Each year, millions of Americans dismiss estate planning efforts because they believe it is too complicated. While crafting estate plans can be confusing at first, the process can be simplified when you are working with the right team. Understanding the essentials of estate planning can help you and your family plan for a bright future without allowing anything to “fall through the cracks” when it comes to asset protection. Here are a few of the most important steps you should take when considering how best to protect you and your loved ones. This is a simple, yet comprehensive, guide to Estate Planning.
Create a Will and Trust
When most people think about estate planning, they think of wills – and for good reason. Many people may benefit from having this fundamental estate planning document in place before they pass away. Too often, though, wills are improperly constructed and frequently found to be invalid – especially those done online without any guidance from an attorney.
A will is one of the most important aspects of a person’s estate plans, but without a trust in place, your family could still end up in court arguing over the decisions you made in your will. A trust ensures that the right assets go to those you intended. Trusts and wills work in conjunction to directly instruct the transfer of assets, and if done correctly, without having to endure any probate court proceeding.
You have worked hard to put money into your retirement accounts, invest in the stock market, and possibly pay monthly premiums for life insurance to help take care of your family. Make sure your assets are transferred to your intended heirs by properly designating your beneficiaries. As your life changes, you may find yourself needing to update the individuals you listed as beneficiaries. Any time you are making a major life change (like getting married or divorced), you will want to reassess your beneficiary designations since beneficiary designations reign over what your estate planning documents state.
Create Advanced Medical Directives and Powers of Attorney
Should you become incapacitated, there is no document more important than your advanced medical directives and powers of attorney. Your statutory durable power of attorney allows you to name someone you trust to handle your financial affairs while your advanced medical directives will allow you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. If you skip any of these documents, you could find your family going to court to have a guardian appointed to determine any decision that should be made regarding the healthcare you receive or your finances. It is far better to make plans in advance to leave the job to a trusted advisor.
While you are at it, you should also consider your preferences for end-of-life care. Should you become incapacitated, doctors can refer to your advanced healthcare directives for instruction. This will allow the doctors to know your wishes when it comes to any life sustaining treatment you do or do not want.
Cement Your Future Plans Now
These simple steps can prepare you and your loved ones for what may lie ahead. Of course, your estate plans can be as detailed and as thorough as you would like them to be. If you need assistance to be sure everything is in order, contact Hegwood Law Group today. Our dedicated and experienced estate planning team will ensure to guide you through step-by-step to provide the best protection for those you love.
Written by Kimberly Hegwood, an experienced Texas Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney and the founder of the Hegwood Law Group, PLLC in Houston, Texas. Attorney Hegwood is a Member of the National ElderCare Matters Alliance, and she and her law firm have a Featured Listing on ElderCareMatters.com – America’s National Directory of Elder Care / Senior Care Resources to help families plan for and deal with the Issues of Aging.
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