SIMPLIFIED ESTATE PLANNING
Estate planning in general is pretty complex. However, depending on the needs of a client, it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
I’ve stated before that there are four cornerstones of any estate plan: living trust and/or will, healthcare power of attorney, living will and financial power of attorney.
For a lot of folks, a simple will does just fine. A simple will is generally defined as a will containing no trusts with a standard distribution scheme from the testator (the person making the will).
As an example, if husband and wife have two grown kids, relatively simple assets and husband’s will states that when husband dies, everything goes to wife, unless she has predeceased, then to the children equally, that would be a simple will.
No trust is necessary because there is no concern about estate taxes and simple assets to avoid probate. If the family owns a home, a beneficiary deed can be drafted and recorded to ensure the home avoids probate upon the second spouse’s death.
Powers of attorney are complex documents but in the simplest of explanations allow you to name someone to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. These are vitally important documents to have. In the example above, husband would ordinarily name wife to make decisions on his behalf if he was unable to do so, then either or both of his kids as an alternate in the event that wife was not able to do so.
Because simple estate plans have less provisions and less documents, they are easier for an attorney to draft and cheaper to create.
Simplified estate planning is usually not a good fit for families with more assets, combined families due to divorce and re-marriage and families with a history of fighting or where members don’t get along.