What Should Be The Ultimate Goal Of A Proper Estate Plan?
A proper estate plan should accomplish the client’s goals. Every client has a different life, a different family, a different situation, and different priorities. My job is to take those goals and put them in the form of a legally enforceable plan that’s practical and will give them some peace of mind. No one wants to leave a headache for their families, so the process of settling the estate should be as smooth as possible. People who have lost a family member are already going through a lot. If you have the foresight to get everything done before they experience that loss, it can help them out tremendously.
When Is It The Best Time To Start Planning For Your Estate?
It’s never too late and I don’t really think it’s ever too early either. I’ve worked with people that are very young and don’t really have any assets yet but they have young children and want to make sure that everything’s taken care of for them. I’ve worked with people who are well into retirement and have large estates and significant assets. There is no one correct time because nobody knows what’s going to happen or when they’re going to go. It’s always better to have a plan in place.
What Is A Will? Does A Will Need To Be A Part Of Every Estate Plan?
Yes, a will should be part of every plan. The will is basically a court document that is meant to be administered in a probate court. The will tells the probate court who to appoint as executor of the estate. It will also have provisions for bonding and allowances, and it will describe how the estate will ultimately be distributed.
Are There Any Limitations To A Will, Or Is it Sufficient On Its Own?
There’s nothing wrong with just having a will. However, there are ways to avoid having to use a probate court to administer your estate. Probate court is a public process, and it can be expensive and time consuming. If you want to avoid probate, there are ways around it.
What Are Some Other Key Components Of An Effective Estate Plan?
An estate plan should include powers of attorney for both property and health. These documents give someone the authority to handle your affairs if you’re still alive but not functioning – if you’re incapacitated due to an accident or stroke or dementia or for some other reason. Power of attorney for your property allows someone to make sure your bills are getting paid. Power of attorney for health gives someone the authority to determine what kind of care you’re going to get, where you’re going to live and so on.
That person could also have the authority to stop treatment if you’re in a condition that is not recoverable, based on your own wishes for end of life care. If you have a terminal illness and you’re in a permanent coma or a vegetative state, do you want treatment to continue or do you just want to be kept comfortable? A living will is a document in the health care power of attorney that would outline your wishes in that situation. The plan should also include a health care privacy law release so the person you’ve nominated for this role can get the information needed to determine if you are incapacitated.
You also would need to review the titling on all your assets, including your home, your savings, your retirement, and any other accounts. All the beneficiaries should also be reviewed as part of this process.
Finally, it is often a good idea to set up a trust. This will allow your estate to avoid probate administration if it’s set up and funded prior to your death. Administering a trust involves many of the same procedures as probate, but they’re all done privately. A trust is generally more efficient and less expensive to administer than a probate case.
How Often Should I Review And Update My Estate Plan?
At a minimum, you should review your estate plan every two years. You should also review it any time things change. I always advise clients not to just put these documents in a drawer and forget about them. You should take the plan out every two years and read it, do the math again, make sure it still makes sense for you – that things haven’t changed in your life and you haven’t changed your mind about anything. You can also reach out to me of course. If the law has changed, if someone has passed away or someone has become disabled or sick, or if any other circumstances have changed that might affect the plan, then it should be reviewed at that time rather than waiting.
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