- I don’t have much; I don’t need an estate plan.
You don’t have to be millionaire to need an estate plan. Even people with modest estates should have an estate plan. Besides dividing up your estate, an estate plan should include medical and financial powers of attorney (POA). These documents allow you to choose someone to act on your behalf if you become disabled due to illness, injury, or age. The financial POA allows the person you choose to “stand in your shoes” to handle your finances, including banking, taxes, paying bills, collecting money owed to, and more. The medical POA allows someone to make medical decisions for you when you can’t voice your own wishes, again, due to injury, illness, or age. The person you designate can consent to treatment, hire or fire medical professionals for your care, contract with care facilities, and even make end of life decisions. Without POAs, a person would need the probate court to appoint them as guardian or conservator over you in order to make these decisions.
- We can’t agree on guardians for our children.
This is a common roadblock for parents when it comes to estate planning. The first piece of advice I give is that you have to accept that no one is going to be the perfect replacement for you. If you’re having trouble deciding, it is helpful to consider the following factors in making a decision about proposed guardians:
a. Age and health of the proposed guardian(s)
b. Location and willingness to relocate
c. Marital status and family dynamics
d. Religious beliefs and willingness to raise your children according to your beliefs
e. Financial ability
f. Relationship between the guardians and children
g. Willingness of guardian to foster a relationship with the child’s extended family.
You should also remember that your Will can be changed. A guardian, who works today, may not be the best choice in a few years. Your choice is not written in stone.
Most importantly is that you have a made a choice. If you don’t choose a guardian and something happens to both parents, the person who will decide who will raise your children is a probate court judge who doesn’t know you, your children, or who you would chose.
- I am young, estate planning is for old people
Unfortunately we don’t pick when we’re going to die or have an injury that may render us incapacitated. Estate planning is not for you; it is for the people who have to pick up the pieces when tragedy strikes. Having an estate plan provides guidance to your loved ones at to how you would like things to be handled. At a very stressful time, the plan alleviates worries, saves time and money.
For those you love, even a simple estate plan is a priceless gift. Don’t wait for a tragedy, it may be too late. Plan today.