It’s that time of year: many people are starting to plan their summer trips, especially since most of last year’s trips were cancelled. There’s a lot of planning that can come with planning a trip, aside from packing and gathering all necessary travel documents. Often times, my firm hears from clients who are eager to get their estate plans in order just weeks before they board a flight. They want to ensure their assets are preserved, managed and distributed properly should they face the unexpected.
Having an estate plan is among the most important things you can do for your loved ones. Unfortunately, it is a task many of us dread and put off dealing with until later in life. If there is one thing I recommend, it is that it is never too early to start planning, but it can be too late. If you are new to the concept of estate planning, it is easy to get overwhelmed, but don’t let that deter you. An easy place to start is with the basics.
An estate plan is just a collection of legal documents that sets forth how you want your assets distributed when you pass away and how you want people to handle health and financial decisions if you are unable to do so for yourself during your lifetime. An estate plan can help you feel more confident about the future, knowing your loved ones will be taken care of and that the legacy you leave behind is the one you want.
There are five essential estate planning documents:
The will is the standard document in most estate plans. The will names an executor to administer the distribution of your assets as you intend. Your will can also appoint guardians of minor children who will oversee their custody and care until they become adults.
Durable Power of Attorney
This document appoints a trusted family member, friend or advisor as an agent to act on your behalf for financial and legal matters.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
This document appoints someone you trust to make medical decisions for you when you no longer can.
Advance Directive (”Living Will”)
An advance directive, sometimes called a living will, expresses end-of-life care wishes, rather than simply leaving them up to the person named in your healthcare proxy. An advance directive typically covers pain relief and whether you would want a ventilator, feeding tube or resuscitation.
This document will allow the appointed people the right to receive your personal health information. So, if something should happen to you while you are traveling and you are hospitalized, your appointed people can receive information on your condition.
While it is important to have the right documents in place, there’s a bit more to estate planning. Remember to periodically review and update your existing estate plan. Drastic changes in laws, especially estate tax changes at the federal level and life changes such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or death of a family member may make it necessary for you to revise your plan.
Paul B. Owens is an attorney practicing in the areas of Probate and Estate Planning law. He serves in a number of other capacities, including on the Board of Directors for the CASA Helotes Senior Center in Helotes Texas. He can be reached at his office in Helotes at 210-695-5110 or at www. PaulOwensLaw.com
Editor’s Note: An advertisement for Paul Owens Law appears in this issue of the paper.