In an effort to provide widely informative content to my readers, I’ve asked Chandra C. Ruyle, an Estate Planning Attorney and Leawood Mom, to write a guest blog post. She is an attorney at Cranmer Law in Leawood, KS.
Planning for P.E.A.C.E.
These days, our minds are preoccupied with so many worries, whether it be finances, the kids’ education, career/job challenges, or family issues, there are certainly enough things to keep us up at night. As I grow older, I become increasingly aware of minimizing complication and creating more peace in my life and the lives of those around me.
One of the major concerns often expressed by people is, “What will happen to my family when I am no longer here?” While there are certain thoughts that cannot be eliminated in their entirety, proper estate planning can reduce the worry about what happens to the family when someone passes away.
What is an Estate Plan?
An estate plan is as much of a process as it is a product. An estate plan is designed and implemented during a person’s lifetime as a mechanism to address and resolve doubts, questions, and concerns that might otherwise arise after death.
The main goals in designing an estate plan are to:
1) Preserve and protect the estate in the event of disability, incapacity, or death;
2) Communicate wishes, guidelines, and specific instructions regarding:
-care of children
-division/distribution of assets
-care of pets
-making of health care decisions.
3) Provide peace to the surviving family members.
Specifically, an estate plan often includes one or more of the following documents:
– Will (with guardianship provisions for minor children)
– Revocable Trust
– General Durable Power of Attorney (for Finances and Legal Affairs)
– Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions
– Declaration on Life and Natural Death, Living Will, or Advance Directive
Doesn’t the government have a “default” estate plan?
The government has a “default” plan for handling an intestate estate, but relying on it may have unintended results. A person who dies with assets but no estate plan might end up with an estate that is subject to costly and lengthy probate proceedings and maybe even transfer taxes. The situation is further complicated when the surviving family has no instructions as to how to distribute assets. The problem only compounds when, in some states, the assets are split between the surviving spouse and the minor children. As one might imagine, this can create intense disagreements within the family and often leads to financial problems for the surviving spouse and children. Proper estate planning can address these issues and keep the peace.
Should I Have An Estate Plan?
The simple answer is yes, everyone should have an estate plan. Without an estate plan, a person’s assets may end up distributed according to the state’s laws of intestacy and subject to probate administration proceedings. The uncertainties arising in administering an intestate estate can be overly-burdensome on surviving family members. Here are some questions that might help you identify the various areas in your life where an estate plan would be helpful:
Do you have a family? (a spouse, child/children, parents, siblings, or a pet?)
Do you want certain people to receive your belongings or assets at your death?
Do you want to protect their inheritance from creditors?
Do you have preferences regarding heath care decisions or who should make them on your behalf?
Do you want to avoid probate?
Do you own life insurance policies?
Do you have concerns regarding estate or transfer taxes?
Are you a business-owner?
What does an Estate Plan do?
A well-drafted estate plan will take into consideration all family and financial circumstances. Simply put, an estate plan provides P.E.A.C.E. for you, and your family:
Peace of mind
Ease in transitioning assets to survivors
Acts as your advocate in disposing of assets and making health care decisions
Clarifies your express wishes and preferences in writing
Eliminates or minimizes transfer taxes and probate
Proper estate planning requires careful thought and consideration of all financial and family circumstances and should be designed through consultation and planning with qualified legal counsel. An experienced estate planning attorney can review your specific objectives and circumstances, explain the tools available to accomplish those objectives, and develop and implement a plan to fit your particular situation. If you already have an estate plan, it is a good idea to have it reviewed because recent changes in transfer tax laws during 2010 and anticipated future law changes could have an effect on your existing estate plan.
© 2010 Cranmer Law, LLC. All rights reserved.
Chandra C. Ruyle is an attorney/member of Cranmer Law, LLC in Leawood, Kansas whose practice includes estate planning, wills & trusts. She may be reached at 913-387-3185.
This article has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not a legal opinion, does not provide legal advise for any purpose, and neither creates nor constitutes evidence of an attorney-client relationship.
John P. Chladek, MBA, CFP® is the President of Chladek Wealth Management, LLC, a fee-only financial planning and investment management firm specializing in helping families and couples realize their financial goals. For more information, visit http://www.chladekwealth.com.