From Our “Ask a Question” mailbag: “Who Needs an Estate Plan?”
Most recently updated on June 5th, 2018.
“I am a Bucks County resident, and I don’t own that much. So as for a Will, I don’t think I need anything complex. Do I need an Estate Plan? Who Needs an Estate Plan?”
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
The short answer is everyone. The plan might be simple or complex, but without a plan, you might not address avoidable family conflicts and tax problems.
At a basic level, you should have a general durable power of attorney and a health care power of attorney. These documents designate who can act for you financially and medically if you are ever incapacitated. These are situations over which you have no control. We don’t get to pick if or when we have an accident or a medical emergency.
In the past, serious accidents left people dead. Now those same people recover, but often with extended hospital stays. If you were in the hospital for weeks or maybe months, who can authorize your treatments? Who would pay your bills and deal with the insurance company? Without a general durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney, friends or family would have to spend thousands of dollars petitioning the Bucks County Orphans’ Court to have someone appointed to make these decisions. The judge would be free to appoint whomever the judge deemed best suited to care for you, which might not be the person you would have chosen.
If your estate is not significant and your family situation not complex, your Bucks County estate-planning attorney can help you by crafting a general durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney, and in drafting a will. Depending on how you want your assets divided after your death, you could have a simple will. A simple will only appoints an executor to gather your assets, pay your final debts and to distribute your assets outright to your beneficiary. If your beneficiary is an underage child or someone with creditor issues, a simple will is likely not the best tool, and your Bucks County estate planning attorney can help create a will with protective trusts.
When Things are a Bit More Complex.
If your estate is large or your family situation complex, your Bucks County estate planning attorney can help craft various trusts. Trusts such as a disclaimer trust, dynasty trust, irrevocable life insurance trust, or asset protection trust, can address your specific assets and your goals. There are various ways to preserve your assets and reduce or avoid inheritance taxes and estate taxes at your death. These techniques are more complicated and expensive. But, the potential tax savings they deliver can easily offset their expense.
What if You Have No Plan?
If you don’t work with an estate-planning attorney to develop an estate plan, your assets will pass according to the Pennsylvania intestacy rules. These rules were created to sort out the estates of Pennsylvanian’s who failed to write wills (See my article, Intestate succession in Pennsylvania (Who Gets Your Stuff if you Die Without a Will in Pennsylvania). You will see in the article that while Pennsylvania is a possible beneficiary of your estate, it is far more likely that some relative of yours will inherit. By working with your Bucks County estate-planning attorney, you might discover that there is a charity or friend that you would much rather inherit your assets than a distant relative. You worked hard to earn your assets, why shouldn’t you get to decide who enjoys them after you have died?
An estate plan can be simple or complex, but putting together an estate plan is essential for everyone. Consult with your Bucks County Estate Planning Attorney and see what plan fits you best.
More Planning Questions?
If you have more estate planning questions, please read my more detailed article, Estate Planning, Everything You Need to Know.
In Conclusion: Who Needs an Estate Plan.
In this article, I tried to answer the question, Who Needs an Estate Plan. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website. So, let me know how I did, comments and questions are welcome! I hope it helped!
If you have more questions about wills and estate planning, let our Bucks County Estate Planning Lawyers help walk you through the confusing process. Our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation.
Wills, Trusts, Probate, and Estate Litigation, It’s All We Do!