Do I even have enough assets to think about an estate plan?

I am often asked this question as I meet with clients every day of all different ages. Here’s the answer. Everyone over 18 years old needs some form of estate planning, even if it’s very basic. But most people don’t do anything because they don’t feel like their estate is big enough for it. Estate planning isn’t just about protecting your assets, it’s about protecting you and your loved ones.

You don’t need a big house, personal property, or lots of investments to have proper estate planning.  Estate planning gives us answers to questions like:
•    “Who takes care of my kids?”
•    “Who gets my assets?”
•    “What if I can’t make decisions for myself?”
•    “My spouse gets everything, right?”
•    “Who knows where everything is if something happens to me?”

Estate planning provides us peace of mind, and every adult needs to have something in place.

Your estate plan could be as simple as assigning someone as your power of attorney in case of a disability, or making sure your spouse receives your property if you’re involved in an accident.  For instance, if your house is not properly titled in the event of your death, then your spouse may not be able to sell it without involving the Court.  But what is the right type of estate planning for you?  It all depends on your goals, but there are some basic documents that everyone needs.

Essentials for Everyone

There are a few estate planning essentials for everyone 18 years and older.  Those include correct asset titling, beneficiary designations and powers of attorney.

The most important estate planning document is a power of attorney.  This document allows someone to step into your shoes if you can’t make or communicate decisions because of an injury or illness.  A power of attorney can nominate someone to make medical decisions for you, or nominate someone to make sure your bills get paid.

Correct asset titling and beneficiary designations make sure the right people get can do something with your property if you become disabled, and also make sure the right people get your property if you pass away.

Although it’s possible to accomplish all of your basic estate planning goals with proper titling and powers of attorney, I also include Wills and life insurance in the essentials for everyone category.  A Will is essential for parents of minor children because it can nominate a person to be in charge of taking care of their children in case something happens to the parents.  A Will also makes sure that you are in charge of determining who your assets go to in the event that Courts need to get involved.  Life insurance makes sure the income and earnings your family depended on from you are replaced in the event of an untimely death.  Disability insurance is also important in case you are disabled and can’t work.

Essentials for Almost Everyone

Trusts are some of the most versatile estate planning documents that exist.  Trusts can accomplish many goals that the above mentioned strategies can’t, like disability planning, tax planning, special needs and long term care planning.  Parents of minor children should consider a trust to hold assets for their minor children in case something happens to the parents.

Everyone needs estate planning, but how do you know what’s right for you?  The only way to know is to get education on your options from a professional estate planner.  As with most estate planning, the earlier you get this education and do something about it, the better chance you have of protecting you and your loved ones.

Call today for an appointment. Quinn Estate & Elder Law will help you discover the proper mix of estate planning and trust vehicles for your situation.