I always strive to stress the importance of having updated estate planning documents to clients and potential clients at every stage of their lives. As your life evolves - maybe your income and assets change, or maybe the size of your family has changed - it is necessary to have a comprehensive estate plan in place.
A comprehensive estate plan includes a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney. There are other documents that may be included as well, for example, a Living Will and a Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) or Do Not Resuscitate order.
Trusts can also be used in more sophisticated estate plans to help plan for children and beneficiaries under a disability, avoid probate, maximize estate and gift tax exemptions, and shelter assets from creditors (including Medicaid). Trust planning allows extremely customizable solutions for your assets to pass your wealth on to your loved ones.
Pre and postnuptial agreements can also have a place in your estate plan, as well as a business succession plan (if you are a business owner).
Having a comprehensive estate plan in place assures that your wishes will be carried out should you pass away or become incapacitated. It also ensures that your loved ones have a clear road map as to how your wishes should be carried out during a time that already promises to be quite difficult for them to navigate.
If you have estate planning documents in place already, they should be reviewed periodically; particularly if you have experienced any life-changing events like the purchase of a home, start of a business, birth of a child, or death of a loved one that was previously included in your estate.
Additionally, if you have a loved-one with a disability or special needs for whom you would like to plan, properly thought out and executed estate planning documents can enable you to financially assist this loved one without disqualifying him or her from receiving other types of benefits he or she may be entitled to.
There are so many reasons to effectively plan for the future of your family and your assets. Having these documents in place could spare your love ones from significant struggle and hardship if you pass away or become incapacitated.
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