The definition of family has certainly broaden over the last 50 years. Back then, most families were comprised of married men and women who had children and who stayed in their marriages until death. In the modern world, though, there is no "normal" family. In fact, only a third of all marriages conform to the traditional definition of married heterosexuals with children. These modern familial units can be comprised of unmarried couples, stepchildren, adopted children, and even children conceived through artificial means. While the world around us has changed considerably over time, estate planning law has not, which means it is on you to ensure that your estate plan is customized to fit your unique situation. Failing to do so could mean that your loved ones may miss out on inheriting the assets you want them to have.
If you've been a reader of this blog, then you know that estate planning has many elements. Most people realize that wills and trusts make up a significant portion of an estate plan, but they are not by any means the documents that are needed in order to ensure that a plan is holistic in nature. Powers of attorney, for example, can play a crucial role by ensuring that one's financial and healthcare decisions are protected in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated.
Recently on the blog we discussed how to handle hard assets such as heirlooms during the estate planning process. This can be a tricky subject to address, as it can involve multiple parties, each with their own interests. Many people who engage in estate planning try to make all of their loved ones happy. However, especially when it comes the hard assets, this isn't always possible. Therefore, in order to reach an outcome that satisfies an estate planner and distributes assets in accordance with his or her wishes, an individual should consider working closely with a skilled legal professional.
The probate process is something often affiliated with estate planning. Most people who think of probate don't really know much about it except that they want to avoid it. We hope that this post will help clarify the informal and formal probate process, as well as what types of estate planning tools could help avoid probate altogether.
Recently, Stan Lee, the comic book mogul best known for creating much of the Marvel universe, passed away at the age of 95. Lee's 68-year-old daughter is his only surviving family member, as his wife had proceeded him in passing. Now, many are considering how the tumultuousness that surrounded Lee prior to his passing will affect the distribution of his estate.
Readers of this blog know that it is important to plan for the future. They also know that there are many aspects to estate planning. While much of the focus is on figuring out how to distribute assets upon one's death, there are also healthcare decisions that must be made. We have previously discussed powers of attorney, which can allow a trusted individual to be named to become responsible for your healthcare decisions in the event that you become incapacitated and can't make these decisions on your own. Yet, this is not the only consideration you may need to make when thinking about your healthcare in the context of estate planning.
It doesn't take a scientist or skilled financial planner to realize that estate planning can be tricky. After all, individuals are forced to think about their own mortality and make financial decisions that can have a major impact on the lives of others. In many instances, those who engage in estate planning simply want to split their assets amongst their identified heirs, which usually include children. While this may be easy to do with liquid assets like cash and stocks and bonds, it can be a much messier process when dealing with hard assets like heirlooms and art.
Recently, this blog discussed estate planning in blended families. This post helps highlight the importance not only of initial estate planning, but also modifications of existing estates. After all, life changes all the time, and many of those changes can drastically affect your carefully laid out and documented plans. Therefore, to avoid estate distribution that is contrary to your wishes, you should be sure to revisit documents like wills and trusts to better ensure that your plan for your estate's future is perfectly encapsulated within those documents.
Planning can be challenging for some, whether it is making plans for the weekend, next month, next year or at the end of his or her life. Estate planning can be an intricate process that allows you to dictate every detail of how your estate will be handled upon your death. But what happens if you don't make it that far in good health? What if you suddenly become incapable of making important financial and healthcare decisions on your own? If you haven't addressed this in your estate plan, then you may be subjected to a guardianship where another individual petitions the court to assume legal responsibility for you and your affairs. While that might sound okay, the individual who winds up assuming guardianship may not be your first choice.
Estate planning encompasses a lot of different things. For some, estate planning is nothing more than creating a basic will. For others, the process is more about preserving their legacy. This highlights one of the most important things about estate planning: it is customizable to fit your needs. While this certainly holds true for dealing with complex financial matters, it is also true for what is often thought of as "soft" estate planning.