WHY DO I NEED AN ESTATE PLAN?
Believe it or not, you have an estate. Your estate is comprised of everything you own—car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate and something in common—you can’t take it with you when you die.
You also have an estate plan—it is provided free of charge to you by the state in which you reside when you turn 18. But your heirs will probably not like it. Thus, it is wise to do your own plan, and opt out of the cookie cutter plan the state has for you.
Estate planning is not just for the wealthy and the elderly. Healthy, young adults can be the victim of accident or illness. Protecting your assets for descendants and charities is good stewardship for several reasons and can often avert disastrous consequences. Look no farther than the rich and famous to see how devastating a lack of planning can be on a family. We assure you it applies to every financial class in much the same way.
After reviewing many “form” trusts through the years, we know that “one size fits all” often fails. Therefore, we custom draft each plan document. John Doe will never see a stranger named Jane Smith in his trust if it was designed and produced by us. We have a special interest in protecting assets of clients with an increased risk of financial loss such as doctors, dentists, farmers, and other business owners and clients in high risk professions like the military, law enforcement, and fire-fighters.
None of us want to think about our own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for ourselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death strikes. Don’t wait. You can put something in place now and change it later, which is exactly the way estate planning should be done.
WHY DO I NEED TO UPDATE MY ESTATE PLAN?
Any change in your personal, family, financial, or health situation, or a change in trust or tax law (like the SECURE Act in 2020), can trigger the need to amend your estate plan. We have worked with beneficiaries that have become victims of their parents’ outdated estate plan. It is important to keep your estate plan updated by reviewing your plan every 5 years (every 2-3 years for some) and visiting with your estate planning professional to ensure that your plan is continuing protect your assets.
Remember, having a properly prepared and maintained estate plan in place is one of the most considerate things you can do for yourself and those you love, and it is not surprising that we have children tell us how thankful they were to have a properly funded trust in place (often contrasting it to their spouse’s parents’ plan, which was the opposite). W Law Group can help you through the entire estate planning and maintaining process, so that you can have peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and your assets will be protected after you are gone.
We provide consultations about the following planning strategies, and much more:
Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament names the person you trust to handle your estate’s affairs and make sure your property is distributed the way you want.
A Last Will and Testament names a guardian for your minor children in the event you and your spouse are both deceased.
A Last Will and Testament directs how, when, and to whom your property will be distributed (not the way state laws dictate).
Durable General Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney names an agent (“attorney-in-fact”) to handle your business affairs if you are unable or unavailable. It is also for anyone who might be temporarily unavailable, such as being out of town or busy at work. In Brent’s case, he likes it when his wife can sign things for him, and he can for her. It is a huge convenience and time-saver. Everyone over the age of 17 should have one in place.
Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney names an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It is not limited to life and death situations. It may be a situation of a family member signing you into the hospital in the event of an accident. Again, everyone over the age of 17 should have one in place.
Authorization for Medical Records
Names the persons who may access your medical records in compliance with the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). This may be a simple matter of convenience such as authorizing a spouse or other family member to transfer your x-rays or other medical records to a different doctor. It can also save a lot of frustration when your son arrives at the hospital, and the Healthcare Agent isn’t around to authorize the doctor to discuss the situation with him.
Advance Health Care Directive (Living Will)
If you want a Living Will, this document confirms your desire to not be kept alive by artificial means which only serve to prolong the dying process. To be effective, you must be terminally ill or injured, where there is no realistic hope of survival, and you must be unable to communicate your wishes. This serves as both a directive to your health care providers and a way to relieve your family of the burden (and guilt) of making the decision. It also promotes family harmony, in the event there is disagreement, by taking the decision-making process away from the survivors. Personally, I do not have one. But it can be the right thing for some, which is why communication on this matter is important.
There are many types of trusts, both revocable and irrevocable. The revocable living trust is a common and effective way to control the distribution of your estate for years to come and protect it from your beneficiaries’ creditors and divorcing spouses. If managed correctly, it can also avoid the high cost of probate, keep your financial matters private, and eliminate the need for a conservator. And at the very stressful time of your passing, a revocable trust lessens the burden on your family. Supplemental Needs Trusts can provide extra help for family members with special needs without jeopardizing their assistance from government. Irrevocable Trusts come in many varieties and are often used to protect your assets while you are alive.