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Do I Still Need an Estate Plan?

In March of 2012, I wrote an article for Ascension Magazine entitled “Do I Need an Estate Plan?” Some of you reading this right now might have read that article a decade ago. (And if you did, have you done your planning yet?) This month, we are going to revisit that article with a few updates.

No one wants to talk about it.  In fact, most people would prefer not to even think about it.  And for those brave souls who reluctantly confront its certainty, most shift planning for it to that very uncertain time known as “someday.”  Figured it out yet?  Well, it’s something that none of us will avoid, but, like taxes, none of us wants to discuss.  Of course, it’s Death.  And while many of you reading this article may want to stop right here, you may miss valuable information which will provide many benefits for you and your loved ones.

One aspect of estate planning involves the process of deciding what will happen to your assets  when you pass on. “But I thought estate planning was for people who have money like the Kardashians, or Oprah or Bill Gates.”  While the rich may be more concerned about paying estate taxes (and you should also plan to pay the least amount of taxes as possible), there are far more important reasons to engage in estate planning than the avoidance of taxes.

Still not convinced estate planning is important for you and your family? Keep reading.

I have seen clients that didn’t think they would make it past 70. However, with the advancements in medical technology, they lived for longer than they were able to care for themselves.  Thanks to early planning, they had something in place to instruct loved ones on how to care for them and their finances when they were unable to do that for themselves anymore.

I’ve also consulted with couples where one partner was on their second or third marriage, and had children with their current spouse, as well as children from a previous relationship or marriage. They planned ahead so that should anything happen to them, all of their children would be provided for and their current and former partners wouldn’t have the burden of trying to divide assets where needed.

At least twice a week, I meet with parents or grandparents who have concerns about whether their children and grandchildren have the financial ability to manage any inheritance they might receive. We’ve created plans to ensure that such monies are properly managed and available for them when they may need it the most.

I have also seen the parent of a minor children who knew that due to serious illness they would not be there to raise them. We’ve helped them put planning in place to dictate who they wanted to take care of and raise them when, inevitably, they couldn’t.

I’ve had many consultations with parents who have who have that one son or daughter-in-law they just don’t trust or like and want to protect their own and their loved ones’ assets against the fallout from a messy divorce at some point in time.

I’ve also seen countless parents with a special needs child find peace in mapping out a plan for their child’s care to ensure the child is provided for in the event something happens to them.

Additionally, I’ve counseled lots of adult children with parents needing long-term care, distraught over having to make health and financial decisions for an aging parent, on the best ways to do that.

Years ago, I knew these would be the people I wanted to help. And each week, I am honored to meet with people to discuss how we can help them plan for the future they envision for themselves. If you can identify with any of the above examples, then you need to sit down with a qualified expert to begin to customize an estate plan that reflects the things that are important to you. Just as every person is different, the things that will be components in each persons’ (or couples’) estate plan will differ as well.  Don’t let that word in the second paragraph of this article stop you from planning ahead and taking care of your family and those for whom you care most when you aren’t able to do that anymore.

The information provided is not intended to be legal or tax advice and does not constitute any attorney/client relationship. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.

Ms. Melancon is an attorney with Legacy Estate & Elder Law of Louisiana, LLC with offices in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lake Charles, LA. The primary focus of her practice is estate planning, probate, special needs planning, and elder law. For more information or to attend an upcoming estate planning seminar, call her office at (225) 744-0027.