Milestones in your life arrive then appear in the rearview mirror at surprising speeds. College graduation gives way to your first “real job” which is followed by marriage, a house and your first child. Planning for these events may seem difficult, but it’s never too late to get started.
Most couples have their first child at a time in their lives when the subject of estate planning isn’t even a consideration. After all, estate planning occurs after you’ve accumulated wealth and other possessions that comprise your estate, right?
In reality, estate planning provides your newborn son or daughter with a certain degree of protection if anything should happen to one, or both, parents. Estate planning provides immediate security for your newborn and helps you and your partner plan for the future.
Unlike what you’ve heard, estate planning isn’t difficult and you don’t have to be a certain age. Like most important decisions, this planning requires legal representation by experienced and knowledgeable counsel.
When you’re searching for a lawyer, ask your friends and family for recommendations. It never hurts to conduct your own personal research.
The lawyer you choose will meet with you and your partner and review the information you’d like to include in your last will and testament.
Your attorney should be made aware of all of your assets and how they are titled. Your assets include investments, retirement accounts, businesses that you own, bank accounts, trust accounts, real estate, cars and other items of value. Life insurance and beneficiary designations should be reviewed. A discussion should be held on the benefits of including trust provisions in your Will for your spouse and children. A trust for minor children will help preserve your assets after your passing and can still provide a source of income for your children until they reach a certain age when the trust principal will be distributed. Typical trusts allow the trust principal to be used for your child’s education and health needs even before your child reaches the age you specify in your will.
You will need to name a trustee in your will. It can be a bank but most often is a trusted individual. An executor will also have to be named to handle the probate of your estate.
The executor is a person entrusted to ensure that the terms of your will are carried out correctly. In many cases it could be a spouse, sibling or a close relative. If you’re working on a will, you’ll also designate the person or persons to be the guardian of your children in the event you and your spouse both pass away.
Estate planning should also include the creation of a document called the Advance Medical Directive. This document dictates your specific instructions to a hospital and medical personnel in the event you have an incurable disease or illness that physicians determine is terminal, you are in a persistent vegetative state and physicians determine you will not recover or you have what is called an “end stage” condition which is an advanced, irreversible condition caused by injury, disease or illness.
Finally, you should also consider the preparation of a general and medical power of attorney. These estate planning tools allow a person of your choice to act on your behalf with regard to your legal, property, financial, and matters of health. The powers of attorney can be effective immediately upon signing or can be structured so they are effective only upon a physician’s determination of your disability. Either way, the powers of attorney allow a trusted friend or family member to carry out your wishes while you are living.
Typically, having a will created makes it much easier for your children and legal dependents to handle your personal estate after death. Remember, your estate doesn’t have to be a certain dollar value; it includes all of your worldly possessions.
Life moves fast, and as your family grows, finding the time to take care of your estate planning becomes more difficult. That’s why it’s a good idea to contact an attorney today.
Contact Neil Lanzi today.