To answer this question, you need to know the definition for “estate”. Your estate is everything you own while you are living. It is your house, your cars, your bank accounts, your investment accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and your “stuff” i.e. furniture, jewelry, big screen television, etc.
You need an estate plan so that your family has a clear understanding as to who should receive these items upon your death. You also need to decide when your beneficiaries should receive these assets. Maybe in your family your children are grown and responsible and it is not a problem for them to inherit the money right away. Or you may have young children or grandchildren, or someone facing a disability, or perhaps someone who will blow all your hard earned assets in less than a year. In these instances you will want to establish a plan to distribute the money when your children or grandchildren come of age, or consider a special needs trust to determine how your loved one with a disability will benefit from the distribution without losing their government benefits. In the case of someone that is not responsible, a spend thrift trust could be set up to distribute money over their lifetime. Lastly, you will need to decide who should be in charge of carrying out your estate plan upon your death, and who should manage your assets if you become disabled.
Of course, you want to accomplish all of this at the least cost. In some estates we see a lot of money going to the nursing home, the IRS and attorneys with very little going to the family. We want to see your families get a lot more and everyone else get less.
A complete estate plan should plan for both death and disability. The necessary documents are a Revocable Living Trust, a Pour-Over Will, a Statutory and Supplemental Property Power of Attorney, A Medical Power of Attorney, a Living Will and HIPAA Release form.
A qualified estate planning attorney can assist you in establishing the best estate plan for you and your family.
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