Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

25 May 2017

"But I am young. I don't need an estate plan."

"I'm not married and do not have children, so why do I need a will?"

You may feel that only people who are married, have children or who are advanced in age need an estate plan, but that could not be any further from the truth. The truth is, everyone needs an estate plan, no matter where you are in life.

An estate plan includes much more than just a will. It is a set of documents that provides for not only your death but your incapacity, as well. An estate plan package includes will, living will, power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and often a funeral planning declaration.

Why Do I Need a Will?

You may think you should have a lot of assets to need a will. Not true. The point of a will is to make it easier for your loved ones to handle not only your assets but your liabilities after you die. Even if you do not own a home, you may own bank accounts, cars, various financial accounts, and more; and you may also have a significant amount of debt, including credit card debt and student loan debt. What happens to that debt when you die? Your personal representative will evaluate your financial situation, pulling together everything you own and everything you owe and making sure that everything is addressed and divided appropriately. It is not an easy task and is important you pick someone you trust to do this properly.

You Need a Living Will

Your living will states what you would want to have happen should you be in a position where you have no viable chance of living. Not having this document ties the hands of hospital staff who have no choice but to keep you alive at all costs. Most hospitals ask for a copy of your living will and healthcare directives before you are admitted or have surgery. It does not matter how old you are. You need this document.

Powers of Attorney: Financial and Medical

Two other important documents are part of an estate plan: a power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone who can make financial and legal decisions on your behalf during your lifetime due to incapacity. For example, if you suffer from stroke and need nursing care, your power of attorney will be able to sign legal documents for you.

A healthcare power of attorney is an individual who will make important medical decisions on your behalf. If you be in the middle of surgery and not be able to make an important life-saving decision, this individual would authorize any necessary treatment.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

What is Included in an Estate Plan?

04 May 2017

"I need an estate plan, but does that just mean I need a will?"

That misconception is common in that most people assume all they need is a will in order to have a complete estate plan, but that misconception could end up harming your loved ones in the long run. An estate plan is much more than that, and without the proper knowledge, you could end up hurting yourself more than helping yourself.

An estate plan does include a will. This document will detail who will be your "personal representative," the person or persons who will handle all your estate matters, selling and distributing your assets, paying off your debts and ensuring that all assets and liabilities are accounted for and handled properly. If you have minor children, this document will also detail who will take care of your children in the event of your death. Lastly, this document will divide your property up between your beneficiaries. Any specific bequests you have will be included within the will.

An estate plan also includes a living will. This document is important as it includes your wishes should you be in a medical state where you do not have a possibility of recovery. It allows you to either tell your loved ones to continue to keep you on life support or to not continue your life should you be in a vegetative state with no possibility of recovery. Without this document, the hospital often has their hands tied in being unable to determine how to proceed, and it also can pit loved ones against each other in the event none can agree on how to handle your medical affairs.

A power of attorney is also included in an estate plan. This document gives the authority to someone you trust to handle your finances or legal affairs in the event you are not able to do so either through unavailability or incapacity. It is only good during your lifetime, and allows this individual or individuals to sign checks on your behalf as well as other legal, binding documents. It is important in the event you suddenly do face tragedy and are not able to make decisions. If you are suddenly incapacitated, and you do not have a power of attorney, your loved ones will need to seek a legal conservatorship, which is a lengthy and costly process through the court system.

A healthcare power of attorney is similar in that it authorizes an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are not able to do so. If you are in surgery and require an additional procedure, this person can authorize this procedure should you not be able to do so.

Lastly, with Sullivan Law Office, we also include a funeral planning declaration in your estate plan, which details your wishes for your funeral and burial. It can be as detailed as you wish, depending on your plans and how much discretion you wish to give your loved ones.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

Considering Your Pets in Your Estate Plan

18 April 2017

When you are putting together your estate plan, you consider all aspects of your life: your family, your home, your finances and more. However, are you leaving out one important member of your family? What happens to your beloved pet if the unexpected (or expected, depending on how you think about it) happens?

Perhaps you are assuming that your family members will automatically take your pet in, and in many situations, they very may well have no problem taking your dog, cat or other pet. Keep in mind, however, that you should never assume. You may want your animals to go to whoever has your children should you pass away before your children are adults. If you do not discuss this with the potential guardians, you could be assuming that these individuals will do something they have no intention of doing. Talk with your listed guardians and get an idea of what they want. If they do not feel comfortable accommodating pets in addition to your children, that may sway your decision on your children's guardian. If you are in a divorced parent situation and your child's other parent will be the first "guardian," and you have concerns as to whether he or she will take your child's pet, speak with that parent. Get an idea of what will happen in that situation.

It is always recommended you explicitly list out what your wishes are with respect to your pets. If you would like to leave a set amount of money for whoever takes in your pet, you can also do this to help off-set the financial burden. Your estate plan can be whatever you want it to be. Discuss it with your estate attorney to see what works best for your situation.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

Do You Need a Funeral Planning Declaration?

07 April 2017

Let's talk about something none of us really want to discuss. Funeral planning. For the great majority of us out there, we would rather do anything else than think about what will happen when it is time for our funeral. While no one can blame you for feeling that way, would you rather leave all of the decisions to your loved ones?

By not having a plan and your wishes listed out, you are essentially putting the entire burden of your funeral and disposition of your body on your loved ones. If those decisions are ones you feel your loved ones can handle, then setting a funeral plan may not be necessary. Keep in mind, however, that your family and friends will already be grieving. The last thing many of them will feel equipped to do is plan your funeral or burial.

In a typical estate plan, you are able to prepare what is called a funeral planning declaration. The document lists out any specific wishes you have for your funeral or final plans. The plan can be whatever you want it to be. If it is important to you that you be cremated or that your funeral be a religious ceremony in a specific church, you can list that information in detail. You can designate the funeral home where you would like your arrangements to be, songs played at your funeral, or who your pall bearers will be. You do not have to necessarily plan out all of the above. A funeral planning declaration simply gives you the ability to be as specific as you wish to be. After you pass away, your funeral plan will be kept with your estate documents and will be easily accessible to your loved ones. Be sure that your personal representative or trustee is aware that a funeral plan does exist and make sure he or she knows where to find the document.

Yes, the topic is not an easy one to discuss, but it is one that is necessary for all of us. The more you plan now, the easier you make life for your loved ones following your death. If you have any questions about what a funeral planning declaration entails or wish to discuss setting up your estate plan, contact Sullivan Law at 248-917-1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com.

Why Would I Need a Power of Attorney?

22 March 2017

A proper estate plan includes more than just a will or trust. It also includes a power of attorney, living will, and healthcare power of attorney. Many people assume they just need the will or trust to be secure, but to have a truly comprehensive plan, a power of attorney is encouraged.

A power of attorney gives another individual the ability to handle legal and financial matters on your behalf. This power is effective during your lifetime and should not be confused with the term executor. Having a power of attorney could protect you in several different types of situations. For instance, say you are on a trip overseas for an extended period of time and need someone back home to be able to pay your bills and write checks on your behalf. You could delegate this authority to your power of attorney who would have access to your accounts and can sign checks as your agent.

A more serious situation could include you suddenly being incompetent or unable to make decisions on your behalf. If you were involved in a serious car accident and were in a coma, your power of attorney could make your decisions in terms of your finances and legal matters while a healthcare power of attorney would then assist in making healthcare decisions on your behalf. Not having these documents in place could put your loved ones at a severe disadvantage. Otherwise, they will be forced to proceed through the court system to obtain a legal conservatorship on your behalf. This process is cumbersome, can be expensive and is not immediate. Odds are you will need immediate decisions, and having that piece of paper with the power of attorney authority on it helps you in the here and now. You may not want to imagine ever being in these types of situations, but you never know. It helps to be prepared.

At Sullivan Law, we offer estate planning packages at a flat and reasonable fee. We also offer free consultations to discuss what your needs are, what you would like to do, and how that can be best accomplished. Everyone's needs are different, and your wishes should be clearly listed and understood.

Call us at 248.917.1351 or email at asullivan@sullivanlawonline.com to schedule your free consultation today. We look forward to working with you!

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