Many of the clients who come to Surprenant & Beneski are uncertain whether they really need an estate plan and want to discuss what purposes it might serve. During our consultation with them, we often pose some of the following questions to help them understand the many reasons why having an estate plan is essential, not only for wealthy property owners but for everyone who wants to take control over their legacy.
1. Do you want to decide how your assets will be distributed when you pass away?
No matter what the size of your home or savings, just about everyone wants to designate who will inherit from them. If you die intestate (without a will), the decision of where your assets go will be made by the courts according to state law. A well-crafted will serves the purpose of stating your wishes and naming a personal representative (executor) who will see that your wishes are carried out.
2. Do you have strong feelings about how you want to be cared for if you can no longer communicate?
Do you want a do not resuscitate order when you’re at the end of your life or to keep your options open? Do you want to donate your organs? What special steps do you want taken to keep you alive? Who do you want to have access to your medical records or to make medical decisions if you are unable to communicate? You can specifically answer all of these questions by having us draw up an Advance Directive, also known as a Living Will, a Health Care Proxy, and a HIPAA release form.
3. Do you worry about providing for your spouse, partner, and children if you become incapacitated?
Not only does the Last Will and Testament you create names of the dependents and loved ones you make your beneficiaries; but it also allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. In addition, an estate plan allows you to create trusts to transfer your assets efficiently to those you care most about, and to provide funds for a special needs child and/or provide an irresponsible beneficiary with a meaningful inheritance while keeping them from overspending.
4. Are you concerned about protecting your assets from probate, excessive taxation, creditors, scams, and lawsuits?
Having a knowledgeable estate planning attorney establish one or more trusts for you can also protect your privacy (in a way a Will cannot), and will protect your assets from all of the above risks while allowing you to manage them. With a skilled lawyer creating your trust, you can be sure that your assets will not be depleted by predatory creditors, scam artists, lawsuit verdicts, or a greedy ex-spouse.
5. Do you have a business you want to protect for your heirs?
If you are a business owner, you may be looking forward to preserving your company and passing it on for sale to a trusted employee or leaving it to an heir. Estate planning can help you prepare for a smooth business succession when you retire, become incapacitated, or pass away. Of course, you may also make plans for your business to be sold and the money it provides to be distributed exactly as you envisioned.
6. Do you want to leave a legacy for a favorite cause or charity?
Various kinds of charitable trusts can be drafted to provide money to causes or charities meaningful to you. Depending on the circumstances, you may even decide to establish a foundation in your name or the name of a loved one.
7. Do you want to leave your family on good terms with one another when you die?
We have all seen evidence of feuds, estrangements, and litigations in the families of neighbors, friends, or celebrities. Obviously, this is something we all want to avoid. In a family practice like Surprenant & Beneski, you can be confident that we will help you leave your estate in order and your family peaceful.
Contact Our Dedicated Estate Planning Attorneys to Find Out More
Have our questions convinced you that a strong estate plan is invaluable or do you still have more questions? Either way, contacting Surprenant & Beneski is a wise move. Reach out to us today to discuss your estate planning needs.