Individuals tend to put off estate planning, as planning for the future can be overwhelming. Estate planning is an essential tool to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your estate. A Wichita estate planning attorney can be a useful ally in determining what your goals are for estate planning and how to effectively address those needs.
Estate planning is not only useful for those with significant amounts of wealth. A comprehensive estate plan can benefit many individuals at many points in their lives and give them a sense of stability in their future.
What Is Probate, and Why Should I Avoid It?
Probate court is how the state of Kansas inventories, values, and distributes an individual’s estate after their death. If you die with no estate plan at all, the state will appoint an executor on your behalf to distribute the assets in your estate according to state inheritance laws. Probate is also a fairly expensive court process, and it leaves your estate more vulnerable to creditor claims. Some estates may also be subject to federal estate taxes.
All of these things cut into the value of the benefits your heirs receive from your estate. Your heirs also cannot access any of the assets in your estate until the probate process has finished, which can take months to years. Comprehensive estate planning, when it includes trusts, can avoid probate court.
Important Documents in Estate Planning
Every estate plan can be tailored to the individual’s unique needs, but they typically include the following documents:
- A Will: Your will allows you to name an executor for your estate and the heirs who will benefit from it. It also allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.
- Trusts: Trusts are similar to a will because they name a trustee to manage their contents and name beneficiaries. The assets in trusts avoid probate.
- Medical Directives: Medical directives are a document where you explain where you want to receive healthcare and what medical procedures you do and don’t consent to. These directives are used if you become incapacitated or incompetent and are unable to make these decisions.
- Medical Power of Attorney: This places an individual in charge of your medical decisions if you cannot make those decisions.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This places an individual in charge of financial decisions if you are incapacitated or unable to make those decisions.
These documents need to be enforceable for you and your family to benefit from them. By creating and updating these documents with a legal professional, you limit the chances of your estate plan being found invalid.
What Should I Consider When Creating My Estate Plan?
There are several important things to consider when creating your estate plan and determining your goals. These include:
- A complete picture of your finances. Know your assets and estate and how they will change over your lifetime.
- The needs of your heirs and beneficiaries. Individual family members, loved ones, and organizations will have different financial needs or requirements.
- Changes in your life. There are several events that can impact estate plans, including marriage, divorce, retirement, growing families, and deaths.
Benefits of an Estate Plan
Some of the main benefits of a comprehensive estate plan include:
- Protecting Your Needs: An estate plan lays out your end-of-life care, or care if you become incapacitated. Powers of attorney and medical directives ensure you know you will be cared for in these situations.
- Keeping Loved Ones Out of Probate: You can lessen your family’s stress, time in court, and money lost by avoiding probate court.
- Limiting Family Disputes: A clear estate plan makes it clearer what your wishes are. This limits the conflict and disputes your heirs may have over your wishes.
- Protecting Your Estate: Estate planning can protect certain assets from creditors and the probate process. This also keeps your estate more private.
Q: What Is an Advantage of Having an Estate Plan?
A: The biggest advantage of an estate plan is having confidence in the future, including the future of your estate, the future you’ve prepared for your loved ones, and your own future. An estate plan can provide protection for you at the end of your life and make clear how you want to be cared for.
You can be confident that your assets are protected during your life and after your death. You know what individuals and causes will benefit from your estate. An estate plan can also ensure your minor children are cared for.
Q: What Is the Purpose of an Estate Plan?
A: The main purpose of an estate plan for most individuals is asset protection. You can create an estate plan that keeps your assets safe but accessible while you are alive and make a clear plan for how they will be distributed after your death. By keeping your assets intact and out of probate court, you provide your heirs and beneficiaries with the most benefits possible from your estate.
Q: How Much Does Estate Planning Cost in Kansas?
A: The cost of an estate plan varies based on several factors and can range anywhere from $300 to $4,000 or even higher. The cost depends on the number of documents in the estate plan and how complex your estate and assets are. High-value assets and complex asset estates will be more difficult to plan for and will cost more.
The costs of estate planning also depend on the attorney you work with to create the plan. An attorney will have different rates based on their experience and location. If an attorney is creating or drafting a simple estate plan document, they may charge a flat fee. However, for more in-depth or complex estate planning documents, an attorney may charge an hourly rate.
Q: What Are the Three Primary Goals of Estate Planning?
A: Every individual’s goals for estate planning differ based on their needs. The most common essential goals in estate planning include:
- Safeguarding their estate during their life and after their death so it can ensure benefits for heirs and beneficiaries;
- Providing guidelines for medical care and legal authority for financial and medical decisions in case they become incapacitated; and
- Mitigating the stress, cost, and time suffered by heirs and beneficiaries while increasing their financial benefits.
Contact Stange Law Firm
You can effectively protect your assets and determine what your ultimate estate planning goals are. Contact Stange Law Firm to see how we can guide you through this.