You probably fall into one of three groups of people with regard to your estate plan. 1) You don’t think you need an estate plan so you have nothing, 2) You have one (great job!) and you’re assuming it’s fine, or 3) You know you need some planning or to update your old plan but you haven’t gotten to it, yet (it’s on the to do list but keeps moving to the bottom).
Group 1 – You don’t think you need one.
So, if you’re under 18 years old and you’re reading this (amazing), you’re right, you don’t need an estate plan. But if you’re over 18, you definitely, at minimum, need a “baby” estate plan. Did you know, if you are over 18 and become incapacitated without legal documents, your parents can’t make legal, financial, or health decisions for you without going to court? Scary! Doctors aren’t even allowed to tell your parents how you are doing without a HIPAA Waiver, let alone allow them to make decisions on your behalf. Everyone over 18 needs an Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA Waiver and Durable Power of Attorney for Finance. If you have assets or kids, a Trust or Will is also important to avoid court.
Group 2 – You have an estate plan and think it’s fine.
This is a tough one. In our experience, about 95% of the estate plans we review have a fatal flaw our clients don’t usually know about. By fatal flaw, we mean that it 1) May not honor your wishes, 2) May involve court in order to use the documents and/or 3) May disrupt family harmony. This is very frustrating for clients who have spent thousands of dollars already.
If you are single or married and have one kid (or no kids) with very simple assets and your kid is independent and you have an estate plan, you’re probably okay. This is assuming you have the “baby” estate plan above, a Trust and Pour Over Will (if you have some assets) and your trust is fully funded (assets have been retitled into the name of the trust). Of course, we can’t give legal advice in an article.
However, if you have multiple kids, a blended family, a special needs kid or grandkid or your trust hasn’t been fully funded, then take time to consider what will happen if your estate plan has a fatal flaw from the list above. This flawed plan may cause considerable emotional turmoil, wasted money on lawyers and may rip your family apart.
Group 3 – Creating or updating your estate plan is on your to do list.
Covid-19 aside, it’s time to create or update your estate plan. As we all know, shit happens and it’s devastating to us when we get calls from people whose family member or dear friend has lost capacity or passed away and there’s nothing we can do but go to court. Remember, you can’t create these documents when you need them, they must be created in advance! Did you know, you cannot legally make decisions for another adult, even your spouse, without these documents in place? We’re here to help.
We pride ourselves on creating reality-based, detailed, holistic and comprehensive estate plans. Our firm philosophy is to take care of clients like family. We want to provide you with peace of mind knowing that you have done everything you can to make sure your wishes get honored, reduce the burden on your loved ones and to take care of them.
We love helping people, which is probably why estate planning and elder law come naturally to us. However, most people think of estate planning as a scary, if not morbid topic, or something that only the rich need. The reality is that everybody, regardless of your financial situation will need one (or wish they had one) at some point in their life!
This article is too short to provide a lot of education, but we are happy to send you a short checklist of topics to think about if you have an estate plan or to schedule a time to speak to you about your specific situation. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org at or call us at 800.489.1984.