Berman & Asbel, LLP

Reasons everyone should have an estate plan

If people are married with children, assets tend to go to either their spouse or children when they die in the absence of a will. However, those who are married without children may want to create an estate plan to account for where their assets go upon their death. While they may first transfer to a spouse, they may be transferred to the surviving spouse's family upon his or her death.

This may mean that a decedent passes items to an individual who was never supposed to get them. In addition to creating unintended beneficiaries, it could take time to settle an estate in probate court. Those who are cohabiting may want to create an estate plan as assets may not automatically pass to a life partner. In addition to taking control of assets after passing away, it may be possible for an individual to gain more control of how assets are treated while still alive.

Giving health care and financial powers of attorney to a trusted friend, family member or financial adviser allows that person to make decisions for a mentally incapacitated individual. It may ensure that a partner or close friend who cares about that person may have greater power to ensure that decisions are made in his or her best interest.

The use of a will or trust may allow an individual to determine who gets his or her assets upon death. It may also allow an individual to name a guardian for a minor child or for an adult child with special needs. Language in a trust may be as broad or specific as its creator would like it to be. Those who are interested in creating a trust or other estate planning documents like a durable power of attorney may wish to speak with a lawyer.

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