The number one reason I hear for why people they don’t think they need an estate plan is: “Well, my spouse is named as a co-owner on everything I own or is a beneficiary on everything I own and the chances of us dying at the same time is small.” Well, even if you are right and you and your spouse don’t pass at the same time and your beneficiary designations avoid probate, there are reasons why you still need an estate plan.
Things can fall through the cracks, and you may forget to put a beneficiary designation on a new asset, or there may be other unforeseeable assets that don’t have a beneficiary designation and will therefore go through Probate. A will is a good way in those circumstances to be able to tell the Probate court what to do with those assets. A will can waive bond and ask for independent administration which can reduce the cost and time if assets have to go through Probate.
A good estate plan does not only plan for death, it is also a plan for when you are living but incapacitated. An estate plan may include both a medical power of attorney/heath care directive and a financial power of attorney. These documents are utilized while you are still alive.
If you have retirement accounts, your spouse cannot be an owner of your account. They can be a beneficiary, but that beneficiary designation does not give them any rights to access your account or funds from the account until you have passed away. If you to need to access money from your retirement account and are not capable of making financial decisions the only way to do that is through a financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney will allow someone of your choosing to make financial decisions and access funds when you are not capable. If you do no not have a financial power of attorney, there may be a delay and added cost if someone has to go through the court system for conservatorship in order to access the funds. This is just one of many reasons a financial power of attorney is an important document to make part of your estate plan.
The other document utilized as part of an estate plan during your life is the medical power of attorney/heath care directive. If you are not capable of making medical decisions for yourself a medical power of attorney will allow a person of your choosing to make medical decisions on your behalf. Do you have specific wishes for end of life? Would you want treatments like feeding tubes to be removed if the doctor did not believe you would have significant recovery? It is important to make your wishes known and this can be done through a medical power of attorney/heath care directive.
Even if you are not concerned about assets passing through Probate, I strongly suggest considering an estate plan so that you can have access to funds when needed through a financial power of attorney and to make your end of life wishes known through a medical power of attorney/heath care directive.