No matter the size of your estate, one thing is certain when you die: you can’t take anything with you. For this reason, you need to provide instructions to ensure that your estate is distributed to the people and organizations most important to you. In addition to directing the distribution of your estate, a good estate plan should also:
Provide instructions for your financial and medical care if you become incapacitated
Name a guardian for minor children
Impart your values to your descendants
Provide for family members with special needs
- Provide your beneficiaries with asset protection from creditors, divorce and lawsuits
Include provisions for children who are spendthrifts or struggle with addiction
Address business succession at disability and death
ESTATE PLANNING MYTHS
"I don't have many assets. I don't need an estate plan." Estate planning is important for everyone. Anyone with an estate should have a plan in place to address what happens at incapacity and at death. An estate plan will provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
“Why do I care what happens with my estate when I die. I’ll be gone.” Too many families are torn apart after a parent dies because no planning was done. One of the most thoughtful things you can do for your loved ones is to have a plan in place that will ensure a smooth administration of your estate. Fights between kids can be eliminated by having clear instructions about the distribution of your estate.
"Estate planning is too expensive." If you don’t think you can afford a complex estate plan now, start with what you can afford. For a young family or single adult, that may mean a will and powers of attorney for your assets and health care decisions. Then, let your planning develop and expand as your needs change and your financial situation improves.
"It can't be that hard. I'll just do it myself." Google the phrase "do-it-yourself estate plan" and you'll see pages and pages of sites offering legal forms. These free or low-cost options are an attractive alternative to the fees that an attorney will charge. Keep in mind however, that these non-lawyer alternatives are merely providing you with a one-size-fits-all document. Legally, they can't and won't offer any type of legal advice. Additionally, they won't guarantee a particular result.
When you hire an attorney to create your estate plan, you're not just paying for a book of legal documents; you're paying for years of legal training and experience. An attorney will raise issues and point out opportunities you would likely never think of.
"I'll do it when I get older." Estate planning is something that most people know they need do, but it sits at the bottom of their to-do list. I've yet to meet a person who knows if and when they'll become incapacitated, or when they'll die. The time to get your estate plan in place is now.
Custom-Tailored estate planning services may include the following:
IRA inheritance trusts
Special needs trusts
Medicaid asset protection trusts (MAPT)
Financial powers of attorney
Medical powers of attorney and appointments of health care representatives
HIPAA medical authorizations
Medicaid planning and qualification for long-term care Medicaid benefits
VA benefits planning