So, you made it your New Year’s resolution to get your ESTATE PLANNING needs addressed. You’ve got a young family, you are healthy, and you and your spouse are starting to accrue some assets. Here are some important things to consider to protect those assets and plan for your family’s future:
WILL or TRUST – You should consider putting together a WILL or a TRUST to indicate what you want to happen with your property at your death. Nobody likes to talk about death, but it is a reality that unexpected things happen. With a family, you need to consider this possibility and plan for it. Beyond how your assets would be distributed, your WILL can name a person to take over as the GUARDIAN or CONSERVATOR for your children if both you and your spouse die. A TRUST will avoid the necessity of appointing a CONSERVATOR for your minor children because the successor TRUSTEE would take over management of the TRUST assets for the benefit of the children, and do this without court intervention.
POWER OF ATTORNEY – Usually people need to have two different powers of attorney. The first is a MEDICAL/MENTAL HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY to permit someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Absent such medical power of attorney, it may be necessary to obtain a GUARDIANSHIP for you, especially if you are incapacitated for a longer period of time. The second kind is a FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY. This permits another person to make financial decisions for you, and assist paying your bills while you are incapacitated.
LIVING WILL – A LIVING WILL is a document in which you indicate decisions about your healthcare in advance, and may be relied upon by a doctor if you are unable to make your decisions known (i.e. if you are unconscious). A LIVING WILL addresses many common medical issues that would typically need to be addressed. Anything that is not addressed can be covered by the person who is serving as your MEDICAL HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY.
Insurance – Especially if you have young children, you should consider obtaining life insurance for you and your spouse. Insurance is typically cheaper the younger you are and the healthier you are. So, it is good to get an early start on this. You should consider at least a ten year policy, and if you can afford it, a fifteen to twenty year policy. This will cover you while the children grow up and get through college. You can go with a short policy duration, but if something occurs that impacts your health, the cost for your insurance will go up dramatically. Better to lock in the lower rate for as long as possible. If you have young children, you will probably not want to name them as beneficiaries. Instead, you may want the insurance proceeds to go into a TRUST that will hold the insurance proceeds for their benefit, and distributed by the TRUSTEE as needed.
Review your Financial Accounts – You will need to make sure your financial accounts are all up to date, especially where you have indicated beneficiary designations. If you have a TRUST, you can either title them (with some exceptions) into your TRUST, or list your TRUST as a beneficiary to these accounts. You might also consider the use of tax advantaged accounts for college savings (i.e. a 529 Plan). Beyond this basic review, you may want to consider meeting with a financial consultant who can assist you with your savings, retirement and investment choices.
As you follow up on your New Year’s resolution, consider also making it part of your resolution to obtain the assistance of a knowledgeable Phoenix estate planning attorney to aid you in preparing the legal documents mentioned above. As is probably evident from the above article, even basic ESTATE PLANNING raises a myriad of issues to consider. While this article discusses some basic ESTATE PLANNING, it is not intended to be exhaustive. Because each person’s ESTATE PLANNING needs are unique, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your specifics. Platt & Westby is an AV rated well established Law Firm that has offices in Phoenix, Arrowhead/Sun City, Litchfield Park, Scottsdale and Gilbert Arizona. If you are interested in discussing your ESTATE PLANNING, contact our office by calling 602-277-4441 or visit www.plattwestby.com to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.