Well…let’s start by answering the following question: “What is an estate?”
An estate is all property, both real and personal, owned by a particular person. Sometimes this definition extends out to families and other groups of people that have jointly titled assets. There is a common misconception that having an “estate” is exclusive to a land or homeowner. Images of the grandiose landscape and architecture of the Biltmore estate come time mind, or even Uncle Scrooge counting his dollars and stacking his coins. But, don’t be fooled. At common law, a person’s estate, commonly referred to as their “net worth,” is the sum of a person’s assets less all liabilities at a particular point in time.
Now that you know what an estate is, let’s answer the following important question: “Do you have an estate?”
I bet you do…and even if you don’t, you likely will at some point. Your assets, including your rights, interests, and entitlements under the law, are part of your estate. Whether your estate is large or small, having a plan is essential.
So, what is estate planning?
Estate planning is defined as the process of anticipating and arranging for the management and disposal of a person’s estate during their life and after their death. This planning is done by the individual themselves, during their own lifetime. Common planning tools include a General Durable Power of Attorney, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Will, and a Last Will & Testament. That said, there is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to estate planning because different people have different goals.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of commonly held goals for estate planning purposes:
- Ensure a spouse, children, or grandchildren receive an inheritance
- Donations to charity
- Nominations of guardians for minors
- Probate planning and avoidance
- Advanced tax planning and minimizing estate tax implications
- Appointing legal decision makers during your lifetime to assist as needed
- Transfers of Real Property
- Trust drafting to protect and preserve legacies
- Planning for the end of life
The ultimate goal of estate planning is to fulfill the specific goals of the individual. Get clear on your goals and have a discussion with an experienced estate planning attorney to learn more. Be sure to discuss the variety of options available to achieve your stated goals, as well as any foreseeable advantages/disadvantages to each potential planning step.
Having a plan, especially during a time of crisis, is invaluable. The absence of a plan often leads to panic and added expense. Take the steps today to protect your hard-earned money and property and ensure that you have a plan in place to reduce risk and uncertainty as much as possible.
The experienced professionals at McIntyre Elder Law can help you navigate the estate planning landscape. Reach out to schedule your free consultation at 704-749-9244 or visit us at our website www.mcelderlaw.com/scheduling.
Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney