How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

If you should become incapacitated at some point in your life, you can bet it will be both very scary and stressful for you and your family.

Becoming incapacitated and unable to take care of your affairs, does not mean that you do not have a plan or say in your care and finances though.

There are steps you can take today to ensure that you and your family are both taken care of should you or your spouse ever end up in this situation.

Advance Health Care Directive 

An advance health care directive is also known as a living will.  This document allows you to choose someone you trust to make your health care decisions.  This person might be a family member or a trusted friend.  Having someone designated to make sure your health care decisions are in line with your outlook and desires will take the pressure off of you and your family.

Working through the establishment of a living will/advance health care directive means stating clearly which health care and end of life choices you want.  This document also allows you to say what you want or do not want. For example, you can put in your advance health care directive that you do not want a feeding tube or you can put that you do want a respirator if those are your choices.  These directives eliminate ambiguity for your family when trying to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Setting up a living will/advance healthcare directive today is a great first step in getting your estate in order.

Set Up Your Advance Health Care Directive & Living Will Today

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Durable Power of Attorney for Finance 

A durable power of attorney is similar to the advance health care directive in that you choose a family member or a trusted friend to make decisions for you.  The difference is that this is for your finances.  Because of this, you want to make sure you choose a person you completely trust to make sound financial decisions for you and possibly your family depending on the situation.  The person you choose can be the same person as your advance health care directive but does not have to.

Guardianship Plan

When we say a Guardianship Plan, we are talking about a plan set up to help you to choose someone to take care of your minor children if you are unable to.  In many cases, your spouse will be there to the carry-on with guardianship of your minor children, but in the rare case both of you become incapacitated or only one of you are still living, it will give you the reassurance your children will be taken care of.

Along with choosing who will be your children’s guardian, you can also add a letter voicing your wishes for how your children are raised.  You can say what type of education you want for them, what religion you want them to follow, etc.

You can read more about guardianship plans and kids protection plans, here.

Trust

Having a trust set up for your children will ensure that your wealth is protected from undue taxes or probate while also setting up the transfer of your wealth and estate to those you designate.  You will be able to name a trustee who will help your children access your gift for things like schooling, housing, basic needs, or other things you want to designate.

To help reduce stress, the trustee and the guardian should be two separate people. However, they must be able to work together and make decisions in the best interest of your children.  Without a trust, your financial and property assets could become the rope in a tug of war between kids, relatives, and others.  If you were to become incapacitated, a trust would truly help to keep things straight for everyone!

Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

In today’s society, most things are done on the computer and saved to a hard drive.  Important documents are very rarely printed out and filed in a file cabinet or folder.  However, there are benefits to printing out legal documents including your guardianship plan.

Here are four benefits of printing out your guardianship plan on good ol’ paper.

Accessibility

Most people have passwords on their computers.  If you should die or become incapacitated, how will your loved ones get access to your guardianship papers if you have a password on your computer?  If they cannot figure out your password they will have to trust the judge to make a decision on who is best to care for your children.  This will make it difficult for your loved ones to ensure your wishes are being met for your family.

Even if they are able to get access to your computer, they may not be able to figure out where you saved the guardianship papers.  Everyone has a different way of filing documents on their personal computer. For example, one person might put their guardianship papers in the file titled “Important Documents” while someone else might put it in a file titled “Stuff to Keep”.

Having it already printed and labeled in a file cabinet can be the easiest way for your family to access it.  In fact, here’s what we do when we create a plan for a client!

Verbal communication

Verbal communication is not enough.  It is great that you and your spouse agreed on someone to take your children and that person agreed to step in. However, you need a legal document stating who will be the legal guardian for your children.  If you print out your guardianship papers, you can give a copy to the person who will be caring for your children and you can put one with the rest of your estate planning paperwork. Having more than one copy ensures that it will be found when needed.

Expectations

Printing out your guardianship papers allows you to give them to your appointed guardian along with any other instructions you may have.  For example, you can write a letter of instruction to them.  You can explain your hopes and expectations for your children’s upbringing including education, activities, and religion.

 

Security

Having your documents saved on your computer risks them being compromised by hackers. This may not happen often but you do open yourself up to the possibility if you are saving your guardianship papers on the computer. Other security threats you risk by saving your guardianship papers online are:

  • Ransomware (software designed to lock up a computer until a ransom is paid) (very rare for personal computers)
  • Theft
  • Viruses
  • Data failure (data and documents can be lost due to software or hardware failure)

Hackers are not the only ones that can change your document.  If someone really wanted to, they could log onto your computer and change your guardianship papers to benefit them.  If you have them printed out and stored safely then they are much harder to be changed.

Printing out your guardianship papers has definitive benefits that will ensure your wishes are met if you are to become incapacitated or if you die.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Family Protection and Guardianship, Today! 

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What if I Become Incapacitated? Who Will Take Care of My Family?

What if I Become Incapacitated? Who Will Take Care of My Family?

Not being able to take care of your family or yourself can be a scary thought. 

Who will make all the important decisions about your finances, health, and important decisions about your family?

There are some estate planning documents that will allow you to name someone to take care of you and your family. 

Let’s take a look at what they are.

Advance Health Care Directive

An advance health care directive allows you to name someone to make health decisions for you when you are incapacitated.  This is often used to decide on whether or not to use feeding tubes, ventilators, or other life-sustaining treatments.  It is also used if you are unable to speak for yourself or sign health documents even at a doctor’s appointment.

The Advance Health Care Directive is also known as a living will or durable power of attorney for healthcare.

If you do not have an advance health care directive, doctors will do everything they can to keep you alive even if that is not what you want.  Be sure to discuss with whomever you choose what you would want them to do.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finance

Similar in intent to an advance health care directive, the durable power of attorney for finance allows you to name someone to take care of your finances if you become incapacitated.  This can be the same person or a different person than you named for your healthcare decisions.

If you do not name someone, then a court will appoint someone to manage your finances.  Your spouse may not have access to your finances unless everything has/had already been set into a joint property.

You want to make sure that whoever you name is someone you trust.  They will handle all of your finances!

If you do not have someone you trust, you can contact a professional to help you setup fiduciary support.

Guardianship Plan

A guardianship plan will lay out what is to happen to your children should you be incapacitated. More than likely if you have a spouse, your spouse will take over the full care of your children. However, if you or your spouse is not in town, not readily available, estranged, or any number of other scenarios where you (or they) cannot immediately take custody of your children, things can go sideways, fast!

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about Guardianship Plans:

You will need to name a guardian for your children.  You can also include what you want for your children, such as the type of schooling they will receive, if you want them to participate in sports, what values and morals you want them to grow up with, etc.

You want to choose someone you trust to follow your wishes.  They also should be able to financially and emotionally support your children and perhaps even have the same faith or values as you do.

Trust

Setting up a trust for your children will make sure that they will have the financial support they will need.  It can also ensure that your children will not receive their whole inheritance when they turn 18.  Naming someone other than the guardian to be the trustee of the trust can help make sure your children are using their inheritance wisely.  Regardless, you want to make sure that the guardian and the trustee can get along and make decisions together.

There are many factors involved when trying to lay-out how a trust will coordinate with a guardian, powers of attorney, advance directives, wills, and more.  Your best bet is to set up a consultation with a great estate planning attorney.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Family Protection and Guardianship, Today! 

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How to Help Your Family Use Your Estate Planning Forms in An Emergency

How to Help Your Family Use Your Estate Planning Forms in An Emergency

In an emergency, everything is chaotic and stressful. Family members are often distraught and unable to clearly (and quickly) think about your wishes.

What will happen to your children if you and your spouse are no longer able to care for them or yourselves? How will your family know your wishes or have access to any legal information?

Using your estate planning forms can help your family and prevent them from having to go to court to receive authority to make decisions if there is an emergency.

Here are six estate planning forms and ideas you can use and how they can help your family in an emergency.

Guardianship Plan

A guardianship plan lays out your wishes for your children if you, or yourself if you become incapacitated. This estate planning form gives medical, financial, and legal decision-making abilities to a trusted person you choose. This person will act on your behalf when making these decisions while ensuring your wishes are considered.

Why is a guardianship plan important to have in an emergency? A guardianship plan can be used to give a trusted person temporary guardianship of you or your family (kids) in case of an emergency. We are talking about if you are unable to care for your children because of a hospitalization or a severe injury.

The person you choose will be able to make educational and medical decisions in your place for the child until you are well enough. If you, unfortunately, die during an emergency, your children will know where they are going and who is going to take care of them; hopefully making the transition a little easier.

If you work with an attorney to set up a guardianship plan, they will have a hard copy available. However, as with all plans, you should go over the details with all those you identify in the plan as potential guardians. Go over who to contact, in what order to contact them, and game plan different scenarios. Your family protection plan attorney will help you figure this all out and ensure you have all necessary guardianship and estate planning forms set up.

Healthcare Power of Attorney / Health Care Directive (Living Will)

A healthcare power of attorney (HPOA) legally allows a person of your choosing to make decisions regarding your healthcare. This HPOA can be as broad as possible, or you can limit to specific types of decisions made for you. Sometimes, healthcare power of attorney will be combined with a health care directive or living will. A healthcare directive specifies what you want if you need life-saving measures. Some of these may include whether you receive artificial hydration (IV) and nutrition (feeding tube), or if you do not wish to be resuscitated in an emergency.

These forms are very beneficial to have in an emergency. If you are admitted to the emergency room, the hospital will do everything in its powers to keep you alive. They will put you on a life support if needed. However, what if that is not you want? Filling out a health care directive will lay out your wishes and enable a person of your choosing to make those wishes happen for you.

If you do not have a health care directive, then having a healthcare power of attorney (POA) gives a trusted friend or loved one the opportunity to make your wishes known. Having these forms (and putting them where a loved one can find them) will allow your wishes to be met in an emergency situation.

To use them in an emergency, make sure these forms are available and accessible to your loved ones. Create a phone call list and instructions for your family, spouse, kids, babysitter, etc. to follow in case they need to contact the person you designated to make these literal life or death decisions for you.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is very similar to the healthcare power of attorney in that you are choosing a person to make decisions on your behalf. The biggest difference is that in this case, you are allowing a trusted person to make financial decisions or acts such as withdrawing money from your bank account our signing papers for you regarding real estate.

Appointing a financial power of attorney (POA), will allow your finances to be kept in order either after you pass or while you are incapacitated. In an emergency situation, the financial POA can supply the guardian of your children funds to be able to care for the children or even pay your medical bills you are accruing if you are hospitalized.

Ensuring you have your financial POA stored in an accessible location with your other estate planning forms is a necessity for the person that you are designating to start taking steps to handle your finances. Keep your forms somewhere they can be accessed and leave instructions for accessing and using them to your next of kin. Your estate planning attorney will also maintain a copy, so keep us on your contact list as well.

Insurance Policy & Other Important Estate Planning Forms and Documents

Having a life insurance policy in place will greatly help your family financially if something happens to you. Life insurance will help replace lost income, cover burial expenses, pay off any of your debt, and pay any estate taxes.

In addition to life insurance there are many other important documents:

  • Final arrangement plans to let your family know the particulars of your final arrangement. This will ease their need to make decisions.
  • Contact sheets giving your loved one contact information for important people such as babysitters, neighbors, who to contact if you do not come home, etc.
  • Trusts which pass on specific assets to a beneficiary bypassing probate.
  • Tax documents
  • Investments
  • Photographic itemizations of assets

Again, having these forms done and put somewhere easily found, will help put your family at ease. It could be the difference between your children being placed immediately in the custody of a close family member or family friend (by your designation) or them ending up in foster care while a court determines who is the most appropriate caretaker, if any, amongst your family and friends.

If you want to know more about how this could all play out, read: WEAR CLEAN UNDERWEAR. We will even provide you a copy!

Password Lists As An Estate Planning Form?

Having a list of passwords almost seems silly. Why set up a password if you are going to document them? Your family may need to access accounts online and will not be able to without your passwords. In today’s technological age, many different things are done online and with passwords including online banking.

In an emergency, your family may need to access your online banking account, your email, etc. To do this, they will need to know what your passwords are. For example, you end up hospitalized and in a coma. The only way for your neighbor to contact your family is to access your contacts on your phone. How are they supposed to that? Keeping a list of passwords somewhere a trusted person knows about will allow them to access password protected things that may be needed in an emergency.

Account Lists As An Estate Planning Form?

A list of all of your accounts will also help your family know where to look for information such as banking. Listing your email account is important as well so your family can get any important information that may be sent by email. There is an application you can install on your smartphone that will allow you to list your accounts and passwords.

Just like a password list, a list of accounts will be helpful to your family in an emergency. If you pass away, your family will need to know where you bank, who you use for phone service, etc. They need to know so they can cancel accounts if need or change the terms of service.

Account lists are an often overlooked part of estate planning, but are something you should include in your estate planning forms if you have not done so already.


If you found this article helpful, take a look at A Young Family’s Guide to a Rock Solid Estate Plan


5 Simple Ways a Guardianship Attorney Can Help You Today

5 Simple Ways a Guardianship Attorney Can Help You Today

Having a short conversation with a guardianship attorney is enough to start your path to protecting your family.

Almost immediately you start to brainstorm how scenarios – good, bad, and weird, might affect you and your children.

And that last piece truly is the value of talking to a guardianship attorney, setting up contingency plans for your children’s’ care, wealth, and guardianships.

A Guardianship Attorney helps you set up a guardianship plan just in case you cannot be there for your family. Just in case they cannot take care of themselves or you one day…

Just. In. Case.

Without a Guardianship Plan, Incapacity Creates Barriers To Treatment and Desires

When decisions need to be made for an incapacitated person, a guardianship plan sets forth who will be making those decisions. A guardianship attorney will have drafted and set in place both the plan and the action for putting the plan to work for you.

Without a guardianship plan a court, or already established precedent, will be used to appoint a person to oversee making legal and welfare decisions on yours or the incapacitated person’s behalf.

Think about this a little bit and ask yourself, does someone who has no idea who I am have enough knowledge of my desires and wishes to make an informed decision about how to handle my affairs? Should they be making decisions about how to take care of my children, and with whom they should be staying?

A Good Guardianship Attorney does not Just Draft Your Plan; They Stand By Your Side When It is Needed.

If the worst comes to pass and a guardianship plan is necessary, a guardianship attorney can and will guide you (or your designee) through implementing the plan you have crafted.

The attorney will help the guardian (petitioner) reach guardianship by fulfilling the appropriate court’s qualifications. This support will include being present and leading the guardian through important court items and advocacy on behalf of the guardian petitioner.

A Guardianship Attorney Knows the Processes

Filing for guardianship can be time-consuming. The guardianship process might include petitions, hearings, and evidence – and may even face challenges from multiple parties seeking guardianship of the incapacitated or their children.

A guardianship lawyer can help expedite this process. If the guardianship attorney is the drafter of the plan and other aspects of the incapacitated or deceased’s estate plans, they will understand how the guardianship proceedings play into the full scope of this transitional period.

You can imagine that this process, can get complicated very easily. Especially if minors, money, or assets are involved. The best thing you can do to mitigate potential issues ahead of time is to gameplan how things would work out with a guardianship attorney sooner rather than later.

A Guardianship Attorney Can Advise You Today On Practicalities of Guardianships

Did you know that in some states, if a person has a guardian they are unable to do certain things by law? For example, in California, a person who has a guardian and wants to vote, must be able to vocalize the desire. That can be difficult if the person cannot vocalize due to a disability or stroke. A guardianship attorney can help navigate laws like this and help the disabled, deceased, or their families figure out the rights of those bound by guardianships and those defined within them.

Guardianship Attorneys Can Help You Plan for Needs at Any Age

Having a guardian appointed for an incapacitated loved one is important to protect them, their family and their estate.

Elderly people, especially those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and people with mental disabilities are vulnerable and can easily be preyed upon. So can children who cannot represent themselves and without a plan often end up as wards of the court.

Even if beneficiaries, or heirs, have a power of attorney or written documentation of your wishes, they still may not have the right to legally transfer property and assets and guardianships to other individuals. A guardianship attorney is essential for making sure all potential pieces are set up and ready to go into play when necessary.

A Young Family’s Guide to a Rock Solid Estate Plan

If you are under 40 years old, the chances of you have thought about, or even pursuing estate planning is pretty small. However, something brought you here, and that means you are on your way to changing the way you look at planning your future!

The exploration of life planning that brought you here is the reason we started doing estate planning for families here at Lilac City Law in the first place. We believe that the best time for you to set up an incredible estate plan is when you are young; maybe even before you have children! So, where we begin this exploration in estate and life planning?

What step do you take first to get you from realizing an estate plan makes sense, protects you and your family, and is something you can do regardless of your asset profile?

Let’s look at the path to estate planning, step-by-step, and help you get prepared to engage with an estate planning attorney who has already established some basic fluency in this topic.

Estate Plan: The First Step, Get Started

Probably the best thing to know about starting an estate plan is the first step can be free. Set up your Protection Plan. This action alone knocks off several of the items we are going to be discussing later in this article. You can do set up your free protection plan here. Moreover, if something happens to you or your family while you are working on the rest of your plan, you will be set up with at least some security.

Get Started Here – Set Up Your Protection Plan

Estate Plan: The Second Step, Read Wear Clean Underwear

We cannot recommend enough grabbing a copy of Wear Clean Underwear. This book breaks down the reasons why you should be considering an estate plan in incredible detail. From the very beginning, you get to choose your adventure and see how common life scenarios play out depending on what estate planning decisions you make. If there is a list of books you should be giving new families, this book should be high on that list.

Estate Plan: The Third Step, Get Familiar with Estate Planning Items

If you completed step 1 above, awesome! Hopefully, you have step 2 bookmarked, now. And now for the third step, review the following fundamental elements of a comprehensive estate plan.

Estate Plan: Establish Your Last Will & Testament

When most people think about life planning, and how to set up their family after their passing, they think about establishing a will. A will is often more formally titled, a Last Will and Testament. But what is it? And, why do you want one, or need one?

A Last Will and Testament helps you to direct the transition of your assets to family members, friends, or whomever else after you pass away. It is almost always a formal legal document; however, there are cases where a court has upheld a will etched on to the paint of a tractor, and there are indeed other extreme examples of last-minute wills. For the sake of estate planning, we are sticking to a document you draft with your family and your estate planning attorney though! 🙂

The benefits of a Last Will and Testament are that they can cover items that a living trust may not cover. With a Trust, you are trying to transfer assets without having to go through the process of probate. Probate is costly and can be bypassed to a great extent with estate planning. However, you will not be able to continuously transfer all your assets to a Trust, no matter how diligent you are. A Last Will and Testament will help you here by covering things you have left out of your trust either by accident or on purpose.

In addition to unaddressed assets, a Trust cannot declare who will be the final guardian of your children in the event of an untimely passing. This contingency, in particular, is something your Last Will and Testament will spell out explicitly. Moreover, this scenario is also why you would benefit from working with an excellent estate planning attorney to set it up. Read the book we talked about in step two to see why, for your kids’ sake, this is something you want to work through in extensive detail.

Estate Plan: Advanced Health Care Directive

An advanced health care directive is a document in which you can set down your end-of-life preferences. You can also appoint someone in your directive to act on your behalf in making health care decisions for you, assuming you cannot make them for yourself.

Without a health care directive, your end of life care may be decided by doctors who do not know you and are unable to get your direct consent to treat (or not to treat).

An advanced directive is also often called a living will.

Estate Plan: Health & Financial Powers of Attorney

If it comes to pass that you are unable to manage your finances, or direct your self-care, who will take care of those things? If your spouse or partner is your #1 choice, that is a great plan. But, what if they are not able to help you out? Maybe they passed away, you split up, or they are simply out of town when something happens?

Health & Financial Powers of Attorney enable someone you trust to both acts on your behalf financially and in health care decisions for you. These Powers of Attorney (POA) also allow your designee to obtain information on your behalf. We wrote a great article on how this can work well, and how things can go sideways without these documents. It is worth a read, here.

Estate Plan: Kids Protection Plan

A Kids’ Protection Plan is not necessarily one static document. Instead, it is probably best looked at as the state of your estate and family planning. Are your kids set up to be taken care of if you pass before they are grown?

While you are exploring estate planning, this is something you want to get set up as soon as reasonably possible. Meaning, to start, we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Get a basic kids protection plan set up, here. The basic plan will give you and your family some level of protection as you work through the more granular aspects of estate planning.

Eventually, you will want to establish custody rights in your Last Will & Testament. Likewise, you will want to set up how your assets will transfer to your children if that is your desire. Also, you will want to set up many other things with other steps we talk about in this article.

So, step one for kids’ protection, keep them out of the custody of the state, get a guardianship set up here.  Step 2 ~ 100, talk to an estate planning attorney.

Estate Plan: Final Arrangements Plan

The particulars of your final arrangments are likely to be as unique as you are! However, the broad strokes things you might want to cover and leave in a place where your family can find them, include:

Your desire for what will happen to your body. Do you want your remains to be buried or cremated? Are you ok with embalming?

Do you have a preference on who will be handling your remains for burial or cremation? Have you worked with a specific mortuary in the past? Do you already have arrangments with them to take care of you?

Where will you be buried, interred, or placed? Is there a particular cemetery or location you have in mind? Are there actions you wish to be taken at that event?

If you are a Veteran and want to be interred at a National Cemetery, do you have a copy of your DD214 available and the number for the National Cemetery Administration ready for your family or caretakers to quickly make arrangments?

Have you already made provisions for a casket? Do you wish a certain type of casket or container be used? How do you want this to be paid, if you have not already paid for it? Do you want an open or closed casket funeral, if the choice is available?

Who will be your pallbearers? How do you want to be transported to your final resting place? Who will scatter your ashes, and in what way? Do you have funeral preferences?

Is there a marker you wish placed on your final resting place; a gravestone? Alternatively, a particular engraving to go on whatever marker you have set up?

Estate Plan: Business Documents

If you are a business owner, you might have given some thought to what you want to happen to your business if you are not around to operate it anymore. Even if you have not, it is probably a good idea to establish some contingencies. Exactly how the contingencies are setup will be predicated on many factors, including business structure, partners, debt, industry, products, and a million other things.

The best bet here is to talk to an estate planning attorney and work through a planning process. What do you want to happen; a transfer of ownership? A sale of the business (who will the proceeds go to)? We are scratching the surface on this issue, but the important thing to remember is that all your plans for your business can be worked out in advance; you just need to start the process today.

Estate Plan: Insurance Policies

Do you have life insurance setup? We are not writing this article to tell you whether to do so or not; we only want you to be able to help you transfer all your assets and investments where they are supposed to go. To do that, you will need to have a list of your insurance policies ready and the individual procedures and points of contact setup at those policies.

Don’t forget that credit cards and other items that might involve debt often have the option to provide life insurance too! You may have a policy set up that you did not even realize you had!

Regardless, get your plans laid out for your family to work through, get your beneficiaries lined up, and establish a plan for transferring the payout to whomever you wish to designate.

Estate Plan: Tax Materials

Owing taxes after your passing is maybe the ultimate injury to insult! However, if you own property your property will remain after your passing, and the taxes will too, sadly. Your beneficiaries will need to be instructed on how, when, and whom to pay taxes. They may also need a historical account of your taxes, for any number of reasons.

Estate Plan: Investments & Accounts

While you are getting your insurance and tax documents in order, you should be laying out any investments and bank accounts you might have as well. This list will be very helpful for your financial power of attorney, and/or your family when you pass.

It is important to think about this as more than your bank accounts too. Don’t forget 401k, stocks, bonds, bitcoins, IRA’s and other forms of investment.

Estate Plan: Trusts in Addition to Last Wills and Testaments

We covered Trusts, as they relate to Wills, earlier in this article. In many ways, Trusts and wills seek to fulfill the same ends but by very different means. Whereas a Will grants property and assets to a designee, it is often more open-ended. It is also far more restrictive in updating.  Here’s another article that compares the two as well.

If you need to amend a Will, you either have to go through a public court proceeding, or you have to scrap it all and start over. The thing is if you create a Will years or even decades before your passing and you intend it to speak to every aspect of your estate, it will be very open to interpretation. This point is where a probate court will come in, and on top of taking a hefty portion of your estate value in fees, the court will seek to interpret your will. Do you want someone who does not know you to understand the intentions that you put on paper 20 years ago? < This is where a Trust can help and work in tandem with your will.

You can use a trust to pass specific assets on to a beneficiary, bypassing probate entirely. Moreover, if you avoid probate through establishing a trust, you keep the details of your asset profile out of public records. This benefit in itself is self-evident. If you value the potential information on your children’s assets to be kept private from unscrupulous “advisors,” transferring those assets in a trust is one way to go. Can you tell we value privacy?

Lastly, a trust is easy to update, especially in comparison to a Last Will and Testament. A phone call to your estate attorney once a quarter and you will have a trust that is ready to be executed once the parameters you have decreed have been established. You can read more about how a trust is implemented in this article from our blog.

Estate Plan: Contact Sheets

Does your sister in law have your babysitter’s contact information? How about your parents, do they know how to get ahold of your spouse’s cousin who lives next door? It is imperative that you have contact sheets created for key points of contact, and that those contact sheets are readily available.

More to this point, you will want to have a procedure set up for what happens if the way someone learns something has happened to you is that you haven’t come home. Do they call the police first? Do they call your neighbor who knows your children’s guardianship plan and has access to it?

Again, read this book – free with this offer, to see why this is so very important. Then contact an estate planning attorney to get the ball rolling on this.

Estate Plan: Passwords & Account Information

How secure is your Facebook account? Does anyone else have your password? Your spouse, your kids? You would probably know because if they did, they would no-doubt be posting practical jokes all the time from your account, right?

Kidding aside, it makes a lot of sense why you wouldn’t share your social media, email, or other account passwords with someone else. Why would you even have a password if you started sharing it? Plus, passwords now have to change often anyway, so keeping a physical and updated copy can be a challenge.

The solution here might depend on your preferences. Whether it is a physical sheet of paper you keep in a safe place, or an Application you install on your smartphone, it is a good idea to have some way for those you care about to be able to access your important accounts in an emergency, or after you pass.

Estate Plan: Emergency Cash

Have you ever thought of storing some cash in your mattress? Ok, well maybe somewhere a bit more secure… The point being, you do not know what will be the emergency that makes your estate plan necessary. In actuality, there may be several emergencies throughout your life that part of your estate plan becomes necessary to address.

Part of what makes a rock solid estate plan so comprehensive is that it addresses as best as possible all those nebulous potentialities. The estate plan is specific where it needs to be, but flexible enough to handle the unknowable unknowns. In regards to flexibility, cash is king.

Cash is immeasurably useful; it is easy to transfer (hand it over). It is accepted universally. It can be easily secured. Also, you do not need anyone’s help to build a small but capable emergency stash, just in case you need it someday. Make sure cash is part of your emergency estate planning, and make sure it is readily available.

Estate Plan: A Photographic Itemizations of Assets

This idea crosses over into good insurance practice too. You can describe your assets in great detail, but as it has been said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Keep a photo diary or photo catalog of your assets. It may come to pass that your desire to transfer certain assets might not be as descriptive as necessary if there is some contention. If however, you include a picture of that property, as well as a description of it, you leave a whole lot less up for doubt.

Plus, as we said a second ago, keeping photos of your assets is helpful for insurance purposes too. So, it just is a good, and cheap, safety measure to incorporate into your regular estate planning.

Estate Plan: Photos & Recording of Yourself!

While you are thinking about pictures, you may want to put some physical pictures away in a safe too. Or at the least, start uploading them to the cloud via Dropbox. Another option is using several USB sticks.

Why would you want to do this? For your family, your kids in particular. This idea depends on how much you wish to leave behind for your family to know you by. Many families create these digital memories and never need them. They send them with their kids when they leave home or watch them with them at their milestone birthdays; which is also pretty awesome! However, some families will have these become part of their record to their children of who they were when they were alive.

In the end, photos and recordings of yourself are not necessary for your estate plan. But, they are a touching gesture for your family, should you pass.

Estate Plan: Store Your Estate Plan in Different Places

Lastly, in our rundown of estate plan musts, store your plan in several places. Or at the very least, store it in one very secure place. This plan is going to be important to your family at some point. If it is when you have passed, you will not be able to tell them where or how to access it, if you moved it.

In fact, you might have lost a physical copy of your plan due to an accident, a fire, moving, or something else. It happens! Keep the details of your plan safe.

Estate Plan: The Most Important Last Piece

One option for this is to work with an estate planning attorney. Once they find out that your plan is necessary, they will immediately become part of the team to triage your needs and the needs of your family. Do you have a guardianship plan, so your kids do not end up wards of the state? If so, your estate planning attorney will know where it is, how it works, the limits and rights it grants, and how to execute it immediately.

On top of everything else we discussed in this article, having a trusted advisor in the form of an estate planning attorney is the most important “must have” in this entire article.

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