Oftentimes, federal workers and retirees don’t bother with estate planning and think that getting a will off the internet and getting it notarized is all they need to do. However, this isn’t necessarily enough. If you are or were a career civil servant, own a house, have money in your TSP account, bank, or investments, you probably have an estate (you almost certainly do if these are true and you are also still married to your first spouse).
So what next?
A will is a very important part of an estate plan, but it is certainly not a complete estate plan on its own.
The purpose of a will is to distribute your assets how you want after you pass away and to name someone who will ensure that the wishes expressed in your will are carried out. This person is your personal representative or executor. A will can be very simple or extraordinarily complex depending on many factors and may include one or more trusts. A will only becomes effective following your death.
Many of the issues that need to be addressed in an estate plan arise while you are alive. There are vital questions to address, such as how you wish to be cared for while you are alive but incapacitated, or who will be responsible for your financial affairs and the care of your estate if this happens.
A complete estate plan should include all of the following:
- A will or revocable trust.
- A financial power of attorney that authorizes an agent to manage your finances if you become incapacitated.
- An advance medical directive that includes a health care power of attorney (or health care proxy), a living will, and a HIPAA authorization authorizing your agent to have access to your medical information and to discuss your care with your physicians.
- Other matters you may wish to include as part of your estate plan include a personal property memorandum that outlines how your personal property should be distributed and funeral or burial instructions.
Dealing with the death or incapacity of a loved one is always difficult, even if the loved one has a complete and thorough estate plan, but having an estate plan in place can make things much less stressful for family and loved ones. Without a plan in place, these issues must be addressed through a court proceeding.
Contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, 708-482-7090 or firstname.lastname@example.org