Does the word “estate” in estate planning make you turn a deaf ear to the whole concept of financial planning? Maybe you feel like “estate” planning doesn’t apply to you because your home doesn’t look like an estate, and your bank account is rather ordinary. But if you look at it that way, you may just be using the wrong definition of the word "estate." Yes, that's right, Webster has a second (& more useful) definition of estate:
"All the money and property owned by a particular person, especially at death."
"An extensive area of land in the country, usually with a large house..."
So, with that in mind, take a second look, because estate planning could be more aptly called “planning for the future of your loved ones”. Right now you can control how your assets are managed yourself. However, if you aren’t around anymore wouldn’t you want to leave some guidelines to tell people what to do? These guidelines can help assure that your wishes are carried out and that your family is protected. Having guidelines in place in the form of an estate plan can also help in avoiding family conflicts.
You also want to have guidelines in place in case you become incapacitated or incapable of expressing what you want in terms of medical care. An advance directive that includes a living will and a medical power of attorney can spell out who will make the decisions about your care if you are unable to communicate your wishes. A financial power of attorney enables the person of your choosing to direct your investments when you cannot.
If you have considerable assets you may want to involve a tax professional and a financial professional along with your estate planning attorney to help minimize tax liability while maximizing investment potential. All three professionals can work side by side with you to create a seamless plan that meets your goals.
Finally, you may want to include a more personal side to your estate plan. Alongside the legal documents you can draft a letter or letters conveying the love you feel for the special people in your life. You can leave a video for your loved ones or a scrapbook with meaningful pictures. This can become part of your legacy and a comfort to your family. That said, start small. Contact an attorney and have a meeting. Then you can go from there.
For more information about putting together an Estate Plan, contact our East Bay Estate Planning Firm at 925-322-1795.