Got Extra Time? Create Your Estate Plan
With the current stay-at-home order in place, many Hoosiers find themselves with extra time on their hands. Why not use this time to complete tasks you've been putting off and prepare for your future? You can accomplish both by working on your estate plan.
Although end-of-life planning can be difficult to broach, it is a critical way to manage your assets and protect your family. Despite its great importance, nearly 60% of Americans do not have estate planning documents in place like a Will or Trust. Why is that? Put simply, we tend to procrastinate. It's easy to think we have decades before we need to begin end-of-life planning. But as the COVID-19 pandemic aptly illustrates, things can change in a matter of moments. Here's how estate planning can help you be prepared for the future.
Planning for the Inevitable
Although we'd prefer not to think about it, it is essential that we have documents in place for our end of life. At a minimum, you need a Last Will and Testament. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that takes effect when you die. A Will allows you to decide how your assets and property will be distributed upon your death. You can choose any number of recipients of your property, whether they be family members, friends, or charities.
You also appoint someone to be in charge of administering your estate, called the Personal Representative. An important aspect of a Will for parents is the ability to designate a guardian for your minor children. Without a Will expressing your wishes, the Court will not know who you’d like to serve as guardian for your children. Nearly two-thirds of Americans with children under the age of 18 do not have an estate plan.
You may also decide to have a Funeral Planning Declaration in place. A Funeral Planning Declaration is a legal form expressing your wishes regarding funeral planning and the disposition of your body at death. If you have not pre-planned your funeral, you can use the funeral planning declaration to designate various aspects of your funeral.
Planning for the "Just in Case"
The only certainty is uncertainty, which means you need to be prepared for possible life challenges. Unlike a Will, a financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives take effect while you are alive.
A financial Power of Attorney gives the person you name in your document the authority to handle financial transactions. The attorney-in-fact can take care of a variety of tasks from depositing checks for you to handling retirement accounts to filing your tax return.
Health Care Directives allow you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so yourself. This document is one of the most important steps you can take in letting your family and doctor know what your wishes are for your own medical care. One part of your Health Care Directives, a Living Will, clarifies your wishes for life‑prolonging procedures to be withheld or withdrawn so that you can be permitted to die naturally.
If you put off estate planning because you think you don't need one or you are too busy, the state will make these decisions for you. If you die without a Will or Trust, the state determines what happens to your assets, who is in charge of your estate, and who will be guardian of your children. If you become incapacitated and do not have a Power of Attorney in place, your family will need to go through the expensive and lengthy process of getting a guardianship.
Rather than leaving these important matters up to the state, take the time to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney. Our attorneys have over 35 years of combined experience in planning estates. We guide our clients through the estate planning process by closely evaluating your unique goals and desires and your family dynamics.
During this pandemic, our office doors are closed to the public. However, we are continuing to hold virtual appointments with our clients. You can meet with one of our attorneys over video conference or telephone. Use some of your extra time during this pandemic to begin your estate planning. Call or schedule an appointment online with us today.