Happy New Year 2018! Resolving to get your legal affairs in order is one of the most important things you can do to make sure your family, wishes, and assets are protected if something unexpectedly happens to you this year.
While many people focus on getting out of debt or getting organized for the New Year, estate planning is an equally important personal finance goal that should make every adult’s to-do list.
That’s because far too many area residents are without plans to protect their family, wishes and assets should something unexpectedly happen to them. A recent Lawyers.com survey further reveals that only 35% of adults have a basic will or other estate planning documents in place should death or incapacity occur.
Contrary to popular belief, estate planning isn’t just for the rich. At a bare minimum, every adult needs a basic will, power of attorney and health care directives in place to avoid a legal and financial nightmare if something unexpectedly happens to them.
So what are these documents and how do they help you in a time of emergency?
- Will – A will is a document that specifies what should happen to your assets if you pass away. A will may also contain guardian nominations to dictate who will care for your minor children if something unexpectedly happens to you.
- Trust – A trust is a legal entity that can hold title to property. With your assets securely placed in a trust, you can minimize your financial exposure to lawsuits, divorce, and bankruptcy while alive. Upon death, a trust will keep your affairs private and out of the probate court. It also allows a great deal of control for people who do not want their inheritance going outright to their heirs if something unexpected happens.
- Power of Attorney – A power of attorney or POA gives explicit permission for someone to access your personal accounts, pay your bills and handle all other financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated in an accident but do not die. Under the current privacy laws, even a spouse may have a hard time accessing personal information without such documentation in place.
- Advanced Health Care Directive – Also known as a living will, this document specifies your healthcare wishes if you are incapacitated in an accident and unable to speak for yourself. Such wishes may range from whether you want certain medications administered to when (if at all) to start life support in critical situations. This document also allows you to appoint the person best suited to carry out such wishes should incapacity occur.
Accidents and serious illness happen every day without warning. That’s why it’s so important for any adult who has not tackled their estate planning to add it to their resolutions this year. It will save your family from years of headaches and thousands of dollars in unexpected costs should the unthinkable happen.
Make this your New Year’s resolution this month: “I will get my estate plan in place or updated.” Call me, Steve Worrall, your Marietta estate planning lawyer, at 770-425-6060 or email me at steve @ georgiaestateplan.com and let’s get your family protected and give you peace of mind for 2018 and beyond.