When it comes to estate planning, it’s not a subject most people want to think about. However, estate planning is essential for everyone, regardless of age or wealth. So it’s important to put a plan in place with instructions in the event of your passing, especially if you have children or significant assets. You are preparing a document that can speak for you and clarify your intentions.
It can be tempting to save money upfront using a quick fix solution with services like LegalZoom or RocketLawyer. These platforms provide templated documents that appear professionally written. Still, this seemingly easy solution can cause headaches or lead to costly situations for your heirs if the documents are not correctly set up or are legally unenforceable.
This isn’t to say there are no situations where a DIY solution may be suitable. A simple DIY will may meet your needs if you have modest assets or a clear division of property. However, for more complex situations, the guidance of a legal professional can be invaluable in ensuring your wishes are communicated clearly and without bias at a time when emotions can be running high.
A hasty decision to create a DIY will can leave lasting financial and emotional consequences for your relatives – at best, leading to confusion and at worst, leading to lengthy and perhaps even hostile litigation if you do not make your wishes clear and legally binding.
Working with an impartial legal counselor can help you make unbiased decisions that align with your own wishes, not influenced by family members or friends.
What should an estate plan include?
At a minimum, an estate plan should include three key elements: a will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive. A will is a document that explains to the court how you would like your assets, such as property, investments, valuable possessions, and even businesses, to be distributed. If you have minor children, it’s also essential that you designate a legal guardian so there is a clear plan in the event anything should happen that leaves you unable to care for your children.
You can also designate power of attorney indicating who is authorized to act legally on your behalf or make decisions in the event you are incapacitated. In conjunction with this, a healthcare directive clarifies how you would like medical situations, such as organ donation, to be handled.
Other factors to consider:
In addition to the will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive, there are a few other factors you might want to include in your estate planning.
You can create a funeral plan that provides direction on how you would like funeral arrangements to be handled in the event of your passing. It may also be helpful to outline arrangements for any final expenses, such as a funeral or settlement of debts.
It’s also vital to keep your estate plan up-to-date with significant life events such as marriage, children, or divorce. A lawyer can also help ensure proper custody of the will and note any changes throughout your life, so there are no questions of integrity to the chain of custody.