At the start of a New Year we are each given an opportunity to reflect on the past year’s ups and downs and gain a new perspective for the coming year. We look back at the good times: the holidays, vacations, birthday parties, and births of new children and grandchildren. We look back at the challenging times: the economic stresses, illnesses, and other hardships. As we reflect, we have an opportunity to reorganize our priorities and goals.
As we reassess our lives, we plan for the future, beginning with a fresh set of resolutions. We may plan to get fit and lose a few pounds. One way we can gain control (especially in these uncertain economic times) is to make sure our estate planning is in order. We do these things not just for ourselves, but for those we love and who are ultimately impacted the most by our planning.
Estate planning is one of the easier things to check off your list of resolutions. First, find a qualified estate planning attorney to consult. You can find one by consulting the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys at http://www.aaepa.com/attorney_listing.aspx or by checking http://www.search-attorneys.com.
The consultation is painless. You will discuss your family and your goals. Then the attorney will suggest a course of action which will likely include these basic documents:
- Property Power of Attorney. This allows someone appointed by you, your “agent,” to make decisions for you during your incapacity.
- Health Care Power of Attorney. Allows your agent to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.
- HIPAA Power. Allows your agent to gain access to health information. Without this, a hospital could refuse to release any information — even your presence in the hospital.
- Living Trust. This is the engine of your estate plan. You transfer the bulk of your assets to this Trust. It allows for management during your life, including when you are incapacitated. It provides for distribution in the desired way after you are gone. It allows you to avoid the probate process.
- Last Will. This takes any assets accidentally omitted from your Trust and moves them to the Trust after your passing.
Getting your estate planning in order is an easy task. Starting with this simple task will give you the courage and motivation to move on to other resolutions – like losing those extra pounds that crept on over the holidays.
Mr. Ronald “Chip” Morrison, Jr. is a Board-Certified Specialist in Estate Planning and Administration by Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization and a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys. He has been engaged in Louisiana trusts and estate law for the last 16 years. Our firm serves clients throughout southern Louisiana. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, please call our office at (504) 831-2348 or contact us through our website.