Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Estate planning is not a process where one style will do for anyone. It's very personal that requires each one to be customized. Perhaps with the exception of a significant other, it can become intimidating to figure out those tough decisions when there are no close family members. It's more common then people realize, which makes a lot of people put off their strategy to finish their estate plan or not even at all. If your having trouble, here are some ideas that can put you at ease.
Plan for Incapacity
Everyone should have someone ready to direct their decisions for health care and a power of attorney. This is best done through an advanced directive for healthcare document. This be able to legally determine how your demands are carried through, in the event where something bad (car crash, coma, etc…) prevents you from making those decisions. Without this piece of paper, not even your wife can make legal choices for you. Without it, your relatives with be dealt with a bureaucratic court proceeding to plan out a guardianship or conservatorship to appoint someone to make these decisions (which could end up as someone you don't know)
Consider a Trust
This is a legal document that can used to manage your assets and help carry out your decisions in the event of your death. Its has two elements in your favor. A trust will avoid a probate issue and it allows you to give out an inheritance in a protected manner.
Probate is a court development that figures out who is entitled to an asset in your name when your dead. The American court system will send out notice to your closed relatives, known as heirs. If your not married or ever had children, then your closest would be your parents. Don't have parents? Then your sibling get control. No brother or sister? Then it's be your grandparents, then great aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s a possibility that your closest relative on paper could be someone you've never met or don't want in charge.
If you don't have at least a will, the "state determined closest relative" will be the one to inherit your stuff. Though even with the will, they still have a chance to interrupt, find out about the worth of your assets and go to court to try and change that.
The best strategy is to have a trust created. You should plan to have your assets own within the trust, thus avoiding a potential probate issue.
Whose is Charge?
Each trust needs someone to be the leader once your gone, which is called a "trustee". A trustee can either be a real person or a business like a financial institution. A trustee ensures your assets are distributed to the guidelines you’ve set into place. This is why it's important to chose someone or something that is responsible and trusting.
If there isn't anyone one you trust, then your best bet is to select a professional, such as an attorney, accountant, or a trust company. These people will charge you for their services, but it’s often worth it to know that your assets are in good hands.
What to Do with Your Assets
Let's say you have parents you want to be sure are taken care of. Or someone else in the family or even a friend. It can be difficult to figure out just how one is benefited from your assets. Your attorney can review the best way to be carried out. Again, a trust may be the best way.
Charities can also be included in estate plan. If the gift to the charity is…generous, then the organization can be contacted before to ensure that the contribution is going to the area you desire.
Don't Forget the Animals
We don't want to keep Rover or Lassie out of your plan. Of course we want to make sure that your pets will be cared for after your gone. This can be done by leaving them with someone who can be a good owner. Or a pet trust can also be set up. It's just important to plan out for your pet, just as a parent would for a
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!