We get it: “Estate planning” tends to have an ominous ring to it. For the nearly two-thirds of Americans who don’t currently have a will, living trust, or any other essential estate planning documents in place, it can sound incredibly intimidating to plan for your own mortality.
However, there are plenty of reasons you should work on getting an estate plan in place now rather than later. At Carlson & Burnett, we’ve made it our mission to help Nebraskans prepare for their futures with proactive and flexible estate planning services. Our Omaha-based probate lawyers are here to answer all your questions, and to take the pain and frustration out of building an effective estate plan.
In this post, we’ll review a few of the estate planning basics, and how you can start getting prepared.
Main Types of Estate Planning Documents
When it comes to estate planning, most people are already familiar with the concept of a last will and testament. This deceptively simple document details your wishes with respect to your assets, property, and more. However, while a will can cover a lot of ground, there are many other essential documents that you may need to employ in an effective estate plan.
Here are some basic definitions for the most commonly used estate planning documents:
As mentioned above, a will is a document that details your wishes. However, it’s also much more than that. If you have children, you can indicate who you would like to be their guardian if you die: If you don’t have children, a will can prevent relatives from fighting over your belongings in probate court. Either way, a will is the cornerstone of an effective estate plan. Without one, you will pass “intestate,” and the probate court will have to decide on a plan in your absence.
A living will is much different than a last will and testament. Also called an “advance medical directive,” this document can provide doctors with clarity if you become terminally ill or otherwise incapacitated. You can define what medical interventions you want or don’t want under certain conditions.
Power of Attorney (POA)
There are many different types of power of attorney, but they all allow another person to make legal decisions on your behalf. If you’re worried that one of your medical directives will not be enforced, giving someone you trust the healthcare power of attorney can ensure they’ll advocate for your needs. Durable power of attorney, on the other hand, allows spouses or trusted advisors to make legal and financial decisions if you become unable to do so.
Trusts aren’t just for the very wealthy, although they do help when you have a high net-worth (or very young children.) Trusts allow you to set conditions for asset distribution, specifically if you want to gift those assets to family members without the frustration of going through probate court.
First Steps to Building Your Estate Plan
A successful estate plan is about more than just drafting up a will, or any of the other documents we’ve mentioned here. It’s about the ongoing process of refining your wishes, and making it clear how you would like your material possessions to be handled after your death. It’s recommended that you review your will at least once every few years, and especially after any major life events, such as the birth of a child, marriage, significant business growth, real estate inheritance, or other milestones.
At Carlson & Burnett, we believe it’s never too early to start building a flexible estate plan. These documents can always be changed later to fit your lifestyle and financial fluctuations, but when you pass intestate, your family may have to deal with the problems of probate court.
When you contact our Omaha estate planning attorneys for your free consultation, we can assess your current situation and help you build a robust plan. From preparing and filing essential documents to developing and administrating trusts, we can take on some of the challenges and give you the peace of mind you need for the future.
Give us a call at (402) 810-8611 today to see how we can help!