In a previous post, I explained what Probate is, why you should care, and what you can do about it. A properly drafted estate plan can protect your family, save them (and your estate) money, and give you peace of mind but what IS an estate plan and what should be included?
WHAT IS IT?
Think of an estate plan as an instruction manual for someone to carry out your wishes and distribute your assets. These legal documents will provide instrucments on what to do should you become disabled AND when you pass. Although each estate plan is different and created to meet the unique needs of each individual client, there are some common elements to them all:
A. Living Trust
A living trust is kind of like a treasure chest: you put all your valuable posessions in there such as your money, stock portfolio, home and anything else you own. While you are alive and mentally stable, you hold the key to the paddlock and can take things in and out, put new things inside, or change the contents in any way. Should you become disabled or when you pass away, the chest contains a list of instructions on who gets the key (known as the “trustee”) and how that person should distribute the treasure chest’s contents. The trustee cannot change the contents of the treassure chest and can only follow the instructions you presented.
B. HealthCare Directive
No one likes to think of their own mental incapacity but with today’s longer lifespans, we all need to come to terms that we may one day not be capable of making medical decisions for ourselves. A HealthCare Directive allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions in the event you are unable to do so. Not having a healthcare directive would not mean that you may continue to make decisions on your own behalf. Rather, the court would appoint someone and it may not be the person you want or trust…
C. Limited Durable Power of Attorney
Similar to the Healthcare Directive, a limited durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to manage your assets should you become disabled. Again, if you don’t have one in place, a judge will appoint one for you.
The instructions to your treasure chest can only be applied to things you’ve put inside it. This means that if you’ve forgotten to put your new vacation house inside, the trustee cannot follow your rules about how your assets will be divided. A will offers protection by “pouring over” anything that is outside of your trust INTO that treasure chest. If you have minor children, it also has instructions on who will be their guardian should something happen to you.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…..
The above is just a snapshot of how a properly drafted estate plan can offer certainty, clarity, and protection of your assets all while giving you full control today. A trust isn’t just for the rich anymore, it is a vehicle available for everyone to limit the time and expense of probate and offer peace of mind that your wishes will be followed.
Want more information on estate planning and how it fits into your daily life? Let’s Talk! Email your questions to [email protected] or call me at (408)857-1216. Let’s work together on building YOUR treasure chest.