For a holiday that celebrates love, Valentine’s Day has surprisingly dark origins. In the 3rd Century A.D., Emperor Claudius II executed two men both named Valentine on February 14th of different years. The Catholic Church honored their martyrdom with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day and then, later, combined this with the Roman feast of Lupercalia in an attempt to expel pagan rituals.
Early St. Valentine’s days had nothing to do with chocolate and flowers. While the gesture shows your loved ones you’re thinking of them, they are not long-lasting. After all, once the chocolates are eaten and the flowers wilt, where does that leave you? Instead, establishing a secure estate plan shows your loved ones you care about them for the long run and provides protection and comfort even after you are no longer around to do so. While some may say it lacks romance, we think it is the most loving act you can take.
Estate Planning Really is All About Love
Jokes aside, an estate plan is a powerful way to show those you love your unwavering commitment to their well-being. People organize their affairs not for personal benefit, but the life-long benefit of their nearest and dearest. An estate plan is a collection of legal tools that both eases the administrative burden your family will bear when you pass and a mechanism that ensures your life’s work will continue to support them when you’re gone. This is achieved thanks to the following documents.
1. Last Will and Testament
On your death, your Will directs the distribution of your personal property and financial accounts – it gives a road map to your loved ones how you wish to see your assets distributed. Additionally, your Will names guardians for any minor children or pets and can outline specific requests you may have for your funeral.
The clarity provided by a well-drafted Will can reduce family conflict erupting around the many sensitive issues a death provokes. What’s more, the process of drafting a Will provides an opportunity for conversations with loved ones that, in itself, diffuses tension and eliminates possible misunderstandings.
2. Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney allow you to appoint an agent of your choice to act on your behalf and generally come in two types: financial and medical.
Financial power of attorney allows you to designate a loved one or trusted advisor to manage your finances should you suffer incapacitating injury. Doing so means that your financial affairs will be well-cared-for by the person you select rather than an unknown court-appointed conservator or perhaps worse, a well-meaning self-appointed committee of family members.
A medical power of attorney (sometimes referred to as a Healthcare Directive) likewise empowers a loved one to act on your behalf, although here their decision-making capacity refers to medical matters. Not only does this document ensure you receive adequate care, but it also outlines your care wishes and thus heads off any conflict that may arise among uncertain family members faced with tough decisions in a time of crisis.
3. A Living Trust
Many families choose to rely on a Living Trust rather than a Will to distribute their assets upon their death. The most often recognized advantage of living trust planning is probate avoidance. Wills go through probate – trusts don’t. Additional advantages include keeping your financial affairs private and greater disability protection for you as you age.
Trust design can be complex and it would be our pleasure to speak further about whether or not a living trust may be a good option for your estate plan. Should you have questions, feel free to contact our office.
Taken together, an estate plan provides an avenue for the continued care of loved ones long after you’re gone. In addition, organizing your affairs diffuses the potential for conflict that could permanently mar your family’s relationships. Lastly, tools like powers of attorney reassure those nearest to you that your well-being is as protected as possible in this uncertain world.
Taking care of yourself and your family is an act of love that runs deeper than flowers or chocolate and so while estate planning may lack the flair of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, it more than compensates with the sentiment.
To learn more about estate planning or to begin your estate plan today, do not hesitate to reach out to the Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia either by calling 770-822-2723 or using the contact form on our website.
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