Creating an estate plan is a bit like going to the dentist; in that most of us know we should do it, but there’s always an excuse to put if off a little while longer. In fact, over half of all Americans have yet to create an estate plan. One common excuse people give for not having an estate plan is they don’t yet need one. So, when should you talk to an estate planning attorney about creating your estate plan? The answer is simple. Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place. You can change your estate plan to grow alongside you as you build up your assets, get married, become a parent, and go through other major life events. However, it’s never too early to start planning.
Don’t I Need to Be Wealthy to Make an Estate Plan?
The most common misconception about estate planning is that you only need to start when you have considerable assets to leave behind. Not true. This misconception stems from the fact that most people are unaware exactly what an estate plan can, and should, accomplish. Your estate plan should do much more than simply provide a roadmap for the distribution of your estate assets after death. Furthermore, your estate planning attorney can help pinpoint your specific estate planning needs.
What Can an Estate Plan Attorney Do for Me?
Consider the following estate planning components and how they could benefit you at any point in your life and without regard to the current value of your estate:
Incapacity planning –
Incapacity is something that that does not discriminate. A catastrophic car accident or workplace injury, for example, could leave you incapacitated tomorrow. If that happens, who will take care of your assets? Who will have the legal authority to pay your bills or make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself? Absent an incapacity plan within your estate plan, the answers to these questions remain unknown. Worse still, your loved ones could end up in a divisive court battle over these issues.
Asset protection –
You undoubtedly worked hard for the assets you own. As such, you don’t want to lose them to creditors of yours or of a spouse nor do you want to see them lost in a divorce or other legal action. Including asset protection strategies in your estate plan can reduce this possibility.
Probate avoidance –
Probate is the legal process most estates must go through after the death of the estate owner. This process can cost your loved ones a considerable amount of both time and money. Moreover, those estate assets you do own at the time of your death will likely be held up for months until the probate process concludes, making them inaccessible to the intended beneficiaries. By including probate avoidance strategies in your estate plan you save time, money, and make assets immediately available to your loved ones.
Pet planning –
Do you have a dog, cat, or other animal that is part of the family? You consider including them in your estate plan. By including a pet planning component, you can rest assured that your family pet will be well cared for should anything happen to you.
Special needs planning –
If you have a child that has special needs, estate planning becomes a bit more complicated. However, it is also infinitely more important. You undoubtedly want to continue to provide for your child even after you are gone; however, a well-intended direct gift could hurt more than help. This could jeopardize your child’s eligibility for much needed state and federal assistance programs such as Medicaid or SSI. Special needs planning offers a solution that allows you to provide for your child without the risk of losing assistance.
LGBTQ planning –
If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, you will likely face unique challenges when it comes to many areas covered by estate planning, making it even more important for you to have a comprehensive estate plan in place.
How to Start the Estate Planning Process Today
There are numerous reasons to talk to an attorney early on in life about creating your estate plan. Furthermore, estate planning doesn’t have to feel like pulling teeth. With the right attorney, the estate planning process can be a smooth and beneficial process. Consider contacting the Texas estate planning attorneys at The Mendel Law Firm, L.P. by calling 281-759-3213 to schedule your appointment and start planning today.
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