Why do I need an Estate Plan?
The Law Office of Wendy S. Marcus
Who needs an estate plan?
Parents, it is the only legal way to name a guardian for your children.
Single people, protect your assets, make sure that your assets go to who you want, don't leave it up to the State.
Married people, to make sure your spouse is taken care of.
Older people. If you don't have an estate plan, you are leaving a legal mess for your children to sort through. This process can take years and cost thousands of dollars.
What does each of the components of an estate plan do and why do I need them?
Will. A will allows you to name an executor, a guardian and temporary guardian for your minor children and make gifts of personal property. Half of the litigation after someone dies is over their possessions, not their money. It will also direct that everything else that you own upon your death be poured into your trust. This is sometimes called a pour over will.
Living Trust. If you have any real estate, retirement accounts or adult children or are part of a blended family or simply wish to avoid probate, you need a living trust. Probate is the process that an estate has to go through if there is no will or just a will without a trust. It can take years and cost thousands of dollars. A trust can distribute property free of probate, hold property for minors and young adults until they reach a particular age and stretch the tax savings on retirement accounts. The property held for a beneficiary can still be accessed, but it must be accessed through a trustee. Trusts are not difficult to create or manage.
Healthcare power of attorney. This is sometimes also called a living will or an advanced healthcare directive. Everyone over the age of 18 needs one of these. A power of attorney allows someone to act as if they were you, if you become incapacitated. If you do not have a valid one, your entire family gets to weigh in on your care. As you can imagine this causes a great deal of family strife. People often confuse this form with a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. The only way to get an enforceable DNR, is to get one from a doctor who believes you have less than six months to live or that a resuscitation attempt will do you great bodily harm.
Financial power of attorney. If you become incapacitated this form allows someone else to make financial decisions for you. This is not merely access to your bank accounts. This form allows someone to do a wide variety of financial activities: file your taxes, interact with Social Security and Medicare, make business decisions for a business you own and many others. Many people believe simply putting people names on their bank accounts is all they need to do. That will allow access to your bank accounts, but not the other tasks. Social Security and Medicare will not interact with you over someone else, even if you are the spouse, without this form.
If you would like to learn more about I can help with your estate planning, please contact my office.
© 2018, The Law Office of Wendy S. Marcus