You are never too young or too old to start think about your estate plan or what will happen to you and your family if something happens to you. Most people do not want to think about what will happen when they die, but it is a very important thing to take into consideration.
Are you married? Do you have children? Who will take care of those children? Are you single? Do you want your assets in your estate to go equally to your siblings and parents? If you were to die without a will or trust, the State determines who gets your property and also other matters such as who takes care of your children.
Not only do you need to think about what will happen to your family and estate, but what if you had a serious medical condition? What if you were in a coma and couldn’t make your own wishes known? What if you had a stroke and couldn’t communicate effectively? These are issues that everyone should address sometime in their life and preferable sooner rather than later. Most of us think that we will get to this later. Even in my own situation, as an attorney working in Elder Law and Estate Planning, it took me nearly two years to execute my own advanced directives.
It’s nothing to feel bad about if you keep putting it off, but you eventually have to find the time to make these decisions. Advanced directives are documents in which you make your wishes known prior to any situation occurring that might limit your ability to communicate regarding your care for medical and health issues. These directives include:
- Financial powers of attorney
- Health care powers of attorney
- HIPA releases
- Living wills
There are two important documents to consider as you plan your estate – wills and trusts.
Wills are simple documents that indicate how you wish to distribute your property upon your death. I would recommend, however, that you also consider what is called a “revocable living trust”. Both documents allow you name beneficiaries for your property, but I like to think of the revocable living trust as a “super will”. It can do the same thing as a will but it also helps you in several additional ways. It adds the layer of privacy, by avoiding “probate”. The probate process can be costly as your personal representative must hire an attorney and go before the court docketing your will. This makes your will public record where it can be examined by anyone to find out who your beneficiaries are and what they received from your estate.
A revocable living trust gives you several reasons not to have a will:
- It automatically passes your property to the people you designate
- It is private
- You don’t have to hire an attorney to execute it
- You don’t have to take it to court
- No one ever has to know who your beneficiaries are or what they received from your estate