For many, the word “estate” conjures up thoughts of a sprawling mansion. In reality, it doesn’t matter if you own a mansion or a mobile home. Estate planning is simply a fancy name for a plan, to make sure that your property and health care wishes are carried out when you die.
What is an estate?
Regardless of how much you have, you leave behind an estate. For some, this can mean real property, cash, an investment portfolio, and more. For others, it may be a few dollars in their wallet and the clothes they are wearing. Your “estate” includes such things as:
- Your home, other Real estate
- Bank accounts
- Retirement plans, IRA’s, Stocks and other Securities
- Life insurance policies
- Cars, motorcycles, boats, ATV’s etc
- Personal items, Jewelry, Collectibles, Sporting equipment etc
- Social medial accounts
What is estate planning?
Estate planning simply means deciding how what you have will be distributed, after your death. It will answer such questions as;
- If your estate is small or large, who will inherit it?
- Who will take care of any minor children?
- Who will take care of your pet?
- Who will handle the process?
If you don’t decide, or make a plan for these things, you could be leaving behind a legacy of legal headaches for your survivors.
An estate plan can be simple or more complicated. It generally starts with a Will and goes from there. It may include;
- Living Will (Advance Care Directives)
- Pre- or post-nuptial agreement
- Insurances such as long-term care insurance
- General durable and health care power of attorney
How does an estate plan help?
Regardless of your age, or the size of your estate, an estate plan does the following:
- Ensures that your property will be transferred to those you’ve chosen. (As quickly and with as few legal hurdles as possible.)
- Names a guardian for minor children.
- Provides for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Minimizes the amount of taxes that need to be paid in order for your property to pass to others after you die.
- Eliminates the time and costs associated with probate. (Utilizes living trusts and “payable on death” bank accounts etc).
- Dictates the medical care you wish to receive should you be unable to communicate.
Simple estate planning can be done on your own. Through services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, you can complete your Will on your own. You can get legal forms such as Power of Attorney and Health Care decision forms on line as well. Click here for links and resources>> For a more complicated estate, you may want to seek out an estate planning attorney.
Individuals put off estate planning because they think they don’t own enough. But don’t let the word “estate” confuse the matter. You have more than you think. Start your planning today!