Biloxi Estate Planning Lawyers Guiding Clients Through the Estate Planning Process in Biloxi, MS
Estate planning may be perceived as a difficult and expensive process reserved only for those with large estates and high net worth. However, estate planning is an important step for everyone, regardless of their income status or age. Here are a few important answers to common estate planning questions our attorneys receive on a daily basis.
What Exactly Is an Estate and Why Is Estate Planning Important?
An estate is all the property you own at the time of death. Some people may have a complex estate with numerous real estate properties, investment accounts, and expensive collections of artwork or jewelry, while others may simply own a home, a vehicle, and a handful of personal items. Regardless of how big or small your estate may be, all real property and personal property you owned at the time of death is counted as your ‘estate’.
Estate planning is a set of documents and strategies that allow you to accomplish multiple goals. The main goal of estate planning is to provide you with a way of controlling how your assets should be divided among your beneficiaries after you pass away. But asset distribution is not all that estate planning can do. The right estate plans can help you accomplish a variety of goals – from reducing your tax liability to keeping your assets out of probate and more. Without estate plans, you will be leaving a number of important decisions up to your family members and, most often, up to a probate judge. In addition, you could inadvertently be opening your estate to excessive taxation that could have been minimized through estate planning.
Is It Mandatory for Me to Have a Will in Mississippi?
Having a will is not mandatory in Mississippi, and the same applies to the rest of the country. However, not having a will could prove to be a risky proposition for many individuals. A will is an essential part of estate planning because it allows you to have a legal record of your wishes for how your property should be divided among beneficiaries, who those beneficiaries are, and whether you have decided to disinherit a certain member of your family.
In addition, your will can include your wishes for who should be your personal representative as well as a guardian designation for your minor children, should you unexpectedly pass away before they are 21. The process of distributing your assets without a will (intestate probate) is considerably more laborious and time-consuming than probating an estate with a valid will. So while you are not required to leave a will, doing so may spare your loved ones from unnecessary headaches and ensure your property goes to the right beneficiaries.
Can I Include My Pets in My Estate Plans?
We have all heard of notorious headlines talking about fortunes that the rich and famous left for a pet dog or cat. While many people love their pets and consider them to be a part of the family, Mississippi laws still view pets as property, and therefore they cannot inherit anything. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot make plans for your pets and include those plans in your will.
If you are worried about what may happen to your pets when you pass away, you may include instructions in your will that name a family member, friend, or another trusted person to become the new owner of your pets and provide them with everything they need. You can also set aside some money to help with pet-related expenses and specify that these funds are to be given to your pets’ new caretaker and used solely for the benefit of the pets.
How Can Estate Planning Help Me Prepare for Long-Term Care Expenses?
Another aspect of estate planning many people may overlook is long-term care planning. Before passing on your assets to beneficiaries, you want to make sure you have enough to take care of your own needs while you are still alive without draining all your wealth in the process. Many people find themselves in need of long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility as they age. Such facilities are notorious for their high costs.
Estate planning can help you be prepared should the need for long-term care arise in your later years. Not only can it help you preserve your wealth, but it can also provide a way to leverage federal benefits and programs such as Medicaid without risking losing part or all of your estate when it is time to pay back your long-term care bills. If you are concerned about having to pay for long-term care or simply want to be ready, speak to an estate planning attorney as soon as possible.
Do I Need an Attorney to Write My Estate Plans?
Working with an estate planning attorney is not mandatory for the process of writing your estate plans, but it may be extremely important to ensure you are getting the right estate planning tools and documents to suit your needs and that those documents and tools will work as intended. Regardless of the size of your estate, an attorney can help you understand your options and make the right choices to help preserve your wealth and pass it down to the next generation.
At Rundlett Law Firm, PLLC, our estate planning attorneys have the knowledge and skills to help make the estate planning process easy to understand and navigate. If you are thinking about creating or updating your estate plans, contact our Biloxi office at (228) 338-1515 to learn your options.