ShankerValleau 360°- Let the Queen Inspire Your Estate Plan
The recent death of Britain’s beloved Queen Elizabeth II has placed a spotlight on estate planning. Despite emotionally charged crowds of mourners and rumored royal family rifts, the events following the Queen’s death were carried out smoothly. Although we are not royalty, we can learn a final lesson from Britain’s longest reigning monarch and recognize the importance of a well-planned estate.
An estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can bequeath to your loved ones, to reduce their painful stress load during an already stressful time. We’ve assembled the following list of basic estate planning elements with brief explanations of each document. If you’ve been procrastinating on your estate planning, we hope this summary serves as a source of inspiration.
Nearly everyone should have a will to specify who gets what when you go. If you have minimal net worth and obvious beneficiaries, a basic will might do it. You typically name one or more executors to move your estate through probate (the legal process for carrying out the terms in your will). Your executors can be family members or professionals, such as a corporate trustee.
A Revocable Living Trust (RLT)
If your relationships and/or financial affairs are more elaborate, you might want to supplement your will with a revocable living trust (RLT). You should also still have a will, to settle any assets that remain outside of your trust(s). But an RLT lets the bulk of your estate bypass public probate, which usually means a more rapid, private, and cost-effective settlement. It also can resolve complex family dynamics that a will alone cannot address.
A Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney (POA) is a legal document authorizing someone (your “agent”) to make financial decisions on your behalf. No matter how much authority you grant an agent, they still owe you a fiduciary level of care, which means any decisions they make for you must be based on what they believe to be in your best financial interests.
A Healthcare Advance Directive
Your healthcare advance directive can offer two types of protection. Your living will provides your life-sustaining and end-of-life medical care instructions, and related healthcare preferences, in case a time comes when you cannot state them for yourself. Your healthcare directive can also name healthcare representative(s), or agent(s) and grant them healthcare power of attorney. If you cannot make your own healthcare decisions, your agent can decide on your behalf, guided by your living will.
Do you have an existing estate plan?
If you already have your estate plan in place, that is great news. But, could it be time for a revision of your existing estate documents? Keep in mind, a well-designed estate plan is unique to you and your life circumstances. If your economic circumstances or family situation change, it is important to update your estate plan. In addition, changes in tax law may impact your estate, so it is best practice to periodically review your estate plan.
We’re Here to Help
As you sort through the details of your estate plan, professional legal counsel is usually warranted. Let us know if we can put you in touch with select professionals to assist – or if we ourselves can help you sort through the logistics involved.