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Estate Planning - An Important Reminder

Straight Answers, a Buckley King Advisory

April 23, 2020

Mark Twain humorously said, "Never put off til tomorrow what may be done [the] day after tomorrow just as well."

When it comes to estate planning, many share this notion as their lives are just too busy. The unpredictability and speed with which COVID-19 strikes is frightening, and serves as a reminder that estate planning should be done when we are healthy and not in a crisis situation. Proper estate planning can ensure comfort today and security about tomorrow. As we continue to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an opportunity to take the time to prepare a plan to protect you and your family.

Estate planning is relatively straight forward. The essential documents for most estate plans include:

Last Will and Testament   

A Will addresses assets to be addressed in probate, provides for the appointment of an executor with regard to those assets and, in situations with minor children, identifies your choice of the person(s) to serve as guardian over minor children's assets and care. While the ultimate decision is with the probate court, knowing your wishes is influential with the court and therefore should be the essential purpose of your Will.

Durable Power of Attorney

The POA allows you to appoint someone as "attorney-in-fact" to act on your behalf with regard to finances and related accounts, assets, and business dealings. The POA is effective during your lifetime and terminates upon death. The use of the term "durable" means that the POA, and the ability of the attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf, continues in full force and effect even if you become mentally unable or disabled.

Health Care Power of Attorney

The HCPOA gives decision-making power to appoint someone as your designee to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.  

Living Will   

A Living Will provides the vehicle for you to refuse life sustaining procedures when it has been determined by the treating physician and additional medical professionals that you are in a permanently unconscious state and/or terminal condition.

In some instances, various types of trusts are available to best serve your estate planning needs. Estate planning allows both you and your attorney to review your assets and assess your objectives to ensure that your intentions are carried out to accomplish your goals and to transfer assets to the individuals or entities of your choosing.

In particular, situations such as second marriages, special needs children, and family businesses are all fertile circumstances to use estate planning as the safeguard to reduce disputes within your family, or those you trust, when you are no longer there to make the decisions. Estate planning also addresses the manner in which assets such as life insurance and retirement assets (401(k), valuable assets, and individual retirement accounts) are distributed to those you designate as intended beneficiaries. Estate plans also allow for avoidance of certain probate fees and/or adverse tax ramifications. In many cases, re-titling real estate, autos, and financial accounts will provide peace of mind that these matters have been addressed.

Keep in mind, your estate plan can always be changed (and should be reviewed) as your life circumstances change.