Do you think estate planning is just for the rich? Think again.  

Few Americans are super wealthy .Even though most of us do not have millions, we have serious concerns: Provide security for our loved ones and make the world (or at least our corner of it) better than when we got here. Estate planning helps us achieve these goals, regardless of our wealth, or our lack of it.Estate planning facilitates management of one’s affairs during periods of illness and a smoother transition upon death. Without estate planning, who would have the authority to sell assets to pay for hospital bills? How would assets get divided at death?
At a minimum, each person should have a General Durable Power of Attorney, a Health Care Power of Attorney, a HIPAA authorization, a Living Will and a Will. Further, a Revocable Living Trust makes sense for many people. Yet, a recent survey by the legal web site found that 57% of Americans do not even have a Will, the most basic of estate planning documents.

A General Durable Power of Attorney allows the person you name to make financial decisions for you when you are unable to do so. An example would be to sell an asset to pay bills. A Health Care Power of Attorney gives authority to an Agent to make health care decisions for you. For example, you could name your spouse or your parents. A HIPAA authorization allows the Agents appointed to obtain medical information about you. This is necessary so that your family and those you have put in charge during incapacity can get the information they need to help you.
In a Will you name Guardians for minor children and can say who gets what assets. A Revocable Trust may also be used to indicate who gets what assets. It has the added advantage of avoiding the delay and cost of the probate process. Whether you need a Will or Trust will depend on your unique situation, but everyone should have one or the other.
You do not need to be rich to need an estate plan. A qualified estate planning attorney, one who focuses on helping clients plan for life and their family’s future, can help you plan for your future and your family’s well being.

Erica Johnson is an associate at the law firm of Ambler & Keenan, LLC. She teaches a quarterly class at CFU titled Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorneys, Living Wills: Make Sense of It All.

See the schedule of classes here.