I need an estate plan? You’re sure? But I don’t have any children?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
For me, estate planning felt like a very “adult” thing to do. It felt like the kind of thing I’d put on the back burner until we had 2.5 kids and a house with a yard. And while the feelings may be legitimate (being an adult isn’t easy), my rationale was wrong. The main reason I was wrong: things happen. (No one would have ever imagined Kobe Bryant would have died at age 41.) Thankfully, the lawyers in my family have scared me enough to understand why having an estate plan is critical.
So why do I need an estate plan?
- Estate plans address issues related to both life and death: This was a surprise to me, but estate plans are not just about distributing assets upon my death. Estate plans address critical issues related to medical care and my finances that could impact me during life.
- An estate plan will protect my assets for my family / other beneficiaries:An estate plan is a thought-out plan regarding distribution of assets upon death. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated, but it does need to be a descriptive plan. A comprehensive estate plan typically includes a will, trust, and medical and financial powers of attorney. Setting up an estate plan helps preserve the value of assets, minimizes wait time for disbursements, and ensures the legacy I envisioned is carried out. A Trust helps to avoid probate court (which is expensive, and public) and other fees. As my uncle Rick Bloom says, “The more we can keep judges, courts and lawyers out of family affairs, the easier life will be.”
- It allows me to choose who is making decisions on my behalf: Rather than leave my fate in the hands of doctors, lawyers or strangers, I am giving explicit decision-making powers to the people I love and trust.
- An estate plan allows me to have a say in who receives my belongings: I can leave belongings to my beneficiaries without disputes amongst the living if I were to pass away. (Wouldn’t want my sisters fighting over my magic-trick set from middle school).
First off, estate plans do more than just protect your money/assets. They contain a handful of critical documents, including:
- Last Will and Testament: This document spells out who receives your possessions and assets upon death. If you do have children, this is where you would identify a guardian.
- Financial Durable Power of Attorney: Appoints an agent to handle your finances, real estate, or business matters if you become unable to do so. Upon death, this Power of Attorney is terminated.
- Health Care Directive: This document provides guidance to your family and health care professionals on your medical treatment preferences if you become incapacitated and no longer able to communicate. This document also appoints a health care representative to make decisions for you, which makes it preferable as compared to a Living Will. Upon death, this Power of Attorney is terminated.
In addition to setting up an estate plan, it’s important to think about setting up a document storage system. If something should happen to me, how easy would it be for my husband or our families to find the important paperwork and passwords? (Half the time I don’t even know the passwords myself!) I use Dropbox to store important information. The next step is to share access with trusted family members.
Estate plans are not cheap (typically $2,500+); however, I can’t imagine anything more important than ensuring I am taken care of and my loved ones are taken care of according to my wishes. I know that setting up an estate plan is a way of expressing my love for my family. If you’re looking for an estate planning attorney, the team at Bloom, Bloom and Associates is always here to help. In addition, we have some free resources on our website that may be useful.
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