Your estate plan is the last form of legal protection available to you when you die or you have a health emergency that leaves you unconscious or incapacitated.
While there are only so many different documents that you can include in an estate plan, there are an infinite number of ways in which you can personalize those documents and structure your estate for the protection of the people you love and your peace of mind as you grow older.
Identifying and addressing the most important matters during estate planning will help you make the most of the documents you do create.
Who do you need to provide for or protect?
Maybe you have very young children who have more than a decade before they would be adults. Perhaps you just got married, and your spouse is fully dependent on you. Maybe you provide for your elderly parents or your sibling with down syndrome. There are also pets that may require support if anything happens to you. Identifying those that you need to take care of in your estate plan will help you take care of them even after you die.
Will your financial obligations destroy your legacy?
Will your estate be worth more than $12,060,000? If so, you could be subject to federal estate taxes even though Michigan doesn’t collect estate taxes.
Perhaps you have a very high amount of credit card or student loan debt which will mean that creditors will make a claim against your estate or possibly sue you when you are older and living on a fixed income. There is also the possibility of Medicaid eventually seeking repayment for any nursing home benefits you receive from the state. You need to identify and plan for those legacy-destroying expenses.
What property do you need to address specifically?
Some people leave simple instructions for their executor to evenly split their property among their children or beneficiaries. Other people want to leave specific assets to particular people. If you fall into that second category, you need to identify the most financially valuable assets that you want to specifically address in your estate plan. You also need to address the remainder of your assets so that everything goes to the appropriate people or organizations after your death.
What happens in a medical emergency?
Your estate plan isn’t just about your death. It is also about your life if something unexpected happens. Your advance directives and powers of attorney can leave clear instructions about what medical care you want to receive and who should take care of you in the event of a coma or cognitive decline.
Once you have considered all of these issues, you will be in a better position to decide what the right estate planning documents are for your current needs and long-term wishes. Planning your estate carefully and updating your estate plan occasionally will protect you and give you peace of mind about the uncertainties of life.