Listening to Our Client's Developing Tailored Estate Plans

Basics

What is estate planning?

It may surprise you to know that estate planning has very little to do with money or legal documents. Estate planning is really about creating your legacy: protecting and providing for you, your loved ones, and your property; staying in control; and offering guidance.

Who needs estate planning?

Everyone needs estate planning. Children under the age of 18 are protected by their parents’ estate plan but everyone age 18 or older needs his or her own estate plan. Of course, estate plans vary immensely depending on goals, finances, family situation, domicile (where you live). There is no one-size-fits all estate plan.

How much money do I need before an estate plan is necessary?

You don’t need to be a Rockefeller or Kennedy to need an estate plan. In fact, you don’t need any assets to need an estate plan. What you do need is one of the following: 1. someone you love, 2. the desire to control your life and finances, 3. the desire to maintain privacy, or 4. the wish to avoid court interference.

To help you think this through, here are non-monetary reasons to have an estate plan in place: 1. an estate plan empowers your trusted helpers to make healthcare decisions and manage your day-to-day business if you’re not able to; 2. appoints guardians for minor children and pets; and 3. avoids medical heroics through a living will.

What happens if I don't have an estate plan?

You actually do have an estate plan even if you haven't taken action to create your own personalized version. You may wonder, “How can that be?” If you don’t have an estate plan, the government has a plan for you - and, unfortunately, you probably won’t like it. For example, if you don’t create your own estate plan, the court will decide who raises your children and who handles your finances and private matters. And, state law will decide who inherits from you - but - it may not be who you think.

Why do I need estate planning documents?

Your estate planning documents may seem complicated, but they’re really just your instructions, legally documented, so those you select to help (trusted helpers) know what to do when. Many of our clients think of their estate planning documents as an instruction book. That’s all they are.

How does my estate plan benefit me?

As the question reflects, much about estate planning is providing for and protecting those you love. However, estate planning is not just death planning, it protects you while you’re alive as well by organizing your assets, establishing your goals, protecting assets, providing for you and protecting loved ones (including pets) during any period of incapacity, keeping you in control, and assuring that your wishes, including health care wishes, are carried out - and providing peace of mind that all will go as you wish. This is such a good question because it’s imperative that you keep assets in your trust if you want your estate plan to work. If you have asset titling questions, we’re always here to help.

How do I get an estate plan?

This is how your estate planning will work: You'll chat with us about your goals, fears, dreams, finances, and family and we help you craft an estate plan (i.e. instruction book) that includes the legal language required to carry out your plan. Even though some legal terms, descriptions, and language are required, please know that we make a sincere effort to write each estate plan in plain English, easily readable by your loved ones and trusted helpers. Your wishes of what you want to happen when, documented in legal form, are your estate plan.

My child is legally an adult, should she have her own estate plan?

Without a doubt, yes. Even an 18-year-old high school senior needs an estate plan. Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children without legal documentation.

When do my children need to get their own estate plan?

Everyone is surprised when we answer this question. Even an 18-year-old high school senior needs her own estate plan. Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Without legal documentation, parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children.

Of course an 18-year-old’s estate plan is very different from a 48-year-old’s estate plan because life, assets, goals, and family situation evolve over 30 years, but some basics are the same. How old do you need to be to have an estate plan?

What do estate planning attorneys do?

Estate planning attorneys take their clients’ wishes and turn them into legally enforceable documents. Through those documents, we empower our clients to carry out their goals, protect themselves and those they love, and stay in control. We listen and serve as counselors, guiding our clients and their loved ones for more than a lifetime - including during any period of disability and after death - into the next generation.

Are probate attorneys and estate planning attorneys the same thing?

In a nutshell, yes. You may see probate attorney, trusts and estates attorney, and estate planning attorney all referring to an attorney who both supports clients during their lifetimes and guides the family during disability and after death.

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