by Michael Kling | December 18, 2013
At Kling Law Offices, we focus on estate planning and are often asked what happens without an estate plan. The easy answer is that, by default, the state of Nevada has an estate plan for you. If, however, you want to make choices about distributing your belongings and assets, or how you will be cared for if incapacitated, then you need to design your own estate plan. You actually have a lot of choices in this regard—choices that will give you peace of mind no matter where you are in life.
Your estate consists of everything you own when you die, including your home, personal property (furniture, jewelry and watches, collectibles, etc.), bank accounts, retirement plans, and your business or partnership interests. Usually, beneficiary designations will control retirement accounts and life insurance proceeds. For everything else, a will or a trust can direct the distribution of your estate. A will can name an executor to settle your estate, a guardian for you and your minor children, and give instructions on using assets to pay expenses. As trusts are not subject to probate and can hold all types of assets, they are an essential choice for many. By using a trust, you can distribute your assets without the cost, time delay and publicity of probate. You can also reduce your estate tax bill and create your own rules for how assets are distributed. The trustee you name will administer the trust and carry out your wishes.
A comprehensive estate plan will include financial and health care powers of attorney. These can be written to take effect immediately, or to activate only if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself. If you choose to have a durable medical power of attorney, which everyone should, then the person you designate can make decisions about your medical care and treatment if you become incapacitated.
Don’t fail to act because you think estate planning is only about death and dying. Estate planning is your opportunity to make choices that affect your life and the lives of your loved ones. Good estate planning will give you security in life and in death, knowing that your wishes will be carried out. Isn’t that better than letting the state of Nevada decide for you? Empower yourself and plan for your peace of mind instead.