McClellan Legal LLC Estate Planning & Tax Assessment Blog

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Isn't Estate Planning Only For The Wealthy?

Many people believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy.  The fact is that everyone over 18 years old, despite whether they are married, have children, or have a large net worth, will benefit from preparing at least a basic estate plan.  So if estate planning is beneficial for everyone, what is basic estate planning?

That is a difficult question because there is no single consensus definition for estate planning.  Any competent estate planning attorney would tell you that "it depends" on the individual or family circumstances.  However, there are several key issues that we all need to consider while we have the capacity to prepare and implement a basic estate plan.  

  • Who is going to handle your financial affairs (e.g., paying your bills, collecting income, selling property, etc.) when you are incapacitated?  For example, who is going to make sure your mortgage or rent is paid if you are in the hospital following an automobile accident? 
  • Who is going to be permitted to visit you in the hospital and make medical decisions on your behalf when you are not able to make decisions on your own? 
  • When you pass away, who will receive your property?  How and when will they receive it?  
  • If you have minor children when you pass away, who will be their personal guardian?   

The questions listed above are complex issues and nearly everyone will be impacted by each of them at some point during their life. You will also notice that the first questions listed are related to incapacity, not death.  Recent studies show that people are seven times more likely to be incapacitated than to die.  If you do not spend the time to plan in advance, the state will make the decisions for you.  Often the state's decisions will be much more costly than the cost of basic planning.  Further, the likelihood that the state will make the same decisions that you would have made for yourself is very slim.  Finally, basic estate planning by you also serves to remove much of the burden off of your surviving family member's shoulders during already difficult times.

So what are the basic documents that everyone needs?  A basic estate plan includes a will, a durable power of attorney for finances, and an advanced health care directive (including a living will).  The will serves to designate beneficiaries for your property and name guardians for any minor children.  The durable power of attorney for finances allows you to assign an agent to fill in for you when you are incapacitated.  The advanced health care directive allows you to assign an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf.  The living will provides medical personnel with instructions regarding your desires for end of life decisions.  Further, many individuals also include HIPAA authorizations in their plan to allow family and friends that are not named in their advanced health care directive to have access to medical records.  

Please review the additional material on my website or call my office at (610) 444-5552 to learn more about basic estate planning or to schedule an initial appointment.  In addition to my website, you can also find reliable estate planning information at

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McClellan Legal LLC is located in Kennett Square and serves clients throughout the areas of Avondale, Chadds Ford, Coatesville, Downingtown, Landenberg, Oxford, Phoenixville, Pottstown, West Chester, & West Grove.

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