On January 26th, shocking news came out of Calabasas, California. Basketball great Kobe Bryant, who was just 41 years of age, died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Seven other people passed away along with them, and they were all minors or relatively young adults.
There is nothing that can be stated about this tragedy that has not already been acknowledged in a general sense. However, from an estate planning perspective, it points out the importance of planning for people of all ages. You never know what the future holds, even if you are young in extraordinary physical condition.
Everyone should have an estate plan in place, and it should be adjusted as time goes on to suit your life as it evolves over the years. Personalized attention is very important, because each case is different. There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan, and do-it-yourself notions are risky at best.
Though there are various strategies that can be implemented depending on the circumstances, estate plans have the same core components, and we will take a look at them here.
Income Replacement and Guardianship
These first two facets are very relevant for parents of dependent children. If your income was to vanish suddenly, it would probably put your family in a very difficult situation. To account for this possibility, you should carry sufficient life insurance.
If cost is a concern, you should understand the fact that term life insurance is quite affordable when you are a younger adult.
You should also nominate a guardian for your children when you are planning your estate as a parent of minors. If you take this step, it is very likely that the court would approve the nomination if it ever becomes necessary. It is not a certainty because the court will ultimately make a determination that is in the best interests of the children.
Asset Transfer Vehicle
Some type of document that facilitates asset transfers will be another piece to the puzzle. Many people naturally assume that a last will would be the right choice, but when you understand the facts, you may find that a living trust is quite a bit better.
This is especially true if there is the potential for a minor child to be the beneficiary. We will not get into all the details here, but suffice to say that you would do well to discuss the possibilities with a licensed estate planning attorney.
It is wise to account for the possibility of incapacity when you are devising your estate plan. If you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee to act as the administrator if you become unable to handle your own affairs.
With a durable power of attorney, you can empower an agent to manage property that is not in the trust. For medical decision-making, you can include a durable power of attorney for health care (this is sometimes called a health care proxy).
When it comes to life support decision making, you can state your preferences in no uncertain terms through the inclusion of a living will.
It should be noted that doctors cannot release medical records to anyone other than the patient because of provisions contained within the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). For this reason, you should include a HIPAA release form to give the health care agent and anyone else that you choose the ability to access your medical records.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
As you can see when you sit back and evaluate the tragedy that took place in California in January, there are no guarantees. If you are going through life without an estate plan, now is the time to take action to protect the well-being of the people that you love the most.
We would be glad to gain an understanding of your concerns and help you devise a custom crafted plan that is ideal for you and your family. You can schedule a consultation at our office in Vermont if you give us a call at 802-879-7133.
The number for our Albany, New York office is 518-389-6020, and you can alternately send us a message to request a consultation appointment.