Non-financial issues in estate planning

Many people in Georgia see estate planning as arranging for the transfer of physical assets and financial accounts. To a large extent, that vision is correct. Planning for post-death transfers of property is the main reason for creating an estate plan.

While wills, trusts and powers of attorney are being considered, however, the estate planning client can take the opportunity to finalize their last wishes in a number of other areas. Sometimes, this is referred to as the 'soft side" of estate planning. Living wills and health care powers of attorney play their roles in this side of planning, but there are more issues the client may wish to consider.

Final burial arrangements are usually made at this time. Some may opt for a funeral and burial trust or a pre-paid funeral plan. Others may choose to spell out their final arrangement plans with their estate planning attorney. In these cases, the client can dictate the nature of the final ceremony.

Final disposition of personal items may also be addressed at this time. Often, if there are family mementos or particularly sentimental items, they can be transferred by a separate document outside the will or gifted during the lifetime.

End of life and long-term disability plans are also important considerations. Here, the decision goes beyond being kept alive by mechanical means. The client should give thought to whether they prefer long-term care in a nursing facility or at home. Guardianship, in a loose sense, can go beyond care for minor children. The client can give consideration for taking care of a beloved pet and providing funds for the pet's care.

A detailed conference with an estate planning attorney is a good first step in addressing these issues. Usually, the lawyer will provide additional food for thought and identify other areas the client may not have considered.

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