No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate. Your estate is comprised of everything you own – your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture and personal possessions.
Estate planning means making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive your things after you pass away, which can also include: 1) instructions for your care if you become disabled, 2) naming of a guardian for minor children, 3) providing for family members with special needs, 4) providing for the transfer of your business, 5) providing for loved ones who may need future protection from creditors or divorce, 6) instructions for passing your values (religion, education, etc) in addition to your valuables.
A basic estate plan will consist of the following:
- A Will or Living Trust
- Power of Attorney (financial)
- Health Care Directive
- Assessment of Beneficiary Designations
What happens if I die without a Will?
- State law dictates where your property will go
- You get no say in who will be the guardian of your minor children
- You get no say in who will act as your Personal Representative
- You cannot leave property to friends or other non-relatives
- You cannot leave property to charity
- You cannot disinherit or limit someone’s inheritance if they are scheduled to receive under state law
- You cannot direct that particular heirlooms go to particular people
- You get no control when your children will receive their inheritance. Minor children will receive their inheritance upon turning 18 years old.
What is a Power of Attorney? A Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows you to give others the power to act on your behalf in financial matters. That person or persons have the power to act just as you would, subject to any restrictions you place on this power. The most common reason this document is created is to protect individuals if they lose their mental capacity to contract in the future. In these situations, you may want a trusted friend or family member to act on your behalf instead of a court appointed manager that you don’t know.
What is a Health Care Directive? A Health Care Directive is a written document that informs others of your wishes about your health care. It also allows you to name a person to decide for you if you are unable to decide. It’s important that if you become physically or mentally incapacitated in any way, your attending physician knows of your health care choices and the types of medical treatment you wish to receive. You may be as specific or general as you wish and choose which issues or treatments to deal with.