Estate planning is one way to prepare yourself and your family for death and even for the possibility of incapacity during your lifetime. There are several different options when it comes to estate planning tools. Which ones are best for you will depend on your unique goals for the future. Our Overland Park estate planning attorneys can help.
No. 1: Being prepared for possible incapacity
The legal definition of incapacity is the ability to comprehend the consequences of certain legal proceedings, including entering into contracts or signing legal documents. Incapacity could be caused by either a physical or mental condition and can be temporary or permanent. Now, when it comes to estate planning matters, incapacity refers to the ability of an individual to manage his or her own affairs and to make important legal decisions for themselves. Without an appropriate estate plan that addresses incapacity issues, you could end up being appointed a court-supervised conservator or guardian.
No. 2: Establishing how to handle your estate after your death
The other purpose of estate planning is to create a plan for handling your estate after your death. One of the primary estate planning instruments used to establish what to do with your assets after your death is the Last Will and Testament, or will for short. A will is essentially a set of written instructions on how your estate should be distributed after your death. A will can also provide a way for you to nominate a guardian for your children minor. A disadvantage of a will, however, is that your estate must go through the probate process before your assets can be distributed.
The basic elements of an estate plan
A proper estate plan should do more than just tell the world who should get your property after your death. Instead, a comprehensive estate plan may also include the following:
- instructions for your care if you become disabled or incapacitated before your death,
- the name of a guardian and manager for the inheritances of minor children,
- provisions for loved ones with special needs,
- provisions for loved ones who may need financial assistance or asset protection
- life insurance policies for your surviving family,
- disability income insurance if you become unable to work, and
- long term care insurance to assist in financing your medical care in case of an extended illness or injury.
The reason most people put off estate planning is they believe they are either too young or don’t have enough assets. Neither of these assumptions is true. First, you are never too young because, the reality is, you cannot predict how long you have. Nor can you be sure that an unexpected illness or injury won’t leave you incapacitated. Because of that uncertainty, the best course is to start your estate plan sooner rather than later. If for nothing else, do it for your family. The families of people who don’t have a plan will ultimately be left to pick up the pieces without knowing where to start.
Estate planning is not as expensive as you may think
For many, the idea creating an estate plan seems far too expensive, especially for those with modest incomes. What you should know is, you can always start with a simple plan initially and then update or upgrade it as your financial circumstances change. It is better to have something than nothing at all. Starting small is a good choice for single individuals and young families. Then, as your needs and the needs of your family change, you can adjust your plan accordingly. Our experienced Overland Park estate planning attorneys can provide the necessary guidance and peace of mind you need.
Most common instruments used for incapacity planning
Two of the most common instruments used when planning for incapacity are Health Care Powers of Attorney and Financial Powers of Attorney. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a representative who will have the authority to make decisions regarding medical care and treatment for you when you can’t. Health Care Powers of Attorney are usually drafted so that they take effect even in cases of temporary incapacity. On the other hand, a Financial Power of Attorney does pretty much the same thing, except the person you select will have the ability to manage your financial affairs.
If you have questions regarding guardianships, or any other estate planning matters, contact the experienced Overland Park estate planning attorneys at Gaughan & Connealy for a consultation either online or by calling us at (913) 262-2000.