One of life’s dreaded chores and biggest procrastinations: completing an estate plan that serves our purposes, is complete and leaves no stone unturned.
Gone are the days when an estate plan included a will, maybe a power of attorney and little else. Today, we have digital estates, along with business considerations, probate concerns and several documents that are crucial to protecting our family. This week, we explore what constitutes a complete estate plan in Essex Junction these days.
For some time now, we’ve been hearing about digital assets and how they can affect our estate plans. If you’ve ever shopped online, banked online, redeemed a gift card or bought music, books or movies, odds are, you have a digital estate.
What are Digital Assets?
Accounts, virtual property and documents that are stored electronically on a personal computer, a device such as an iPad or the new “cloud” are all considered digital assets. It’s less about the actual hardware, but rather, the virtual aspect – our unused gift card balances, our music collections, our photos that we’ve stored online (think Ancestry or last Easter’s 216 photos you have stored in your cloud). It’s important to not forget to include these types of assets, where they’re stored and how to access them. We routinely help our clients prepare the proper listing of property and how to access it as part of a client’s complete estate plan.
Of course, your will is always important; it allows you to detail who you wish to receive which assets. This is also what prevents your assets being distributed via the intestate laws, which, as we know are time consuming and expensive. The last thing anyone wants is for their family members to experience this, especially when they’re grieving their loss.
Remember the health care proxy, too. This is an important element as well. It lets your doctors know your wishes if you’re unable to voice them or otherwise communicate them in real time. Again, we can help you create this document while covering all of the specifics necessary for leaving nothing undone.
The Two Powers of Attorney
There are typically two powers of attorney that are especially important: the financial power of attorney and the medical power of attorney.
A medical power of attorney is a legally binding document that allows you to designate a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Some clients actually choose more than one person to make different decisions.
Meanwhile, a financial power of attorney is what you put in place in terms of naming someone to make financial decisions if you’re incapacitated in any way. Remember to choose wisely as this is the one who can sell property and transfer money.
We always encourage our clients to review their estate plans every few years. They’re always surprised at how much their lives have changed, even over the course of three or four years, between reviews. It’s even more important if there have been new additions to your family, if you’ve divorced or become widowed and if you’ve remarried.
Also, don’t forget these same family changes to anyone named in your estate plan in Essex Junction. You want to keep them protected too, especially if your son has gone through an especially difficult divorce or if your daughter added that sweet baby girl to your family who now owns your heart.