You cannot predict if or when you may become incapacitated.
Cars crash and viruses strike without warning.
Are you putting off your estate planning?
You could become incapacitated tomorrow ... or today?
Even the next five minutes is not ours to claim.
Would your family be able to manage your health care and finances if you could not?
Unless you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, the answer is no.
According to a recent article in The Arizona Jewish Post titled “Estate planning and elder law benefit all ages,” everyone should have a will, a health care power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney.
An experienced estate planning attorney may recommend additional tools depending on your specific circumstances.
What documents might they recommend and what would each accomplish?
This is the foundational estate planning document.
Without one, your estate will be subject to the "intestate" laws of your state.
This means you have no say in who gets your inheritance regarding assets subject to probate.
You do not want this.
A will should include an executor (also known as a personal representative) to represent your estate before the probate court.
Do not surprise this individual.
They should know in advance.
For a will to be valid, it must be notarized and signed as specified by your state law.
A living will.
This specifies your end-of-life choices.
With this, your family can carry out your choices.
This could include life-sustaining measures as well as funeral wishes.
Here I split with the advice in the article.
Note: I am not a fan of "living wills," preferring a "health care treatment directive" in combination with a "durable power of attorney for health care decisions" and an "anatomical gift declaration" to make one's wishes clear and to provide necessary flexibility.
Medical power of attorney.
Instead of outlining your specific wishes, you can use this power of attorney to designate an individual to make medical decisions for you in your stead when you cannot do so yourself
Financial power of attorney.
This gives an individual the right to make financial decisions.
Such authority may include bill paying or managing back accounts.
You may appoint the same or different agents regarding your health care and financial wishes.
Revocable living trust.
With this you can organize and hold title to virtually all of your assets in one place.
However, with a trust, everything (with few exceptions like retirement funds and annuities) must be titled or retitled to the trust rather than to you.
When might this be helpful?
If you have real estate in a different state or have a child with special needs, trusts can be quite useful.
An added benefit?
Assets in a trust will pass according to your instructions without having to go through probate.
How do you know what to use?
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
So, how do you find an "experienced" estate planning attorney?
First, ask around. Friends, family and other professional advisors are trustworthy sources.
Second, conduct an "organic" search on "Google" for "estate planning" near you (e.g., "Estate Planning Anytown MoKan").
Third, either way, verify! Check out the education, experience, ratings and client reviews of any attorney before you contact him or her.
In fact, I use both of these services to thoroughly vett attorneys before referring members of our "client" family for legal help in other areas of law or for matters in jurisdictions outside Kansas or Missouri.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: Arizona Jewish Post (December 2, 2016) “Estate planning and elder law benefit all ages”