The holiday season is fast approaching, and deciding what gifts to get the loved ones in your life can be a fun (if not a little stressful!) tradition. If you’re looking to get a unique gift that is long-lasting, beneficial, and durable for your family, think outside the box and consider setting up an estate plan.
Estate planning is the process by which you decide where your assets will go after your death, what decisions will be made (and by whom) if you are incapacitated, where your debts will be assigned, and many more important decisions. Dismantling and distributing someone’s estate is a process, but it is far easier and cheaper to carry out when you have an estate plan than it is to go to probate court.
Think of probate court as the Abominable Snow Monster. You want to avoid it at all costs because, unlike Bumble in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, probate court never turns out to be nice. Instead, probate is a lengthy, time-consuming legal affair that distributes your assets and debts with no regard to what is best for your family.
But, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll tell you how to stay out of probate court by detailing what generally goes into an estate plan. (Remember, these are just a few of the many legal tools you can have in your estate plan).
Key Documents in Your Estate Plan
- Living Will
A living will, as you may or may not know, is also called an “advance healthcare directive.” The living will allows you to determine the healthcare decisions that will be made in advance if you are too incapacitated to give directions to the hospital yourself.
A living will is useful for anyone over 18 to have because, once you are no longer a minor, your parents cannot give the hospital directives in your stead. It’s important to have a backup plan.
- Living Trust
A living trust details how you want your assets, property, and funds to be distributed after you die. It also will describe who will take care of your minor children (if you have them), as well as any specific instructions you have regarding your assets. The difference between this and your “last will and testament” is that a living trust is not subject to probate.
- Durable Power of Attorney
A durable POA is a trusted individual that you name in your estate plan. He or she will make financial and healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated. By naming the POA yourself, using your own judgment (as opposed to that of a probate court, who does not know your family dynamics), you can rest assured that you have someone who will handle your affairs responsibly.
- Last Will
Your last will and testament details how you want your assets divided upon your death. This is different from a living trust because this does have to go through probate. Therefore, the last will and testament is mentioned in this list because it can be viewed as an intermediate document until your living will and living trust are set up.
Again, these are just some of the many resources you have that will allow you to avoid the law’s Abominable Snow Monster. You can also set up forms detailing who your beneficiaries are, where your debts will transfer, and other important decisions, all of which wrap up your affairs properly. This Christmas season, give your family the gift of security and peace of mind by scheduling a consult to set up your estate plan.