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Estate Planning: Planning Ahead

estateNobody wants to think about their death. It’s unpleasant no matter how you look at it.  However, planning ahead is more than simply dividing up your worldly assets.  It can ensure that your children are cared for by the person that you prefer. Planning ahead can prevent fighting amongst your family over your property. Planning ahead gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out when you are no longer here to oversee things.

Many times I hear horror stories about the fights that take place after a person has passed on.  The fights are not necessarily by those who are estranged.  Many times those who are close and love one another feel they know what was “best” for their now deceased loved one.  Take the case of “Joe”, for example.  His father become ill and the mother was the sole care provider for his medical and health care needs.  Suddenly, without warning, Joe’s mother passed away.  This left his father to a world of uncertainty.  Stepping in, because he lived the closest, Joe found that his parents had done no estate planning and there was nothing set aside for the care of the father or any type of funeral burial for their mother.  He set about locating health care solutions for his father, knowing he could not live alone.  For the first time, Joe found out how truly ill his father was and how much his mother had been doing for him by herself.  Although he had a clear idea of what they should do to care for his father his other siblings each had a different idea about what was best for their father and what their recently deceased mother would have wanted.  In addition, none of them agreed to her funeral arrangements or burial location.

The type of situation above is a real life example of what goes on day after day when there is no estate planning.  When there are young children involved, things only become more complex, complicated and emotional.  With a little planning, it’s easy to avoid many of these types of issues for your loved ones after you pass.
There are four main documents that make up an “estate plan.” Not all are necessary and each is individualized. It is best to think about your wishes and discuss them with your attorney to ensure that the plan you create is tailored to your needs.
General Durable Power of Attorney: This document gives authority for a person to act on your behalf. In the event of illness or disability, this person can manage your personal affairs.
Health Care Proxy: This document allows you to designate a person to make health care decisions in the event of your incapacity.
Declaration of Intent: This document allows you to express your intentions regarding life support and the circumstances under which you wish to have life support terminated. This document is not absolutely necessary but preferred by some.
Last Will and Testament: This is the document that grants your estate to your designated beneficiaries. In it, you can give specific items, such as your wedding rings, or the entire estate (“share everything equally”) to the people designated in the document. It is also here that you designate who will manage the estate upon your death and who will care for your children, in the event that they are still minors or need other types of care.
If you have questions about your current estate plan, or you need to draft your initial plan, I am here to help you through this process. We will take it one step at a time and design it for your needs.  Call me in Amesbury at (978) 225-0661 or (603) 373-0545.

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