I believe the single most important purpose of an estate plan is to ensure you control what happens to your estate and when. A Will or trust is an important part of that plan. Unfortunately, even if you have a Will or trust, other decisions you make can undermine that plan.
In my presentations to the public, I often share an experience that had a significant impact on me. It was a meeting I had with a loving husband, trying to take care of a spouse who had profound Alzheimer’s. He was exhausted and could no longer care for her alone. His own health was suffering.
Many people think that “estate planning” means deciding what happens to your things when you die. For that reason, many young families do not consider estate planning to be a priority. However, it may be one of the most important things young parents can do! A Will is the document in which parents can state who they want taking care of their young children if the parents should die.
For most of us, retirement is a goal we hope will allow us to enjoy the fruits of previous sacrifices. While advance preparation clearly increases the likelihood that we can enjoy our golden years, there are many circumstances that dictate whether retirement is an opportunity or a burden.
Part of my practice is spent helping clients solve problems after a parent or spouse has passed away. Many times, these problems arise because the estate plan included a “shortcut” intended to avoid probate.
Recently, hundreds participated locally in an incredible event. On Saturday, September 10th, Southeastern Idaho held its first “Walk to End Alzheimer’s®” by the Alzheimer’s Association®. The number of participants and the amount of contributions both far surpassed what I thought would be realistic.
Participants included several living with Alzheimer’s, their caregivers, family members and others who simply wanted to be involved in a tremendous cause. It was inspiring.
Last column I addressed what would happen if your will leaves everything to your spouse, but you later divorce and never change the will. Idaho law prohibits a person from receiving the assets of an ex-spouse just because he or she was named in a will created prior to the divorce. However, this law does not mean you can rely on the State of Idaho to protect you from estate planning problems when there has been a divorce.
Although never planned, divorce is one of the complications of life with which many must deal. So what happens if your will leaves everything to your spouse, but you never change the will after a divorce? When you pass away, will your ex-spouse still get your assets?
In my last column, I gave the example of a man with children from a prior relationship who purchased a home with his girlfriend. When he dies, who will receive his share of the home?
When counseling clients about estate planning, my primary objective is to help them maintain control of their estate. This includes helping clients to ensure that, on their passing, their assets go to those they want to receive them. This does not happen automatically.