Having an Estate Plan in place is an important final act of consideration to your family and loved ones. Mortality is one of the topics that people resist discussing and that is clear in the statistics—one-third of Americans have no financial plan and less than 50% of adults over the age of 18 have had a Last Will and Testament or Trust prepared. Estate Planning involves not just making decisions about what will happen to your property after you die, but also what will happen if you become incapacitated and unable to make or communicate decisions during your lifetime.
Estate planning may include the preparing of a Last Will and Testament (aka Will), Power-of-Attorney (aka POA), Health Care Proxy, Living Will, Standby Guardian, Designation of Agent for Disposition of Remains, and/or many varieties of Trusts. Some of these documents do not come into effect until the person who made the document dies, but a Power-of-Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will have effect during your lifetime when you are not able to make or communicate decisions, thus avoiding the need for the courts to appoint a guardian.
Estate planning is important to individuals with a wide range of financial situations, not just the ultra-wealthy. In fact, estate planning may be more important if you have a modest estate as it may have a greater impact on your loved ones.
A few reasons to consider having an estate plan:
— You have children who are minors or who have special needs.
—You have a blended family.
— Your spouse is uncomfortable with or incapable of handling financial matters.
— You have property in more than one state.
— You have strong feelings about end-of-life health-care decisions.
— You have privacy concerns or want to avoid probate.
–You have in excess of $5million in assets.
As the practical definition of family expands, beloved family members and friends who do not fall under the intestate succession laws (i.e. who inherits if you do not have a Will) could be left with nothing, while distant, unknown, or estranged relatives may inherit your estate. A simple Will can help avoid this. If your family dynamic is more complex, having a Living Trust (aka Revocable Trust) established may further ward off conflict.
With or without a will, your estate may go through the process of probate. Having an Estate Plan in place, including a Last Will and Testament, greatly facilitates the probate process by reducing time and costs. Furthermore, a properly drafted and executed Will protects your estate from the claims of those who you deliberately choose not to include as beneficiaries.
Many people avoid consulting with an Estate Planning attorney out of concern for the expense. In my practice, I strive to make Estate Planning affordable for all persons.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. -B. Franklin
COLLEEN A. DOOLEY ESQ. PLLC
PO BOX 760
LATHAM, NY 12110