Estate planning can be difficult to consider since, by definition, it brings up discussions about life and death. While most people do not consider these particularly enjoyable topics, they are ones with which we must all contend.
However, having a legal plan in place that makes our financial and medical wishes known to our loved ones, prevents them from the burden of guesswork. By creating a proper estate plan with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney, we can provide our families with the guidance, clarity, and kindness we all deserve.
What is Estate Planning?
Everything you own is part of your estate, whether you live in a mansion or an apartment. Anything kept in bank accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement and pension funds, as well as any and all insurance policies, are also part of your estate. In order to make sure your belongings are distributed to whom and as you wish after your death, you need an estate plan.
An estate plan is a written arrangement put in place before you die, that informs your loved ones of the kind of medical and supportive care you want, as well as where and how your assets should be distributed. In short, a good estate plan acts as your voice, even and especially when, you cannot speak for yourself.
What is involved in Estate Planning?
There are a number of documents that are included in a properly executed estate plan. Examples of such directives include:
A will is a legal document that allows individuals to choose who inherits their assets after they die. A representative, known as the executor, is put in charge of these assets and tasked with distributing them to beneficiaries as specified.
A trust allows the trustor to keep assets in a designated account from which they can benefit during their lifetime. After the trustor dies, everything contained in the trust is passed down to their beneficiaries. Unlike a will, a trust is not a public document and does not involve the distribution of assets through a probate court.
Financial Power of Attorney
This type of advance directive allows an individual (principal) to determine who (agent) will handle their financial matters if and when they no longer possess the decisional capacity. The principal can choose to relinquish financial decision making to their agent before they lose decisional capacity as well.
Health Care Power of Attorney
Similar to a financial power of attorney, a healthcare POA allows the principal to choose an agent who will carry out their medical wishes as they so specify. It is important that the agent and principal discuss and agree upon these matters (e.g. cardiopulmonary resuscitation in the event of a heart attack or whether or not to provide enteral nutrition if the principal can no longer eat orally), before power of attorney is assigned.
Living Will Declaration
A living will enables you to put your medical and healthcare wishes in writing. This document does not grant decision making authority to any, one specific individual. That said, it is a helpful tool that ensures your loved ones and medical providers know the types of care you do and do not want.
Why You Need to Hire an Estate Planning Attorney
Confronting your own mortality while making sure your wishes are known and that your family is provided for, is no small feat. The attorneys at Morgan Law Offices, LLC understand just how daunting estate planning can be. With a discerning ear, estate know-how, and the sensitivity with which to balance them both, they can help you be an advocate for yourself and your loved ones.