Estate planning is not a top priority on your daily to-do list. However it’s something that should be addressed before it is too late. Completing the process ensures your wishes are fulfilled and your family is taken care of upon your death. It also keeps you covered while you are still alive, but become disabled or incapacitated. You may desire to establish trusts or organize partnerships to handle some matters. In any case there are three documents you need.
The last thing you want to do is leave it up to a probate court to determine who receives your assets. It is critical that you prepare a will to specify who gets what and other details. A will helps to avoid strife between two or more family members because of a lack of clarification. The will should also choose an executor to be in charge of paying taxes, managing assets and distributing them to beneficiaries. It should also appoint trustees for any trusts established by the will. Backup executors and trustees should also be appointed in the event the originally appointed person is unable to serve.
2. Durable Power of Attorney
If you are unable to make your own decisions while still living, you will want a person who you trust to make your decisions for you. This individual may act on your behalf to cover financial and legal transactions. Because this person will have a lot of power, it is important to think carefully before choosing a durable power of attorney. This person should not only have your best interest in mind, but should be financially responsible and capable of effectively managing money. As with executors and trustees, a backup attorney in fact should be appointed in case something happens to your initial power of attorney.
3. Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care
This is a legal document that serves both as a health care power of attorney and a living will and gives another person the ability to make your medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so. They will act as your medical power of attorney and will essentially have your life in their hands. The person you choose should want only the best for you. They should also be objective and able to remain calm during a stressful situation. This document also allows you to specify what you want for end of life care and ensure that you remain relatively comfortable. For instance, if you develop a terminal illness that is incurable, you could dictate what type of treatment you receive, if any. You should talk with family and loved ones about your health care desires to make it easier in case of a difficult situation in the future.
4. Trust Documents
There are a lot of advantages to having a trust set up during one’s lifetime. This certainly depends upon the type of estate and the type of assets that need to be protected. Trust documents are not necessarily for large estates because they can protect property from going through probate and directly pass to beneficiaries during the lifetime as well as upon death. This is something to discuss and while they are complicated, it does make issues much simpler in the dealing with an estate and transferring and passing of property. There are also some tax estate issues that are beneficial by using trust documents in the beginning.
Due to the emotional nature of estate planning, most people procrastinate. Even though death and medical issues are not something that we like to think about, much less put at the forefront of our minds, it is better to take care of legalities in advance to make the process easier later.
For more on asset protection, read here.
Stephen Fuller is the managing partner of Fuller Sloan LLC and has practiced in business litigation and consulting for 37 years and has over 25 years representation of the founder of one of the largest sit-down casual restaurants in America. For more information, send Mr. Fuller an email.