Estate Planning- What the heck is that??? So many possible definitions, confusion, and noise out there from the TV, magazines, talk radio, and neighbors that this subject has become overanalyzed and over-complicated that many people just throw up their hands and give up. Don’t. It's important on many levels, please do not ignore or discount the value of this part of the planning journey. Retaining control of your decisions by designating a person to speak for you provides a great deal of peace of mind to you and your family. Where to start? Again, let's keep this simple… 3 important parts that will address most all circumstances.
1. Will/Trust- Simply a document that tells the person you name who is in charge of your estate at your death (executor for a will, Trustee for a Trust) what happens to your stuff. Will your stuff be given to family, charity, sold off?? A will is public and must be filed with the court. A trust skips probate and is private. Most people believe they do not need a trust as the value of their stuff (estate) is small or they are not “wealthy”. The real question is more like, do I want to make my stuff public or keep my affairs private? That’s up to you after you consult with a legal professional.
2. Powers of Attorney- This is simply giving someone the power to communicate to others when you can not communicate. Anyone can, with the help of a legal professional create a document that outlines the rules and definitions for what you want the other person to do/communicate on your behalf. There are two areas that a Power of Attorney will be needed—Financial and Medical.
You can name the same person for both Powers of Attorney, or you can name different people for each Power. Bill could be your Power of Attorney for Financial, and Sally could be the Power of Attorney for Medical, for example. The choice is yours to make. You can change these at any time for any reason. Why is this important? Knowing your wishes will be carried out as you desire is a really big deal for most people. The peace of mind and security knowing that when the worst possible scenario comes up, you have taken steps to remove the stress of the unknown from your family can be comforting.
2A Financial Power of Attorney: deals with anything Financial. Does the house need to be sold? What happens to investments, bank accounts, mortgages, leases…anything like that. The person you name for this document will be responsible for anything and everything dealing with money, investments, finances, bills, taxes, and getting the estate out to the people you have designated. Children, charities, and the like.
2B Medical Power of Attorney: is for anything medical or healthcare-related. This person will speak to the medical professionals on your behalf with respect to what kind of care you will receive, the frequency of the care, and the location of the care. The Medical Power of attorney will become your “eyes and ears” and communicate your decisions within a framework that you pre-approved. Will you need surgery? What are the expectations, benefits, and risks of the surgery? What if any end-of-life care is provided? This is where the DNR aka a Do Not Resuscitate document is provided to the hospital/medical facility. Remember, the Power of Attorney is not deciding to “pull the plug”, they are just passing the note of what you want to happen to the Medical Staff.
3. Family Dynamics- By far Family Dynamics and the decisions that need to be determined during these conversations are the hardest part, for sure. “I never liked your brother”. “Why are we treating the children differently, should we?”. “Can we protect our kids somehow”? In all of my years in this space, the stickiest of sticking points have been the conversations between spouses as they work thru this part of the process. This is also the place where the most frustration occurs, that derails the process. Not good. Don’t give up, keep talking.
There you have it. A simple view of ESTATE PLANNING providing a top-line view of the most important parts. Bottom line: Get your legal docs completed. Yes, it is a process. Yes, it may take a while. The peace of mind for you and your family will be well worth the investment of time.
Jay Weyers is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of, and securities and investment advisory services are offered solely by Equity Services, Inc. [ESI], known as Vermont Equity Services in WI, NH, CO & MO, Member FINRA/SIPC, 1 N. Franklin Street, Suite 3450, Chicago, IL 60606. PH: 312-236-2500. Weyers McKeever Financial Partners is independent of ESI. We do not offer tax or legal advice. For advice concerning your own situation, please consult with your appropriate professional advisor.