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Estate & Legacy Planning

What is Estate Planning?

Estate Planning determines:

  • Who will handle your affairs WHEN (and IF) you become disabled?
  • Who will handle your affairs WHEN (NOT IF) you pass away?
  • Who will receive your property upon your demise?

Why you need a legacy plan

If you own something, and you love somebody, you need a legacy plan. Many people think legacy planning is tax planning but there are many factors to consider. Many also think, “If I don’t have an estate over $1M or $2M, I don’t need a legacy plan” and that is incorrect.

Critical documents

Legal documents are critical to legacy planning. These are critical documents every person should have:

  • Will - lays out how you want your possessions to be distributed upon your death. Without a will in place your state’s probate laws determine how your assets are transferred to your heirs.
  • Financial Power of Attorney - a financial power of attorney grants significant authority to an individual of your choosing to make financial decisions on your behalf. The authority is allowed based on how the document is structured: some allow for immediate access while others only kick in if you are incapacitated.
  • Health Care Power of Attorney - This is a serious document that gives power to this person to make decisions on what procedures are completed including if you are to be taken off of life support if you are incapacitated.
  • Advance Health Care Directive (also known as a Living Will) - A different document from the Health Care Power of Attorney. This document is where you specifically lay out your wishes in regards to health care decisions if you are incapacitated. These wishes include:
    • Do you want to be resuscitated if you die?
    • How long you want to be on life support before the decision is made to take you off life support
    • If you are terminally ill, where do you want to live out your last days: a nursing home, a hospice or at home?
  • HIPAA Release form - grants access to healthcare information to deal with insurance matters on your behalf when you cannot do so
  • Pet Trust – provides for continued care of a domesticated pet for up to 21 years.
  • Parental Nomination of Guardian - to appoint someone to take care of a minor child under 18 in case the parent/grandparent dies, becomes incapacitated or unable to care for the child. The appointment of the guardian becomes effective when the first of the following events happens:
    • The appointing parent or guardian dies
    • A court decides that the appointing parent or guardian is incapacitated
    • A physician who has examined the appointing parent or guardian says in writing that the parent or guardian is no longer able to care for the child

*Note that the parental appointment of a guardian becomes effective before the guardian goes to court. The appointment remains in effect after the appointed guardian files the necessary papers in court.

These critical documents should all be a part of your legacy plan

Depending on the complexity of your estate (which could have nothing to do with wealth), other supportive legal documents may be needed.