Tag Archives: estate planning

The First Steps to take in Estate Planning

Death.

Well, your death to be more specific. It’s not something you want to think about and we should not be obsessed with it.

However, not planning for it is a major mistake many people make. We will all die one day. Death is something we can’t plan but we can plan to provide for our family and loved ones once the inevitable happens.

Estate Planning can actually be a relief to many who do it. It eliminates a lot of stress for you and your loved ones. How many stories have you heard of someone’s sudden death and the spouse and family being left with thousands of dollars in debts and no money to cover funeral expenses.

So, now is the time to take the First Steps in Estate Planning. Those all-important first steps should include the following:

  1. Create a Will and sign it: This first step is so simple and yet seems to be the most difficult or most often forgotten. (Only 43% of adults have a will according to a 2011 Harris Interactive Survey.) However, this is the most important and simplest step of all. Your property needs to be identified and the heirs to them named. So, in your will, name an executor who can properly disburse your property according to your wishes and pay off any estate debts. If you fail to execute a will, your property and debts may be passed on equally to your spouse and children according to the Law of Intestacy. That may cause hardship and incur extra legal costs. It’s much better to have a will and also be sure to sign and date it.
  2. Leave a detailed letter: Sometimes, you need to say more than the will allows. In this case, write a detailed letter stating your desires for your funeral arrangements, wording for the obituary, sentimental items you want to give to heirs, funeral program and other items. This letter would be kept and read by your attorney and/or executor. (You may have to amend this letter, along with your will, over the years.)
  3. Create an advanced health care directive: Many people fail to plan for health care emergencies. This unfortunate lack of planning and insight leaves their loved ones having to plan or decide on how to take care of them causing great stress and expense. A stroke, cardiac arrest or other major health crisis occurs and you may be unable to express your end-of-life desires to your family. This is a nightmare scenario. So, plan your “Advance Health Care Directive” giving explicit directions on how you should be treated when that moment occurs. Many people have a “DNR” or “do not resuscitate” orders on their medical and HIPAA release form. Your estate planning attorney can prepare this form for you and they can give your health care agent/case management team the right to get this information under the HIPAA rules. (You can find out more from the ABA’s “Consumer’s Toolkit for Health Care Advance Planning.”)
  4. Hire a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA): Your will and executor are a great start but you will still need an attorney to make sure all your wishes are known and executed should you be too sick to have it done. You may need to choose a trusted family attorney or a financial advisor. It should be someone familiar with the legal and financial issues and also someone who provide professional and compassionate advice to your heirs. (A relative is not recommended in this case as they would not have necessary objectivity needed in making decisions.)

This is only the start of estate planning. We will get into more detail in future blogs. The main point here is this: get that will written and signed. Everything after that can be done in time. Make this sadness less stressful for you loved ones by making sure they are taken care of and your property and assets go to those whom you want to have it. It’s not too late to do it today, in fact.

If you need more advice on estate planning, we have licensed and experienced attorneys at A. K. Burton, PC who can help you plan every step of the way. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.