A common misconception is that estate planning is only for the wealthy, but this is far from true. The fact is, everybody can benefit from comprehensive estate planning. It goes beyond ensuring that your assets and finances are properly handled – estate planning gives your loved ones peace of mind, knowing that your wishes are being followed.
Leaving these major decisions in the hands of your loved ones, and possibly even the probate court, can add stress during an already difficult time. Help your family avoid the hassle by putting together an estate plan that includes a combination of the following items:
1. Last Will
Direct your wishes for how you want your estate distributed at your death in a Last Will. A Last Will also details who will care for your minor children and any inheritance they might receive. Not to be confused with a living will, which details the medical care and treatment you do or do not wish to receive if you become incapable of communicating medical decisions on your own behalf. Mattingly Ford can help you learn more about creating, changing, and finalizing your will.
Revocable Living Trusts are no longer just for the wealthy, they are for anyone who wishes to help their family avoid the time and expense associated with Probate Court. More affordable Trust options, help people with various levels of asset size accomplish their goals. Living Trusts act as a will substitute and effectively and privately pass inheritance on.
3. Durable Power of Attorney
Who should have the power to act on your behalf if you become incapable of communicating your wishes? Naming a Durable Power of Attorney in your estate plan will give the power to an appointed individual(s) if you become incapacitated or otherwise unavailable (for reasons other than death). Taking this step prevents loved ones from needing to petition the court for access to your finances and other important decision making functions.
4. Medical Power of Attorney
Designating a Medical Power of Attorney is also an essential part of an estate plan. It ensures any medical treatment and care are given in accordance with your wishes. Your Medical Power of Attorney gives a family member or another trusted individual the power to make medical decisions on your behalf, when you are incapacitated and to communicate with your medical professionals.
5. Guardianship Designations
If you have minor children, or disabled adults in your care, no estate plan is complete without designating guardians who will care for these loved ones after your death. After all, your most valuable assets are the ones you hold most dear. Don’t let family members fight over, or the courts decide, who will take care of your children. If you have specific wishes for who will take care of your children in the event of your death, take the steps to ensure these are documented and legally binding with guardianship designations.
Bonus Item: Life Insurance
Reviewing your life insurance designations and discussing whether it’s appropriate to include it as part of your estate is an important part of your estate planning process. Life Insurance is often essential for covering the costs of funeral services, utilities, mortgage payment and other expenses that your surviving family members will need to cover after your death.
Ready to start planning so that you can give the gift of a thoughtfully planned estate to your loved ones? Contact our experienced attorneys at Mattingly Ford Law today and we’ll help you build a plan specific to your needs.