If you believe that estate planning is something for only very rich people, you are not alone. This mistaken belief is widespread. Many people, and their loved ones, suffer the consequences of inadequate planning.
FindLaw explains that estate planning is the way in which you go about protecting yourself and your family from future negative events. For instance, if you die without having made a Last Will and Testament, the law says you died intestate. This means that state law will determine who inherits from you and in what amounts. Needless to say, these distributions may have nothing to do with what you wanted or intended.
Estate planning advantages
Probably the biggest advantage of estate planning is that it allows you to decide financial and personal issues for yourself, thereby maintaining control of your life and your assets. In addition, you get to choose how extensive your estate plan becomes. If you are like most people, your estate plan likely will include the following:
- Your Last Will and Testament that designates not only your heirs and what they will receive upon your death but also who will look after your minor children should you and your spouse die as a result of a mutual accident or catastrophe
- Your health care directive, or medical power of attorney, stating the types of end-of-life care you want to receive and who will make medical decisions for you should you become unable to make them yourself
- One or more living trusts that you establish for the benefit of yourself and/or your family members, such as a special needs child
- One or more tuition plans that you establish for the benefit of your children and/or grandchildren to assure that they will have sufficient funds to pursue higher education
One cannot overstate the peace of mind that thoughtful estate planning will give you. In addition, you can change, modify or even rescind virtually all of your estate planning documents if and when your needs and those of your loved ones change.
This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.