Estate planning is something that all too many people put off or simply never do. Often this procrastination causes unnecessary suffering for family members after a disability or death.
Estate planning allows you to make plans for an orderly disposition of your assets and affairs when you pass away or in the event you become unable to manager your affairs while living. It doesn’t matter how large or small your estate is, everyone has an estate, and it’s in your best interest and your family’s best interest to plan for the future. An estate plan can be comprised of an array of legal documents but the most common and arguably the most useful are a last will and testament and durable powers of attorney. These legal instruments, if properly considered and drafted, allow you to ensure your wishes are followed in the event of death or disability.
A last will and testament states what happens to your assets once you pass away. It will also nominate someone to carry out your wishes as expressed in the will as the personal representative of your estate. If you die without a last will and testament, your assets will pass according to Kentucky’s statutes of descent and distribution. These statutes may include people you would not have included as beneficiaries of your estate, and often cause division and tension among your surviving family members. Simply put, if you want to specify who inherits your assets when you die, you need a last will and testament. No one is in a better position to understand your circumstances, your family, and your wishes better than you are, and it is important that you make those decisions and that your wishes be legally binding.
Estate planning is also critical in protecting your assets and wealth at the time it will be transferred to your beneficiaries. An estate plan will allow you to develop the most tax-efficient method of transferring your assets and help ensure that your assets remain with your beneficiaries. Furthermore, estate planning allows you to plan for the future of any beneficiaries who may be minors, through the creation of trusts that hold the property to pay for health, education, and welfare expenses until your minor beneficiaries reach a certain age that you determine. This type of plan also has the added benefit of the minor beneficiary’s assets being tied up in a court ordered guardianship.
Lastly, estate planning allows you to plan for the possibility that, in the distant future, you may not be able to handle your affairs. It will allow you to designate someone that, if need be, can make business and medical decisions for you. These decisions can be difficult, and if the day comes when you can’t make them for yourself, a properly considered and drafted power of attorney will allow you to pick someone you trust to make them for you. This relieves your other loved ones from the stress of those decisions.
An estate plan should be an important part of everyone’s plan for the future. A properly executed plan will ensure that you have done all you can to care for yourself and your family in the event of your disability or death. If you have questions about estate planning in general or a specific element of your estate plan, you should contact a qualified attorney. A qualified estate planning attorney will walk you through your options and draft a customized plan specifically designed to carry out your wishes.