Brandy Austin Law Firm PLLC
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Estate Planning Lawyer

The question is not whether or not you need an estate plan. If you are over the age of 18, you need an estate plan. The question is how simple or complex your estate plan needs to be. If you own a minimum of assets, your estate plan can be simple, with only a few documents. If you have a complicated estate with many investments and different business interests, your estate plan needs to be similarly detailed. Asking yourself the following questions can help you determine what documents your estate plan needs to include.

1. Do You Have Minor Children?

If so, you definitely need a will in which to name a guardian who will care for them in the event of your death. Some states will not allow you to use any other documents to name a guardian. You may also want to set up a trust to provide for your children’s immediate and future financial needs.

2. What if You Become Incapacitated?

Do you want the health care providers attending you to take all measures to preserve your life? Would you prefer to be allowed to die rather than existing indefinitely on life support if you become permanently unconscious? If you have strong feelings about these and other end-of-life decisions, your estate plan should include an advance directive, also called a living will, that details your wishes.

A power of attorney grants a responsible party the authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding health care and/or finances if you are no longer able to make them for yourself. A health care power of attorney cannot override your advance directive but can handle situations that your living will does not anticipate. You can designate separate financial and health care proxies or give both responsibilities to the same person.

3. Is It Important To Avoid Probate?

Probate is the process of proving the validity of your will, locating your assets, and distributing them to the designated beneficiaries. It can be an expensive and time-consuming process, especially for a complex estate. If you do not wish for your estate to have to go through probate, you may want to create a living trust. This allows you to keep control of the assets when you are alive and puts them in the care of a trustee who will distribute them to your beneficiaries after your death. Items held in trust are not subject to probate.

These are only a few of the relevant questions you should ask yourself when making an estate plan. Contact an estate planning lawyer, like from the Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, to arrange a consultation with an attorney who can suggest a custom plan based on your individual situation.