"Estate Planning" is simply a general term which means planning for various contingencies. For example:
Do you have assets (a home, investments, bank accounts, retirement, insurance)? When you die, to whom do you want those assets to go? Do you wish to benefit a charitable organization? Will your estate be subject to taxes of any kind?
A will or living trust will disburse your assets according to your wishes and can reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
Do you have minor children? If you were to die, who would care for them? Who would manage their assets? At what age would you like them to receive those assets outright?
In your will or living trust, you can nominate guardians for your children and set up a caretaker trust to manage the assets that you leave to your children.
Are you married? Would your spouse have to probate your estate if you were to die first?
A Community Property Agreement can eliminate the need to probate at the death of the first spouse.
If you were injured and unable to manage your own affairs, whom would you want to make medical and financial decisions for you?
A Durable Power of Attorney will allow you to choose that person and some alternates. This document effectively eliminates the need for a guardianship in such a situation.
If you were so badly injured that your doctors determined that you were in a "persistent vegetative state," what would you like to have done to you and for you?
A Living Will allows you to choose how you wish to be treated in such circumstances and allows you to appoint a medical agent to carry out your wishes.
Is yours a blended family? Are you in a same-sex relationship? Do you have a child who is developmentally disabled?
All of these situations require particular planning, since statutory "defaults" will not always address your needs.
By means of comprehensive estate planning, we help our clients explore their own situations and plan for their futures. To help jump-start your own planning, download and complete the Whereabouts of my Finances form. (Some internet browsers may only allow you to view and print the form, but not edit it. With those browsers, the form can be downloaded to your computer and then opened in Adobe Acrobat.)
If you have more questions, we'd love to help. Contact Wakefield & Dwelle now.