The term “estate plan” is used to generally describe the process which people use to plan for their long-term financial future. An estate plan can include a number of different tools including insurance (for example, short- and long-term disability insurance and life insurance), investments, retirement accounts, wills, trusts, advanced directives, and powers of attorney. Some of these require a certified financial planner and others require an attorney.
At Bennett & McClammer, our attorneys include the following documents in a basic estate plan: last will and testament, financial power of attorney, and living will/healthcare directive. Of course, each estate plan is carefully crafted to an individual’s needs so every plan will vary and some plans require the use of more complex tools.
A last will and testament is a document that dictates how your estate is administered after your death. A will allows parents to dictate who will serve as guardian of their children in the event of the death of both parents. It allows you to list who will receive your property. It also tells the Court who you would like to serve as your personal representative and whether that representative can administer the estate without court supervision. This document can even contain instructions for your funeral.
A financial power of attorney gives another person the power to handle your finances. The general powers granted under a power of attorney allow your attorney-in-fact to file tax returns, buy and sell personal property, conduct banking transactions, and to communicate with your attorney. Importantly, an attorney-in-fact can access your bank account and pay your bills if you are unable to do so yourself.
A living will and healthcare directive serve two purposes. First, a healthcare directive allows you to appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to do so. Second, a living will allows you to make decisions regarding the level of care you will receive, including receiving electrical or mechanical resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration, and/or pain medication
An estate planning attorney will also assist in the management of assets and will develop a plan to help maximize the value of those assets. For example, it may make sense to transfer some assets during your life as opposed to after your death. This type of planning is very specific and must be tailored to each client’s needs.
Even if you do not have a large amount of assets, estate planning tools are still very valuable. For example, if you do not have a will your family may fight over the custody of your children, over who should serve as personal representative, and who should receive your property. A properly drafted will covers all of these issues and eliminates or reduces the cost your family might spend to find out the answers.
Everyone can benefit from an estate plan, even if you do not have many assets, are single, widowed, or married. The attorneys Bennett & McClammer LLP will craft a carefully tailored estate plan to meet your needs. Questions? You can reach us at 317-931-0944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.