Factors to Consider Before
Starting Your Estate Planning
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that there are no guarantees in life. Indeed, uncertainties and setbacks abound. Even so, various surveys indicate that only a third of Americans have an estate planning document as a will in place.
Many people hear the term estate planning and think it is something for those who live behind gates and drive luxury vehicles. However, every working adult creates an estate, and most people have loved ones to be taken care of when they’re gone. Estate planning is thus a plan for the future of your loved ones and yourself. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Your estate consists of everything you’ve accumulated in this lifetime – homes, cars, bank and savings accounts, retirement savings, even heirlooms that are precious to you but have little or no market value.
If you don’t plan for the distribution of your assets – your estate – when you’re gone, your heirs will have to battle it out in probate court to determine who gets what. In that case, when you die without at least a will in place, the court will use the state laws of inheritance to decide matters.
If you reside in Bradenton, Florida, or anywhere in Matinee County or Sarasota County, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox to begin the estate planning process. Attorney Wilcox will help you assess your assets and needs for the future and guide you toward creating an estate plan that will achieve peace of mind for you and your loved ones.
What Is an Estate Plan?
As mentioned briefly above, an estate plan is a legal instrument to provide for the future of your loved ones and the distribution of your assets when you’re gone. The main form to distribute your assets is a last will and testament, generally referred to as a will, but wills by law have to go through probate court. A probate judge will preside over the settlement of your estate.
In contrast, if you set up a living trust, also known as a revocable trust, you can avoid probate court proceedings. A living trust is available if you become incapacitated, as the trustee named in the document can then manage your affairs for you. This is not possible with only a will.
Other legal instruments in estate planning include powers of attorney, living wills, and advance health care directives. These documents allow others to act in your stead should you become incapacitated or if hospitalized and unable to speak for yourself.
Factors to Consider in
Drafting an Estate Plan
The first factor is your family and loved ones. You want to make sure they’re taken care of should anything happen to you. The next most important factor is your estate – the assets that can benefit your loved ones when you’re gone.
Most people have a hard time when it comes to determining their assets. Some assets are easier to identify as your home, cars, retirement, and banking accounts, but others can be overlooked. What about your wedding pictures or photo albums of your children growing up? Who gets those? They are often even more precious to your loved ones than the tangibles you can leave them.
If you create a will, you will be required to name a personal representative who becomes the executor of your will when you die. If you create a living trust, you will have to name a successor trustee to oversee the distribution of your assets when you’re gone. In either case, you have to choose someone who is trustworthy and up to the challenge, usually a family member, friend, or associate.
When it comes to your future, you need to plan how your estate will be managed should you be unable to do so yourself. The personal representative in a will cannot do this by law. A successor trustee can. In either case, you should consider giving someone – whether the personal representative or the successor trustee – a power of attorney (POA) to manage your affairs. The POA, however, has to be so worded that it is viable when you’re incapacitated.
Another consideration is, as mentioned briefly above, the possibility that you could end up in a hospital in such a state that you cannot speak for yourself. This means your family or loved ones will have to decide upon your treatment, and they may not agree on the best course of action. With a living will, you can express your choices for treatment in advance.
However, even with a living will, you need someone to express your choices for you. In this case, you have to designate a healthcare surrogate empowered to voice your decisions made in your living will.
You may also want to consider your personal legacy when planning for your estate. For instance, you may want to donate to a charity and set up a charitable trust alongside your living trust to accomplish this.
Get Legal Guidance from the
Law Offices of David W. Wilcox
As you can see, choices abound when it comes to estate planning. Not only do you have to consider the welfare of your loved ones, but also the welfare and well-being of yourself as well. That’s why it is crucial to rely on the experience and knowledge of an attorney who has helped countless others create plans for the future.
If you are in Bradenton, Florida, rely on the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox to help guide you in your estate planning so that it is both comprehensive and thoughtful – taking everyone and every possibility into account. Attorney Wilcox also proudly serves clients in Matinee County or Sarasota County, Florida.