Growing up I remember family members disputing and falling out over the property and money of an aunt that passed away. I remember a friend who’s dad passed away that owned several homes. It was a big mess in both situations because the family had to go to probate court for several years so the court could decide how everything was going to be divided up. All of this was due to no will being in place for both instances.

Most people don’t plan to fail – they fail to plan.

Did you know over 60% of Americans do not have a Will? 90% do not have an up to date,
comprehensive estate plan. Important decisions relating to how your assets are distributed, who will serve as guardian for your minor children and who might make health care decisions in the event that you cannot could be decided by a judge without an estate plan. Estate Planning is such a key component of one’s overall financial plan that can help you to get your affairs in order.

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No one can predict the future, but one thing is sure: If we leave unanswered questions about how to settle our affairs, life for those we love could be even more difficult.

That’s why answering questions now—and formalizing them in an estate plan—is an important step that shouldn’t wait.

Without naming a Guardian in your Will, a judge will make the decision as to who will
have the care, custody and control of your children and the inheritance they receive.
Often times this can cause family turmoil, as different family members fight for custody of the child. The only way to guarantee that your wishes are fulfilled is by naming a Guardian in your Will.

So, you don’t have a Will? No big deal, right? Wrong! Without a Will state law dictates who gets your assets. This is true even if you have already told friends and family which assets you want them to have when you die. Regardless of how much or how little you may have, make sure your wishes are known by creating a Will.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you need estate planning:

Are you comfortable with the state deciding what happens to you and your most
important possessions? Y N

Should something happen to you, have you specified who will care for your children?     Y N

Do you want your children to control their inheritance when they turn 18? Y N

Did you know when your children turn 18, you no longer have access to medical records or influence over their medical decisions unless they provide legal documentation? Y N

If something happens to you, do you know who will make healthcare and life decisions for you? Y N

Have you completed a HIPAA form so select members of your family (including your
spouse) will have access to your medical info? Y N

Have you or loved ones completed an Advance Directive/Living Will to acknowledge your intentions about life support? Y N

Should you become incapacitated, have you identified who will handle your financial and legal affairs? Y N

Have you specified how your estate will be distributed? Y N

Do you want your family going through a lengthy, public process known as probate at the time of your death? Y N

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you need an estate plan!

What is a comprehensive estate plan?

checkmark Last Will & Testament
Also called a Will. Is a document that describes how a person’s debts are to be paid            and assets distributed at his or her death; it names a guardian for minor children, and      names and executor or personal representative to oversee the settlement of the estate.

checkmark Living Trust
Also called a Revocable Trust, is a trust that is often used to avoid probate. This type of      trust can be changed or revoked at any time (and from time to time) during the                  lifetime of the person (called the settlor or the grantor) who set it up.

checkmark Power of Attorney
Is a document which names and authorizes a person(s) to make financial decisions            and/or transactions for another person (called the principal).

checkmark Living Will Declaration
Also called an Advance Directive, is a document that instructs your physicians and            loved ones as to your intentions relative to life support (i.e., artificial nutrition,                    hydration and respiration), in the event that you are permanently unconscious or              have a terminal condition.

checkmark Healthcare Surrogate Designation
Also called a Health Care Power of Attorney, is a document naming a person to make        health care decisions for another person (called the principal) when the principal is          no longer able to do so.

checkmark HIPAA Authorization
“HIPAA” is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, a federal           law that protects a person’s private medical and mental health information. A HIPAA        Authorization is a document that designates a person(s) who may receive another              person’s private medical and mental health information.


You have some important decisions to make. Download your free Estate Planning Worksheet.