Distilled to its most basic elements, an estate plan is concerned with three things: caring for your children; managing your health; and providing for how your assets are to be handled. An estate plan is not just for wealthy people; it’s for people with children and/or a desire to control how things are to be handled after you pass away or become too sick to manage things on your own. An estate plan’s primary goal is to set up your loved ones for success after something happens to you. If you don’t have an estate plan, then those you leave behind can be in for a massive amount of work and expense on top of the emotional burden they’re carrying due to your passing or illness. Considering the current situation, it’s a good idea to have an estate plan.
Do you have minor children? Then you should have an estate plan that contains a Nomination of Guardians so you can not only formally designate the guardians who will take care of them if something happens to you, but also leave instructions for how you want your children to be raised. You can get detailed in your instructions, or you can leave it to the guardians to raise them as well as they can. It’s up to you.
Do you want to dictate how your health care is to be handled in the event you’re unable to make those decisions for yourself? Then you should have an estate plan that includes an Advance Health Care Directive, which is the document by which you dictate how your care is to be handled. Again, you can get detailed or you can leave general instructions for the person you designate as your health care agent to make those decisions in your best interest.
Do you own a home or anything else of value, and do you want to be sure your financial affairs are handled appropriately for you while you can’t do it yourself? Further, in the event of your passing, do you want to make sure your things are passed down to the people to whom you want to go and/or ensure they’re used to support your children as they grow up? Then you should have an estate plan that includes a trust so you can control how things are to be handled after you pass or fall ill.
What happens if you don’t have an estate plan and something happens to you? It’s a complicated answer that’s beyond the scope of this blog post, but suffice it to say that it’s a huge and expensive undertaking for those you leave behind. An estate plan is a great example of the axiom “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” because an estate plan is like doing a little bit of work on the front end to avoid leaving an exorbitant and very costly amount of work for your loved ones on the back end. Simply put, it’s like leaving instructions for people rather than leaving them to figure it out on their own.
If you want to talk about an estate plan, its components, and how it works, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or call me at (858) 232-7100.