An estate plan is an important group of documents that help protect you if you are incapacitated or become unwell. They also help protect your estate if you pass away.
Estate plans are vital documents that most people should have as soon as they're legal adults. Many people don't put together an estate plan until later in life, though, so if you're just starting to think about estate planning now, it's not too late.
Here's what you should know about an estate plan and what you can do to get started with yours before or during your stay at Bethesda Gardens Monument.
Seniors, as well as anyone over the age of 18, should have at least a basic estate plan. It's particularly important if you have assets or family members you'd like to protect in case of incapacity or death.
Estate planning is easy to delay, but it's not a good idea to do so. If you die without a last will and testament, the core of the estate plan, then you will die intestate. That means the state rules of distribution will apply to your estate, and your estate's assets may not be doled out the way you would have liked.
Another reason not to delay estate planning is that it can help protect you while you're alive. In your estate plan, you can choose your powers of attorney to help make medical or financial decisions for you if you're incapacitated, for example, or set up trusts to protect your assets from creditors in the case of debt collection or bankruptcy.
To start making an estate plan, you may want to reach out to an estate planning attorney. They'll go over any legal documents you've already established or, if you have none, let you know the basics.
Most estate plans have six main documents. These documents include:
Outside of these six documents, you may also want to include trusts, such as irrevocable or revocable trusts, videos explaining your wishes or other items to make it clear how you want to be cared for if incapacitated or what you want your family to do following your death.
To get started with estate planning, you'll need to collect some different documents.
If you own property, collect the deed and other documents describing the assets you hold. You should gather documentation of any assets you plan to pass on through your estate, but the real estate property is usually the largest asset people have to worry about.
Other kinds of documents to gather include:
After you gather your documents, you should schedule a time to talk to your attorney. Your attorney will need information about your medical history and wishes as well as the beneficiaries you have in mind.
To be prepared for the appointment with your attorney, you should have some idea about what your assets are, how you want to distribute them among your loved ones and your wishes in case of incapacity. You'll likely need to select agents to take on powers of attorney, so think about who you'd trust to make decisions on your behalf if you could no longer do so.
Once you speak with your attorney, you may decide you need only one or two of the aforementioned documents, or you might need many more than those mentioned. Your attorney will help guide you and be sure you have good protections in place.
If you die without a will or estate plan in place, the state's laws will likely apply to your estate. For example, any assets you own could be subject to distribution or sale to pay back creditors and debts.
There's also a specific way that each state passes down assets after a person has died. A portion may go to your spouse or your children, for example, but you won't have control over who receives what.
For these reasons, it's a good idea to talk to your attorney soon about getting an estate plan in place. At the very least, a will should be written to help you be sure your assets are distributed in the way you want.
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