
However, with proper estate planning, even if you lose the ability to make decisions later due to death or disability, your present decisions documented by a lawyer will maintain legal force. Then, whenever such a circumstance arises, it will be clear to the courts, and those you care about, what needs to be done.
How to divide your assets is a basic question of estate planning. Items such as real estate property, money, jewelry, bank accounts, and securities are all covered under an estate plan. Since you will not always be able to own or use them, estate planning lets you decide who can.
Those you choose are called beneficiaries. You can name anyone you like — a family member, a friend, or a charitable organization. Naming beneficiaries is important because otherwise state laws will determine who gets your assets, and it may not be those you would choose.
Even if you already have an estate plan, it is essential to update it regularly to make sure your wishes are honored. Since circumstances are constantly changing, your estate plan needs to change with them.
If you want to plan your estate or update your plan with a qualified attorney, call the Law Office of Richard Nevins. An experienced legal professional will explore your options and offer estate planning advice based on your unique situation, goals, and needs.