How Estate Planning can Protect Yourself and Your Family

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Estate Planning

Death is something that each person must contend with. You may not want to think much about your mortality, but you need to start planning for it. Doing so is especially important if you have amassed considerable wealth. You should sit down with an estate planning attorney to create the will, trusts, and powers of attorney that you need to protect yourself and your family.

Wills

A will is your statement of how your assets are to be divided and distributed upon your death. Creating a will is the best way to state your intentions clearly and to prevent your estate from becoming intestate. If the latter occurs, a probate judge will get to decide who gets what, and your family will be forced to spend years fighting amongst themselves over your property.

If you have spent your life building a business, a will can protect your legacy and the financial interests of your family. You may have already planned for your retirement and put in place the executive team you want to run the company after you step down. Your will can reflect your desire to keep the executive team you selected and mentored in place. At the same time, you can ensure that the financial proceeds of the company go to your family.

You can also create a living will. A living will enables you to set down exactly the type of care you wish to receive if you ever suffer an illness or accident that prevents you from speaking. The will can include the type of life-saving interventions you want. You can also add a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order if you have been diagnosed with an incurable illness.

Trusts

You may also think about creating a trust for yourself and members of your family. A trust is a way of managing and distributing money while keeping your tax burden low. As a trustor, you will provide the money. You will then need to appoint a trustee to oversee and manage it. The beneficiary of the trust is the person who receives the money.

If it is your desire to give your children or other family members a solid start in life, you can set up a trust that will finance their college studies and give them enough financial capital to launch themselves in society. You can put certain terms and conditions on the distribution of the money. It will be the job of the trustee to ensure that these are met before they release the funds.

You can also set up a trust for your long-term health care and assisted living needs. If you get to the point of needing to move out of your home and into an assisted living facility, you can finance it through a trust rather than burdening your family with the expense.

Power of Attorney

You should also create powers of attorney for emergencies and special circumstances. You can create a power of attorney that gives someone whom you trust the right to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You may be the picture of good health and vitality right now, but a sudden illness or accident can never be ruled out. You should prepare for this contingency. Having a power of attorney on hand will establish who can act for you in the most critical of times.

You should also establish a power of attorney for your finances. If you have been diagnosed with a long-term illness and you are moving to an assisted living facility, you may need someone to look after your money. It is an unfortunate fact that assisted living facilities and nursing homes are systematically targeted by scam artists. Many of them seek employment in such facilities to take advantage of vulnerable people. You may consider yourself a strong-minded and able-bodied person, but if you move to an assisted living facility you will be isolated and subject to cons of every sort. Giving a trusted relative or friend the power to review and verify all your financial transactions can help you protect yourself against thieves.

Why You Should Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

Writing a will may seem like a simple enough act. You may think you can do it on your own. However, there are dangers in such a practice. Not every written statement you make concerning the disposal of your property when you die can be considered a will. A will that you create on your own may be challenged by certain members of your family.

The only way to create a legally valid will is to enlist the help of an expert. An estate planning attorney will take you through the exact steps required to establish a sound will. They can also help you think through the various factors that you need to account for when writing the document. Your lawyer will help ensure that you are not unduly influenced by anyone as you make out your will.

You will also need an attorney to set up trusts and to generate powers of attorney. These documents require the skill and precision of an experienced legal mind.