An estate plan is a collection of legal tools that work together to provide comprehensive protection for your family, your money, your property, and your privacy.
It’s extremely important to have this in place as soon as possible! Not only does an estate plan safeguard everything and everyone who matters most to you, but it also gives you and your family peace of mind. You won’t have to worry about the future, because your plan will help you stay in control as much as possible of how your and your family’s future will unfold!
Primarily, an estate plan provides peace of mind by explicitly detailing what will happen to you, your assets, and your loved ones both during your lifetime and in the event of your passing. It takes the guesswork out of the years to come so you can focus on enjoying them! Here are 7 pressing questions that an estate plan can help you answer.
- Who Will Take Care Of Your Minor Children If You Die
This is maybe the most important question on this list – certainly the one that prompts many people to make an estate plan (or at least draft a will) in the first place. Making a will and designating a guardian allows you to choose who your young children will live with if you are no longer around to care for them; who will make important medical and financial decisions on their behalf, who will raise them, and you will also have some measure of say as to how they will be raised.
- What Will Happen If You Ever Go On A Ventilator
This is another important question that prompts many people to stop procrastinating and start planning, especially because of COVID-19. Creating an advance directive (also known as a living will) allows you to state what you want your doctors and medical team to do if you are ever incapacitated and can’t make medical calls for yourself – if you require machines to sustain your life, would you want that care or would you want to be taken off support?
That is an incredibly tough question, and one that you shouldn’t leave your family to make for you. Your family may not know what you would have wanted, and also may disagree over the best course of action. By having an estate plan that includes an advance directive, you can save them from that uncertainty, stress, and conflict.
- When Your Family Will Inherit Your Possessions And Money After You Pass Away
If you have a trust included in your estate plan, all of your property and money will likely be able to bypass the Texas court process commonly known as probate (or estate administration). Without an estate plan, or if you only have a will, your estate will need to go through probate before your beneficiaries can inherit most of your wealth. Probate can be incredibly time-consuming. Depending on many different factors, including how many beneficiaries there are or how large the estate is, it can take months or even years to resolve probate, meaning that your family might be waiting for a very long time on the inheritance they planned on if you don’t plan ahead.
- How Much Your Family Will Inherit
Besides taking a long time, probate can also be extremely expensive. There are many costly legal fees involved, and if conflict arises with creditors or among family members during the process, lawsuits can occur that can make it even more expensive. Any costs of probate will first come out of the sum of the estate (all of your money and possessions), so if you want to ensure that your family’s inheritance isn’t depleted, making an estate plan is the best way to bypass probate and preserve the wealth you have worked so hard your whole life to build.
- Who Will Make Medical And Financial Decisions For You If You Can’t
While a living will/advance directive can help you plan for most of the medical decisions you would want made for you if you were incapacitated, you can’t plan for every possible scenario. Designating a power of attorney, which is a document that gives authority to someone you trust to make medical, financial, and/or legal decisions on your behalf, can ensure that the right person is making important calls if it comes to that – and that your family again won’t have to stress or fight over honoring your wishes.
- What Will Happen To All Of Your Accounts (Including Retirement Accounts, Email Accounts, Social Media Accounts, & More) When You Die
Have you ever considered that if you were to pass away tomorrow, or next week, it might be extraordinarily difficult for your family to sort through legal and financial details and move forward because they don’t know any of your passwords (for things like online bank accounts, auto insurance accounts, life insurance accounts, retirement accounts, and even email and social media accounts)? An estate plan gives you a place to keep and update that information so that your loved ones won’t have to worry about even the smallest details whenever you do pass away.
- What Will Happen To Your Life Savings If You Need To Enter A Nursing Home, Get Divorced, Or Get Sued
Death isn’t the only unexpected life event that you need to prepare for. If you live well into your 80s or 90s, or if you can no longer live independently earlier than that, or if you suffer an injury or illness in your senior years, it is likely that you will have to enter a nursing home at some point. Nursing homes in Texas can cost nearly $100,000 per year; having a trust in your estate plan and other tools can shield your assets from those costs and allow you to qualify for Medicaid (resource-based financial aid for seniors). If you end up getting divorced, or are sued, a trust can also shield your assets from being taken by other parties.
Don’t Wait To Plan Ahead
If you don’t have an estate plan in place already, don’t wait to make one. The future isn’t guaranteed for any of us, no matter how young and healthy or wealthy you are, and you don’t want to leave it to chance. You can save your family time and money, and guarantee that you stay in control of how your legacy unfolds, by working with a local estate planning attorney to create a plan that is personalized to your exact needs. At The Law Office of Michelle E. Murphy, we have over 20 years of legal experience in estate planning law. We can explain your options and give you all of the documents you need to secure what matters most. Call today to schedule a free consultation and get started!