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                 Clients ask me when they should start estate planning and I always answer that they cannot start too soon. Due to my many years in the military and various deployments to hostile areas, I was taught to always have my plans together in case something happened.  Part of the advice was for my family, but part was for my own peace of mind and the lack of distraction doing a dangerous job.  Having spent many years now handling estates, it never ceases to surprise me to learn of the number of people (much older than me when I deployed) who do not have some kind of planning for the event of their death or incapacity.  Though you may think your net worth, including property, to be modest, there are simple estate plans to care for your family in the event something happens.  This will ensure those loved ones left behind are about to process your estate.  Let me explain.


              Three documents every adult should have executed are a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Health Care Power of Attorney.  The Will can be simple, and solely name the personal representative (PR) who will administer the estate and the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the estate.  It doesn’t need to get specific, and I usually advise clients to consider less specificity.  The more specific, the more chance the Will becomes outdated in a short time.  Leaving it all to a spouse, or all to children in equal shares is quite acceptable.  You should consider identifying a Memorandum that will be left separately from the will to designate specific sentimental type pieces of property and can be done at a much later point than the Will.  The Will should probably have a provision allowing the PR to sell real property without receiving an order of the Court.  Otherwise, a two-page will can work fine for many people and save conflict and confusion for those left behind. 


             Associated with the Will, a Health Care Power of attorney gives peace of mind and can help the family.  This allows another to make end of life decisions in the event you cannot communicate and (to a reasonable degree of medical certainty) will not improve and will eventually succumb.  The person given this authority can make the decision to pull a respirator before the cost eats up all the estate that would go to the family.  It also allows for ending hydration/nutrition (forced feeding) in the same situation. Additionally, executing a Durable Power of Attorney will allow another to handle financial matters even when you are incapacitated and potentially facing end of life.


           Along with this planning is the consideration of ensuring as many non-probate transfers of the estate as are possible.  Ensure that bank accounts have “transfer (payment) on death” provisions.  Ensure that other forms of wealth allow for beneficiaries in the event of death.  If possible, consider transferring real estate during life, but keeping a life estate for yourself.  All this will help keep the probated estate minimal, avoiding potential probate taxes and the headaches that can go with probate.


           Lastly, it is important to work in to estate planning substantial wealth accumulation.  For example, if one has been involved in a vehicle wreck involving a substantial personal injury settlement or verdict, it is important to plan for the transfer at death in a way that makes the most sense for loved ones.  This can also come with other such substantial accumulations.  Plan for what happens if you are no longer around, and your loved ones will someday understand that bit of unselfishness for others.


Last modified on Wednesday, 12 May 2021 11:25

Bill Connor Orangeburg Attorney Bill Connor received his Bachelor of Arts from The Citadel in 1990, and after serving for over a decade as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, including three deployments to the Middle East, he received his Juris Doctorate from The University of South Carolina in 2005. In 2012, Bill was honored to receive an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, the top peer rating for American lawyers. Receiving this rating at such an early point in his career is unheard of among lawyers.