Compliments of The Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
The New Year brings with it a renewed outlook and fresh resolutions. We vow to get organized, eat healthier, and lose those last stubborn 10 pounds. But many of us overlook one simple and practical resolution that could have a profound effect on our lives, not to mention the lives of those we love. What’s that resolution? Create a basic estate plan.
It’s not hard to get started. First, find an experienced estate planning attorney. You can start by checking with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys or avvo.com. Call to make an appointment, and then relax. The attorney’s office will let you know what to expect, and what you need to bring with you to your consultation. The meeting is essentially a conversation about you, your family, and your goals. The attorney will ask many questions, listen carefully to your answers, and give you time to ask questions of your own. After your concerns are addressed, the attorney will suggest a plan to meet your needs.
The plan will be tailored to your specific situation, but it will likely include these basic documents:
- Living Trust – This is the cornerstone of your estate plan. You transfer most of your assets into the Trust and retain control of the Trust during your lifetime. The provisions of the Trust allow for the assets to be managed by a Trustee selected by you in the event of your death or disability. The Trust provisions also dictate how the Trust assets will be distributed after your death. One of the advantages of a Living Trust is that Trust assets are not subject to probate.
- Pour-Over Will – “Catches” any assets omitted from your Trust and “pours” them into your Trust after your death, allowing the terms of your trust to determine how these assets are distributed. You will also name guardians for your minor children.
- Financial Power of Attorney – Allows you to appoint an agent to manage your financial accounts and any property not included in your trust in the event of your disability.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Allows you to appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
- HIPAA Power – Permits your agent and the loved ones you list to access your healthcare information. Without this, confidentiality rules could prohibit the release of any Medicaid information.
Planning your estate is an easy and important resolution to check off your list. With the peace of mind and confidence you’ll gain from putting your estate plan in order, who knows what you’ll be able to accomplish next year? Maybe you’ll even banish those last 10 pounds for good!