Tips for an Effective Estate Plan

Estate Planning
By: Danelle E. Harrington

An estate plan may be comprised of a will, trust, financial power of attorney and/or healthcare power of attorney and designation of patient advocate.

A will or trust will address distribution of your assets upon death. A trust is primarily utilized to avoid the probate of assets at your death, while a will requires probate. Establishing the appropriate estate plan can assist in preserving family harmony and avoid the confusion and argument that sometimes ensues among family members after the death of a loved one. Furthermore, if you have minor children a proper estate plan will permit you to continue to care for your children even after death by designating guardians to care for your minor children and by establishing a system to provide financial support for your children until they reach adulthood.

A financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney and designation of patient advocate are utilized to address issues which may arise in the event of your incapacity during your lifetime. They are utilized to avoid guardianship and conservatorship probate court proceedings upon your potential incapacity.

If you already have an estate plan in place, you should review it regularly. Consider whether there have been any changes in family situations (birth, marriage, divorce or death); changes in health status including hospitalizations, nursing home placement or long term care concerns for you, your spouse or another family member; concerns regarding loved ones including minor children or family members with a developmental disability or individuals with special needs; changes in careers/employment (new job, returning to school or retirement); or changes in personal resources (increases or decreases in assets, acquisition or disposition of assets, or, inheritance). You should conduct a regular personal check-up of your estate plan and personal situation at least every two to three years.

The key to effective estate planning is not a “one size fits all” approach. You should review the particular facts of your individual and family situation with your estate planning attorney and other trusted advisors – accountant, insurance agent or financial planner – as well as close family members. These trusted advisors should counsel you about establishing an estate plan that meets your goals and objectives.

Sharon A. Burgess and Danelle E. Harrington practice in the areas of probate/estate planning, long term care planning and elder law, and business and real estate transactions at SMITH BOVILL, P.C. Their articles are intended to introduce various issues arising within this field of practice and are not intended to replace individual legal advice. If you have questions, please contact Sharon or Danelle at one of the firm’s two convenient office locations in Frankenmuth and Saginaw.