Size is not the most important thing in estate planning. When most of us hear the word “estate”, we think of old people in large houses with tapestries hanging from their walls…or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, the term estate really indicates anything you own. Your estate is made up of every item you possess: bigger items like your house or car, and smaller items like your baseball bobblehead collection. As such, estate planning isn’t just for the old and wealthy: it’s for every adult. In fact, putting off estate planning until you have more money and assets could place you, your family, and the assets you do have at risk.
Life is Unpredictable
You only have the read the news to find several examples of terrible life events happening to good people. Car accidents, heart attacks, cancer, strokes, early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia are just a few unforeseen circumstances that can leave you and your loved ones in less than ideal situations. While we always hope these things won’t happen to us, there is no way to prevent them completely. Preparation is the only thing that can help alleviate the damage left in the wake of these disasters.
Estate Planning = Preparation = Peace of Mind
Estate planning is about more than just giving your wedding ring to your oldest child: it’s about planning for the unexpected. While a Last Will and Testament will aid in the distribution of your assets after you die, there are documents that are important to have if you are alive but unable to make sound decisions for yourself. Using the above catastrophes as examples, any of those situations could leave you incapacitated or unable to make sound decisions for yourself. In your estate plan, you can have a Durable (Financial) Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive created. These documents allow you to choose the person you would like to take care of your finances or make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those sound decisions for yourself.
Without these legal documents, the courts are left to make that decision for you. Consider the predicament this could leave you in if your estranged spouse or child or a spendthrift sibling were left in charge of all your money while you were in a temporary coma. The loss of control of your assets could place you and your loved ones at long-term financial risk. This further illustrates the value in keeping these documents up to date.
In addition to putting someone you trust over your finances, it’s essential to have someone to make wise medical decisions on your behalf. An Advance Healthcare Directive contains three important documents to aid your loved one in making the decisions you would make if you were unable to make them for yourself: Living Will, HIPAA release, and Medical Power of Attorney.
There have been stories that have come to national attention regarding the prolonging of an individual’s life long after doctors have declared that person to be in a permanent vegetative state. Imagine the peace of mind a husband would have knowing that in his wife’s Living Will she had determined she did not want her life prolonged by artificial methods. Or the peace a wife would feel knowing her husband wanted his organs donated to family first. Or the peace a daughter would feel knowing her mother wanted her children present before artificial life giving methods were removed.
These documents can be tailored to your particular desires and beliefs. Having control over our own bodies and what happens to them is one of the great gifts we have as individuals. As such, it is essential we make those desires and beliefs known to our loved ones through the drafting of an Advance Healthcare Directive.
Preparation Not Size
Regardless of the size of your estate, estate planning is essential for any adult. Unfortunately, we can’t always predict what will happen to us, and calamities can often come when we least expect them. The best we can do is to prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
To discuss your particular estate planning needs and to draft individualized documents for you or your loved ones, please call The Law Office of Gregory Homer at (303) 968-1710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.