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Benefits of Estate Planning

No matter what your estate is worth, it's very important to have a basic estate plan in place. By creating an estate plan, you are ensuring that your family's financial goals are met after you're gone. There are many elements to an estate plan; a basic estate plan generally includes a will, an assignment for power of attorney, a living will and a medical power of attorney or health care proxy. Many people also choose to create a trust because it makes sense. When putting together an estate plan, your attorney will be mindful of both state and federal laws that govern estates.

A lot of people believe that they are too young to start planning or they think that they aren't wealthy enough, while others simply procrastinate because they aren't comfortable contemplating their own death. Believe it or not, everyone has some kind of an estate. When you consider your home, automobiles, jewelry, collectibles, retirement savings, insurance policies, personal belongings, real estate, business interests and all that you stand to accumulate in the years ahead, you have an estate.

You will want to ask yourself: Who do I want to inherit my assets? Who do I want handling my financial affairs if I ever become incapacitated? Who do I want to make medical decisions for me if I am unable to do so for myself? With an estate plan, all of these concerns can be addressed and you can leave specific instructions that will cover each situation. Without an estate plan, you will have no say in how your assets are distributed and instead, your assets and property will be distributed according to Oklahoma's intestate succession laws, which take effect when you die without a will.

A will tells everyone exactly how and where you want your assets distributed when you die. It's also the best place to name a guardian for your minor children. Dying without a will can be costly for your heirs and will leave you with no voice in who is to get your assets. The state laws regarding intestate succession are very rigid and don't take into consideration an heir's individual need or a complicated family relationship. Even if you have a trust, you will need a will to distribute property outside of the trust when you die.

Revocable living trusts are not just for the wealthy. They are legal instruments that can put conditions on how and when your assets are distributed upon your death. They can reduce your estate and gift taxes and they can distribute assets to heirs without the cost and delay of probate proceedings, which proves a will and settles an estate. Some trusts can offer greater asset protection from the threat of creditors and lawsuits as well. Some additional benefits to having an estate plan include:

  • You can bequeath assets to close friends and charities.
  • You can reduce the size of your estate by giving gifts up to certain limits.
  • You can make unlimited medical and educational gifts to reduce your estate.
  • You can arrange your estate so taxes siphon as little as possible.

Essentially, estate planning should be a part of everyone's overall financial plan. By planning sooner than later, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that your financial affairs are in order and that your loved ones won't be left with a costly administrative nightmare after you pass away.

While estate planning is for both the wealthy and for people of modest means, it is far more complex for people with sizeable estates. For this reason, having a trusted and competent estate planning attorney is essential if you want to protect your assets as much as possible and avoid paying unnecessary court costs, legal fees and taxes.

To learn more about the benefits of estate planning, contact Oklahoma City estate planning attorney Elizabeth A. Richards Attorney at Law. We can be reached for a free consultation at (405) 788-4662.