When people think of estate planning, they typically think of who is going to get their stuff when they’re gone. While the transfer of assets at death is an important concern, the essence of estate planning about preserving your right to make decisions regarding your care, your children, and your assets, when you can’t.
Although these are some of the most important decisions you can make, without an estate plan, you may have no say in them.
The two main scenarios in which you are unable to make these decisions are death and incapacity.
If you become incapacitated, ask yourself:
- Who will manage your money and property?
- Who will supervise your health care and make decisions about your medical treatment?
- Who will take care of your children?
- Who will decide whether to keep you on life support if you are in an irreversible condition?
When you die, do you know:
- Who will decide your burial arrangements?
- Who will raise your children?
- How your assets will be distributed, and who will be in charge of doing that?
Maybe you know the answers to these questions, or maybe you need to give them some serious thought. Regardless, if you don’t have an estate plan, your answers don’t matter and will not be considered.
I can hear you saying “What? How can my opinion not matter? This is my life, my children, my assets. Who has a greater right to make these decisions than me?”
Well, no one. But if you fail to make these decisions in a manner that will be recognized by law, then your opinion will not be heard and the default answers provided by the legislature or decided by a judge will be used.
The State recognizes how personal these decisions are, and it protects your decisions under the law. But you must make these decisions in the proper form to benefit from this protection. That is what estate planning is about, making your wishes known and enforceable through legal documents.
For example, decisions regarding your health care can be delegated to an agent under a Medical Power of Attorney. But if you don’t sign a Medical Power of Attorney, the law will decide who gets to make this decision. How your assets are distributed after your death and who is in charge of carrying out those transfers can be stipulated in a will or trust. But if you die without executing these documents, the law will decide who gets your assets and a court will appoint someone to be in charge of your estate.
An estate planning attorney can help you determine which documents you need to execute, advise you on what you should put in the documents, and draft the documents so they are enforceable under the law. If you want to your decisions to be honored and protected, then you must create an estate plan.
When you are ready to take control of the most important decisions affecting you and your family, contact us to schedule an estate planning strategy session.