The Importance of Having an Estate Plan
When people find out that I practice estate planning, I inevitably hear the all too familiar question: “do you think I need a will?” I respond by asking: “have you finished college/started your career and/or do you have children?” If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then not only would it likely be in your best interest to obtain a will, I often recommend other estate planning documents as well.
People often say, “I don’t have a lot of assets, why do I need a will?” You may not have a lot of assets right now, but you may come into assets in the near future. Maybe you win the lottery next week, or you inherit a lot of money from a relative. You do not necessarily need to know what assets you have or will acquire. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to craft your will in a general way so that it can accommodate any additional assets you may acquire. If you have kids, your will can dictate who will be their guardians, care for them, and manage their inheritance until they reach adulthood. You can even take a further step and set up a trust for your children within the will to make sure that they are taken care of.
For those with many assets, particularly multiple real estate properties, revocable/irrevocable trusts may sometimes be a great option to avoid probate and certain tax implications. If you have out of state property, a durable power of attorney may not be a bad idea. A power of attorney can cover many assets and legal rights, such as real estate, stocks/bonds, government benefits, business entities/companies/corporations, personal property, investments, contracts, insurance, retirement funds, trusts, lawsuits/litigation and taxes. Going back to my initial example, a power of attorney would allow your attorney-in-fact to represent you in selling or buying property out of state without you having to be there. A durable power of attorney would allow that power of attorney to still apply even if you are incapacitated.
Something I recommend to most people is an advanced healthcare directive. These often consist of a healthcare surrogate designation and a living will. Similar to a power of attorney, a healthcare surrogate designation allows the person you choose as your surrogate to make informed healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated due to disease, illness or accident/injury. Many people associate living wills with a “do not resuscitate order” (DNR). A living will gives you the opportunity to dictate what happens to you in case you succumb to a terminal disease or a mortal injury. It could also save your family from having to make incredibly difficult decisions during a very emotional time. I like to reference the Terry Schaivo case to highlight what can happen when people do not have living wills prepared.
Save Your Family Some Stress, Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
A carefully crafted estate plan prepared by an experienced attorney can save you and your family huge heartache and headaches during some of the most emotional and difficult situations that they may ever have to deal with. It can also allow you to manage your present and future assets in the way that works best for you and your family. If you have any additional questions or would like to set up an appointment to establish your estate plan, please contact the Law Office of Gian-Franco Melendez, LLC at 813-473-4944 or GMelendez@attorneymelendez.com. If you would like to learn more, check out the podcast below.