Understandable Estate Planning Solutions Designed to Achieve Your Goals
Estate Planning. It sounds complicated. It sounds expensive. It sounds like something for the super rich. But that is not the case. An estate plan is just that, a plan that addresses your needs and wishes both before and after death. And while estate planning can become very complicated, it can also be kept very simple.
Whether you are planning for an unforeseen tragedy or eventual passing, everyone should have a plan in place. This plan can be broken down into three basic steps.
The first, and perhaps most important step, you can complete yourself.
You should have a detailed list of assets, creditors, on-line accounts, service providers, medical providers, and much more available for your family, friends or whomever would be appointed to make decisions for you, if you are alive and unable to make your own decisions. You might also want to write a letter to these potential caregivers to let them know your wishes and plans.
The second step of planning involves having documents in place in the event you become incapacitated.
These documents appoint representatives to make either financial or healthcare decisions for you while you are alive. They are known as a Financial Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney. You may also want to have a Living Will in place to let your representatives know your end of life wishes. A Living Will, also sometimes called a Healthcare directive, (and which is different from your Last Will & Testament) states that if two physicians have certified that you are in a terminal conditions with no hope of recovery that you do not want to be kept alive, but rather should be allowed to die naturally and comfortably.
The third step plans how your assets will be distributed upon your death, whether Court involvement will be necessary, and whether the estate will have to pay taxes.
Most people think about having a Will in place to appoint an Executor to distribute their assets upon their death, and if there are minor children, to appoint a Guardian for the children. A Will, if properly drafted and executed, is a great tool to accomplish these goals. However, many people don’t realize that a Will requires Court involvement to carry out the directions in a Will. This court involvement is commonly referred to as probate.
While the probate process is not necessarily something to dread, there are ways to avoid probate. One common way to avoid probate is to have beneficiaries listed on your assets. When you die, if all of your assets have beneficiaries listed, those assets will transfer to the beneficiaries. There are some pitfalls to making this your primary planning tool to avoid probate.
A more comprehensive way to avoid probate may be to have Living Revocable Trust. This route will require more of your time and money to set up, but if properly set up, it can avoid probate and address all of your goals for distributing your estate.
Let us help you avoid the consequences of having an outdated plan or no plan at all.
When you do not have an effective plan in place, or have no plan at all, you are allowing state laws and the Court to make decisions for you. Here are a few examples:
- Without a Power of Attorney in place, if you become incapacitated, your family will have to ask the Court to be appointed as your Guardian and Conservator to make decisions for you. This process is costly and time consuming. By having a well drafted Power of Attorney in place not only do you avoid the court, but you can also minimize family discord by making your own wishes known.
- If you die leaving assets in your name and no plan in place, those assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession and only with Court invovlement. Often the laws of intestate succession are different than how a person would want their estate to be distributed.
- When minor children are involved, having a Will and/or Trust in place is critical. Without a plan, the Court will determine who should care for the minor children and how your assets should be spent for the children’s care. Then, when the children turn 18 years of age, they will receive their inheritance. How many 18 year olds do you know that can handle that responsibility?
At KS Estate & Elder Law we will help you avoid these unintended consequences.
We take the time to carefully review your finances, listen to your goals and concerns and explain all of your options. At the end of the process, you will leave with a plan that is designed to meet your goals and that you understand.
Call today to set up a free consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.
Our office is located in downtown Shawnee, but we serve all surrounding areas including Lenexa, Overland Park, Mission, Merriam, Olathe, Kansas City, Johnson County, Wyandotte County, Douglas County and other Kansas areas.
Are you a police officer or firefighter? Have you served in our armed forces? We proudly offer you a 25 percent discount on our estate planning services.