A common concern many people express when they talk to an estate planning attorney is the idea of taking steps necessary to make sure everything is taken care of after they die. This is often expressed in terms of “doing the basics” that are needed, or “just making sure nothing goes wrong.”
While these sentiments are common, they can belie the complicated nature of estate planning, and the numerous options, issues, and decisions those who create a plan must face. A good plan is often simple, but that doesn’t mean that creating it is simple as well. Here is why.
You Just Want Everything Taken Care of. Your Inheritance Choices
The foundational elements of any estate plan focus on what happens to your property after you die. In general, you are free to leave your property to whomever you want. However, you have to make your inheritance choices known in specific, legally recognized ways. You cannot, for example, simply tell people what your inheritance decisions are. Should you fail to make your decisions in a legally enforceable manner, preexisting inheritance laws will determine who inherits your property.
You Just Want Everything Taken Care of. Your Medical Choices
Besides your property, your health care decisions occupy much of your estate plan’s focus. What do you want to happen if you should fall ill? What do you want your doctors to do? What do you not want them to do? Who do you want to make these choices for you if you can no longer make them yourself?
A good estate plan will address all of these questions in legally enforceable ways. Again, should you express your desires but fail to do so in legally enforceable ways, your decisions are effectively worthless.
You Just Want Everything Taken Care of. Your Family
If you get sick and die, who will care for your children? If you know who you want to take on that responsibility, how will you know that person will have the legal authority to act as your child’s guardian? Will your choice change as your child gets older? And what about finances? Can you ensure that your child will be financially protected if something happens to you?
If you have young children, your estate plan will have to address each of these important questions and contingencies.
You Just Want Everything Taken Care of. Your Plan
It is possible to create a simple estate plan. It is also possible to create a comprehensive estate plan. However, creating an estate plan that takes care of everything is not always simple. At the very least, you have to be willing to make decisions, and do so in specific ways. Should you fail to make an estate plan that reflects your desires, you leave behind questions that must be answered, and leave it up to others to answer them without regard to what your wishes might have been.