If you recently lost a parent who did not leave an estate plan, you may be considering exploring the options for yourself. Going through your parent's probate without a will or trust to guide you may have been a challenge, especially if you were one of several heirs to the estate.
Most upsetting may have been the time before your parent's death. If your loved one was incapacitated for any length of time, you may have struggled to gain authority to make critical decisions about medical care, financial issues and end-of-life choices. You may not want your own family to go through these hardships, but you still have questions about how an estate plan can help relieve these burdens.
How can an estate plan help?
Obviously, an estate plan can help you distribute your assets according to your wishes. If your family dynamic is relatively simple, you may accomplish this with a will. However, many families are more complex, including stepchildren, family inheritances, business ownership and other complications. Using various kinds of trusts and other estate planning tools, you can address these and other issues, including:
- Minimizing the tax ramifications for your heirs
- Supporting charities of your choice
- Protecting dependents with special needs who rely on government programs
- Providing an inheritance for minor children or those who may be unable to handle a large bequest, such as someone with a substance abuse problem
- Protecting your estate from future lawsuits or creditor claims
In addition to managing your assets, your estate plan can outline your wishes for your own wellbeing if you should become ill or incapacitated. This is not restricted to the end of a person's life. At any time, you may be the victim of an accident or condition that leaves you temporarily unable to manage your own financial and legal affairs. Including a power of attorney and health care proxy can give you peace of mind that a trusted individual will handle those matters according to your instructions.
Perhaps there are other circumstances in your family that you would like to address in your estate plan. Your first step is to gain as much information as possible. Reaching out to an experienced North Carolina estate planning professional can provide you with answers to your questions and guidance in the most appropriate tools to help you reach your goals.