Can’t shake the feeling that you should be contemplating estate planning, but you have too many questions, so you put it off again? Want some answers before you have to navigate complicated situations?
Here are some questions and answers:
- What’s the difference between a will and a trust?
Wills become effective after death, while some trusts take effect as soon as they’re signed. Wills direct who receives property, appointing a legal representative to oversee the process. Trusts can distribute property prior to your demise. Trusts cover only property placed in the trust, while wills cover anything owned by you, the creator of the will. Wills are public record, whereas generally a trust remains private. They can overlap in what they accomplish, but one does not necessarily replace the other — you can have both.
- Do I need a living trust?
It’s a document similar to a will, but the advantage is that you allow your estate to pass to beneficiaries privately, without court proceedings or probate delays. It also lets you instruct a chosen trustee how you want all assets in the trust managed during your lifetime should you become incapacitated. These trusts can be revocable, meaning you can make changes, or irrevocable, which means you effectively give up control of the assets.
- What is power of attorney?
Power of attorney grants legal rights to another person if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself, such as if you were suddenly on a respirator. You assign tasks concerning your financial affairs and other matters to a person of your choice instead of relying on the courts to appoint a person, thereby saving time and money.
- What is a medical directive?
This is related to the above question. A medical directive provides an understanding of your health care wishes before you become unable to voice them, and a durable power of attorney allows your designee to make for you decisions that you can no longer make. “Durable” means the POA remains in effect when you’re incapacitated.
- How can you prevent family members from contesting your will?
You can make the arrangements more likely to be upheld by ensuring your will is properly executed by working with an experienced attorney. Explain your decisions to your family in the hope you can defuse any problems in advance.
- How can you bring up the subject of estate planning with your family?
Address issues now to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts by remembering that estate planning is about family members you can unite with clear and thoughtful instructions in your documents, increasing their pride in your family history. You can preserve your family’s values and help ensure a family business prospers and remains in the family if that’s what you want to happen.
Estate planning can be complex, both emotionally and legally, so it’s good to think about what most perplexes you. You may start your own estate planning journey to protect and preserve your hard-earned wealth for your family and friends. Speaking with your estate planning attorney about your circumstances will help determine the best course of action for you. Your attorney can draw up and file legal documents that jibe with state laws, too.