This week, October 17-23, 2011, is National Estate Planning Awareness Week.
National Estate Planning Awareness Week was created in 2008 at the urging
of the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils. It is designed
to focus attention on the need to have an estate plan in place to communicate
your wishes and protect your family.
Many times people fail to have an estate plan because they don’t
know if they need one. Do you have to have a spouse or children to need
an estate plan? Do you have to own a minimum amount of assets to need
an estate plan? Do you have to be “older” to need an estate plan?
Anyone who is at least 18 years old and wants to make sure that their wishes
are known can and should have an estate plan. This is because an estate
plan is more than just a plan for who gets your “stuff” upon
your death. An estate plan also includes documentation of your wishes
if you haven’t died but you are alive and unable to speak for yourself
because of an incapacity or illness.
An estate plan includes naming a Healthcare Surrogate to speak for you
regarding medical decisions if you can’t speak for yourself. An
estate plan includes a Living Will which documents your wishes regarding
medical intervention in an imminent death situation. An estate plan also
includes naming a Durable Power of Attorney to speak for you in non-medical
situations. Without a Durable Power of Attorney in place, often your family
has to turn to the courts and have a guardian appointed to make decisions
on your behalf. This means the court, not you, decides who will be speaking for you.
If you have been hesitant to look into putting an estate plan in place,
let National Estate Planning Awareness Week do its intended job and jolt
you into action. The mistake is rarely starting too early, but waiting too late.