Estate planning is the area of law where one manages their end of life decisions. This includes wills and advanced directives. However, it also includes a few areas that are not necessarily end of life like powers of attorney. Estate planning attorneys also often deal with certain types of benefits like social security or veterans benefits. Business attorneys who handle estate planning matters don’t handle those other types of benefits.
Why is Estate Planning Important?
Estate planning is important for several reasons. It largely depends on what is important to you. However, I find that there are a few key elements people care about:
- Powers of attorney in case you’re incapacitated.
- Determining who gets what when you die.
- End of life decisions like when to withhold life support.
- Choosing a guardian for minor children if you die.
Some of these things might not be important to you. If you don’t care who gets your assets when you die, that’s not important. A lot of my clients have no kids and virtually no assets, so they don’t care about two of those choices above. Because I’m a business attorney, most of my clients really care about the first one. Powers of attorney can help ensure your business carries on if you’re stuck in the hospital for an extended time or are otherwise incapacitated.
Core Elements of Estate Planning
The core elements of any estate plan are the will, medical and financial powers of attorney, and your advanced directive. In North Carolina, most advanced directives are coupled with the medical power of attorney for simplicity, but they don’t have to be. Beyond that, some people ask to have other documents drafted to meet specific needs like pet trusts, assignment of benefits, or others.
If you have any final wishes, estate planning is where they go. For example, do you want to be buried or cremated? How do you want your business handled when you die? These are important questions that can be answered through your will.