Will Estate Planning
Will estate planning is something every American should engage in. Whether you are 21 or 101, it is never too early or too late to develop an estate plan. All that is required is organizing information about your assets and writing out who you would like to inherit those assets upon your death. This information is documented in a legal instrument known as a Last Will and Testament.
Many people procrastinate about will estate planning. Some people don't feel they need a Will because they don't own anything of value. Others believe probate estate planning is too costly. A large percentage of people put it off for a rainy day when they will have time to organize their paperwork and interview estate planning lawyers. The problem is, if you continue to put off will estate planning you could end up leaving quite a mess for your loved ones to clean up.
Probate is the legal process used to ensure your wishes are adhered to according to directions outlined in your Will. If you die without a Will, a probate judge will determine who receives your property.
Although the judge must adhere to probate laws, distributing assets to heirs without a Will could potentially provide your property to someone you would never have given it to. The only way to ensure your financial holdings, real estate and personal belongings are given to the proper person is through will estate planning.
Personal estate planning should include a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney and Healthcare Proxy. Your Will outlines distribution of assets and designates a probate executor. A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes someone to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to make decisions. Designating a POA is an important decision and should not be taken lightly. A Healthcare Proxy is similar to a POA; however, this document is used to designate someone to make decisions about your healthcare on your behalf.
If you have children, guardianship should be included in your will estate planning. Oftentimes, people do not consider what will happen to their children if both parents die. If a guardian is not appointed through estate planning measures, minor children can end up being a ward of the state. Even if a relative or friends steps up to the role of guardian, there is no guarantee the court will grant their request. Arranging for guardianship is perhaps one of the most important aspects of will estate planning for individuals who have children.
Will estate planning can be done without legal assistance. However, experts advise retaining the services of an estate planning lawyer to prevent potential legal problems in the event of your death. Probate lawyers can be located through the American Bar Association and phone directories.
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