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April 15, 2024
Real Estate

The Four Pillars of Estate Planning

Estate planning is not something a person ever looks forward to, regardless of age and health. Human beings are not good at dealing with mortality or entertaining the idea of leaving the world. Many people die without even drafting a last will, and it is their family who has to suffer the consequences. At times, a last minute will created in haste is far from sufficient to voice one’s wishes and make things right. It is important to understand that death and illness come without warning, and a proper estate plan is the only way to counteract the resulting loss and devastation.

Estate planning done while you’re still young, fit, and healthy is a small price to pay for protecting everyone and everything that matters to you. Assets you own today were earned from your blood and sweat, so it makes sense that you don’t let them end up in the wrong hands after your demise. Estate Planning Attorney in Eureka Springs, AR, can help you establish an estate plan that best fits your needs and aspirations. Now that you’ve finally given this topic a thought, it is time you learn of the four basic elements of estate planning:

1.Living Trust

Individuals and families have started adding a living trust to their estate plan, given the range of benefits. The most popular reason for setting up a revocable living trust is that you can avoid the probate process. Normally, when a person dies, the probate court temporarily seizes his/her assets. If the deceased left a will, probate will manage and distribute the estate accordingly; otherwise, intestacy laws shall be applied.

Probate is a long-winded process and its expenses have to be borne by the decedent’s rightful heirs. It may take several months or more than a year before everything is sorted and the beneficiaries can finally claim their lawful share in the estate. The living trust transfers control of the estate directly to the successor trustee, thereby barring any interference by probate court. Assets in the trust cannot be retrieved by any creditor or debt collector. The appointed trustee is authorized to step into your role after you die or become incapacitated. They are obliged to manage and distribute your estate as per your instructions or advanced directives.

2.Living Will or Health Proxy

There might come a time when you become incapacitated because of an accident, old age, or an unexpected terminal illness. A physical or mental disability may render you incapable of managing the estate and making informed decisions. What happens if you fall into a coma or get submersed into a vegetative state? A living will or health proxy is the way to communicate your choices and preferences during these tough times. Your loved ones will not be forced to make these heartrending decisions for you or suggest something you wouldn’t approve of. You can also nominate someone who is capable of making medical decisions on your behalf.

3.Financial Power of Attorney

The person you entrust with the financial power of attorney has the permission to institute financial decisions and carry out transactions with respect to your estate. The authority to intervene in your finances can be allowed while you are perfectly healthy, or only come into effect under special circumstances. For example, you may establish the condition that your nominee cannot succeed your role, unless you become incapacitated.

4.Last Will and Testament

The last will and testament is the standard method for voicing one’s last wishes. You may include a letter that conveys a special message, rather than simply discussing finances. The final will is the preliminary document of estate planning; it is not enough to escape probate, but it is better than nothing. This document has great emotional and legal value, so it is crucial to do it right. The last will and testament may communicate certain requests or instructions; for instance, specific arrangements for your funeral ceremony.