While not a topic most like to dwell on, estate planning is critical, and will save your loved one’s significant stress and hardship after you pass. Here, the professionals at The Law Offices of James A. List detail what to keep in mind when planning your estate.
While estate planning may sound like a term reserved for the wealthy, that is not the case. If you own property or a business, maintain assets or trusts, have step-children and grandchildren, and wish for your belongings to be passed on to those you care about, you need to invest time now to creating an estate plan. An estate plan dictates how you would like your wishes to be carried out after you are gone or if you are unable to enact them yourself. It prevents legal crises between family members, ensures you receive the care you desire when you are incapable of making decisions and establishes the division of your assets and property as you see fit.
There are several components to a successful estate plan. They include a will, a durable power of attorney, an advance medical directive—or living will—and beneficiary forms. Creating and regularly updating each as your situation changes is critical to ensuring your future needs and desires are met.
The most well-known estate planning document is a will. The will names an executor for your estate, and details how you wish your assets to be allocated after you pass away. Without a will, a court may be left to decide which family members gain possession of your property and assets after you pass. A will can also establish guardianship for your children, if your spouse is no longer around or able to care for them.
Even those with limited assets may find creating a will to be a difficult yet necessary task. As such, legal consultation for estate planning is encouraged.
Along with a will, establishing a trust can help to allocate certain assets to individuals of your designation, and can be a useful tool for those with complicated estate needs. As trusts are governed by Maryland law, it is also advisable to consult with legal counsel who can guide you through the administrative details, and benefits of these estate components.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney names an individual who will attend to your financial and business concerns if you are incapacitated. These can be general or specific in nature. They can “spring” into being if you become disabled or can be effective upon their execution.
Advanced Medical Directive/Living Will
An advanced medical directive details your wishes pertaining to your health care if you become incapacitated. It also appoints another person to make decisions for you under certain circumstances, allowing the Medical Power of Attorney to communicate with health care providers and coordinate treatment plans. These too can be general or specific and limited. A Living Wills sets forth your wishes about treatment should you have an end-stage condition or be in a persistent vegetative state (coma) with no hope of recovery.
When you open a bank account or IRA, establish a 401(k) with an employer, or take out an insurance policy, it is important to choose a beneficiary. A beneficiary will collect the value of these assets upon your death. Without choosing a beneficiary, these assets will go into probate.
Just as important as establishing beneficiaries from the outset, ensure that your routinely confirm the beneficiary designation on your accounts and update upon any large life changes such as marriage, divorce and childbirth. We review these designations with you to ensure their consistency with your overall estate plan.
How Can The Law Offices of James A. List Help?
Estate documents are easy to create – you can find them online. What is needed is advice and guidance with regard to end-of-life medical and financial decisions and counsel on asset distribution options. A well-organized plan avoids this stress for you and your family.
At The Law Offices of James A. List, our estate planning attorneys have years of experience handling estate matters, and work with our clients to create an estate plan for their unique needs. It is never too early to establish peace of mind for your loved ones—for more information, we urge you to contact us today.