In law school, I wanted to do estate planning. After focusing on that work for a year, I didn’t enjoy the process and was quickly romanced by the world of real estate litigation. Because I did estate planning, I knew how to read a will or a trust, so I applied my new litigation skills to the world of probate litigation. My practice evolved into about half real estate litigation and half probate litigation, and I didn’t expect to do estate planning again.
It turns out that basic estate planning isn’t so basic. As I dug into my work at Taproot, I realized that these estate planning questions and challenges are common, and many people need this help to feel that their lives are in order. But there is a huge gap in affordable, trustworthy estate planning services.
I am proud to release estate planning as part of our Make-it-Legal Services – a process that feels great for me in my practice and more accessible, understandable, and affordable to clients! Let’s talk about what estate planning really is.
“Estate planning” is a process engaged in throughout life to plan for times when you cannot do something for yourself. Attorneys assist in estate planning by providing planning tools such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. But you’ve probably used estate planning tools without realizing it. Beneficiary designations and joint ownership are also estate planning mechanisms.
Attorneys also bring value to estate planning by giving advice and recommending the specific types of tools you need to accomplish a desired estate planning goal. For example, if you want to disinherit your child, you need a will, and the attorney can craft special provisions to best accomplish the disinheritance at your death.
Estate planning is a fluid process that must shift with your needs during your life. Today, you may need a trust for your young children, and in 50 years, you may need nursing home care. A complete estate plan sets an overall goal for management, use, and distribution of a person’s property during life and after death.
Plans for Life
Plans for life can be so useful! For most people, these plans are more important than plans for death. Powers of attorney and patient advocate designations come in handy when you can’t make decisions for yourself. These representatives help clients do everything from getting nursing home care or making end-of-life decisions. Most people appoint their children to perform these jobs (which requires understanding the directions in necessary documents).
Even with the ability to make decisions, durable powers for attorneys are extremely helpful. When I was recovering from chronic health issues, I needed some extra help. The person who helped me got a cashiers’ check to close on my house, hired a person to take care of the lawn, and paid bills for me. I was essentially able to be in two places at once. Other people who may have a lifetime need for help, specifically, are those in the military or college.
Plans for Death
Death is the part of estate planning that most think about. Beneficiary designations and joint ownership create transfers upon death that do not require using the probate process to transfer. Most of us are using these mechanisms – but likely without the intention of coordinated estate planning tools.
If an asset does not have beneficiary designations or joint ownership, a probate process must be used to transfer the asset to a new owner. This is a probate asset. Wills contain instructions to the probate court about who is entitled to receive the probate assets.
At Taproot, we know a full, traditional estate planning isn’t for everyone, so we are offering alternative estate planning options that allow more customized estate planning to meet your needs.
If you need help with estate planning documents or just want to understand what it’s all about, schedule a coaching call with Erica. We are also willing to work with you creating all four estate plans or just one of them through our Make-it-Legal Services. Call us at 906-284-8426 or check out our website for more details about coaching and Make-it-Legal Services!