Did you know that as many as 70 percent of Americans die without a will (1)? If that statistic applies to you and doesn’t scare you, then you haven’t thought about what this means for your loved ones. If you die “intestate,” meaning without a will, you leave it up to the State and the courts to decide how your property and financial assets will be distributed. At that point it will be too late to express your wishes and more importantly, protect your loved ones. You also open the door for a much more complex and lengthy court process, especially if family members disagree with how your assets are being divided. All of this can be avoided with a few essential estate planning documents.
A common misconception exists that estate planning is only for the wealthy, but this is not true. Every adult, regardless of life circumstances or age, should have an estate plan to protect themselves and their family. Estate plans help you manage and preserve your assets while you are alive so that you can control their distribution after you’re gone, and they generally include:
- a will – a document in which a person dictates who will receive their assets and how their assets will be managed and distributed from their estate after their death
- power of attorney – an instrument authorizing another to act on someone’s behalf in a legal, financial, and/or business matter. The power of attorney terminates upon death.
- healthcare proxy – a health care proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust, for example, a family member or close friend, to make health care decisions for you, if you lack the capacity to make health care decisions for yourself. The health care proxy terminates upon death.
- medical directive – a legal document that allows you to set out written wishes for your medical care, name a person to make sure those wishes are carried out, or both. Often referred to as an advanced directive or living will. The medical directive terminates upon death.
- a trust – a legal relationship in which one or more persons (trustees) holds legal title to property and manages it for the benefit of one or more persons (beneficiaries)
Estate planning requires a thorough understanding of trust, probate, and tax law, as well as a genuine understanding of your particular circumstances and planning goals. Therefore, you want to utilize an attorney who specializes in this area of law.
Please see our firm website at winstonlg.com for more details regarding estate planning.
(1) Statistic provided by the American Bar Association
Winston Law Group, LLC specializes in legal planning and protection for individuals and families for decades, and our attorneys are leaders in elder law, estate planning, special needs and disability law. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (617) 841-4000.