Most people understand that estate planning is important, even though they frequently put it off because it is hard to think about leaving their loved ones. It is critical to plan for the giving of property, succession of a business, incapacity, guardianship of minor children and end-of-life issues. By establishing your goals and having a plan in place, you will be prepared for the future, and you will take the stress off of your loved ones.
If you do not plan, your estate will be probated and your property may pass to persons you didn’t intend. If you have a Will, your estate is still probated; however it will be done more smoothly and according to your wishes. For smaller estates, it may be more practical to transfer property using a pay-on-death account and a deed that reserves a life estate.
To avoid probate, many people will use a Revocable Living Trust, which is often more expensive and complex than a Will and can complicate eligibility for Medicaid.
Many people plan their estates, but fail to plan for incapacity. It is essential, before you become incapacitated, that you give someone authority to handle your finances using a Financial Power of Attorney and to make healthcare decisions for you using a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. By completing these documents, your family will know your wishes, and you will avoid the need for costly guardian and conservator proceedings.
In summary, here are 10 things that estate planning can do for you:
1. Provide security and guidance for your immediate family.
2. Provide for other relatives who need help through special trusts.
3. Get your property to beneficiaries easily and quickly.
4. Plan for incapacity by choosing who will make decisions for you.
5. Minimize expenses by reducing the court’s involvement.
6. Reduce estate and inheritance taxes.
7. Make sure your business has an orderly succession.
8. Ease burdens by letting your family know your wishes.
9. Set up a way to give financial support to a favorite cause.
10. Have peace of mind knowing that your desires will be carried out.
Tom Packer is an Elder Law Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho. As part of his law practice, Tom offers life care planning to deal with the challenges created by long-term illness, disability and incapacity. If you have a question about a senior’s legal, financial or healthcare needs, please call us.