When planning for your future and what happens when you are gone, you’ll most likely meet with an Orange County estate planning attorney. While it can be challenging to consider what happens after you pass away, this is a crucial step to helping distribute your assets. The best way to make sure your estate planning meeting goes well is to have an idea of what will be covered, and you can do this by creating a checklist. Here’s what you’ll need to consider before meeting with your estate planning lawyer.
6 Things to Consider for Estate Planning
- Will and or Trust
While it may seem like only the wealthy should bother having a will, it is something that everyone should have in their estate plan. A will or trust will be the main component of your plan. A will ensures that property is distributed according to your wishes. The challenge is that a will must be worded, written, and executed correctly to be legal.
- Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (POA) is the person you designate to act on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so. With a POA, your wishes can easily be contested, and a court may have to decide how things proceed. A POA typically allows someone to make real estate or financial transactions as well as to make other legal decisions. While many people designate their spouse as a POA, it can make sense to select someone else if they have more experience.
- Beneficiary Designations
It is vital to have a beneficiary in your estate documents. If you don’t name one, or if that person isn’t able to serve, a court may have to decide how your assets are distributed. This is why it is also wise to name a contingent beneficiary.
- Letter of Intent
A letter of intent is a document left to your executor or beneficiary. It defines what you want to be done with certain assets, funeral details, or other requests. A letter of intent isn’t necessarily a valid document that must be held up in court, but it does help a probate judge understand your intentions if the courts should ever need to get involved.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
The HPOA designates someone to make important healthcare decisions for you in the case that you are incapacitated. You should select someone who understands your beliefs and that you trust. This person could be in a position to make a life or death decision on your behalf. A backup should be listed here as well in case your first choice isn’t able to act during a time of need.
- Guardianship Designation
If you have children or plan on having kids, selecting a legal guardian is a paramount decision. This guardian is who will take on the responsibility of raising your children if you pass before they are legally adults. You want to choose someone you trust, but someone who is also financially sound and willing to raise children. Without this designation, the court may place your children to a family member you wouldn’t have selected on your own, and if a family member doesn’t exist, your children may be placed into government care – a situation that nobody wants.