The Basics of Estate Planning: What You Need to Know

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We are proud to partner with Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal with Trust & Will to share relevant content to the Orlando Mom community.

An Estate Plan is a comprehensive and complete way to prepare yourself, your assets, and your loved ones for the future. By estate planning, you are ensuring that your children, pets, assets, final arrangements, and health care decisions will be taken care of exactly as you want them to be.

  • An Estate Plan allows you to create a plan to protect your and your loved ones both during lifetime and after death.
  • Wills allow you to plan for what happens after death, ensuring that your family is protected and your assets are distributed how you choose.
  • Trusts give you more control over your plan during your lifetime and after death, helping you avoid the cost and burden of probate.
  • Healthcare documents allow you to ensure you have your own affairs in order in the event you are unable to make your own decisions during your lifetime. These cover both medical and non-medical needs during your own lifetime.

Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, your Estate Plan is a guarantee that everyone will know what your wishes are. Electing a Guardian for minor children and disclosing health care directives are perfect examples of why every adult needs an Estate Plan, regardless of their wealth.

Appointing a guardian for your children is one of the most important tasks you’ll ever do.

As your child’s current legal guardian, you know what’s best for them. Stating your preferences in a legal document makes sure the decision is yours, not the courts.

Legal Guardians have legal and physical custody of minor children. They are responsible for making all of the decisions regarding their upbringing, including education, discipline, medical care, religious practices, and more.

If you do not formally create an Estate Plan and name a guardian before you pass away or become incapacitated, a probate court will ultimately appoint guardianship. The decision is based on what the court believes is in the best interest of the child or children.  There is also the possibility that your child could be placed in a foster home, even temporarily, while a court evaluates what is in your child’s best interests.

Having a child is the single biggest motivator for adults to create a Will. A Will lets you designate who should care for your children if something happens to you. Without a Will, this decision could be made for you by state law or by a judge who has no knowledge of what is best for your family.

A Will-Based Estate Plan includes customized and state-specific documents to name guardians for your children, catalog your assets, and outline what should happen in a medical emergency. However, you may also consider creating a Trust if you have children. One key benefit of creating a Trust is that your loved ones will avoid the long and complicated process of probate court. When you transfer assets to your Trust, you own everything in your Trust while you’re still alive. After you pass, your assets will go directly to who you’ve chosen.

It is important to understand the difference between a will and a financial power of attorney. Wills go into effect after your death and allow you to name guardians for your children and pets, designate where your assets will go, and specify your final arrangements.

A Financial Power of Attorney is a component of your Estate Plan that ensures financial matters in your estate and are handled appropriately and responsibly. Knowing that your financial responsibilities, investments, retirement, bills and everything else in your financial world is in good hands can be a great source of comfort. If you have any sort of financial responsibility or assets, you might want to consider establishing a Financial POA.

Your Financial POA can be a tremendous asset in your life. He or she will have your best interest at heart and will protect the legacy you’ve spent your entire life building.

Creating a Will does not need to be intimidating or costly — you only need some basic information and personal preferences.

Creating a digital estate plan online is the modern approach to the process, offering legally valid documents designed and approved by estate planning attorneys to adhere to individual state guidelines. Digital estate planning makes estate planning simple, affordable, and accessible by providing a secure way to set up a plan online in minutes.

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Information provided by Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal with Trust & Will.

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