“Estate Planning” is the generic term for methods that people use to distribute their assets once they are no longer capable of handling them. Generally, estate planning means preparing wills and related documents to describe how assets should be handled after a person dies. However, estate planning also means preparing powers of attorney, “living wills,” and related documents to determine who will be in charge of a person’s estate in the event that he or she becomes unable to manage financial affairs or medical decisions due to mental or physical incapacity.
Comprehensive estate planning properly communicates your decisions about how to govern your estate in the event of a lengthy illness or incapacity prior to death, rather than leaving those decisions to other persons. Many families experience unnecessary and avoidable conflict among members who each care for a loved one, but simply do not agree on basic decisions concerning that person’s finances or health care. Such disputes must be resolved by the courts when family members cannot agree, by the appointment of someone to make decisions for you. A complete estate plan will help your family and preserve your assets, by reducing disagreements, resolving conflicts before they can arise, and avoiding unnecessary expenses associated with litigation.