So, it is safe to say I came into this internship position at or even below the level any client might be at when they are just beginning the estate planning process. As I started preparing for my internship, I quickly learned that estates aren’t just properties. They’re all of your assets, which includes property, but also money, cars, and literally any other thing you own, like jewelry, furniture, and even your Instagram account. Maybe it’s because I’ve never made a large purchase, or because I don’t really own anything of significant value, but I’ve never actually thought about what happens to people’s stuff after they pass. In my family situation, I always just figured everything would be split 50/50 between me and my only sibling. As I’ve learned in the last two weeks working here, however, it’s a lot more complicated than that.
If you want to check out the main page for a more in depth explanation, feel free to do so. But, for the moment, I’m just going to summarize what I’ve picked up both from scrolling through that page and from actually reading and handling the documents that go into estate planning. There are four main areas of estate planning: management, lifetime gifts, gifts at death, and health care. Management involves deciding who you want to manage all of your houses, cars, and jewelry (i.e., your assets) if you ever become unable to manage them yourself during your lifetime. Lifetime gifts refers to deciding who gets what and when while you’re alive. Gifts at death, on the other hand, involves writing down who will get what and when after you pass. Finally, health care refers to who will take care of you shall you ever need care, and who will make health care decisions for you if you ever become unable to.
Ultimately, estate planning is about ensuring you are the one who decides what happens to you and your possessions both during and after your lifetime. Regardless of your age, marital status, or family size, estate planning protects and upholds your decisions on official documents. Something I’ve observed as an intern is the extreme detail and intricacy of those documents. My word of advice for those interested in starting the process? Go to the professionals, in person. Invest in an attorney that you trust will not skip over the details. Names being only slightly misspelled or dates being off by a single day, for instance, can seriously derail the management of your assets, especially after you pass.
As to why you should listen to me, well, like estate planning, that’s also your decision. I just hope that what I shared can make a complex process a little simpler. Thanks for reading and see you next week.