Written By Johannesmeyer & Sawyer, PLLC
You’ve worked hard your entire life to build financial security for your family. One day, you hope the legacy you leave allows your loved ones the financial peace-of-mind they need to lead happy, fulfilling lives. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but are you prepared? At helm., we’ve provided legal counsel to all too many distraught families whose assets haven’t been managed – and planned for – correctly. We’ve learned that what you do today determines whether you leave behind uncertainty and confusion or hope for the future.
Here are four absolutely essential legal steps you need to take now to protect your family’s assets.
Write a Will
Everyone knows they need a will; no one wants to write one. We understand. Writing a will reminds you of your mortality and can bring up complicated questions about loyalty and family dynamics. Whatever unpleasantness you imagine would result from drafting a legal will now, multiply that tenfold once the pain of loss is added to the mix.
Regarless of your assets, they're going somewhere after you're gone. It's in the best interest of your family that you work with a licensed attorney to determine exactly how you'd like those funds administered, particularly if your family structure includes, minors, secondary spouses, or blended families.
There's a common misconception that trusts are only for the ultra-rich. This couldn't be further from the truth. Trusts are, in fact, excellent vehicles for your assets if you have specific wishes about how and when those assets should be distributed. They can also help your family avoid costly taxes or an extended probate period after you're gone.
There are literally dozens of types of trusts; a lawyer can help you determine which is best for your specific situation. A few of the most common kinds of trusts employed in an asset protection plan incude living trusts, special needs trusts, and trusts for minor children.
Power of Attorney
In the age of modern medicine, power of attorney is more crucial than ever. In the event you're unable to make decisions on your own (perhaps as a result of an accident, advanced-stage Alzheimer's, or a medical coma), having power of attorney documents in place can help your loved ones avoid painful feelings of doubt and regret.
The power of attorney documents you need to consider when estate planning include a financial power of attorney and a health power of attorney. In conjunction with the latterm it's also recommended that you draft a 'living will' which gives doctors (and your family) explicit instructions regarding your end-of-life care.
Review Your Plan
Many times people will spend a great deal of time and effort crafting a perfectly-viable estate plan for the future. Then ten years pass circumstances change, and that plan is no longer appropriate. An estate plan isn't much good to your family if it's outdated, incomplete, pr doesn't include directives regarding your current financial state.
Common life changes (divorce, births, switching jobs, moving to a new stat, etc.) can drastically alter the relevancy of your plan. It's a good idea once you create an estate plan to review it holistically with an attorney every 3-5 years.
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