As the holidays approach, visiting family gives you the time to enjoy good company and maybe even talk about important family matters, including estate planning.
But what is an estate plan?
“What it is, is basically a plan to ensure that whatever happens during your life, throughout your lifetime and beyond that, your affairs will be taken care of with the least amount of court involvement and fees and costs, and that your family and your loved ones will be taken care of in the way that you you want them to,” Angela Petrusha, an attorney at Petrusha Law, said.
It’s like a will but without the risk of probate, which is a lengthy and costly court process. If your estate goes through probate it could be years before your family inherits property after you’ve passed
“Would you be able to take my pet if something happens to me? which one of you wants to take care of, you know, Benji, the dog?” Petrusha said. “Another one is if parents are often when I’m working with parents, they’re wondering if they should name their children as the executor and appoint certain children in these positions to act and I always encourage them to talk to the kids, make sure they’re on board with that plan, and that they will they want to serve.”
Speaking of kids, an estate plan is an important document to ensure that if something were to happen to you as a parent, your kids would be placed with a guardian you trust.
“I’m a parent. I mean, I remember having those fleeting thoughts back then, and it’s nice to be able to when that thought comes up, to know that it’s planned, you’ve pre-designated those standby guardians, to the people who you love and trust to be able to step in if the worst happens and take care of your children,” Petrusha said. “If you don’t do that and that situation arises, then it’s too late for you to choose who it is that’s going to take the kids.”
Angela says that the process of estate planning is easy but can be overlooked by many.
The first step is to just have a conversation, whether it’s with a family member or an attorney.
“Planning for death or incapacity and being able to choose who you want to give the authority to, to act in certain ways,” Petrusha said “Guardians of the children, executor of your estate, an agent under your power of attorney who’s going to make those medical decisions for you so those are all really important, right? and so that’s sort of the package of what estate planning is for.”