An “estate plan” consists of the rules that are in place when you are alive and well, alive and not well and when you pass away. These rules control who is in charge of all your assets and who makes decisions for your personal care and needs. If you choose not to create your own documents, then the State’s rules will appoint the people who will make all your financial and medical decisions if you aren’t able to do so. Your family, including your parents, spouse and adult children may have no input in what happens to you and your “stuff.” In other words, if you don’t have your own formalized plan in place, the State has one for you.
To determine what is “valuable” ask yourself the following: If you were able to place all your belongings, everything you owned (your “stuff”) into a bag and an evil person came to you and forced you to choose between handing over the bag of “stuff” or forfeit the life of a family member, what would you choose? Would you hand over the bag?
If your choice is to hand over the bag of “stuff” to guarantee your family member is safe, then you understand that “estate planning” is what you want done for you and each member of your family should you be alive and not well, or when you pass away. The essence of “estate planning” is being able to clearly articulate in writing what you want to happen to your family. Once you’ve done that, the “stuff” follows your plan. This plan allows your family to know what to do and have peace of mind in a time of crisis. Without the “estate plan” in place, your family may be plunged into chaos.