While everyone is celebrating during this holiday season, the manner of these celebrations can vary based on differing family traditions, religions, and geographic regions. Estate planning is no different—protecting your family's future must be customized to fit your and your family's unique needs. No matter your level of wealth, it is important to understand that the reasons for estate planning are universal.
Estate Planning Basics
There are several reasons why an estate plan is necessary for everyone. Some of these include protecting beneficiaries, sidestepping probate, protecting assets from creditors, and avoiding a mess in the event of incapacity or death. Estate planning gives you the tools to specify what happens to you, your assets, and even your loved ones should you pass away or be unable to handle your own affairs.
Regardless of your motivations for establishing your estate plan, one important need is appointing the right fiduciaries (agent under a power of attorney, successor trustee, and patient advocate) who will make medical and financial decisions for you when you are unable. The creation of a will or trust can lay out who receives your property and how. They can also be used to appoint a pet caretaker who can ensure that your furry family member is taken care of when you are gone. Likewise, a guardian nomination lets you determine who will care for your minor or special needs children or family members. Finally, determining what values you want to pass along to family members, friends, or other loved ones can be spelled out in a number of ways including an ethical will, an incentive trust, or a charitable plan.
A major benefit of having an estate plan put together—no matter how much wealth you may have—is to minimize costs. Having your estate go through probate—which is the court-supervised process of the distribution of assets—can result in attorneys' fees, court costs, appraisals, and other expenses. This financial cost is in addition to the length of time it can take to administer an estate—from several months to several years depending on the circumstances.
Do Not Wait
Life can be full of surprises—what you leave behind for your family and loved ones should not be left to chance. For this reason, everyone should have an estate plan in place to ensure the security of their family's future. Contact us today to learn more about your options.