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Estate Planning is Not Just About The Will or Trust --But Life Planning Too.

Estate planning terms

Many think an essential part of an estate plan is their last will or revocable trust; however, those documents are only part of the equation. Your life planning is the most critical part of an estate plan. A well-titled article, "Planning for death probably isn't the most important part of your estate plan," from Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press, presents another reason for estate planning in clear terms. Estate planning is planning for the unexpected eventualities of life.

Life planning is more than drafting your will or trust. Your plan should include the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do so, who will manage your finances if you become incapacitated, and what decisions you want your family or loved ones to make for you while you are incapacitated. It includes planning for where you want to be when you are ill or infirm and organizing your affairs for those unexpected situations that sometimes life throws at us.  You should also discuss who will provide caregiving to you if you are disabled and express your wishes to your loved ones and those close to you.

Yes, you should have a will and perhaps a revocable trust, but you should also have Power of Attorney documents—one for health care and another for financial purposes. You should also meet with your loved ones and discuss your estate plan and make sure while you are healthy, you review your wishes with them.  We often ask our clients to think of that moment if they can not care for themselves.  Who would they turn to? What could they do?  Where would you live?  What would you like them to know about your care? The names of your attending physicians and medical diagnosis? What medications are you presently taking? We review this during our planning meeting.

A power of attorney  ("POA") document states who will be your substitute decision maker, or agent, if you are incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions while still living. This should be a personalized document prepared, including the scope of tasks and the limits, if any, you want to set for your agent. The POA is essential as it gives your chosen agent the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. health care proxy gives your agent the power to make health care decisions on your behalf. These documents empower those you choose to serve as your decision-maker if necessary.

Here's how it might work. If you become seriously ill and cannot speak on your behalf, you have a power of attorney naming your daughter Diane to serve as your POA for healthcare and financial decisions. If she is named as your healthcare agent (with your healthcare proxy), she will be able to speak with your medical team, be involved in decisions about your course of care, and follow the wishes you've expressed in your healthcare proxy. Diane will be able to pay bills, including paying the mortgage, keeping your car lease up to date, and taking care of all of the financial aspects of your life.

If you die, and Carol has also been named your executor and/or trustee, she will be able to transition into this new role by representing you through the probate process. She will be able to work with your estate planning attorney to file your will with the court and follow your directions for the distribution of your assets.

Book a call with us if you would like to learn more about how this fits into your life plan. We are happy to review how these documents can make your life plan work for you and meet your goals.

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