Estate planning is not just for people who live in mansions. Quite the opposite! Everyone needs to have an estate plan to protect themselves while they are living and to protect loved ones when they pass.
Having an estate plan can eliminate confusion, expensive delays and overall bad outcomes, according to an article appearing in The Martha’s Vineyard Times, “Estate planning.” Think of it as a way to communicate your wishes and cushion your family during a really tough time.
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you’re a couple, you each need to have your own will to say who gets your property following your death. In many instances, the spouses select each other.
In addition, a durable power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf for financial matters. People typically choose their spouse, if he or she is alive. Be careful if you select someone other than your spouse, because he or she can control your money. A significant level of trust is required.
Next, a durable power of attorney for healthcare is needed, in the event that you become incapacitated. Your designated agent can make healthcare decisions for you, which helps avoid arguments between family members concerning what treatment you should receive.
A living will provides details on your wishes about what kind of treatments you do or don’t want at the end of your life (it’s the “pull the plug” document). Make that decision yourself, when you’re healthy and able.
Although it’s not the most fun exercise, doing all this work steps eliminates many potential problems, and provides several benefits:
- You’ll provide reasonable financial stability to your family when they can most use it, and can responsibly handle it;
- You’ll control the timing and method of distributing assets to beneficiaries;
- You can be certain that your wishes are honored, if you’re no longer able to act for yourself;
- You may provide some tax benefits, so your assets last longer for your beneficiaries; and
- You can have conversations with your family about what to expect in your estate plan.
Estate planning may not be as much fun as scheduling a zipline ride through a tropical forest. However, the peace of mind will be well worth the investment.
Reference: Martha’s Vineyard Times (December 5, 2017) “Estate planning”