As a wife and a mom, I understand talking about estate planning can be scary and overwhelming. No one really wants to talk about what life would be like if they were no longer here, but it’s a conversation that absolutely critical. It is my job as an attorney to make that conversation as easy and productive as possible, and to educate and counsel you through the estate planning process so that you can have peace of mind about your family’s future.
Throughout this 5-Part blog series, I’m going to highlight the 5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Estate Planning, with the aim of demystifying the subject of estate planning and answering your questions about the process. I will also breakdown all of the legal terms and documents that make up an estate plan but can be difficult to understand. At the end, my hope is that you will be more informed about what your estate plan should be, and have a better understanding of what documents you need to ensure your wishes for yourself and your family are legally known and strictly obeyed. When you’re ready to get started on your estate plan, I encourage you to schedule a complimentary consultation with our firm.
What is it?
Estate planning is one of the most misunderstood areas of law. The phrase “estate planning” leads many people to think about the wealthy, as most of us don’t consider ourselves to have an “estate.” The truth is, however, everyone has an estate. Your estate is simply everything that you own – your house, cars, financial accounts, retirement, life insurance, personal items, and even your pets! Your estate plan, then, is a strategic arrangement designed to protect the people and property you cherish.
This arrangement is made using specific legal documents (a will, a trust, guardianship nominations, Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives), financial allocations (beneficiary designations, real estate titling), personal decisions, and other tools that allow you to keep control of your property, to take care of you and your loved ones in the event you become disabled, and detail how to distribute your property and to whom when you pass away, while saving as much unnecessary expense as possible.
If you’re still not sure what an estate plan is really all about, let me sum it another way: If you have a spouse and/or kids that you love or property that you’ve worked hard to acquire and maintain, estate planning is for YOU! At the very heart of the estate planning process is a desire to take care of everyone that you love and everything that you own. Just as you provide insurance for your family (whether it be health insurance in case of an illness or emergency, car/homeowners insurance in case of an accident or disaster, or life insurance in case of death), your estate plan should be in place should the unexpected happen.
Why You Need a Plan Now, Rather Than Later
It’s not uncommon for people to avoid talking about life’s unknowns with the hope that those unknowns will never happen. But, as we’ve all probably seen firsthand, the unexpected can happen to any of us at any time. Having a well-designed and legally enforceable estate plan won’t protect you from life’s unknowns, but it can provide you with the priceless peace of mind of knowing that your children will be raised by the people of your choice, that your family’s financial future is secure, and that most importantly, your legacy has been memorialized as a guide when they need your wisdom.
If you don’t have a plan and aren’t quite sure what would happen to your family if something unexpected were to happen, you need to get your estate plan now, because if you haven’t proactively planned for incapacity or death, what happens to your children and property will be determined by your state’s laws, not by you. That means, that in the event both parents are incapacitated in a car accident, for example, and therefore you can’t get to your children at daycare or school, it’s possible your children could be placed in Child Protective Services. Additionally, if you haven’t formally nominated guardians for your minor kids, anyone can petition the court for guardianship of them. Ultimately, you know what is best for your kids, and you should control these life impacting decisions, rather than a judge who doesn’t know you, your desires, or your family circumstances.
Stay tuned for our next post to learn more about the specific documents you need to ensure you, and not a judge, have the final say about your life’s wishes.
In the meantime, if you have specific questions you want answered or if you’re ready to get started on your plan, schedule your complimentary estate planning consultation by clicking here or calling our office at (770)285-0033.