Many People Think They Have an Estate Plan - But They Don't

Would you consider building one room and calling it a home? Probably not, but many people do just that when it comes to estate planning.

Some statements that illustrate this point come in the following forms:

  • I have a will. That’s all I need, right?
  • I created a trust 15 years ago, so everything is taken care of.
  • I only have house and a few dollars. My plan is just to give my house to my kids now so I don’t need to do anything else.
  • I don’t think I need to do anything because I’m not wealthy.

Each of these statements describes a single action or thought that represents only a component of estate planning and often people have neglected to establish a complete estate plan. It’s like building one bedroom and calling it a home.

So what does a comprehensive estate plan consist of? Estate planning is defined as the process of legally structuring the future disposition of current and projected assets. A comprehensive estate plan will plan for the future disposition of all of your current and potential assets in a way that fits your specific desires and needs while also minimizing the time, cost and delay of the process for your future heirs. If you haven’t planned for all of your assets, you haven’t completed your estate plan! Your plan should also answer questions such as, who you would want to make decisions for you should you become disabled and what are your wishes concerning life support and other medical treatment in circumstances where you can no longer make decisions yourself?

Every estate plan is different and should be customized to meet each person’s specific needs. Some examples of documents and planning that should be discussed in the process include:

  • Wills, Trusts and estate administration considerations
  • Medical planning
  • Living Will / Medical Directives
  • Powers of Attorney (e.g. property, medical, etc.)
  • Business Succession Planning
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Tax Planning
  • Reviewing existing documents after life-changing events and revisions in the law

Maybe you have built one room but need to finish the rest of the home or maybe you haven’t even taken the first step toward completing your estate plan, but in either case it is in your best interests to take the next step toward completing your estate plan. A consultation with a competent estate planning attorney can help you evaluate which way is best suited to you and your family’s needs and ensure that you have addressed all of your estate planning needs.