What You Must Have in Your Estate Plan

An estate plan is something that most everyone needs.  While many people believe that all they require for their plan is a will, in order to create a comprehensive estate plan, several areas will be need to be addressed.

Your Will

First and foremost, if you do not have a will or trust your priority should be to have one or both prepared right away.  With a will, you are able to direct where your assets will go as well as leave instructions as to your final wishes.  A trust allows you to have your assets placed in a manner which can benefit named beneficiaries.  A trust can also keep certain assets from being part of the probate process.  In some cases, it may be beneficial to have both a will and a trust.  Whatever, the case may be, by having these legal devices in place you are able to direct and control what happens to your estate.  In the absence of a will or trust, your assets will be distributed according to the law rather than your wishes.

Patient Advocate Designation

The next item you should have in place is a directive concerning your medical care.  In Michigan, a Patient Advocate Designation (sometimes called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) is a document which you can use to name another person in the role of a patient advocate for you.  What this means is that if you become incapacitated, the person you name can make decisions on your behalf about your healthcare.   Without this designation, these important decisions may be made by someone you did not select or someone appointed by a court.  Having your Patient Advocate Designation in place will provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing the person of your choosing will be able to make important medical decisions for you in the event you are not able to do so for yourself.

Durable Power of Attorney for Fiances

Another key piece of your estate plan will be including a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances.  Just as in the case of your Patient Advocate Designation, this tool allows you to select a person to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.  The Durable Power of Attorney for Finances allows the designated person to stand in your place when it comes to making decisions about your finances.  Without a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances in place, important decisions about your financial estate may be in the hands of someone appointed by a court.  By creating a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, you can protect your estate by ensuring that someone you trust will be placed in the position of making your financial decisions.

Designated Beneficiaries

A critical part of any estate plan is having your beneficiaries properly designated in your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.   In some cases, it may be a good idea to have a named beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary to make sure the proceeds reach the people you want to have them.  For instance, if named your spouse when you first made the designation, and they are no longer alive, having your adult child as a contingent beneficiary will make them the recipient.  By having the beneficiaries, you want to be designated for these items you can help ensure that they funds attached to them will pass to the individuals of your choosing rather than becoming part of your estate and being distributed by the court.

A properly prepared estate plan will help make sure all of your interest and final wishes are prepared for and taken care of.  Our office has the knowledge and experience you need to fully plan for your estate. Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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