With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, boxes of chocolates, teddy bears and flower specials are popping up at every turn. This year before you reach for your wallet, consider a gift that your loved ones can really use: estate planning essentials. While it may be an unconventional concept and a difficult topic to think about, having a meaningful and well-documented estate plan can truly be a love letter to those you care the most about. The event of your passing or a disabling incident will be an emotional loss for your family and difficult to process. By completing these five essential estate planning documents, you will help alleviate the stress or burden of financial and legal complications that often adds to this difficult time.

Financial Power of Attorney: Nearly one in 10 adults will experience a cognitive disability during their lifetimes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015. Establishing this legal document will give your designated contact the ability to step in and make financial decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to do so for yourself.

Health Care Proxy or Durable Medical Power of Attorney: Similar to the financial power of attorney, naming a designated person as your health care proxy or medical power of attorney will provide them the legal ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so for yourself.

Healthcare Directives: Sometimes known as a living will, this document will clearly provide your expressed written preferences for accepting or refusing life-sustaining medical treatments in the event you become terminally ill. This provides instructions to healthcare professionals as well as guidance to your health care proxy and family members to help avoid the conflict or pressures that can arise from making these difficult decisions on your behalf.

Will: One of the most commonly known legal documents, a will expresses your wishes to the court of law how you would like your possessions distributed and appoints guardianship for minor children. Any items named in your will go through the probate process in which the courts settle the estate.

Designated Beneficiaries: Perhaps a lesser-known fact, any of your titled property, including financial accounts or even property such as real estate and vehicles, can be passed directly through designated beneficiary forms or transfer on death (TOD) designations, effectively bypassing the probate process. These documents also override what is stated in your will, so it is essential to keep these forms up-to-date.

What is Probate?

In short, probate equates to time, money and making estate details available as public record as the courts process final debts and taxes due prior to distributing your remaining property. In the event you have no will or designated beneficiaries established distribution of your assets is processed according to state laws.

Proactive planning and preparedness are the most fundamental ingredients to financial security and a gift to those you love most that they can benefit from for years to come. To learn more about estate planning essentials or more advanced strategies for your unique situation, give our office a call at (803) 547-7853 for our Charlotte office or (843) 757-9400 for our Hilton Head office.

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