This video is apart of our Ask an Expert Series where we take the top questions related to estate and end-of-life planning and ask one of the advisors from our Expert Network. This question is answered by Chris Jeter who is a founding partner of MJC Attorneys. You can watch the video or read the transcript below. Got a question to ask? Email us at email@example.com with the subject like "Ask an Expert".
Question: What is an estate plan and why do I need one?
An estate plan is the last puzzle piece in your professional and financial life’s work where you decide how you want all your financial assets to be distributed. So an estate plan has two major components at its foundational core.
One is that we’re deciding where we want all of our stuff to go — who we want to have this or that. Whether it’s a family heirloom watch that is fairly important to you, or who is going to take your house or you want to it to be sold for your kids’ education — all of those things. Estate planning is great. With all the tools available to us we can do just about anything people want to do. I have people who want to leave money to their pets. We have pet trusts in the estate world. We have trusts for kids. We can set up gifts for charities, conditional or unconditional gifts.
We can provide for beneficiaries in a host of ways, providing for them when they’re young or distribute money to them at different ages. The options are really are endless. That is one of the things I enjoy about estate planning — your creativity is really the limit.
So that’s the first part, where we want all of our hard earned things, assets, and accumulation to go. The second part is who we want to make those decisions. So obviously there is a whole host of issues that can come out of that. We can’t write a legal document for every single scenario or every single thing that might come up. So really behind every good estate plan, there are advisors and people who you trust to administer that plan as best as they can according to the wishes you have articulated. Those are often times family members, very close friends, parents, siblings.
Sometimes, particularly for folks on the high-end of the asset scale, we have institutional trustees and institutional executors that, for a fee, can make a lot of those decisions for you. There are all kinds of professional services that can help you do that, whether it’s lawyers, accountants, or investors.
Those are the two basic aspects.
Then there are a coupe of ancillary documents in an estate plan that we typically do. Power of attorney that survive your incapacity so that people can make financial or healthcare decisions for you when you’re incapacitated. A living will where we give our desires regarding end-of-life treatments so we can alleviate that burden from our families who are often left wondering what we would do in that situation. So all of those ancillary documents roll up together into an estate plan. An estate planning professional can get you in the most affective tool to help you accomplish what you want at the lowest price — that is really our job at the end of the day. A good estate plan will grow with you and require minimal upkeep as major things happen in your life. That’s the basics!