Estate planning is one of the most important steps any person can take to make sure that their property and health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for in their absence. Though often overlooked or put off in favor of more immediate concerns, a comprehensive estate plan can resolve a number of legal questions that arise whenever anyone dies. What is the state of their financial affairs? What real and personal property do they own? Who gets what? Does a personal guardian need to be appointed to care for minor children? How much tax will need to be paid in order to transfer property ownership? What funeral arrangements are appropriate?
It’s never too early to begin thinking about your legacy or to shape your estate plan.
What is an “Estate”?
Your “estate” consists of all property owned by you at the time of your death, including:
– Real estate
– Bank accounts
– Stocks and other securities
– Life Insurance policies
– Personal property such as automobiles, jewelry and artwork.
Elements of an estate plan
- Wills let you specify your wishes, including how you want your property distributed, who will administer your estate and who will care for your minor children.
- Trusts hold your assets for the benefit of one or more people (you, your spouse, your children).
- Power of Attorney for Property authorize a trusted person to manage your property.
- Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care appoints an agent to make health care decisions in case of your incapacity.
- Living Wills or Advance Medical Directives is a legal document expressing you last wishes regarding sustainment of life under specific circumstances.
- Do Not Resuscitate Orders (DNRs) declares your wish to avoid having CPR performed in the event the heart stops beating.
- Life insurance proceeds are paid to a beneficiary at your death.
- Gifts are transfers of property made during your life to family, friends or charity.