Why is an estate plan important?

An estate plan allows you to decide how matters will be handled if you are no longer able to make your own decisions.  An estate plan is important both while you are alive and after you pass away.  You can name the person who will be in charge of your financial and legal decisions while you are alive but no longer able to make or communicate your own decisions.  This person will be called your attorney-in-fact or durable power of attorney.  You can also name the person that doctors will look to when medical decisions must be made and you can no longer make them.  This is called your health care proxy.  When the time comes, your estate plan will also designate your personal representative, the person who you want to handle your affairs after your death.  That person will gather your assets, pay any debts and distribute your assets as you wish.  If you do not make these plans ahead of time, your loved ones must ask the probate court to name someone to make these decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  In addition, if you have not made proper arrangements, the state will determine how your assets will be distributed among your loved ones after you pass away, and it may not be the way you wish.