Death isn’t a topic that many people are comfortable discussing, but creating a plan for distributing your assets is part of life. Having a good estate plan is the only way to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of when you are gone.


Most people don’t realize that the estate planning process is more than simply drafting a will. While you may be tempted to handle things on your own or enlist the help of free online services, it’s best to hire an attorney with experience in Lancaster probate to manage your estate planning.


Estate Planning Must-Haves


Estate planning is not just for wealthy or older individuals. Everybody can benefit from having a legal plan for the distribution of their assets after their death. In most cases, estate planning is the only way to ensure your assets are distributed as you wish.


A good Lancaster estate plan should have the following:


1.   Last Will and Testament


The last will and testament outlines precisely how you would like to distribute your assets. Once all expenses and taxes are paid, your assets are distributed through specific bequests or as part of your estate. Your will is handled by an executor who is legally responsible for following your wishes. If you die without a will, the state laws where you live will determine how your assets are distributed.


2.   Durable Power of Attorney


A durable power of attorney is appointed to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. The absence of a power of attorney leaves the court to choose who handles your finances if you become physically or mentally incompetent.


3.   Beneficiary Designations


Several of your assets can be passed onto your heirs without the presence of a will, such as life insurance and your 401(k). That’s why beneficiary designations are so important. Without them, a court will decide how your assets are distributed. Designating a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary ensures that your loved ones are cared for as you wish.


4.   Healthcare Power of Attorney


A healthcare power of attorney is an individual designated to decide on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Essentially, this person will have your life in their hands if you become sick or injured, so it should be someone you trust. It’s always a good idea to identify a backup agent if your initial choice is unavailable when you need them.


5.   Guardianship Designations


Having a guardianship designation is critical to the health and wellbeing of your children. A guardianship designation determines who your minor children will live with if you pass away while they are still young. Without one, the decision lies in the hands of a court official. Be sure to talk to whoever you plan to choose as your children’s guardian before you draw up the legal documents. Make sure they are willing and able to raise your children when you are gone.


Estate Planning with Experienced Lancaster Probate Attorneys


Estate planning is vital at all stages of life, but probate law is complicated. You need a reliable estate planner to help you create a legal plan for your legacy. If you don’t already have an estate plan drafted, consult our qualified Lancaster probate lawyers today to get started.