Studies that are conducted to gain an understanding of the estate planning preparedness of people around the country consistently yield some rather disturbing results. Most adults are going through life without any type of estate planning documents, and a very high percentage of younger folks are remiss.
According to the American Association of Retired People, only 22 percent of individuals between the ages of 18 and 36 have a will or some other asset transfer vehicle in place. For people between 37 and 52 years of age, the figure is 36 percent.
Many adults that are under the age of 50 have dependent children, and a significant percentage of younger families rely on two incomes to make ends meet. Younger folks pass away in accidents every day, and devastating illnesses can strike at any time. It is very important for people of all ages to protect their loved ones financially, and there is also the matter of child guardianship.
If you and your spouse or partner have children, and you were to pass away together in an accident, who would care for your family? The court would have to get involved if you have no estate plan in place that includes the choice of a guardian.
Granted, in many cases, someone in the family will step forward, but there can be disagreements among relatives with regard to the choice of a guardian. This can make a bad situation that much worse for everyone involved, especially the children.
On the other hand, if you choose a guardian when you are devising your estate plan, you can go forward with the knowledge that your children will be cared for by the person that you have chosen. Clearly, this is important to protect children with two parents, but the matter is magnified if you are a single parent.
As an elder law firm, we help people prepare for the eventualities of aging. Everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but its widespread nature may come as a surprise if you have not looked into it. One out of every eight senior citizens has contracted the disease, and it strikes about 40 percent of elders that are 85 years of age and older. This is the most common cause of incapacity among seniors, but there are others.
Once again, the court can be called upon to empower someone to manage your affairs if you become unable to make sound decisions on your own. You would probably prefer to make your own choice when you are of sound mind to avoid a guardianship.
Choose Your Own Representatives
If you plan your estate correctly, you can empower representatives of your own choosing to handle your affairs if you ever become incapacitated. This would eliminate the need for an adult guardianship. Legally binding documents called durable powers of attorney are typically utilized for incapacity planning purposes. Since they are “durable,” these devices remain in effect even if the grantor becomes incapacitated.
To cover all of your bases, you could execute two different durable powers of attorney. One of the documents would empower an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf, and you could add a durable power of attorney for health care decision-making. We should point out the fact that you could name two separate people to act as agents for these two different respective purposes if this is your choice.
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These are a couple of the many different facets that should be addressed when you are planning your estate. You should certainly understand all of the facts so you can make fully informed decisions to protect yourself and interests of the people that you love.
Every situation is different, and this is why personalized attention is very important. If you work with our firm, we will get to know you, gain understanding of your family dynamic and your objectives, and we will explain your options to you.
Ultimately, one of our estate planning lawyers can help you devise a plan that provides potential representation for you and your children if they are minors. It will also facilitate asset distributions to your loved ones after you are gone in precise accordance with your wishes.
If you are ready to get started, our doors are wide open. You can give us a call at 802-879-7133 to set up a consultation, and if you would prefer to reach out electronically, simply send us a message through the contact page on this website.