Need an estate lawyer? Three times the answer is yes.
Is putting together an estate plan on your summer to-do list? If not, it should be.
Putting together an estate plan is important to everyone, regardless of net worth. If you are uncertain about whether or not a plan can benefit you, ask yourself these three questions:
Do you want to have a say in where your assets go?
Those who die without a will are said to die intestate. This legal term means that you have no say in how your assets are distributed. Instead, the laws of the state determine where your assets go.
There are two primary cons to having the government in charge of your estate. First off, this generally requires that your estate goes through probate. Probate is a court process used to determine what goes where. It can take a good deal of time and money.
Secondly, when a plan is not in place your estate can get hit with a large tax bill. The estate tax that is due can be reduced with a couple of legal tools. One example is a trust. This legal tool allows you to transfer assets into an account managed by a trustee who has a fiduciary duty to meet the terms of the trust
You can tailor the terms of the trust to meet your needs. Trusts can be structured to shelter assets from creditors or to encourage beneficiaries to pursue higher levels of education.
Do you want to have a say in your medical decisions if you are incapacitated?
In addition to outlining how assets are distributed, a well-balanced estate plan should also include documents that outline your medical wishes in the event of incapacitation. This could happen if a car accident, disease, outdoor outing or other excursion results in unconsciousness.
Documents like a living will or advanced health care directive provide guidance in these situations. Instructions can range from taking every measure possible to preserve your life to issuing a do not resuscitate order.
Do you have a child or loved one with special needs?
Those who have a loved one with special needs should also put together an estate plan. Assets may be gifted to these individuals with the best of intentions. However, if not crafted wisely these gifts could do more harm than good.
Those with special needs often benefit from Medicaid and Social Security Disability programs. Gifts that are given outright could result in this individual losing his or her eligibility for involvement in these programs. This can be avoided through the use of a special needs trust.