Most people think estate planning simply means deciding which family members and friends should get your property after you die. While this is certainly an important part of estate planning, it’s only one aspect of it.
Since the average American life expectancy is now approximately 79 years, it’s important to think about the later stages of your life. A well-designed plan allows you to use your assets during your lifetime, yet ensures that your beneficiaries later inherit those assets with minimal taxes imposed.
Here is a list of legal documents you should consider when designing your estate plan:
- Will — A will identifies which beneficiaries receive your assets when you die. You can also name guardians for your minor children. However, wills may have to go through the probate process before the assets can go to beneficiaries. This is a public proceeding;
- Power of Attorney — With a power of attorney, you name someone to make financial decisions and other decisions if you wish on your behalf should you become incapacitated;
- Healthcare Power of Attorney — If you become incapacitated, your family may not be able to gain access to your medical information because of federal privacy laws. Granting a healthcare agent the right to access your medical records allows the person to make informed decisions on your behalf and ensures that your wishes are followed; and
- Trust — A trust can be beneficial for many reasons. For example, trusts may lessen estate taxes or provide for a special needs child. Revocable living trusts are the most common because they allow you to retain control of your assets while you are alive and let beneficiaries avoid the probate process, possibly saving time and money, when you die.
It’s important to have everything in place so you don’t unintentionally cause additional hardships for your family in the event of a grave illness or your death. Our experienced estate planning lawyers at McShane & McShane Law Firm, PA listen to your needs and desires and craft a comprehensive estate plan that protects you and your loved ones