It is hard to believe that we are heading into winter and flu season with the pandemic continuing to rage on. The coronavirus has been unforgiving with how deadly it has proven to be. With mortality at the forefront of the minds of so many, now is the time to finalize an estate plan as there is a sense of urgency to prepare for the unthinkable.
Many may think that estate planning is only for the wealthy, but this is not the case. Estate planning can ease the process of settling a person’s affairs once they go, avoiding potentially long-lasting and costly impacts on your loved ones. Without a plan, state laws and probate courts could appoint individuals to be responsible for financial affairs and health-care decisions in case of illness and ultimately the transfer of assets upon death. It’s your property and your life, you should get to “have it your way” no matter what may come. Planning now is also the way to ensure that your wishes are followed even during your lifetime, should you become disabled.
To avoid the chances of legal battles and family strife, consider these reasons why an estate plan is necessary:
A plan for you
An estate plan is not just something specific to when a person dies, it can also protect someone if they become incapacitated or cannot make decisions for themselves. Having a discussion with trusted family members can help to ensure a person’s needs will be met if they eventually are unable to speak for themselves. One consideration is to designate a healthcare agent.
A plan for your children
So many things right now are uncertain and with the pandemic, no one is exempt from it being potentially lethal. If someone is the parent of small children, they need to be prepared for the unthinkable. An estate plan will help ensure that children are cared for by approved guardians if the parents die before the children turn 18. Without this, the courts could decide who raises the children.
A plan for your assets
With no documented estate plan, such as a will or living trust, the state in which a person resides will typically decide how assets will be distributed after a person dies. By having an estate plan, assets should be clearly defined as to how they will be transferred upon death. This can save a family time and frustration and ensures that the assets are dispersed in the intended manner.
If there is anything that we can learn from the coronavirus, it is that we do not know what tomorrow holds so all be we do is plan for the unexpected today.
Estate planning can be a complicated and emotional process. Due to the legal complexities, it is always best to seek advice from an estate planning attorney before making any decisions. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you break planning into a manageable process that you can handle one step at a time.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell