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Estate Planning: What is it?

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Nearly Everyone Has An Estate.

Your estate is simply everything you own – your car, home, bank accounts, life insurance, personal possessions, etc. Some estates are large, some are small, but just about everybody has one. What do they all have in common? You can’t take it with you when you die.

 

Only two things in life are certain – death and taxes. 

 

Estate Planning has something to do with both. A good estate plan carries out your wishes and instructions and makes it happen with the least amount paid to taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

That is Estate Planning in a nutshell: planning in advance and naming who will receive your things after you are gone. But it is more than that. 

An Estate Plan should also:

· Include instructions for your care if you become disabled before you pass;
· Name a guardian for your minor children;
· Provide for loved ones who may be irresponsible with finances;
· Provide for family members with special needs;
· Include life insurance, disability, and long-term care insurance;
and
· Be an ongoing process, reviewed, and updated as your family and financial circumstances change over a lifetime.

 

Many people go through life and never make an Estate Plan, but everyone should.

People tend to think of Estate Planning at key times during their
lives. For example, at the birth of their first child, or when they retire, or upon the illness or death of a parent. The truth is, the right time to create your Estate Plan is now, before something happens.

A basic Estate Plan begins with a Will.

A Will is a document that provides your instructions on how to distribute your property when you are gone. Not everything you own is controlled by your Will. Some joint property and assets 

that allow you to name a beneficiary (life insurance, IRA’s, etc.) will usually transfer without a probate. A Will has to be probated upon your death. There are ways to avoid probate, which we will discuss in a later article.

Next comes the Powers of Attorney or POAs.

There are several types of POA. Some allow a person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Others let a person to make financial decisions for you under the same circumstances. POAs can be limited in the powers they authorize to your agent, or they can be rather broad, depending on your needs and wishes.

Last comes the “Living Will.”

This is sometimes called a Medical Directive or Directive to Physicians. This document is where you outline your wishes in case you become terminally ill and need to be on life support.

This is just an example of a very basic Estate Plan. You may need other documents, depending on your estate and your situation. Your plan should be personalized to include all the things you want and need. For example, you may want to include funeral and burial instructions for your loved ones to follow.
Also, pay attention to the words and definitions used in your Estate Planning documents. Some of the standard definitions may not fit your situation, especially if you have a blended or non-traditional family. Be sure that general terms like “spouse,” “heirs,” and “children” are clearly defined to fit your situation and your requests.

There are plenty of do-it-yourself Estate Planning services on the internet these days, and that is certainly better than nothing. But the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to consult with an experienced attorney. Then, you can be certain you have addressed every possible concern and left nothing
to chance.

Now that you know the basics, are you ready to get started? Give us a call at 210-368-9708 and schedule your Estate Planning consultation today!

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