So What is an Estate Plan Anyway?

If you think you need an estate plan, but aren’t exactly sure what that means, you are not alone! I looked up a definition in an Estate Planning Handbook and got this:

 
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As a process, it involves the use and arrangement of property for and among the members of the owner’s family group according to a design that will afford the greatest benefit to the objects of the owner’s bounty commensurate with estate conservation.

Ha! (This basically means it’s about giving your property to your family when you die.)

No wonder, though, many people think estate planning is only for the wealthy and elderly. Over the years (many, many years – about one thousand years – think feudal England!), it has come to mean much more than just the transfer of assets.

So, in today’s world, then, what has an estate plan come to mean?  Here are the foundational documents it has come to include and what you can say in them:

1 - In a Will, you can say:

  • Who will receive your property when you die.

  • What you want to happen to your digital assets (which includes all online accounts and digitally-created content) when you die.

  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your minor children (the person you would like to care for your minor children if you die).

  • How your children will be provided for financially if you die.

  • How you would like any pets will be cared for.

2 – In a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters, you can say

  • Who will manage your financial matters if you are not able to manage at some point during your life.

  • Who will manage your digital assets if you are not able to manage at some point during your life.

  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your estate (the person you would like to take care of your finances if you aren’t able to take care of yourself and it is necessary for the court to appoint a guardian).

  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your minor children (the person who you would like to take care of your minor children if are not able to care for them due to illness, injury, or absence).

3 – In a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you can say:

  • Who will make health care decisions if you are unable to do so at some point during your life.

  • Who can access your health records.

  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your person and estate (the person you would like to take care of you and your financial matters if you aren’t able to take care of yourself or your finances and it is necessary for the court to appoint a guardian).

  • Who you would like to be the guardian of your minor children (the person who you would like to take care of your minor children if are not able to care for them due to illness, injury, or absence).

4 – In a Health Care Directive (Living Will), you can say:

  • What health care decisions you would like to be made for you if you are unable to make these decisions yourself.

This is really just a glimpse of what estate planning can include in today’s world. Your family and financial situation could require the need for other documents. There are also many things you can say in even these basic documents. But, generally,  these are the foundational estate planning documents and some of the choices you can reflect in them.

Have questions specific to your situation? Get in Touch.

Christal Hillstead