Many people think an estate plan only involves drafting a document before you die that will distribute your assets upon your death, according to your wishes. Although an effective estate plan does do that, an equally important part of an estate plan should include what happens to you and your assets while you are living if you are temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions for yourself.
We all hope to live a long healthy life and die in our sleep dreaming of happy thoughts. Unfortunately, the reality is, that is not usually what happens. Life can bring unexpected events, at any age, that affect your health or financial situation. A good estate plan involves planning and preparing for unexpected events that could occur during your life time. If done correctly, it can reduce or eliminate the negative consequences to you or your estate that can flow from these inevitable “bumps in the road”.
If you become unable to handle your financial affairs, due to incapacity, resulting from an accident or some other unanticipated event, an application for conservatorship or guardianship may be required appointing someone to make decisions for you. Having a durable power of attorney for financial matters as part of your estate plan can avoid that delay and expense. A properly drafted power of attorney or trust can also avoid depletion of assets or an unwanted change in the direction of your business or finances. Most individuals expend a lot of time and effort building their estate. A property drafted Estate Plan can assist in protecting those assets you worked hard to accumulate.
How you are cared for upon disability or sickness should also be a significant part of your estate plan. A living will and a power of attorney for medical decisions can ensure your treatment is in accordance with your wishes, even if you are unable to express them at the time. It ensures those you trust, and have confidence in, will be making those important decisions which include, what medical treatment you receive, where you live, and who cares for you. Having a medical power of attorney also alleviates the emotional struggle and animosity that can occur among family when your loved ones disagree about what decisions you would like them to make and who you would like to make those decisions if you are unable.
An estate plan is an important written plan intended to give direction to those you trust in relation to you and your assets upon your death but it can also have an extremely important role while you are alive. Don’t make the mistake of having half a plan.