When you hear the term “estate planning,” you probably think it’s only for folks who own big houses on sprawling acreage, but it’s so much more than that.
An estate plan can mean many things – some refer to it as a trust while others call it a will – but an estate plan is essentially just instructions on what happens to your assets after your death.
Just about everyone has some sort of estate that needs to be protected. You likely need an estate plan if any of the following applies to you:
• You have children
In the event of an extreme hospitalization or your death, you need to make sure that the proper accounts or any benefits are transferred to their name.
An estate plan gives you the power to decide next of kin as opposed to the state or hospital. You can also choose who you want to have power of attorney, which is the person who gets to make life-changing decisions on your behalf.
Additionally, for children with special needs, you may need to protect their future financial gains and designate someone to oversee their government benefits, such as Medicaid.
This can affect yourself as well by leaving instructions on how your children care for you if you lose mental facilities.
• You’ve recently been married/ divorced
After any big life change, such as marriage or divorce, it is best to re-evaluate your will and update your beneficiaries. If you have an existing estate plan, you need to update it after any major change.
For domestic partnerships or same-sex couples, it is important to have your partner listed as a benefactor in your estate plan.
Since the legal framework is ever changing and varies state to state, it is best to outline everything in your estate plan instead of leaving it up to the courts to decide.
• You own property
Assets could be your house, car, or anything else valuable you would want distributed to someone else after your death.
This can also include DIGITAL property, such as usernames and passwords to your online accounts.
An estate plan can determine who has access to those accounts in your passing and instructions for deactivation/continued moderation depending on what you want.
• You want to protect your privacy
The living trust is often marketed as a vehicle that allows you to “avoid probate” upon your death.
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering your estate and transferring your property at death pursuant to the terms of your will. Probate court records are also public records.
To ensure the privacy of your holdings and property, consult with an attorney and consider an estate plan to ideally avoid probate entirely.
• You have retirement or life insurance benefits
Although most plans have you designate a beneficiary upon set up, having the information in your will can assist in speeding up the benefits transfer, serve as a reminder for you to make updates periodically, or include additional instructions for distribution.
For example, if the benefactor is a minor at the time they inherit; will there be an additional trustee or administrator?
Southeast Missouri Estate Planning With Marler Schrum
Do any of these factors apply to you?
Then you may want to consider consulting with the skilled estate planning attorneys of Marler Schrum to learn what you need to do to start your estate plan today!