Recent surveys have found that most Americans do not have a written estate plan. Many people question why they need an estate plan if they do not have valuable assets to pass to their loved ones. Others feel the process is too expensive or are just not sure how to get started.
Creating a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Trust ensures that your property will be distributed to whom you wish. If you were to pass away without a written estate plan in place, the assets that you own, either in your sole name or without beneficiaries named, would pass pursuant to your state’s intestate statute. This may mean that if you do not own your property jointly with a spouse or significant other, the children of your current or prior relationships may take a substantial portion of your estate, potentially leaving your loved one without sufficient means for support.
If you have minor children or others reliant upon you for support, it is important to have a written estate plan in place to provide for a guardian of your minor children’s estate or to support other dependents, such as a disabled adult child. You would also want to nominate a guardian to raise your minor children until they reach the age of majority. Although a court is not bound by your nomination, it would carry great weight with the court if there was a dispute among family members as to who would raise your minor children.
Planning for your own incapacity is also a very important part of your estate plan. You may have very specific ideas as to the medical care you wish to receive or decline in the event you are near death and unable to make your own health care decisions. The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is an important part of a written estate plan. It gives specific instructions stating what your health care decisions would be if you are unable to make or communicate medical decisions. It also serves to appoint your agent who is responsible for communicating and carrying out your wishes.
If you need help preparing your own estate plan, contact the attorneys at Parnell, Michels & McKay to see how we can help you prepare.