Legal Tips & Resources
The question is not whether you need an estate plan but how extensive you want your estate plan to be. People with large, complicated estates usually need an elaborate estate plan. However, if you do not have much in the way of property or assets, you only need a simple plan with a few basic documents. Nevertheless, whether simple or elaborate, every adult needs an estate plan of some sort.
It can be difficult to know where to start with estate planning. Asking yourself the following questions can help you assess your situation and determine what your needs are.
1. Do You Want Your Property and Assets To Pass to Specific People When You Die?
If so, you need a will and/or a trust, both of which allow you to designate specific beneficiaries to receive certain property. Dying without either of these estate planning documents in place means that the court must distribute your assets according to the rules of intestate succession. These vary by state and are based on the way the people usually distribute property in a will, but they are somewhat arbitrary. If you want someone other than your immediate family members to inherit from you, a will or a trust allows you to express your exact wishes.
2. Do You Have Minor Children?
If so, most states require you to name a guardian for them in your will. Failure to do so means that, once again, the court needs to make an arbitrary decision regarding the care of the children. Guardianship usually goes to a close relative by default, so it is especially important to have a will that designates a guardian if you would prefer that someone outside the family takes on the role of caring for your children.
3. Do You Have Strong Feelings About End-of-Life Care?
For example, if you are ever in a coma, do you want to remain on life support indefinitely? If your heart stops beating, do you want to be resuscitated? Do you want doctors to attempt every life-saving measure possible, or do you only want to receive comfort care? You can make these decisions now in a living will and share them with your doctor and your loved ones so that they know what to do for you if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make medical decisions for yourself.
These are some of the most important considerations you need to make in your estate plan. An estate planning lawyer, like from the Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, can assist you with some of the finer details when you contact our office.