You don’t have to be elderly or wealthy to have an estate. Your estate is comprised of all your possessions – your car, your house, your checking and savings accounts, and your 401k are all parts of it. As such, estate planning involves creating an outline for the disbursement of your assets in the event of your incapacitation or passing. However, it is hard to know where to begin, and that is why a lawyer who is knowledgeable about estate planning can be invaluable.
Power of Attorney
First, an estate planning lawyer can assist you in devising a living will and power of attorney. A living will is a legal document that expresses your decisions about what kind of medical care to proceed with in the event that you are too ill to speak for yourself, and a power of attorney names a trusted person to direct these health care decisions. These documents are collectively called advanced health care directives. Advanced directives are important to have to avoid any confusion about things such as the use of breathing machines, whether or not you wish to be resuscitated if your heart or your breathing stops, and organ or tissue donation. Each state’s laws are different, and a lawyer can help by ensuring that your advanced directives meet all of the legal requirements.
Establish a Will
Another aspect of an estate plan that a lawyer can help you establish is a last will and testament. The primary purpose of a will is to lay out how, when, and to whom your estate will be distributed when you die. In addition, your will may include details such as funeral arrangements, designations for who should serve as executor of your will, and appointment of legal guardians for any minor children. If you do not have a will, intestate succession laws will instead decide who will inherit your estate and in what proportions. In order to avoid this, it is important to talk to an estate planning attorney to ensure that your will meets all of the legal requirements in order for it to be valid.
Facilitate a Living Trust
An estate planning attorney can also aid you in facilitating a living trust. A living trust is a legal document that places your property and possessions into the hands of a trustee for disbursement. In contrast to a last will and testament, a trust can be created during your lifetime, and can name beneficiaries to receive certain parts of your estate either before or after your death. One of the main purposes of a trust is to avoid probate, or the court-supervised process of inventorying and appraising your property and assets and transferring them from the estate to the heirs or beneficiaries. Bypassing probate can save significant time and money because, rather than having to first allocate money for the court proceedings, more of your estate goes directly to your surviving family members.
The future is uncertain, and hiring an estate planning attorney to help you develop a conscientious plan can offer you a wealth of benefits, including peace of mind in knowing that your last wishes will be honored.