By Laura M. Tobey, Esq.

My name is Inigo Montoya…

Prepare to die.

I think that we can all agree that the Princess Bride is an amazing movie, and that having an estate plan and being “prepared to die” is the best gift you can give your family. Losing a loved one is one of the most earth-shattering events of our lifetime. However, a well-crafted estate plan can be a roadmap during a time of grief that provides peace of mind.

So, what exactly is an estate plan? A proper estate plan includes the preparation by a qualified attorney of the following documents:

  1. Last Will and Testament – details who you would like to inherit your assets (bank accounts, vehicles, stocks), appoints an executor, or a person to gather your assets and distribute them to your beneficiaries (loved ones) and handle your liabilities, assigns a guardian to care for your minor children, and a trustee to manage any trust you may create in your Will. This document will also address your digital assets (online accounts, photos), estate taxes and any other personal concerns that you may have; 
  1. Personal Property Memorandum – delineates who will receive personal property, like jewelry, artwork and mementos;
  1. Revocable or Irrevocable Trust – comprehensive agreement that holds certain property (real estate, bank accounts) for beneficiaries;
  1. Financial Power of Attorney – specifies who will manage your assets if you are unable and serve as your guardian should you become incapacitated; 
  1. Health Care Power of Attorney – identifies who will make your health care decisions during your lifetime if you are unable to do so yourself due to incapacity, anesthesia, etc.;
  1. Living Will – designates who may make your end-of-life decisions if you are incapacitated or unable to do so yourself regarding continued care, organ donation, etc.;
    • Beneficiary Designation Forms – the changing of your beneficiary designated accounts, i.e., your 401k, IRAs, Life Insurance, etc. to coordinate with your Will.

    While planning your estate, you may also want to consider prepaid funeral arrangements and instructions, i.e., obtaining a burial plot, if you would like to be cremated, how you would like your celebration of life to occur, etc. A funeral home can assist with the planning, and an attorney can draft a document with specific details to ensure that your wishes are followed.

    Although it is said that you need to “spend money to make money,” regarding estate planning, you may want to “spend money to save money.” The cost of an estate plan is minimal when you consider that you may end up saving your family thousands of dollars in estate taxes and legal fees. Without an estate plan, you forfeit your right to pass your assets and belongings as you wish and the potential for in-family fighting and damaged relations is high.

    No one likes to think about the end of life. But if you consider the legacy that you want to leave for your family and loved ones, an estate plan is the most invaluable gift.

    Laura M. Tobey, Esq. Reidenbach & Associates, LLC [email protected] ReidenbachLaw.com


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