Estate Planning Essentials: Why Every Parent Needs a Will

It seems every few months the news is filled with stories about the estates of deceased celebrities. The heirs of Prince, James Brown, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Casey Kasem and others battling in court trying to sort out the mess that was left behind after an untimely death and missing or outdated estate plans.

The perception left for many is that the hazards of poor planning are the exclusive realm of the wealthy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A recent survey indicates that more than half of all Americans do not have a will in place.1 This can have serious implications no matter their net worth. Not only in regards to how their assets are distributed, but also who makes their healthcare decisions and what happens to their minor children.

Three key documents can help protect your family.

A Basic Will

While we are all familiar with the basic concept of a will, we may not be as well-versed in what happens if we die without one. Passing away without a will is called dying intestate, and means that a court will take control and divide your assets and guardianship of your minor children.2 This can be a stressful, public and expensive process at an already emotional time for heirs. While a basic will need not be complex, because of the stakes, it is imperative for all parents.

Advanced Healthcare Directive

A healthcare directive is an estate planning document that can be triggered as the result of incapacitation. It defines how you would like your healthcare decisions administered and who will be empowered to make decisions. A strong healthcare directive will also contain a living will that outlines how to handle your end-of-life care in the event of an irreversible condition.

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is a flexible document that can grant a third party the ability to administer your financial affairs under specific circumstances related to incapacitation or disability. This allows a designee to direct your investments, real estate and other finances if you are unable or incapable of doing so. The document can be limited or broad in scope and take effect based on a variety of very specific scenarios.

Estate Plan Basics

At its heart, an estate plan is all about control. These three documents offer a formal way to document your wishes for when you are deceased or incapacitated and unable to advocate for yourself. They can help put those you trust in control as well as provide direction for them.

This can go a long way toward protecting your family and legacy. Lacking the direction these documents provide, it falls to the court to decide. Not only can this impact expediency, legal fees and taxes, but also family dynamics.

Closing this gap and obtaining each of these documents can cost only a few hundred dollars, but can go a long way toward delivering a sense of security. If you would like a referral to an estate planning attorney for help with these documents, or want to sit down for a consultation about your finances relative to legacy/estate planning, we would love to discuss your options.

Doug Weisenberger

Author: Doug Weisenberger

Doug Weisenberger is a Senior Partner with North Star Resource Group in Madison, Wisconsin. For over 35 years he has helped families define and prioritize their goals for the future and then align their finances in support of them.

Doug is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative of Securian Financial Services, Inc. and CRI Securities, LLC.

1Source: http://info.legalzoom.com/statistics-last-wills-testaments-3947.html

2Source: http://estate.findlaw.com/planning-an-estate/understanding-intestacy-if-you-die-without-an-estate-plan.html

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North Star Consultants, Inc., Insurance Products and Services/CRI Securities, LLC, Securities, Investments and Investment Advisory Services\Securian Financial Services, Inc., Variable Products, Securities and Investment Advisory Services/North Star Resource Group offers securities and investment advisory services through CRI Securities, LLC and Securian Financial Services, Inc. Members FINRA/SIPC. CRI Securities, LLC is affiliated with Securian Financial Services, Inc. and North Star Resource Group. North Star Resource Group is not affiliated with Securian Financial Services, Inc. North Star Resource Group is independently owned and operated. This article was co-written by Douglas J. Weisenberger, CFP®, CLU, ChFC, CLTC & Joshua C. Evenson CFP®, ChFC, CASL, in collaboration with a professional third party. 1621748/DOFU 10-2016