Brenda Lyle – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Reader question: I’m not wealthy. Why do I need an estate plan?
Answer: When you hear the word “estate,” you may think of mansions and millionaires. But “estate planning” is for everyone –and it is important! One part (the Will) directs the disposition of your belongings, when you pass away. But an estate plan also incorporates other documents necessary to assist your family should you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions. Anyone over the age of 18 can create an estate plan, regardless of the number or value of assets.
A Will-Based Estate Plan
- A Will divides your assets among people when you die. It may also address the guardianship of minor children.
- A Durable Power of Attorney designates someone to make decisions for you if you cannot — including financial and legal matters. This extremely powerful document should be given careful consideration.
- A Health Care Surrogate names the person you want to make your health care decisions for you, in the event you are incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. This person should be trusted to carry out the wishes of your living will.
- A Living Will addresses your “end of life” wishes. This can be very simple or complex, and can address your desires regarding medical treatment as well as spiritual needs. They can also specify your funeral and memorial wishes.
A Trust-Based Estate Plan
This is very similar to a will-based estate plan, with one large exception: rather than a person, the trust itself owns the assets in the trust. A trust does not go through probate, a public legal process that establishes the validity of a will. The will component in a trust is just for assets not included in the trust. A trust can also minimize taxes on the estate.
Who needs estate planning? That’s what we asked Geofff Hoatson, Elder Law attorney with Family First Firm.
“If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for everything. Don’t leave your children’s inheritance to chance. Make sure you have a detailed estate plan to protect your family and your legacy.”
And it’s not as expensive as you might think. A visit to an estate planning attorney can help you decide which type of estate plan is best suited for your life and financial situation.
Questions about estate planning? Call One Senior Place at 321-751-6771 and we will point you in the right direction. You will rest easy once it is done.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager for One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.