As a will and trust lawyer in Orange County, I realize that there are many reasons why people put off estate planning. Some think that being young and healthy means they won’t need to worry about drafting up a will anytime soon. Others are just too uncomfortable thinking about what would happen to their spouse and children if they died. But even people who are still young and in good health should have an estate plan established. This is especially true for those who are first responders or working in law enforcement.
When you regularly face dangerous situations as part of your career, you’re taking risks that could change your family forever. Even though you don’t start your day thinking that you could be injured or killed, it is still a good idea to be prepared for that possibility. Having an estate plan in place will help ensure that your family is protected.
As with any estate plan, the first step is to create a basic Will and name an executor, who is the person tasked with overseeing your affairs. Your next step will be to make arrangements to provide for your loved ones, including setting up a trust. Your estate plan should also include directions for managing your healthcare and finances if you should happen to become incapable of making decisions for yourself.
Choosing an Executor for Your Estate
The person you choose as the executor of your estate will be in charge of overseeing your final affairs. They will be the one paying your bills, valuing and distributing your assets, and hiring an attorneys or financial advisors. Ideally, your executor should be someone who you trust and someone who is willing and capable of taking on these responsibilities.
Naming a Guardian for Your Children
If you have minor or disabled children, it’s important to choose someone as their guardian. Typically, the child’s surviving parent will continue to care for the child. However, if the other parent is incapable of doing so or if something happens to both of you, that role will belong to someone else. By naming a guardian yourself, you’ll keep that decision from falling into the court’s hands.
Leaving Instructions for Asset Distribution
Every state has different laws when it comes to how assets are distributed. Typically, the assets will go to the surviving spouse. Some states, however, have complicated laws about how your assets will be given to or used for your children, especially when the surviving spouse dies. In order to make sure that your children will be properly provided for, you’ll need to discuss your wishes with your estate planning attorney in order to come up with a plan that is in line with your intentions and with your state’s laws.
Setting Up a Trust for Children and Choosing a Trustee
Setting up a trust allows you to have some control over how your children’s inheritance will be managed. You’ll also be able to hand select a trustee who will be responsible for overseeing your children’s money as their needs arise through the years. A trust can also stop the funds from being distributed outright to your children when they turn 18, so that the resources they need for the future are lost or squandered due to financial and personal immaturity.
A Plan for Disability
First responders are often at risk of serious injury, and there’s always the chance that those injuries could lead to temporary or permanent disability. Your estate plan should include your wishes regarding who will make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. This is usually a close relative or trusted friend. Married couples often choose their spouse, but you may also want to name another person in case your spouse is unable to make those decisions for any reason. Whoever you choose, make sure you have the appropriate documentation in place, including power of attorney and HIPAA authorizations.
Evaluating Your Insurance Needs
During the estate planning process, review your insurance policies and make sure that they’re going to meet your needs and your family’s needs. Life insurance policies for both you and your spouse should be enough to replace the loss of income. You may also want to add coverage to cover your children’s education expenses in case they decide to go to college. Insurance policies for short-term and long-term disability are also important.
Don’t make the mistake of putting off your estate planning because you think you don’t need it or you can’t afford it. As a first responder, you know how quickly things can change. Life-altering situations can happen in an instant. Plan for your family’s future today and give yourself the peace of mind in knowing that your family will be protected. If you need help getting started, contact our Newport Beach law firm at (949) 260-1400 to schedule an appointment with a will and trust lawyer in Orange County.