Estate plans are not just for the rich and famous. My pat answer to the question has always been: if you own title to anything, you need an estate plan. But, the fact of the matter is that regardless of what kind of assets you own, everyone needs some sort of estate planning.
That’s because an estate plan is really a two-pronged approach. The more well known and recognizable portion of the plan is the part addressing your death. However, a comprehensive estate plan ensures that there are measures in place in the event of your death or your incapacity. So regardless of what you own, you need documentation establishing your wishes should you become incapacitated.
Most often, your wishes upon your death are encapsulated in your Last Will & Testament. However, depending on your situation and where you live, it may make more sense to plan for the distribution of your assets at death in different ways – whether it be trusts or LLCs or family foundations will differ based on each situation. There is truly no cut and paste situation in life, and your estate plan should reflect that.
The second prong of your estate plan involves how you would want your life taken care of in the event of your incapacity. At a minimum, every adult should have a financial power of attorney, called a durable power of attorney here in Florida, and some sort of medical directive, called a healthcare surrogate in Florida. Your durable power of attorney allows someone you choose to take care of your business in the event that you are unable to do so. The “today you” chooses a person whom you trust to take care of paying your bills and transacting your business in the event that “tomorrow you” cannot do those things for yourself. The medical directive looks different from state to state, but at a minimum, it also allows you to designate a person you trust to carry out your wishes regarding your medical treatment when you are no longer in a position to do those things for yourself. Ultimately, both documents allow you to continue to execute a modicum of control over your estate and keep your family from having to settle things in court.
So, the answer to our question is that everyone needs an estate plan. Just a handful of documents can help facilitate your wishes with regard to not only your things, but also your health.