Estate Planning Requires More than Filling Out a Form
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
July 23, 2020
The internet has made it easier than ever to perform complicated tasks with the click of a few buttons. But while there are many areas where this can be great (such as banking and shopping), estate planning isn’t necessarily one of them.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that estate planning is as simple as filling out a will. This can lead them to use online estate planning services. However, this is a dangerous mistake to make.
The key word in estate planning is “planning.” This is a detailed process that involves correctly filling out numerous documents and understanding the rules surrounding the process. It’s important to really know what goes into this process so you can make the right decisions around your own estate planning.
Documents Involved in Proper Estate Planning
In the average estate planning process, there may be up to nine or more different documents needed. It goes beyond just a simple premade template for a will. Estate planning is about ensuring your wishes are followed in the event you become incapacitated or deceased. These documents can include:
Durable Power of Attorney
This document ensures that if you become incapacitated and are unable to take care of yourself, someone you have designated has the power to carry out your affairs. These matters can include medical, financial, and legal matters. A durable power of attorney remains in effect in the event you become mentally incapacitated.
Beneficiary Designation Form
This form establishes who you want to receive your various assets upon your passing. You can update the form and change the people you want to receive assets. Something important to note: this form does not replace a will.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
This is similar to a durable power of attorney except that it covers all matters related to your health. In the event that you become permanently incapacitated, such as through a car accident, work-related accident, or other means, the healthcare power of attorney ensures you are taken care of medically.
In a worst-case scenario, do you know who will take care of your children in the event of your passing? It’s not something that people want to think about, but every year children are caught in a bad situation because their parents didn’t have any plans for where they would go and who would take care of them. Their schooling and lives are put on hold while the state sorts the matter out. A guardianship designation lays out who you want to take care of your minor children in the event you prematurely pass.
Wills and Trusts
This document is absolutely essential, the laws surrounding it are highly complex, and they differ from state to state (important for those who just recently moved to Florida or may split their time in another state). More importantly, they need to be regularly updated as your circumstances change and as laws in your state change. When you get a will from a website using a premade template, none of these complexities are taken into consideration. Instead, you get a document that provides only a minimal level of detail.
Why Use an Estate Planning Attorney?
The above represent just some of the numerous documents needed for a complete and proper estate plan. These are necessary irrespective of how much money you have or how many assets you have. For those who do have a lot of assets, more documents may be needed to ensure all aspects of your estate are properly taken care of in the event of your passing.
Each of these documents can be highly complicated and is governed by numerous laws. To make matters more complicated, each of the laws surrounding these documents and estate planning can and do regularly change.
The level of expertise needed to understand these processes cannot be understated. It is more complicated than just filling out a form online and being set for the rest of your life. An attorney who specializes in estate planning is needed to truly create a proper estate plan that will stand the test of time and that can adapt to changing circumstances both in your life and according to state and federal laws.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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