Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Understanding Who Needs Estate Planning

People generally believe unless they are very wealthy they do not need an estate plan. While this may sounds good in theory, anyone who owns property in their own name or has assets exceeding $15,000 would be well served by meeting with Oakland county lawyers who focus their practice on estate planning.

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Why Estate Planning Matters

When someone meets with an attorney to plan how their assets will be distributed at the time of their death, they maintain complete control over those distributions.  Those who have assets at the time of their death and die without any type of estate plan will have a personal representative appointed by the court and the court will determine the distribution of their assets. There are also some specific instances where a good estate plan should be considered including:

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  • Family Members With Special Needs – Family members with special needs can be cared for when an estate plan includes a trust as well as appointing conservators or drafting guardianship documents to care for them when they lose a parent or other caretaker.
  • Divorced Couples With Children – Generally speaking, most parents want to leave their assets divided equally among their children. This can be challenging when one or both parents remarry and have new spouses. An estate plan can ensure the children of the marriage are provided for after the death of a parent.
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Some of the other documents that should be part of a well thought out estate plan include powers of attorney in the event the maker becomes incapacitated, health care directives and life insurance trusts. Each person will have to work Oakland County lawyers who understand elder and estate issues to determine what type of plan they should set up to meet their needs.

What About Small Estates?

Even when someone has a small estate, there may be a need for a good estate plan. In fact, real estate, automobiles, jewelry and artwork can be left to heirs upon the death of the owner but if there is no will or other estate planning document, the court may determine the distribution of these assets which may involve selling them first.

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Regardless of the size of an estate, having a plan in place for end-of-life care, addressing special needs of family members or ensuring assets are distributed in accordance with the wishes of the owner is important. Working with Oakland County lawyers who are well-versed in elder issues and probate issues makes sense regardless of the size of an estate.