What really happens if you don’t create a will, trust, or other estate planning documents and essentially keep your head in the sand? Any Certified Elder Law Attorney* will tell you, the honest truth is that you make things much harder, more costly, and more time-consuming for your loved ones if something happens to you. You might lose flexibility and lose control. You (or your loved ones) may be at the mercy of a court system and judge that doesn’t know you or what is important to you. In the end, you create a big mess for your loved ones and risk becoming a burden.
That’s why an organized estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family, and it can provide enormous peace of mind. But it is not enough to just have what most people consider a “traditional estate plan,” since the wrong kind of plan will only create more problems than it will solve.
A common mistake is thinking that estate planning is just about dying and where the stuff goes. What if you are still alive, but can’t make decisions for yourself because of aging, illness, or a traumatic accident? Who will be there to help you out? Who will legally be able to speak for you or help you manage your assets? And will your family even be able to talk to your doctor to find out what’s wrong with you?
Without the proper legal documents, you and your family will need to seek the help of the probate court through a process called “guardianship.” Because the court is involved, this process is public and intrusive, and ongoing supervision by the court will be required. As you might imagine, making use of the court system is costly as well as time-consuming.
The good news is that you can avoid all of these problems and keep control of your affairs by making sure you have the proper legal documents in place. For disability or incapacity planning, an Advance Healthcare Directive, HIPAA Authorization, and Financial Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) are a must. To ensure that your loved ones are protected after your death, a Will and/or Trust will provide security and peace of mind. Your estate attorney may recommend other legal tools or strategies to help ensure that your wishes are carried out and that you are preparing wisely for the future.
If you’d like to discuss some of these options, we invite you to contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our estate attorneys. Simply call us so that we can bring you in for a meeting without delay.
*Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by National Elder Law Foundation under authorization of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court