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Where Do I Start My Estate Plan?

One of the most common questions we’re asked by our estate planning clients is, “Where do we start?” Our answer is, “With your biggest worry.”

Estate planning can be an overwhelming undertaking. But, we have come to know that finding the right jumping off point is half the battle. Calming your greatest fear, planning for your biggest worry is a great jumping off point.

Guardians for Minor Children

Many of our clients’ main fear is that they haven’t named a caretaker for their minor children. With that information, we can recommend that they start with a Will or a Trust. A Will enables you to nominate guardian and/ or conservator for your kids. A Trust also name a guardian and conservator along with detailed guidelines for how your children are cared for and when their inheritances are disbursed.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each document, our clients are then able to choose a direction for their estate plan to follow, and we are able to ease their fears.

Power to Make Medical Decisions

Another common worry is that our clients’ wishes won’t be followed in a medical emergency. When we’re made aware of this, we suggest that they start with a Healthcare Directive. In a Healthcare Directive, you name a medical agent to make medical decisions for you when you are unable. You also memorialize what your wishes are so your medical agent knows what decisions to make. You can name what lifesaving measures you would like to be taken on your behalf. You can declare whether you’d like to be an organ donor or not. You can leave instructions for your funeral.

Knowing that there is a legal document that will become a gameplan in a medical emergency gives our clients a starting point and enables us to alleviate their worry.

Leaving Specific Gifts

Another concern is that our clients won’t be able to leave a specific item or gift to a specific person. Or, relatedly, some clients also that someone that they don’t want to inherit anything will be given some of their estate. When we know this, we recommend a Will or a Trust. In a Will, you can name who you want your beneficiaries to be, which also enables you to disinherit specific individuals. You can do the same in a Trust, and a Trust does not have to be probated to be valid.

Knowing which instruments allow them to select who they want to leave their possessions to gives our clients a strong first step in starting their estate plan, while simultaneously giving peace of mind.

Power to Make Financial Decisions

A final worry we commonly hear is that our clients’ finances won’t be cared for in their absence. When we hear this, we recommend a Power of Attorney. In a Power of Attorney, you name an Attorney-in-Fact to make financial decisions if you are incapacitated or absent. You also enumerate the scope of power that your Attorney-in-Fact is given as well as the assets that they have control over. You can have one Power of Attorney that covers all of your finances, or a series of them for specific properties or accounts.

Knowing the route to take to protect their financial interests is a strong place for our clients’ their estate plan and gives comfort about the future.

We understand how daunting the thought of starting the estate planning process can be. So, tell us your greatest worry, and we’ll work from there.


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