If you have yet to create an estate plan, you are hardly alone. Over half of all Americans do not have even a simple plan in place, despite acknowledging the need for one. Like many of those people, you may have put off creating your estate plan because you are not aware of all the benefits an estate plan offers. A better understanding of exactly what an estate plan can do for you may encourage you to finally get started on your plan,
Estate Planning Components
Estate planning is a highly personal process which means that no two estate plans are exactly alike. While there are some fairly common goals that are addressed in most plans, the estate plan you create will also undoubtedly include goals that are unique to you and your situation. A better understanding of how an estate plan can help you achieve some of those common goals, however, should be sufficient to convince you of the importance of creating an estate plan.
- Ensuring that you don’t leave behind an intestate estate. Without even a basic estate plan in place, you will leave behind an intestate estate when you die. Among other things, this means that the State of Texas gets to govern the distribution of your estate assets using the state intestate succession laws. Consequently, only very close relatives will likely inherit from your estate. Friends, charities, and more distant relatives (such as a favorite niece) will receive nothing. Even a basic Will alone prevents this from happening and allows you to decide who inherits from your estate and exactly which assets they receive.
- Protecting the inheritance of a minor child. Your minor child cannot inherit directly from your estate. If you die without making provisions for your child’s inheritance, a court will have to decide who controls those assets until your child reaches the age of majority. If the court appoints the wrong person, the assets you intended for your child’s care and maintenance could be squandered in short order.
- Protecting you and your assets in the event of your own incapacity. You could become incapacitated at any time as a result of a serious accident or debilitating illness. Suring your incapacity, someone will need to make decisions for you and control your finances. Once again, if you failed to plan for this possibility, a court will have to decide who the person (or persons) will be. Even worse, your loved ones could end up in a contentious and divisive battle over the right to make those decisions and/or control your assets.
- Placing your assets out of reach of potential threats. As the value of your estate grows, so do the potential threats to those assets. Creditors, divorce, economic downturn, and even the high cost of long-term care could all pose a threat to your hard-earned assets. Your estate plan can protect those assets, but only if you take the time to create an estate plan and include asset protection tools and strategies in that plan.
- Helping you plan for your retirement. Saving money is certainly one component of a successful retirement plan; however, you also need to plan for the possibility that you (or a spouse) will need long-term care (LTC). If you don’t plan for that possibility, your retirement nest egg that you managed to save could be at risk when you are faced with the need to pay for the high cost of LTC. By including a Medicaid planning component in your comprehensive estate plan early on you can protect that retirement nest egg and ensure eligibility for Medicaid when the time comes to pay for LTC in the future.
- Making sure that your wishes are honored at the end of your life. Do you have strong feelings about end of life medical treatment? What about the care and disposition of your body after you are gone? If so, simply expressing those feelings to a spouse, adult child, or other loved one is far from a guarantee that your feelings will be considered and your wishes will be honored. The only way to guarantee that your wishes will be honored is to include an advance directive and a funeral planning component in your comprehensive estate plan.
Contact Kirkwood Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Kirkwood estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.