The third week of October has been designated by Congress as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. The goal for this week is to highlight the importance of estate planning and how planning can benefit you. The Resolution by Congress noted “the implementation of an estate plan starts with sound education and planning,” and then the drafting of legal documents. Our office couldn’t agree more, and we are dedicating this week to articles, quick posts to think about, and a webinar on our process to help you learn more about estate planning in general and why you should have one in place.
We are kicking things off by looking at the different items that make up an estate plan.
Last Will and Testament – Is usually the first thought of when discussing estate planning. Your Will is used for several things:
Living Trust – A Trust is similar to a Will; however, it can offer more protections. Your Trust can include provisions if you become disabled. You can leave tangible personal property and the remainder of your estate to loved ones. If properly funded, a Trust offers protections for your assets against your children’s creditors or your “outlaws” if they were to get a divorce. You can also set up your trust to meet the needs of your loved ones who will inherit; for instance, giving more leeway to your child who is fiscally responsible or putting more guidelines on the share for a spendthrift child. A Trust offers many ways to personalize what fits your life and can be updated should your life change.
Financial Power of Attorney – This is used to name someone you trust called an Agent to make financial and legal decisions for you if you are not able to make them for yourself. This includes banking, investment, real estate, and other financial matters.
Health Care Power of Attorney – Under this you name a Health Care Agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. Your Power of Attorney for Health Care can also include basic health care decisions on heroic measures like resuscitation, respiration aids, artificial nutrition, and diagnostic tests.
HIPAA Authorizations – These inform medical personnel who they can legally share medical information with. They usually include who you name as your health care agents or loved ones you trust.
Living Will/Advanced Health Care Directive – These are instructions for your Health Care Agent as a guide while they are making decisions for you. They include what level of care you would like, if and under what circumstances you would like to be resuscitated, your opinions on artificial nutrition, and other decisions based on your medical scenario.
Guardianship – This names who would raise your minor children, if you were no longer able to yourself. If no one were named, the court would select on your behalf and it may not be who you would have chosen. You can also leave your guardian individual instructions, such as a type of education, a preference on allowances or financial matters, or if you’d like them to be raised under a particular religion, among other decisions.
Funeral Representative – This is someone you trust to carry out your final arrangement wishes. Typically, this will be the same person you have named as your personal representative in your Will. You can leave the individual instructions on your wishes, including who you would like to be contacted, if you would like a viewing, a memorial, a funeral or some combination of the three, whether you would like to be buried or cremated, and if there were any particular customs you would like to be represented. An estate plan is much more than just having a Will in place. There are other considerations for what will best protect you and your family, and what works best for you will be different than what works for others. That is one of the reasons why our office believes you should be educated on your options and sit down with an experienced Estate Planning Attorney to come up with a plan that is personalized to you and that will work. For more information on our process you can call our office at (248) 409-0256, we will also be posting a link to a pre-recorded webinar on Wednesday to introduce how we approach estate planning.