Top Ten Reasons to Have a Comprehensive Estate Plan

October 2, 2014

People often wonder why they should bother to prepare any estate plan.  A comprehensive estate plan typically consists of preparation of a Last Will and Testament (usually referred to simply as a “Will”) and or a Trust, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and a Declaration of Living Will.   Below are ten reasons why you would want to have a comprehensive estate plan:

1.  A Will is merely your written instruction for how you wish your assets to be distributed after death.    Having a will in place allows you to avoid having any assets passing to unintended beneficiaries.

2. A Will allows you to designate a Guardian for care and custody of your minor children.

3. A Will allows you to designate the person to manage property for minors or beneficiaries that might have special needs.

4. A Trust allows for the easy management of assets upon your incapacity or death, without requiring court intervention, and will allow you to establish conditions for the distribution of assets to your beneficiaries.

5. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone to handle your legal and financial matters, if you are ever unable to handle them.  This document avoids the time and expense of Court Guardianship should you become incapacitated.

6. A Designation of Health Care Surrogate allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions and handle your medical affairs when you can no longer do so; it allows that person to consult with your healthcare providers and access your medical records, which is normally not permitted under the law.  Additionally, this document also allows the person you designate to admit you to hospitals or rehab facilities if required to do so and also avoids the time and expense of Court Guardianship should you become incapacitated.

7. A Declaration of Living Will allows you to make known your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions and whether or not you wish measures be taken to artificially prolong the process of dying, and whether or not you wish nutrition and hydration to be either administered or withheld.

8. An estate plan can help minimize possible tax consequences.

9. A comprehensive estate plan can also address your burial or funeral plans.  Doing so can ensure that your wishes are carried out; thus eliminating guesswork on the part of your family and loved ones.

10. An estate plan will give you peace of mind that you have taken steps to lessen the anxiety and worry on your family and loved ones during what will usually be an unduly stressful time.

Because every situation is unique, it is important that you always discuss your concerns directly with an estate planning attorney.  Upon consultation with the attorney, a determination can be made as to what is the most appropriate course of action given your particular circumstances.