Written By: Attorney Erin L. Nunes, Partner
Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for your assets when, and if, you become incapacitated, and after your death. It can help you ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, minimize estate taxes, protect your loved ones from financial hardship, and reduce stress and fighting for your loved ones.
There are many different elements to estate planning, but some of the most important include:
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a document that gives someone else the authority to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- Healthcare Proxy: A healthcare proxy is a document that appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
- A Trust: A trust is a legal entity that can be used to hold and manage your assets. Trusts can be used to avoid probate, protect your assets from creditors, and provide for your loved ones in a specific way.
- A Last Will & Testament: A will is a legal document that specifies who will inherit your assets after your death. It can also appoint a guardian for your minor children.
- Advance Directive / Living Will: An advance directive is a document that specifies your wishes for end-of-life care, such as whether you want to be resuscitated or placed on life support.
- HIPAA Authorization: Allows someone access to your protected medical information. This can allow them to discuss medications with a pharmacists, manage insurance issues, etc.
Estate planning can be a complex process, but it is important to take the time to do it right. By creating an estate plan, you can ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are taken care of.
Here are some of the benefits of having an estate plan:
- It ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
- It can help to minimize estate taxes.
- It can protect your assets from creditors.
- It can provide for your loved ones in a specific way.
- It can help to minimize probate, which is a court process that can be time-consuming and expensive.
- It can give you peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order.
- If you do not have an estate plan, you should consider working with an estate planning attorney to get started. An attorney can help you understand your options and create a plan that meets your specific needs.
Here are some tips for creating an estate plan:
- Start by taking inventory of your assets. This includes your property, investments, retirement accounts, and other belongings.
- Consider your goals for your estate plan. What do you want to happen to your assets after you die? How do you want to be cared for during an incapacity event? How do you trust to manage your financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated?
- Meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss your options.
- Get everything in writing and signed by all parties involved trust.
- Be sure to fund your properly, if applicable.
- Review your estate plan regularly and update it as needed.
Estate planning is an important part of ensuring that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are taken care of after you die in a way that does not create additional complications for them. By taking the time to create an estate plan, you can protect your wealth and prevent hardship for your heirs.