AUBURN, Alabama – When you think about estate planning, several questions come to mind. These include: What is estate planning? When should I start estate planning? or Why should I be concerned with estate planning?
What is estate planning?
“Estate planning is planning in advance and identifying the individual(s) you want to receive your possessions after you die,” said Dr. Theresa Jones, a regional family resource management and workforce development Extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Jones said the plan should include a will, a living will (health care proxy or advance directive), a trust, power of attorney and an appointed guardian if you have small children or a family member with special needs. For legal purposes, this plan should be in writing and not given verbally.
Jones recommends adding different types of insurance to your estate plan. Life insurance would aid the family in expenses with your death. Disability income insurance and long-term care insurance are other options to consider.
“What you put in your estate plan will depend on your needs,” added Jones.
Who can help you with estate planning?
An estate planning attorney is a lawyer who specializes in helping advise and prepare your estate plan for the possibility of mental disability and eventual death. Jones says to always use attorneys who specialize in estate planning because they know all the information required for the transition of your estate.
Alabama Extension offers free estate planning workshops across Alabama each year. Visit Extension’s calendar on the website (www.aces.edu) or contact your county Extension office for more information.
When should you start estate planning?
“The sooner you start planning your estate, the more beneficial it will be for the individuals or organizations receiving the gifts,” Jones said.
Planning ahead not only gives you peace of mind, but also ensures that your wishes are carried out. If you do not have an estate plan, after you die you have no control over who gets your valuables. This is where the state steps in and makes those decisions for you.
Why is estate planning important?
Estate planning is important if you have valuables, according to Jones. Your estate is comprised of everything you own. Valuables include items such as your home, personal possessions (jewelry, clothing, shoes, etc.), furniture, vehicles, checking or savings accounts, other real estate, investments and life insurance.
If individuals have not taken the proper steps in organizing their estate, at their death the state will intervene.
“If you die without an intentional estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the probate laws in your state,” Jones said.
Biggest Piece of Advice
“Too many people don’t plan for various reasons. Some don’t plan because they don’t believe they own a sufficient amount of possessions,” Jones added. “Others may think they are not old enough or they have plenty of time to plan how they will distribute their possessions. Unfortunately, If something happens to them, their families are left with picking up the pieces. Now, is the time to start planning your estate if you have any possessions.”
Feature Image by Anetlanda/Shutterstock.com