Distributing assets is only one part of an estate plan’s purpose. The other is to provide clear direction to family members concerning aspects of aging, including illness and end-of-life decisions.
The word “estate” may bring to mind a large home on a sweeping piece of property, but it also refers to any person’s possessions—including regular homes, automobiles, investment accounts, jewelry, retirement accounts and any personal possessions. If you own anything, you have an estate and if you have an estate, you need an estate plan.
Newsmax’s recent article, “7 Tips for Seniors to Get Their Estate Plans in Order,” says that without proper estate planning, all of the decisions and arrangements for your property distribution after death will be made by a probate judge pursuant to state law—not according to your own wishes. This often results in stress and conflict among family members. The article shares some specific tips for seniors to get their estate plans in order:
- Store personal and financial records in a safe place. Personal records are things like your name, date of birth, and Social Security number and employment records, as well as contact information for relatives and close friends. Financial records include banking and insurance information, liabilities, mortgages, deeds and estate planning documents.
- Tell family or trusted friends that you have records. In an emergency or death, people must know the location of this information. Just give them the location, not all the details of the records. An estate planning lawyer can help.
- Draft a will. This makes it much simpler to distribute the property in the estate and avoids strict oversight by the probate court. Detail how you want your assets distributed to family members, friends, or charities.
- Talk to your attorney about a living trust. Trust property goes directly to the heirs after death and avoids probate. A trust is also more difficult to challenge in court than a will. It should be created by an experienced and knowledgeable trust and estate lawyer.
- Designate a power of attorney. You may become incapacitated and unable to make financial decisions on your own. A power-of-attorney authorizes a trusted person to oversee these affairs, which avoids having a court-appointed person managing your financial affairs.
- Decisions and arrangements for incapacity and end-of-life care. An estate plan includes a healthcare directive, which details what kind of medical care and treatment you want if you are incapacitated. It also includes directions for your burial, if you wish to donate your body or organs and who you want to be in charge of these arrangements.
Reference: Newsmax (May 2, 2017) “7 Tips for Seniors to Get Their Estate Plans in Order”