Many times I have the opportunity to meet with people who confirm they recently had their estate plan done prior to meeting with me.  When I ask them who did their plan, the most common answer is “my financial advisor.”  Most people are unclear what estate planning is.  To clarify, estate planning can only be done by an attorney while financial advisors focus on the important financial aspect of your estate plan.  Your financial professionals support you with all the assets you accumulate.  

Estate planning is the legal documents to ensure three primary objectives. First, who is in control of your stuff, second, who gets to benefit from my stuff, and third, when. For example, you will be in control of your stuff and will decide who gets to benefit from your stuff when you are alive and well. When you become disabled, a major question is who is in control of your stuff and who gets to benefit from your stuff. The proper legal documents identify who you want to be in control and who can benefit.  These same issues continue after you die. Who is in control of your stuff after you die and who gets to benefit when you are gone. What if your spouse remarries or goes into a nursing home, your children get divorced or go bankrupt, now who's in control and who gets to benefit from your lifetime of hard work? Estate planning is all about providing for the control of your stuff. 

While looking at your unique situation, make sure your family is protected even when you are not able to do it yourself. Ensure that what you have gets to whom you want, when you want, and the way that you want, by having the proper legal estate planning documents. The best way to do this is by finding a credible elder law attorney. 

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Jay P. Greene, Esquire, CPA, Asset Protection Law Center of the Greene Law Firm, LLC, call (205) 746-2465