Well, the Super Bowl is upon us. In just a few short days, the Rams and the Bengals will battle it out to see who the top team in the NFL is. Everyone has placed their bets (whether literal or figurative), but the Super Bowl leads us to think about another question: how are we playing the game of life?
As with any athletic endeavor, it helps to be prepared. In life, preparation helps as well. Estate planning is a great legal tool for anyone trying to be as prepared as they can for all of life’s eventualities. If you have a solid estate plan, then you know that you are playing the game of life pretty well.
Estate Planning as a Preventative Measure
Essentially, estate planning helps you prepare in the even of your death. Estate planning manages an individual’s asset base after they die or are incapacitated. Estate plans often include bequests of assets to the deceased’s heirs, as well as the settlement of tax laws on the estate. The majority of estate plans are set up with an attorney who is well-versed in the intricacies of estate law where the individual lives.
You can’t plan for death after you’re dead, so you have to set up your estate plan before the worst-case scenario occurs. In the game of life, minimizing the impact of major negative events is important for both you and your family. Here are some of those events listed below:
When you’re making your estate plan, gather up your important documents, along with your contact information. This will help you execute your last will and testament, a document that provides instruction for where you want your assets to go after you die. An attorney should help you prepare the will, as there are a lot of legal requirements and technicalities to which the document must conform, lest it be invalidated.
Other documents that can prepare your assets for transfer include a living trust, which is a great way to avoid probate court. You should also arrange for your digital assets to be secured, should you own any, and you can even plan your final arrangements when you have an estate plan. All of these preparations help your assets be divided in the way you best see fit.
For this negative event (or positive, depending on the situation), the work that you do in your estate plan can include removing your ex-spouse as your beneficiary and striking their name through all your legal documents. Though no one can really predict a divorce, you can act quickly to make sure that your former spouse isn’t entitled to anything in your estate plan. Often, meetings with divorce attorneys and meetings with estate attorneys go hand-in-hand.
Illness or Injury
There are two important preparative documents to know before you suffer an illness or injury that leaves you incapacitated: power of attorney and an advance directive. This list is far from comprehensive, but these two are some of the most important.
The power of attorney is a trusted individual that you appoint to manage your healthcare and financial affairs if you become incapacitated. Usually, the power of attorney is split between healthcare and finance—one person handles one task, while another handles the other.
The living will, also known as an advance directive, is important for anyone with specific end-of-life wishes for their healthcare. The directive is a specific set of instructions that you lay out for doctors and nurses who are taking care of you. A common feature of this directive has to do with refusing resuscitation or something similar. Often, the contents of the directive are based in someone’s specific religious or personal views.
There is no surefire way to prevent someone from contesting a will, as you can’t control what other people do. However, you can keep that contest from being successful if your will is executed properly with the help of an attorney. A letter of intent can also be persuasive to a court when determining your will’s meaning. If squabbling over your will is something you foresee in your future, talk to a lawyer to safeguard the document as best you can.
These major events are all negative, but, with the right estate plan, they can be managed properly. Death, divorce, incapacitation, and will contests are all preventable with the help of a good estate planning attorney.