A mug of coffee on a table

The new year is a perfect time to take stock in some things we have all been putting off because we have been too busy, were watching football, didn’t feel like answering some tough questions, or simply because we didn’t get to it. On this list is taking care of estate planning for you and your family.

What is Estate Planning?

There are several essential components of an estate plan that you should consider:

1. Disposition of Property. At its core, an estate plan outlines the mechanisms used to dispose of your property upon your death. These instructions are dictated within your will, which is the official record of your final wishes, instructing where and to whom your property will go. A will controls only the items held in your name, such as:

  • Real estate
  • Cash, stock
  • Personal property

You can name guardians for your minor children in your will. It also controls how the money you leave behind is to be distributed, whether to your spouse, children, other relatives, or charitable organizations.

However, a will does not control everything. It does not control:

  • Life insurance
  • Retirement accounts
  • Joint accounts
  • Certain types of deeds
  • Anything with a beneficiary designation (like an IRA or annuities)

In sum, you should have a will, review how property is titled, and make sure your beneficiary designations reflect your current wishes.

2. People to help you with decision making – Power of Attorney (POA). It is also wise to have a power of attorney. In a power of attorney, you designate someone to act for you as your official “Agent.” This agent carries out your legal or financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated, whether temporarily or long-term, or if you simply cannot be present to sign necessary legal documents for a given transaction.

3. Health Care Decision Making. The health care power of attorney is used to designate someone to make health care decisions for you.

4. Living Will also known as an Advance Directive. A living will is a document in which you decide the type of medical treatment you will get if you are at the end of your life.

Estate Planning is for everyone. Make this the year you begin your estate planning or review your existing plan. Keep following along. In the next blog post, I will talk more about wills followed by other posts detailing each of the estate planning documents introduced above.

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Michael F. Frisbie practices law at Pritchard Law Offices in Colmar, PA focusing in business transactions, trusts and estates, and litigation. Mike received his Estate Planning Certificate from the Temple University Beasley School of Law, his Juris Doctor from Rutgers University School of Law, and his Bachelor of Arts from The Pennsylvania State University.

This article is designed for general informational purposes only. Pritchard Law Offices provides legal services and advice to clients only after an attorney client relationship has been formed through a written agreement. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney client relationship. Any communications sent through this website are not privileged and confidential.