Make plans for handling an issue, before it becomes an issue.
A plan not written down is really just a wish. I wish my son could handle my affairs. I wish my friend could speak for me in the hospital if need. I wish my special needs child would be eligible for needed government aid. Without committing something property to writing, these become more of what paves the road to hell.
The legal issues that may surround a health problem, can go from bad to worse if you are not protected by legal documents expressing your wishes, according to the New Jersey Herald in “The importance of putting plans in writing.”
The message hits home especially hard, when the friends experience problems that could have been resolved earlier with correct planning. In one example, a woman’s friend began to experience unexpected health problems. Her husband is incapacitated and there are no children to step in and help. The couple’s lack of legal documents has made a difficult situation even worse.
Although discussing concepts like end-of-life care can be challenging, all adults should have specific plans in place, even if their estate plan is basic: a last will and testament, a living will and a power of attorney.
It is never to early to put these documents into place. If you are a student about to enter college, your parents ability to help or get information may disappear legally at age 18. That newly minted adult should at least have a designated power of attorney and a medical directive, in case they are unable to manage their own affairs or make healthcare decisions.
Unfortunately, many people still think estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to pay less taxes. Tax planning can help lighten tax liability for some. However, there are far more important reasons to do estate planning.
The main reason for estate planning is to set down expectations and wishes, while you are alive and after you pass. An estate planning attorney will help review the benefits of having a power of attorney and a healthcare directive. They can help, if the situation occurs where your loved ones have to make decisions for you. The amount of time, expense and frustration of going through a guardianship process can be avoided, if these items are in place.
An estate planning attorney can also help you with completing beneficiary forms for non-probate assets, preparing a funeral plan, planning a personal property memorandum and discussing elder care and planning for incapacity.
Making decisions in advance regarding who will care for minor children, if young parents cannot and who will be the person’s executor and handle all the details of their estate, are all necessary.
Many couples choose joint ownership and consider that their estate planning. However, that’s not enough. What happens when the last “surviving” joint owner passes? There are many other issues that need to be addressed.
An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances.
Reference: New Jersey Herald (Aug. 22, 2018) “The importance of putting plans in writing”