Discussing death and dying is taboo in many cultures, especially among the Asians. Studies show millions of people leave their affairs messy when they die simply by failing to plan properly. Additionally, statistics show that approximately 1/3 of the population think about death and dying at least once a week, however, the vast majority fail to set forth their wishes for end-of-life care, register for organ donation, or have a Will and Trust in place.
If you pass away without a Will and Trust, your family members scramble for their “piece of the pie”, fighting over assets. Historically and statistically, this has been known to damage family ties, often ending in lengthy court related litigation.
Having a Will and Trust is a methodology to transfer all of your assets (your “estate”) in a timely and responsible manner, as well as protect all of the things you’ve spent your whole life working so hard for your family left behind.
Too many people continue avoiding the reality of their mortality and, as a result, are failing to put plans in place. We believe it’s time to get over the awkwardness of this “taboo”, and we encourage you to have these conversations now and plan ahead. Of course, we appreciate that this is not an easy task for anyone, however, it assists in making the most of life, and sparing your loved ones from making difficult decisions on our behalf or dealing with the fallout if your affairs aren’t in order.
The Importance of a Will & Trust
When a person dies without having Will or Trust, state laws take over and the court system gets involved. These laws and the court determine what members of your family will inherit from your estate, and in what portion those inheritances occur.
Your estate is more than a car you drive or a home you own. Your estate includes property you own, land, investment interests, money in the bank, stocks, bonds, furniture, jewelry, etc.
Having a Will and Trust gives you the opportunity to distribute you worldly possessions in whatever manner you see fit; it empowers you in the decision-making process and guarantees that your wishes are followed.
Additionally, it allows you to leave gifts to charitable organizations and friends if you choose to, whereas without a Will and Trust this will not occur.
Furthermore, if you have children who are under the age of 18 at the time of your death a Will and Trust establishes guardians to look after your children and inheritance.
Finally, a Will and Trust can reduce conflict among family members in that it clearly outlines your choices, thereby alleviating speculation over what you might have wanted.
Even if you’re single, a Will and Trust are important. If you pass away without a Will and Trust, state laws and judicial system will distribute your estate as they see fit to any number of individuals including your children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces.
Special laws apply to Domestic Partnerships, and not all states recognize a Domestic Partnership. For states that do recognize a Domestic Partnership, generally speaking, if you pass away without a Will and Trust, your Domestic Partner stands to inherit the same percentage as a surviving spouse would have. However, if you live in a state which does not recognize Domestic Partnerships, all the more reason to have a Will and Trust where you can set forth any inheritance you want to pass through to your Domestic Partner to take care of them.
Not having a Will and Trust can be devastating as state laws and courts only recognize relatives at the time of someone’s death. Therefore, your significant other doesn’t stand to inherit anything without a Will and Trust.
Wills and Trusts go hand-in-hand. A Revocable/Living Trust protects your assets and allows you to make changes at any time. One benefit to creating a Trust is the fact that Revocable/Living Trusts don’t involve the state’s laws or court system. With a Trust in place, once you pass away, your estate is handled privately and is not required to go through the court’s system (known as probate) which ultimately becomes public record.
Advance Health Care Directive
As part of our estate planning package we prepare your Advance Health Care Directive. This is used in a situation only when you become unable to make your own decisions regarding healthcare (if you become incapacitated or seriously or terminally ill). We help you establish written directives which include your specific requests in terms of your anticipated health care.
You can be as specific as you’d like and set forth the exact healthcare you wish to receive (i.e. whether or not you want to receive whatever measures are necessary to keep you alive; whether you want to be kept alive for a certain period of time before being taken off of life support; and so on).
Power of Attorney/Medical Power of Attorney
The Power of Attorney goes hand-in-hand with the Advance Health Care Directive. A Power of Attorney also known as a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to act as your representative should you come to a point and time where you cannot act on your own behalf. This person will make your health care decisions for you when you can’t.
Having a Power of Attorney doesn’t mean your appointed person has carte blanche to step in willy-nilly and make decisions for you. The person you name in your Power of Attorney should be someone who knows you well and someone you trust to carry out your wishes.
What’s a Living Will?
A Living Will establishes the type of medical treatment you want or don’t want to receive in situations where you are unable to advocate for yourself. The Living Will defines under what circumstances and conditions you desire medical attention in attempting to either end or prolong your life (i.e. type of tests or treatment, feeding tubes, life support, DNR directives, IV fluids, etc.). The positive thing about a Living Will is that you may end or revoke it at any time.