Learn Everything you Need to Know about Estate Planning and Elder Law.
An attorney friend of mine once asked me “Don’t you get bored doing nothing but estate planning? After all, don’t you just do the same thing over and over?”
My friend didn’t get it. Estate planning is not about writing brilliant documents (although each trust is unique). It’s about helping people accomplish some of their life’s goals. My professional satisfaction comes from establishing the kind of trust relationship with my clients that enables them to share both their hopes and fears for their families. Then together we create an estate plan that accomplishes their goals and puts their fears at ease.
In the formal legal sense, estate planning is the process of getting your affairs in order and determining who will receive your wealth after your death. But my clients tell me that planning their estate is a process that results in achieving peace of mind. Because, with proper planning, you accomplish the following:
- Identify Who Receives Your Wealth. Your estate plan determines who receives your estate. While that’s important to everyone, for some it’s just as important to ensure that certain people don’t receive any of your wealth.
- Identify Who is In Charge of Your Wealth. An estate plan is essential for determining who will be in charge of your wealth if you are disabled and after you pass away. In many families parents are happy with any of their adult children being in charge. But some of us may have preferences regarding which of our children is most capable of handling our affairs. For those people who don’t have children, an estate plan is even more important. They need to insure that someone they know and trust is given the responsibility for carrying out their wishes.
- Identify who is in charge of your affairs. Proper estate planning is not just for things that occur after we die. An estate plan also allows us to determine what will happen if we ever become disabled.
A health care power of attorney enables us to choose a patient advocate who has the authority to make medical decisions in the event we cannot make those decisions ourselves.
A property power of attorney authorizes someone we choose to be able to handle our financial, legal, and other business in the event we cannot do any of these things ourselves.
- Preserve your wealth by avoiding probate fees, attorney fees and estate taxes. A properly planned estate can save your family a great deal of time and money. You have, no doubt, heard stories from friends about estates being gobbled up by all sorts of paperwork and costs associated with administering the estate. These can include probate fees, attorney fees, and estate taxes. A well-written estate plan can reduce bureaucracy and even eliminate a number of expenses, preserving more of your wealth for your family.
If you haven’t done any estate planning, you are not alone. A national survey conducted in 2007 reveals that over 55% of adult Americans have done nothing to plan their estate. They don’t even have a simple will. What will happen to their wealth when they die? Well, if you don’t have a last will and testament, the state has written one for you. The property of those who died without a will is distributed according to the laws of intestate succession.
Estate Planning Is Not Just For Older People
In 28 years of practice as an estate planning attorney the overwhelming majority of my clients have been people over the age of 60. That's a shame, because estate planning is important for younger people as well -- especially families with young children.
I tell young parents to consider this: in the event of their premature death their children will, in all likelihood, be placed in the custody of a family member, usually an aunt or an uncle. But who should choose which one? You, or the probate court?
The peace of mind that comes from knowing who will take your place in raising your children should be motivation enough to do a complete estate plan.
Even more surprising is the fact that only 41% of adult Americans have any kind of power of attorney. They are leaving things completely to chance with regard to who will make decisions for them in the event of disability and what those decisions might be.
To read more of my thoughts on the importance of planning for loved ones, click here.
Why doesn't everyone do estate planning? For a lot of people, it’s plain old procrastination. They realize that they have to do estate planning but just can’t seem to get around to it. For others, it’s a lack of knowledge.
They don’t know where to begin.
Whether or not you match either of these descriptions, this web site is designed for you. By coming here, you have taken the first step toward creating a plan for yourself and your loved ones. I hope to provide you with detailed information about all aspects of estate planning, and I will do so in plain English.
While I hope this web site provides you with a lot of information and answers to many of your questions, nothing here is intended to be specific legal advice. Even if you choose to use information on this site you do not become a client of mine. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney in your state who specializes in the issues you're concerned about.
I enjoy hearing from my readers. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me by visiting the "contact me" section of the web site.
- Living Trust: One of the Best Estate Planning Options
- With a living trust, you stay in control of your affairs throughout your lifetime. You decide who will handle your affairs if you become disabled. You ensure that your assets go to whom you want.
- Is a Last Will and Testament the only document you'll need?
- The Last Will and Testament is a document that states your wishes to your Personal Representative and to the Probate court.
- What are Advance Directives?
- Advance Directives -- Three documents that will give direction to your healthcare provider if you cannot.
- Long Term Care: What Is It & Will You Need It?
- Long Term Care: There are many needs and many options. Which one is right for you, your family, and your pocketbook?
- Make a Property Power of Attorney work for you.
- Your Property Power of Attorney assigns a second-in-command to watch after your estate.
- Understand the Prenuptial Agreement – Don’t Fear the Prenup.
- The use of any Prenuptial Agreement has been stigmatized in our culture, but it is a very useful estate planning tool that, when written correctly, will be useful for both spouses.
- Which Marital Trust is right for you?
- There is more than one type of Marital Trust. Which fits your situation?
- Joint Property Ownership - How to Avoid the Pitfalls
- Cutting corners when creating Joint Property Ownership can lead to trouble for your survivors and your estate
- Understand the Estate Tax
- Find out how to determine if you'll be subject to the estate tax
- Funding trusts -- The essential last step in creating a living trust
- Learn how and when you should be funding your trust, and which assets should be transferred.
- HIPAA -- How to make it work for you (and not against you).
- HIPAA laws protect your privacy, but can also make it difficult for those you trust to have access to your records. Be sure to make your estate planning documents HIPAA compliant.
- Estate Planning for Young Families
- Why should new parents take estate planning seriously, and what special estate planning needs do they have?
- Ethical Will -- Leave something besides property to your loved ones.
- Writing an ethical will, or a legacy statement, is a way of bestowing your wisdom onto those you leave behind.
- About the Author: Michael Einheuser
- Michael Einheuser runs a law practice in Bloomfield, MI. He is the author of understand-estate-planning.com
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