You may think that a will is sufficient for your loved ones to easily settle your affairs after you’re gone, but this is not always the case. There are some additional steps you need to take that will make the end of your life easier for your family and reduce stress and conflict.
Why a Will is Not Enough
Assuming that a will is sufficient to settle an estate and avoid probate is a common misconception. Although a will sets forth the deceased’s wishes for the distribution of his or her estate, there are other elements of estate planning such as trusts and powers of attorney that can ensure you and your loved ones are protected.
Living trusts provide many advantages both during life and after death, and are often used to avoid probate. If done properly, living trusts can also help to avoid court involvement in the event of your incapacity or death.
A revocable trust allows you terminate the trust or add and remove assets from the trust whenever you want. An irrevocable trust cannot be altered or terminated once it has been set up. Irrevocable trusts are often used for life insurance planning and setting aside education funds for children. Make sure to consult with attorneys who can help you set up the proper types of trusts and make sure your loved ones are taken care of.
Trusts may allow you to:
- Ensure that minor children or special needs beneficiaries are protected and cared for
- Avoid probate court
- Provide increased protection from challenges in court
- Allow assets to be distributed more quickly
- Reduce administration costs
- Provide creditor protection for beneficiaries
- Provide tax advantages
- Property in the trust is controlled by the successor trustee and not subject to administration by a court
- Unlike a will, the size of the estate and details are private and not a public record
Powers of Attorney
Creating a Power of Attorney is essential, regardless of your age and size of the estate. In the event of your incapacitation, a properly drafted power of attorney gives an agent authority to act on your behalf regarding legal or financial matters, and helps to avoid court involvement. Types of powers of attorney can include:
A Living Will, or Advance Health Care Directive, allows you to designate an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or unable to make these decisions, including: whether you wish to prolong your life or withhold treatment, pain relief, organ donation, and other specific requests you may have regarding your health care or end of life decisions.
Durable financial power of attorney grants a designated agent legal authority to act on your behalf regarding financial issues. This agent can typically take care of things such as paying bills, medical expenses, and managing your accounts and assets.
Our experienced attorneys in West Chester can help you create a solid estate plan that will make it easier for your loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death, ensuring that that your affairs will be handled according to your wishes and your legacy will continue long after you’re gone.