Estate Planning: What is it, and why do you need it?

By: Ashley E. Smith

Thinking about what will happen to your loved ones after you pass is a conversation no one ever wants to have. However, accidents and unexpected events undoubtedly happen, leaving your family and loved ones with the additional worry of managing what you leave behind. A comprehensive estate plan is essential for allowing your family to grieve without the additional stress of complicated estate administration.

What is an estate plan?

When thinking about an estate plan, most people commonly think of preparing a Will. However, a comprehensive estate plan typically includes three (3) documents: the Last Will and Testament, a Power of Attorney, and a Health Care Power of Attorney/Living Will. The Will is certainly the most common. Your Last Will and Testament allows you to designate beneficiaries who will inherit from your estate. For those with minor children, a Will allows you to name a guardian and individual who will manage assets for minor children. The Power of Attorney is a document that allows the individual you appoint to control financial and real and personal property decisions on your behalf, during your lifetime, if you are unable to do so.

A Health Care Power of Attorney, on the other hand, allows you to appoint an individual who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable. The Living Will, growing in popularity over the past 10 years, will allow you to clearly express your wishes for end-of-life decision making and appoint an individual who will honor your request.

Why is an Estate Plan so important?

Under Pennsylvania law, when an individual passes away without a will, their estate is legally required to proceed under what is known as the Pennsylvania “intestacy laws”. When thinking about passing without a will, a common concern is that the Government will obtain all of the assets you leave behind. However, it is important to understand that the intestacy laws govern the order of distribution. In other words, statutory law requires that there be a “hierarchy” of individuals who will be in line to inherit from you, regardless of what your wishes may have been. A comprehensive estate plan is essential to ensure that you are in control of providing for the loved ones of your choosing after you pass.

What do I do next?

Fortunately, our estate planning attorneys and our dedicated team of estates paralegals at Martson Law Offices are available to help you plan for the future. Contact either our Carlisle or Thompsontown Office to schedule an initial appointment to discuss your plans with one of our estates’ attorneys.

Before coming in for your appointment, though not an exhaustive list, you should begin to think about:

Our estates team will take care of the rest and help you navigate the planning process. Martson Law Offices looks forward to serving you!

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