Top Estate Planning Lawyer
Before you can understand what estate planning is, first you need to know what is meant by the term “estate.” You may think that only rich people own estates, but that is not true. Any adult who owns any money or property, whether alone or jointly with someone else, has an estate. Your estate includes savings or checking accounts, your home or another real estate, your car, family heirlooms, clothing, furniture, etc. If you can put your name to it, it is part of your estate.
Therefore, estate planning involves deciding on what you want to happen to your property after you die and setting your wishes down clearly in writing so that those responsible for carrying them out know exactly what you want. For most people, this involves making out a will, and some people also create a trust for the distribution of assets. These are important aspects to estate planning, but a comprehensive plan addresses much more than that.
What Else Is Involved in Estate Planning?
In addition to distributing assets, your estate plan should also take into account the needs of those you will leave behind. This applies particularly to minor children, who will need someone feed, clothe, and shelter them after you die until they reach adulthood. If you are a parent of younger children, you need to name a guardian for them in your will.
However, your estate plan should do more than provide for your children’s needs. It is possible that you could become incapacitated due to a brain injury, coma, mental condition, etc., long before you die. As a result, you would no longer be able to make decisions for yourself in regard to your own health care or finances. Your estate plan should include documents such as a living will and/or power of attorney that sets forth your wishes concerning end-of-life matters and appoints someone to speak on your behalf.
What Happens if You Don’t Have an Estate Plan?
If you die or become incapacitated without a valid estate plan in place, the court must make decisions for you according to the rules currently in place for the purpose. These rules are intended to apply generally and do not take your personal wishes into consideration.
If you die intestate, i.e., without a valid will, the court will likely distribute your property to your closest relatives. Similarly, it falls to the court to appoint a guardian for your minor children if you do not have a will that names one, and the court’s choice might not be who you had in mind.
Every adult, regardless of the situation, should have a detailed estate plan in place. Contact our office for more information.