Estate Planning Is Only Useful When You Have A Plan!

Most people tend to think that estate planning is for the wealthy or for the elderly. This is a serious falsehood. No matter your stage in life or the amount of your accumulated wealth, estate planning is an essential tool. Because state law does not mandate estate plans like they do insurance in some instances, people forget to utilize this helpful set of documents. When something is not forefront in our minds, we delay acting. Estate planning is only useful when you have it in place and no one knows when the time will come that it is needed. What if you had a horrible accident and became incapacitated tomorrow? Have you appointed a health care and financial power of attorney who you
trust and who knows your wishes? Would you be comfortable with the state deciding who will have this privilege? If the answer is no to both of those questions then you should consider getting a plan in place now before something happens. Below are some additional guidelines concerning basic estate planning.

A Proper Estate Plan Is Crucial Regardless of Net Worth:
This is true for everyone but especially for those folks who are responsible for a lot of other people in their lives. Think of it this way, the less you have, the more important every penny is. Mistakes are more tolerable for those with money. You don’t want to leave your loved ones with massive amounts of debt and no plan to be able to deal with them. Even if debt is all you have, you still need a plan and there are ways to secure a plan for debt. Get ahead of it so you are in control of the debt instead of the debt controlling you.

Talk With Your Family And Friends About Your Wishes:
When a person dies and they have not discussed their plans with their beneficiaries or family, almost always this creates serious conflict. When people are fighting over the terms of your estate, it can delay beneficiaries from receiving inheritances for months or even years. Instead, include your family in the decision process by having candid conversations. This allows them to feel secure about the future and also allows for family members to accept decisions that may not be what they wanted or had in mind. Discussing your plan prevents conflict and allows the family to heal and properly mourning the loss. Additionally, it allows you to rationalize out loud why you are doing what you are doing. Time is not on your side with this one because it is tied to so many emotions. Get your estate plan in place then start talking now so everyone is prepared.

Start With The Basics:
At a minimum you should have life insurance, a will, living will, power of attorneys (financial and healthcare) and designate your bank accounts as payable on death. No one ever said that an estate plan has to be complicated, it doesn’t! The nice part about having a plan is it is capable of being changed over time. Basically, you need life insurance to help replace income in the event of your death; a will to devise your
property; a living will to explain to medical personnel how much you want done in efforts to save your life; power of attorneys so your financial and health care decisions can be made by someone of your choosing in the event you cannot make those decisions for yourself; and designate your bank accounts as payable on death to your beneficiaries so your family doesn’t spend money and time probating the accounts.

By starting with the basics, you have already saved your estate time, heartache and money. Because we never know what will happen in our lifetimes, it is so important to get a basic plan in place immediately. This holds your place, so to speak, so you can get that more detailed plan later on. It is just the “later on” that you cannot count on.

Have A Professional Help You:
While there are online services available to build simple wills and trusts, I recommend utilizing professionals to guide you and educate you in this area. It is much more costly to correct a mistake in a poorly written will or trust than just having one drafted right the first time. Additionally, if the documents aren’t created properly, after death, suits may be brought claiming your documents are not binding which places you in a precarious position – as if you never had any estate planning instruments in the first place! So something in place is not better than nothing. It is only better if they are correctly drafted and executed.

Creating an estate plan is not something you can do blindfolded. It is best to talk with an attorney and have a strategic estate plan written up that is personalized to your needs. Naturally, these things take time. That is why waiting is not the best decision because you
want these to be in place for when you need them.

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