Opinion: Estate Planning Provides Holiday Peace of Mind
This is a guest column by St. Petersburg lawyer Ashley Ligas. Her opinions do not necessarily reflect those of TB Reporter. TB Reporter accepts guest editorials and columns. If you’re interested in writing one, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By ASHLEY LIGAS
The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, particularly for families with young children. From shopping for hard-to-find gifts, to planning a holiday menu that little ones will eat (and some gluten-free options), there’s always more to get done than time to do it. As a wife and a mom of two little boys, I definitely empathize.
But as you sit around your holiday table this year with the people you love most, consider this: What would happen to your children, loved ones, and assets if something happened to you?
It’s not something we ever like to think about, let alone at holiday time. But the holidays and year’s end are actually a perfect time to give your family the gift of peace of mind with some basic, affordable estate planning.
I know what you might be thinking: “I don’t have much in savings, I rent (or own a small home), and I’m young and in great health. Why do I need estate planning? Isn’t that for wealthy people?”
But if something happened to you tomorrow, do you know exactly where your children would go? Who would make medical or end-of-life decisions for you? What would happen to the property you do have, like your home, cars, jewelry, and savings? Would your family’s future be secure, or potentially tied up in the court system for years?
To avoid the unexpected, here are a few of my favorite tips:
Name a guardian: If you become injured, sick, or pass away, your spouse will continue taking care of your children, in most cases. But what if something happens to you both? As difficult as this decision may be, it’s important to name someone you trust as your children’s guardian, should the worst happen. They will carry out your wishes for your family better than a court-appointed guardian ever could.
Designate a healthcare surrogate: One of life’s toughest tasks is considering who will make medical decisions for you in case of incapacity — including deciding if and when to let you pass. Designating a healthcare surrogate and leaving detailed instructions of your wishes in a living will helps mitigate some of the stress of life-and-death decisionmaking.
Create a trust: Even if you think you don’t have “a lot of money,” a trust can help protect your assets and property in case of death or incapacity. But there are a wide variety of trusts, and it may be unclear which is best for your family’s needs. Trusts can also provide for children with special needs, manage funds for loved ones, and plan for elders in your family.
Don’t go it alone: There are many online sources offering do-it-yourself, downloadable forms to prepare nearly all of these documents yourself. These may be more inexpensive upfront, but consider what incorrect, incomplete, or missing documents may cost in probate court later. Consider working with an estate planning attorney to ensure your family’s protection is done right, at a reasonable price.
The holidays can be stressful enough without one more task to get done. But few items on your holiday to-do list will be as important as providing for the long-term care of your family.
As you look around your holiday table, take a moment to think about to whom you’d trust your family. And after the presents are bought and wrapped, buy yourself the best gift of all — peace of mind knowing your children, home, and assets are protected for life.
Ashley Ligas is an attorney at Avenir Law Group PLLC, a boutique estate planning law practice in St. Petersburg, offering wills, trusts, estates, and legal advice. Free consultations are available by calling 727-742-2246, emailing email@example.com, or visiting avenirlaw.com.
Ashley Ligas | Estate Planning | Law | Families and Children | Tampabay News
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