Estate planning can seem like a burden, a perspective that leads many people to delay this important process. Thinking about your property, evaluating your life insurance and otherwise planning for your own death likely does not sound like a fun way to spend a day.
Still, estate planning gives you and the people who you love very important protections both now and in the future. There are many ways that an estate plan can protect you, and these three following examples are some of the most common and persuasive benefits.
- Your estate plan gives you control over your legacy
What you leave behind for others has a strong effect on how those people remember you. Especially when it comes to children and grandchildren, you may want to help set them up for personal and financial success.
If you don’t create a last will or comprehensive estate plan, the state decides what happens to your property when you die. Under intestate succession laws, your spouse and children will have primary inheritance rights. Other family members can inherit if you don’t have a spouse or children. Unless you create your own documents outlining your wishes, you won’t have control over who receives what when you die.
- A living will protects you and your family if you get hurt
A car accident, heart attack or stroke could leave you unconscious or unable to speak for yourself. Creating a living will ensures you have protection in case you end up incapacitated or in a coma. Your living will can include an advance medical directive that explains your medical wishes.
You can also include health care proxy documents or a medical power of attorney that gives someone other than your spouse the authority to make decisions about your medical care. You can also have financial power of attorney documents that empower someone to access your financial accounts, pay your bills or even run your business on your behalf.
- Careful planning protects you if you decline when you age
Some people have medical issues that make it impossible for them to live independently as they get older. Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related conditions can result in cognitive decline and loss of testamentary capacity. If the courts determine that you can no longer make legal decisions on your own behalf, your medical directives and power of attorney documents lose their authority.
You can create a durable power of attorney now that gives someone the authority to take care of you if you experience permanent incapacitation. Instead of being at the mercy of the state, you will have the right to name your own guardian.
The sooner you start planning for your legacy and old age, the longer you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have taken all the necessary steps to protect yourself and the people you love.