For me one of the best parts about estate planning is getting to know my clients personally, hearing their stories, finding out about their family and discovering how they want to plan for their future. In an industry that can get bogged down with the legality and legalese of attorney work, it is important to me to make those personal connections with my clients.
One of my favorite things is when my clients ask me if they can provide for their pets through their estate plan. The answer is yes. And why shouldn’t you? Your pets are part of the family too.
When I tell people that I do estate planning, I often get asked, “Like creating wills?” While a Last Will and Testament is type of estate plan, there is also a Revocable Living Trust. There are some common misconceptions about trusts. Some people may believe that they are only for very wealthy people, or utilized as a method for avoiding estate tax liability, or that they are only available to some people not to the general public.
In an earlier post, we looked at the importance of setting up a durable power of attorney for financial matters. But, imagine what would happen if you were seriously ill or injured, unconscious and at the hospital. Who makes the decision about your health care? Your doctor? Your spouse? Another family member? Creating advanced directives will allow you to designate exactly who you want to make these important decisions.
President Abraham Lincoln, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, James Brown, Prince, and most recently Aretha Franklin. These are just a few of many famous people who died without creating a will. Probate disputes can be long and contentious battles. This is even more true when there is no will spelling out the decedent’s wishes with regard to their property and assets. Jimi Hendrix’s estate was still being litigated almost four decades after his death. Bob Marley’s estate is a similar story: a 30-year dispute over his estate, including the rights to exclusive use of his name, likeness and image.
A large part of estate planning is finding ways to keep your assets out of probate. Most people know that assets such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts allow you to add beneficiary designations directing who should receive those accounts after the owner’s death. But what about real estate?
With a new baby in the house, likely one of the last thing on your mind as a new parent is the thought of creating an estate plan. During this time you are likely tired from the new changes in the house and elated at the new addition to your family. This time is both stressful and happy. However, you certainly should not procrastinate too long on contemplating the important decision of what will happen to your new baby if both you and your significant other are incapacitated or worse.
Most people likely believe that estate planning is just preparing a will or trust that directs how your affairs should be handled after death. However, an effective estate plan should also contemplate a plan for what happens if you were to be incapacitated. Consider what would happen to your financial affairs if you were to be taken ill or incapacitated for a long period of time. A power of attorney is a document that can direct exactly how your affairs should be managed in such a case.
Jessica Brandow is foremost an estate planning attorney dedicated to providing quality legal service to all types of clients.