Advance planning is just that, done in advance
An estate plan is a structure put in place so as to ensure certain goals will be fulfilled. If you are a younger couple with minor children, your plan should include provisions that spell out who would serve as guardian of minor children should something happen. Terms of a trust for the minor’s benefit should be included within the papers. Someone should be named as trustee of those funds. Standards need to be articulated so the trustee has some guidance on how to utilize the funds. Some consideration needs to be given as to when any such trust may end and when the proceeds would be distributed to the beneficiary.
If you have moved here from another state and had your papers done several years ago, it is very smart to update your papers. The law has changed. Your assets have changed. Your family dynamic has probably changed. The key thing to understand is that an estate plan is a structure put in place to protect you and your family. Most people want to accomplish the following: probate avoidance, no need for guardianship, no need for conservatorship, no need to have Terry Schiavo problems, leaving assets to loved one’s in trust (to control the remainder and to protect the assets inside from exposure to loss in lawsuits.) Doing the above is not very difficult. It usually takes a couple of meetings with the attorney. The only catch is it must be done in advance.
Much of medicine is designed to prevent problems. It is called preventative care. If you were to draw upon that analogy and apply it to the practice of law, it would be appropriate to liken estate and asset protection planning to preventative care. Little things done in advance can make all the difference if something happens.
Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws, LL.M. in Estate Planning, is a local tax, asset protection and estate planning attorney.