Do you have an Adult Life Plan (an Estate Plan)?
An estate plan is a person’s “adult life plan”. Adult life begins when a person can vote,
enter into contracts and make health care decisions for him or herself. Consequently,
everyone needs to plan when they become an adult. Estate planning is not complicated
and does not have to be expensive. There is usually a Will, Power of Attorney, Patient
Advocate Designation and a Trust, if necessary. An Estate Plan is not just for the
wealthy or people facing health issues. It is for everyone.
Every adult should have an estate plan that includes a Durable Power of Attorney for
Financial Matters and a Patient Advocate Designation that appoints persons to make
their financial and health care decisions should they become incapacitated from
sickness or injury. Having these documents could avoid the necessity of having a judge
appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions for you.
A Will or Trust is also an important part of a “plan for adult life”, particularly if a person
owns a home, is married, has children, has bank and financial accounts and personal
property. A Will or Trust allows you to dictate how and to whom you want your assets to
pass. A Will or Trust will also avoid undesirable results of how your assets are
disbursed and conflicts between your heirs about who should receive your assets. Not
having a Will or Trust will allow the State of Michigan to dictate where your assets will
go. Many famous individuals, such as Michael Jackson, Prince and Howard Hughes
died without any estate plan, which led to years of litigation to determine how and to
whom their assets were to be disbursed.
If you do not have an adult life plan, talk to an experienced estate-planning attorney
about taking the following steps:
- Have a Will or Trust drafted that will dictate how and to whom you want your
assets distributed. You will also be able to name a conservator and guardian for
your minor children should you and your spouse not be there to care for your
- Have a Durable Power of Attorney drafted that will designate a person to make
financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated and unable to make
- Have a Patient Advocate Designation drafted that will appoint a person to make
health care decisions for you in the event of incapacity and will describe your
wishes and directions for health care.
- Make sure your assets are titled property so that assets may pass, separate and
apart from your Will or Trust, to an intended recipient. For example, most banks
and financial institutions have transfer on death (TOD) directives that allow a
person to transfer the contents of their bank account directly to designated
beneficiaries upon their death but allows the person to retain total control over
the account during their lifetime, including the ability to change or revoke the
- Make sure your beneficiary designations are in effect and conform with your
overall estate plan. Assets such as IRAs, 401(k)s and life insurance should
usually have persons designated as beneficiaries. This allows the assets to be
transferred without the necessity of going through probate. Review your
designated beneficiaries regularly to make sure no changes are needed.
Beneficiary designations, TODs, along with a Will and Trust, if necessary,
deserve a serious look to make sure the story you want is in fact the one that is
written after your death.