What exactly is estate planning? Is it the same thing as making a will? How does a person decide if and when to contact an estate planning attorney?
How does “estate planning” differ from “making a will”?
They are related. Actually “making a will” is one part of estate planning.
Estate planning for an individual or couple can include a lot more than just making a will and should be tailored to the person or family’s specific needs. For some people, a will is all they need, or all they choose to have. Other people need and choose to make a more extensive plan.
Estate planning can include:
- Deciding how your property is distributed after you die;
- Making a list of specific bequests for inclusion in your will;
- Deciding your beneficiary designation on your life insurance;
- Deciding your beneficiary designation on investment accounts, retirement accounts;
- Making decisions about “payable on death” bank accounts;
- Making decisions about cremation and/ or burial;
- Creating and signing health care documents such as a health care directive;
- Having a Durable Power of Attorney drafted and signed so that someone can act for you while you are alive if you are unable to do so;
- Having your will made;
- Creating trusts, if applicable;
- If you are a business owner, making a plan for your business in case you are disabled or you die;
- Making a plan for your minor children, or any person with disabilities that may be dependent on you for care or financial help.
Tailored for each situation and need
People who are at different life stages need different things. For a young couple with children, it is most important to have a valid will. That document should state who would raise the children if both parents were gone.
People who have stepfamilies, own their own businesses, include a person with disabilities, or have other responsibilities may require additional documents.
Senior citizens may be concerned about a Durable Power of Attorney so that they can get help with management of finances. They may also request a more detailed Health Care Directive.
Don’t let it stop you
Just in case you are thinking… “oh no, this is overwhelming!”, let me reassure you. First of all, several things on that list can be accomplished in one document (Last Will and Testament which specifies how to distribute property and also contains a trust and guardianship provisions = one document).
Secondly, an estate planning lawyer already has this broken down into manageable steps to help you get to where you need to be.
Thirdly, some of the items that are considered above don’t require a lot of time and effort to accomplish. (designating beneficiaries on accounts).
It isn’t necessary to put it off
Want to have a will, but not ready to visit the other issues? Just have a will made. If hearing the term “estate planning” makes you think of a large project that you dread, remember that we can help you. If you want only the basics, that is fine.
Need a more complete plan? Want the peace of mind of knowing that it is “all done”? Your attorney can help you check off each concern and make sure that you have a complete plan that covers your situation.
Free consults offered now
We are currently offering free consults via phone or videoconference for our new clients, former clients who are returning, and clients who have other types of cases with us. Just contact us for the details!
Remember, we can help you in English and in Spanish.