ESTATE PLANNING
 

Estate planning is not just for the wealthy and the elderly. Healthy, young adults can be the victim of an accident or illness. And what wealth is more important to protect than your children? Estate planning does not need to be expensive or complicated. We pride ourselves in tailoring estate plans to our clients’ individual needs and budgets. We do not believe “one size fits all,” so each estate plan is custom drafted for the client. We have a special interest in helping clients with an increased risk of financial loss such as doctors, farmers, or business owners and clients in high risk professions like the military, law enforcement, and fire-fighting. So what are the components of a good estate plan?

Last Will and Testament 
 
Names the person you trust to handle your estate’s affairs and make sure your property is distributed the way you want.
 
Names a guardian for your minor children in the event you and your spouse are both deceased.
 
Directs how, when, and to whom your property will be distributed (not the way state laws dictate).
 
Durable General Power of Attorney
 
Names an agent (“attorney-in-fact”) to handle your business affairs if you are unable or unavailable. It is not just for people who are incapacitated. It is also for anyone who might be temporarily unavailable, such as being out of town. Everyone over the age of 18 should have one in place.
 
Durable Health Care Power of Attorney
 
Names an agent to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. It is not limited to life and death situations. It may be a situation of a family member signing you into the hospital in the event of an accident. Again, everyone over the age of 18 should have one in place.
 
Authorization for Medical Records
 
Names the persons who may access your medical records in compliance with the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). This may be a simple matter of convenience such as authorizing a spouse or other family member to transfer your x-rays or other medical records to a different doctor.
 
Advance Health Care Directive (Living Will)
 
If you want one, this document confirms your desire to not be kept alive by artificial means which only serve to prolong the dying process. To be effective, you must be terminally ill or injured, where there is no realistic hope of survival, and you must be unable to communicate your wishes. This serves as both a directive to your health care providers and a way to relieve your family of the burden (and guilt) of making the decision. It also promotes family harmony, in the event there is disagreement, by taking the decision making process away from the survivors.
 
Trusts
 
There are many types of trusts, both revocable and irrevocable. The revocable living trust is a common and effective way to control the distribution of your estate for years to come and protect it from your beneficiaries’ creditors and divorcing spouses. If managed correctly, it can also avoid the high cost of probate, keep your financial matters private, and eliminate the need for a conservator. And at the very stressful time of your passing, a revocable trust lessens the burden on your family. Supplemental Needs Trusts can provide extra help for family members with special needs without jeopardizing their assistance from government.
 
WHY DO I NEED A NEW OR UPDATED ESTATE PLAN?
 
Any change in your personal, family, financial, or health situation, or a change in the tax laws, can prompt a change in your estate plan.
 
Believe it or not, you have an estate. Your estate is comprised of everything you own—car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, personal possessions. No matter how large or how modest, everyone has an estate and something in common—you can’t take it with you when you die.
 
None of us likes to think about our own mortality or the possibility of being unable to make decisions for ourselves. This is exactly why so many families are caught off-guard and unprepared when incapacity or death strikes. Don’t wait. You can put something in place now and change it later, which is exactly the way estate planning should be done.

Having a properly prepared plan in place is one of the most thoughtful and considerate things you can do for yourself and for those you love. And providing peace of mind……priceless!