The legal definition of Estate Planning is the process by which an individual or family arranges the transfer of assets in anticipation of death. It is the act of preparing for the transfer of a person’s wealth and assets after his or her death. Assets, life insurance, pensions, real estate, cars, personal belongings, and debts are all part of one’s estate. An estate is the total property, real and personal, owned by an individual prior to distribution.
Unfortunately, about 70% of the population does not have an Estate Plan at all, or the one they currently have is not adequate for their particular circumstances and family situation. Too many people have never been properly educated about this area of law and don’t think they need an Estate Plan because they don’t have an “Estate.” Also, procrastination is another major problem – I’m invincible and never going to get sick or die, so I’ll get to it when I need it. Everyone will come in contact at some point in his or her life with at least one area of Estate and Elder law – You can’t completely avoid it – you will either pay for it now or pay for it later. You will either plan properly and protect your family, or your family will have to deal with a Guardianship when you become sick, disabled, or incapacitated, or a nasty Probate when you pass away. It’s like driving a car – it’s a lot cheaper to regularly change your oil than it is to replace an engine. If you own a home, why do you pay for fire insurance? Can you imagine what would happen if your home burned down and you didn’t have insurance? At Haiman Hogue, we protect our clients not only from future financial loss, but we pride ourselves on also protecting our clients and their families from future stress, turmoil, and the emotional nightmares that often come with the lack of planning.
ESTATE & FAMILY PROTECTION PLANNING is one of the most important steps people can take to make sure that their final property and health care wishes are honored, and that loved ones are provided for when they pass away. Estate Planning is not just for the “retired” or the “wealthy” – it’s for everyone. The best time to put together your plan is now – before you actually need one.
If you don’t have a written plan, the Government has one for you, but we can pretty much guarantee that you won’t like it.
There is no such thing as a “basic” estate plan or a “one-size-fits-all” plan. Every family is unique. No two families are exactly alike and that’s why every family needs a plan specifically designed for that family’s make-up, circumstances, assets, wants, needs, values, etc.
A good Estate Plan includes (at minimum):
Last Will and Testament
A legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses his or her wishes as to how his or her property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor(s), to manage the estate until its final distribution.
Financial Power of Attorney
A legal document giving written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal or financial matters. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power).
Medical Power of Attorney
A legal document that allows an individual to empower another with decisions regarding his or her healthcare and medical treatment. A Healthcare Power of Attorney becomes active when a person is unable to make decisions or consciously communicate intentions regarding treatments.
Advanced Medical Directive
A legal document by which a person makes provision for health care decisions in the event that, in the future, he/she becomes unable to make those decisions due to advanced illness or incapacitation. Specifically, the decision to be kept alive on life support in the event medical professionals have determined that is the only way to keep the person alive.
HIPAA is the acronym that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a U.S. law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. The authorization form is used to designate the people whom you want to allow access to your medical records and information.
Declaration of Guardian in the Event of Later Incapacity
A legal document by which you tell the court whom you want to serve as your guardian if you ever become completely incapacitated to the point you are unable to care for yourself and there is ever a need for a guardianship proceeding for you.
Living Trust (absolutely necessary for some, but extremely beneficial for all)
Please see our Trust pages for a complete understanding of all the benefits this very important estate planning document offers.
A very good estate and family protection plan should also include:
- Instructions for passing your Legacy – your values (faith, education, hard work, etc.) in addition to your valuables.
- Instructions for your care if you become sick, injured, incapacitated or disabled before you die.
- Naming a guardian and an inheritance manager for minor children.
- Providing for family members with special needs without disrupting government benefits.
- Providing for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
- Life insurance to provide for your family at your death, disability income insurance to replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and long-term care insurance to help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
- Providing for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimizing taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
- Regular reviews and updates as your family and financial situations (and laws) change over your lifetime.
To schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your specific situation, please call or email the Elder Law and Estate Planning professionals at Haiman Hogue, PLLC today at (469) 893-5337 or info@HaimanHogue.com.