Estate Planning Documents
Amid the grief of losing a loved one, families are dealt additional burdens when the person did not leave behind a will or estate plan.

Without an estate plan, it can open the door to family disputes or significant court costs to settle an estate. Nonetheless, just a little more than half of Americans over 55 have a will, according to a 2019 survey by Merrill Lynch.

The Seattle Times’ recent article entitled “Do you have a will? Without an estate plan, families can struggle to sort it out” says it’s critical to put your wishes in writing, so health care and financial decisions are handled responsibly at the end of your life.

It’s the best thing you could do to help their family and eliminate any kind of discord down the road.

This can help with the most routine aspects of settling someone’s affairs or provide additional protection for more rare occurrences.

There are three significant steps to take when estate planning, though others may be necessary for someone’s specific financial, health or family situation.

It’s best to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Create a living trust. A living trust states specific plans for the person creating the trust, while they’re still alive and after death. This includes instructions for medical care and how to divide and distribute assets held in the trust, including property, businesses and investments.

Write a will. Writing a will can also instruct the way real property and other assets should be transferred. Note that a will that’s entirely in someone’s own handwriting — not anyone else’s — that’s signed and dated can be valid. However, it’s important to know that a hand-written will can be disputed in court, if there are questions about its authenticity and some states do not permit them at all. A will also can nominate the guardian for your minor children.

Designate health care and financial powers of attorney. This person or people will make decisions about your medical decisions and finances, if you’re incapacitated.

Reference: The Seattle Times (May 16, 2022) “Do you have a will? Without an estate plan, families can struggle to sort it out”