It is not just for the Elderly or the Wealthy:  What you need to know about an Estate Plan

Simply put, an estate plan is a map of how you want your personal and financial affairs to be handled in case of incapacity or death, and the implementation of the strategies that will fulfill those objectives.  We may not all be rich and famous, but it’s likely that we may have children, pets or other loved ones that we’d like to take care of when we die.

If you’re reading this article, chances are you need an estate plan.  The term “estate plan” or “estate planning”, thanks in part to Hollywood, has often been synonymous with wealthy individuals.  In fact, an estate plan is important for everyone Having an estate plan in place ensures that your wishes are carried out, for you,  your children, your loved ones, charities and/or your pets are taken care of, and it can ultimately prevent family disputes.

An Estate Plan is Important if:

  • Your spouse isn’t comfortable with financial matters.
  • You have minor children who would need a guardian or trustee.
  • You have an estate that will be impacted by taxes (estate taxes, inheritance taxes).
  • You own property in more than one state.
  • You have privacy concerns.
  • You own a business.

What may be Included in an Estate Plan?

  1. Will
  2. Living Trust
  3. Power of Attorney
  4. Advanced Healthcare Directives
  5. Durable Power of Attorney
  6. Living Will
  7. Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order

Wills

Wills are typically the first thing that comes time mind when thinking of estate planning.  It is a key document which details your final wishes about various important components of your life.  Who do you want to name as guardian of your children?  How do you want your assets divided?  Who will care for your pet after you die?  These are all examples of things that a will can address after you pass.  If you don’t have a will when you die, it could mean that your assets and/or desires are not carried out, but the current law will dictate what happens to your assets.

Living Trust

There are two types of Living Trust: Revocable and Irrevocable.  Essentially, a living trust allows

is a structure whereby assets are held by a fiduciary for the benefit of beneficiaries. A trust can

be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust may be modified during the life of the grantor/trustee whereas an irrevocable does not permit such flexibility.  

Power of Attorney

A document that allows another person known as an agent to act for the someone in the event of incapacity. This document can be broad (giving the person) the ability to oversee almost all financial matter or very specific need. This document is only valid while the principal is living, but can be very helpful in the event of incapacity.

Advanced Healthcare Directives

The advanced healthcare directives are a series of documents that may include a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a do not resuscitate (DNR) order.

A durable power of attorney is a document in which you would name an agent (any individual of your choosing) to act on your behalf for medical reasons and health care related reasons.

A living will is a document that lists the types of medical treatment you would or would not want to receive under particular circumstances.  For example, your living will might state that you would not want life support if you fell into a coma you were not expected to recover from. 

A do not resuscitate order is just that, an order specifying your wishes on whether or not you’d like to be resuscitated in a particular health crisis that warrants such a decision..  

It is important to note that laws and statute in each jurisdiction govern the validity of these documents.  At minimum, having a will, an advance health directive and power of attorney for financial decision making is the way to go.

With over a decade of experience, Attorney Regine Francois is equipped to help you with to prepare for your plan.  She is an estate planning and probate attorney located in Prince George’s County, MD,  and serving the surrounding counties.  To schedule an appointment, please call 301-358-0377.