The Importance of Estate Planning
By: Madison Moskowitz
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning involves managing and dividing an individual’s personal estate, which includes all investments, assets, and interests of an individual. Estate planning is deemed to be the most important financial plan of an individual’s life because it explains how someone wants their estate to be divided upon their death. An estate plan usually includes a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, a Living Will, and sometimes a Revocable Living Trust or an Enhanced Life Estate Deed, either of which may serve as a good option for avoiding probate of real property.
When Should Individuals Consider Estate Planning?
One is never too young to get started with drafting an estate plan. Preferably, an estate plan begins whenever an individual starts collecting assets or owns a property.
Does Everyone Need an Attorney to Prepare Their Estate Plan?
There are several national websites which offer estate planning for a budget price; however, an estate plan is more than just the documents. It involves a careful review and recommendations made by an experienced attorney. Each estate plan should be customized to fit the assets, family, and wishes and goals of the person preparing the plan. Please consult with an experienced attorney to prepare your documents, so that you may feel confident that your plan is coordinated to work together with how your assets are titled, whether you have designated payable-on-death beneficiaries, and whether it is your goal to avoid probate. Attorney Lauren Richardson has 26 years of experience preparing estate plans for Floridians. She would be happy to talk with you about your assets, wishes, and goals, and give you a quote. She has also included a menu of prices for certain estate planning packages on her website.
What Are the Steps Someone Should Take for Estate Planning?
Estate planning may seem overwhelming at first, but after following a few simple steps and learning some tips, the process becomes less stressful. It is better to start sooner rather than later.
Create an asset list or ask the attorney you have selected for their questionnaire and complete it with asset info, how the asset is titled, and whether you have designated beneficiaries.
Consult a qualified estate planning attorney and explain to them your assets, wishes and goals.
Decide which documents you need.
Select reliable people as your personal representatives and other decision makers.
Decide how you want all your assets divided and to whom.
Pay an attorney to prepare your drafts, review them for accuracy, and then have them executed properly. Once executed, keep your documents somewhere safe and accessible.
Remember to reach out to your attorney every 5-10 years to see if laws have changed, or reach out sooner if you want to make a change to your documents.
How Do I Decide Who to Put in my Estate Plan?
Typically, family members, including spouses, children, and grandchildren, or even friends, are the first ones named in an estate plan. One document in an estate plan, the Durable Power of Attorney, is an extremely powerful document, so it is essential that you name individuals that you trust to serve as your Agent. If someone no longer has any living family members or has chosen to exclude them from their plan, it is possible to name a friend or a non-profit organization as the beneficiary in a Will..
Celebrities Who Died Without an Estate Plan:
There are many celebrities who die unexpectedly and who do not have an updated estate plan. A few notable celebrities are Michael Jackson, Prince, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger, and Bob Marley. As a result, many of their family members, especially new wives, husbands, or children, were not included in their wills and did not have access to their funds or assets. For example, Heath Ledger, who unexpectedly died in 2008 had not updated his will since 2003. Unfortunately, this meant that his daughter and the child’s mother were not included in the will. This goes to show that everyone, no matter how rich or famous, needs an estate plan to ensure their loved ones are taken care of correctly after their passing. The larger the estate, the more important to have a plan; however, even smaller estates should be handled correctly to help loved ones at this difficult time and to create a legacy and good memories.
As noted, one should not procrastinate when it comes to acquiring an estate plan. With the lack of proper planning and organizing, family disputes, lost or misplaced assets, and litigation may arise. Although it may seem overwhelming to get started at first, generating an estate plan can solve an abundance of issues before they arise.
How can I start?
Lauren Richardson Law, PLLC