Do I Need an Estate Plan?Many clients ask whether they really need an estate plan. After all, they don't have a cattle ranch, oil wells, or gobs of money.
However, what they do have are people they love. If you love someone, you need an estate plan. That's the key. If you don't care about anybody… don't care about making things easier for anyone… don't care about who raises your children… don't care who gets your assets… don't care if everyone knows your financial business… don't care if a court has to intervene to take care of your health care and financial well-being… then, you don't need an estate plan.
However, if you care, you need an estate plan.
To make things easier for your loved ones, you may pre-plan your final arrangements, choose to avoid probate; execute a living will, health care power of attorney, and financial power of attorney, and put all of your estate planning wishes in writing.
To make sure that your minor children are raised by people you love and trust, appoint guardians (and contingent guardians) in your will. Otherwise, it will be up to your family members or friends to volunteer and in the worst case scenarios your children will be placed into foster care.
You provide instructions for asset distribution in your will (or trust, if you have one.) If you don't, state law identifies your "heirs-at-law." These heirs will receive your assets, which may not be what you'd want.
If you care who makes health care and financial decisions on your behalf, then you need to appoint agents in your health care power of attorney, financial power of attorney, and trust. Otherwise, a guardianship proceeding will be held and a court will determine who makes these decisions.
To make sure that your family honors your estate planning wishes, have a conversation. Let them know that you have engaged in estate planning and have an estate plan, show them where you keep your documents, and provide your estate planning attorney's contact information.
© 2000-2011 David G. Arganian, all rights reserved.