More than half of all Americans lack essential estate planning documents (2017 Survey by Caring.com). If you don’t yet have your estate plan in order, now may be a great time to get started. National Estate Planning Awareness Week is October 15th through the 21st. In recognition of National Estate Planning Awareness Week, five MWB Trusts & Estates attorneys are posting a series of blogs designed to help explain the who, what, when, why, and how of estate planning. We hope the articles encourage you to face the hard questions, make difficult decisions, and take action with respect to your own estate plan. By doing so, you create peace of mind for yourself and your family.
We encourage you to share this valuable information with your family, friends, and colleagues. Please see the McGuire Wood & Bissette website for more information on our attorneys and service areas.
Today’s post is from Andrew Atherton.
What is Estate Planning?
Simply put, estate planning is one the most important steps you can take as an enduring gift to your family. If you don’t act proactively, the default system imposed by North Carolina, other states where you may own property, and terms contained in other documents (such has your retirement plan agreement and life insurance policy) will create your estate and incapacity plan for you. The result of these “default systems” can be dramatically more expensive and different than what you want and impose hardship on your family.
Estate planning is more than what happens to your money, property, and investments at your death, and it more than merely creating documents. What happens at your death is important, but estate planning also deals with how your medical needs and financial affairs are managed if you become incapacitated.
Estate planning involves the mental exercise of mapping out a plan and then taking initial action on the plan by creating documents, updating contracts with banks and financial institutions, and conversations about the plan with friends and family members. Lawyers at McGuire Wood & Bissette focusing their practice on estate planning, business succession, taxation, charitable giving, elder and special needs, and trust and estate administration have the knowledge and experience to help you map out a plan and can guide you through the financial, interpersonal, and medical situations that you must address when building your map.
As part of the planning process, we will help you come to decisions regarding who will manage your everyday finances and investments should you become incapable or unable to make those decisions. We will also discuss who will make medical decisions for you and what life-prolonging measures you would want in certain medical situations if you become unable. By carefully considering the right people to manage your finances, make medical decisions on your behalf, and then documenting those decisions in the plan prior to finding yourself in a crisis, you can smooth the transition if you become incapacitated. Failure to properly plan for your incapacity can result in an emotionally and financially expensive guardianship proceeding requiring court intervention.
In estate planning we help you protect your assets from medical costs, creditors, and map a plan to transition your assets to your family, protect your family business or farm, care for family members with special needs and meet your charitable goals. We use many tools in this plan to fit your unique situation, including Wills, Revocable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Charitable Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Medicaid Trusts, Veterans Trusts and beneficiary designations. By incorporating these documents into your estate planning map, we can protect assets for your spouse, reduce the cost of administration at incapacity or death, and ease the transfer of assets to your beneficiaries.
With decades of experience in estate planning, business succession, taxation, charitable giving, elder law, special needs law, trust administration, and estate administration, we have the knowledge and experience to help you develop a map for your estate plan so that you are prepared for unexpected terrain and diverging paths of life .