What Happens to You and Your Stuff if You Don’t Make It Back from Spring Break?

By Claire Carter Bailey of the Law Offices of Bailey & Poarch

Morbid? Maybe, but Benjamin Franklin was right, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Yes, you too will die. And most likely, before then, you’ll be incapacitated for some period of time.

So, who will make your medical decisions? What factors will impact that person emotionally, financially, and relationally during that time? Who will live in your house? Who will pay the bills? What will happen to your family? Does anyone know the location of the courthouse? How much is all this going to cost?

What you think will happen:

You may have considered these questions and have a plan in mind. However, absent proper legal documents, your wishes may not come to fruition. A common misconception is that your property will pass automatically to your loved ones or that they will be able act on your behalf.

What will actually happen:

If you haven’t considered these and other issues in awhile, someone else has on your behalf—the Oklahoma legislature. And with the help of a judge, many months, and thousands of dollars, all these decisions will be made without your consultation.

Not what you had mind? Yeah, me either.

Now that we’ve gotten the bad news out of the way and before you panic, imagine that instead of worrying about it or passing your problems on to your loved ones and your decisions on to someone you’ve never met, you have an instruction manual, often called an estate plan, with everything needed to handle your legal and personal affairs. One of the best gifts you can give your loved ones during an already difficult time is the space to grieve free from difficult decisions, fights, and a costly drawn out process. By preparing an estate plan, you protect your health, home, assets, and family.

The tools in the toolbox:

An estate plan is nothing more than a collection of documents that address the specific medical and financial issues of the person for whom they are prepared. It is a way to opt out of Uncle Sam’s one-size-fits-all approach.

Determining which documents belong in each estate plan and what those documents say is like selecting and using the correct tools and materials to build a house. A house must be built with the occupants in mind. A ruler is sufficient to build a dollhouse but is too small to build a

doghouse; a handsaw works for a birdhouse but is inadequate to build a house for people. (Although I recommend saving the hassle of building your own house and calling your boy Grady!)

Estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. Some estate planning tools are universal like durable powers of attorney which give others the authority to act on your behalf in the event you are unable to handle your own affairs, wills which set out your wishes for the court to direct absent a fully funded trust, and payable on death designations which transfer funds in your bank accounts. Other tools, like specialty trusts, are used in cases with unique needs such as large estates with generation skipping gifts or special needs children who rely on government aid.

The swiss army knife of estate planning:

The revocable living trust is a basic trust that transcends death and has complex features that address both financial and medical issues. It can be changed or revoked, hold assets, direct that funds be dispersed to a beneficiary on a specified schedule, allow for a trustee to step in during times of incapacity, save money through avoiding a guardianship and probate, protect your privacy by preventing your affairs from being published in public online records, and so much more.

There was a day in which trusts were primarily used as tax avoidance tools for the wealthy. But trusts are no longer only for the rich and famous. In fact, for most people, they are a means of saving money.

Setting up an estate plan is a phone call away:

Determining your specific needs and seeing around the corner to what you’ll need in the future requires more than a google search. We have an estate planning toolbox and know how to use each tool. Let us explain your options and provide a custom instruction manual for your loved ones with everything they will need to address the legal and logistical issues to your specifications.

We provide COMPLIMENTARY CONSULTATIONS and charge flat fees so that you’ll know exactly what you’re getting and how much it will cost. Give us a call today at (405) 329-6600, or email me at clairebailey@baileyandpoarch.com.