Like so many words thrown around by lawyers, “estate planning” has a way of making itself sound more complicated and fancier than the concept really is. It may conjure up images of trust fund babies inheriting their father’s yacht and collection of classic cars, or the family estate out on the countryside.
Even if your family doesn’t own the collection of yachts or countryside vacation homes, you probably have an estate. To determine if you have an estate, ask yourself two simple questions:
- Do I have any stuff? (Stuff is a very non-legal term being used loosely here, it could mean bank accounts, life insurance policies, a home, a car, an action figure collection, etc.)
- Am I going to die someday?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, congratulations! Much like the Rockefellers, the Waltons, or the Kardashians, you have an estate!
An estate plan, then, is just like it sounds. Using a variety of legal documents like wills and trusts, the main goal of an estate plan is to make sure that your stuff (from question 1) ends up where you want it to when you die (from question 2). But a carefully drafted estate plan from a competent attorney can do so much more than give away your stuff when you’re dead. Consider some of the following benefits from this (non-exhaustive) list:
- If you have minor children, your plan can designate guardians for the children rather than leaving it up to the courts to decide.
- If you have a larger estate, your plan can help minimize the amount of “death taxes” that will have to be paid out of your estate.
- If you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage financial or health care decisions, your plan can give the power to make those decisions to a loved one and give guidance on how healthcare decisions should be made.
Who then would benefit from an estate plan? Odds are that you would. While the complexity and detail of your plan will vary based on the size of your estate and your family situation, everyone could benefit from having some kind of blueprint in place. More specifically, an estate plan should be designed to give you the peace of mind that you aren’t leaving your loved ones to guess or the courts to dictate how your estate should be passed on when you’ve done the same.
Jon Youd is a licensed attorney in the State of Utah. His estate planning practice helps the people of Central and Southern Utah create an estate plan that works for their situation. You can request a free consultation to talk about your estate by clicking here or calling 435.287.4334.
The views on this site represent the opinions of the author and are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. For any legal questions, please consult an attorney.