Specifying your wishes in Estate planning and what are your options

Written by Andrew Osterland adapted by AEPA

Estate planning 101

Person going over the do’s and don’ts of estate planning.


  1. You don’t have to be older and rich to start estate planning. In fact, the earlier you start, the better.
  2. Estate planning “involves relatively simple documents, but I’ve seen some horror stories when people don’t address the situation adequately,” said certified financial planner Sheryl Garrett, founder of The Garrett Planning Network.
  3. Key actions are drawing up a will and living will, as well as a health-care power of attorney, and designating your beneficiaries.
  4. You don’t have to be older and rich to do some estate planning. In fact, regardless of age and wealth, experts say virtually everyone should consider how they want their assets distributed upon their death and what decisions will be made by whom if they are unable to make those decisions later in life.
  5. For the sake of yourself — and, more importantly, your loved ones getting your estate and health-care directives in order can prevent a lot of emotional pain and suffering down the road.
  1. “A lot of people think they can do their estate planning later, but that’s not always the case,” said Sheryl Garrett, a certified financial planner and founder of the Garrett Planning Network in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. “It involves relatively simple documents, but I’ve seen some horror stories when people don’t address the situation adequately.”


Some of the important estate-planning issues to consider sooner rather than later.


Drawing up your will

A will details how you wish your assets to be distributed after you die. “A will is a simple slam dunk for most people,” Garrett said. The form requires you to appoint an executor of your estate and an alternative executor if your first choice is unable to fulfill the role. It requires details of who is to receive which assets and whether there are any conditions that need to be met before beneficiaries receive their inheritance, such as minors reaching a certain age first. “The most important thing is to name a guardian if you have dependent children,” Garrett explained. “It is easiest if one person is executor of the will and the guardian of dependents, but it doesn’t always make sense. “It may be better to have one person take care of dependents while another manages the resources to take care of them.” A common misconception many married people have been that, without a will, all assets and investments go to their spouse. That is often not the case. “State law often dictates that if there is no will, the state will provide one and, in many cases, assets are evenly split among all heirs.” “If you wanted all your assets to go to your spouse or children, other heirs may contest that wish if you don’t have a will.”

Designating your beneficiaries

One cheap and simple alternative to the execution of a will in court is to set up beneficiary designations for your specific assets. You can do that with everything from bank accounts to investment accounts, personal property and real estate. It removes those assets from the estate and reduces the cost of settling the estate in court. “Most middle-class Americans can cover almost everything of value with beneficiary designations.  “It’s cheaper and makes things go easier.”

Your health-care power of attorney

Choosing a person to make health-care decisions for you is critical if you become unable to do so. A health-care power of attorney allows someone to empower another person as agent to make those decisions. You can choose anyone, but make sure you trust them deeply. The health-care power of attorney also enables you to detail healthcare and medical treatments you may not want under different circumstances. Your health-care agent will be required to follow those wishes. “Most people want to be in control instead of leaving these decisions to loved ones. “Do them a favor and do it yourself with relatively simple documents to fill out. “You can update them if you change your mind later about anything.” It is crucial that your health-care agent, as well as your doctor, has a signed copy of the Power Of Attorney document.

Specify your wishes in a living will

Similar to the health-care power of attorney, a living will provides directions for life-saving treatments you may or may not want under different circumstances. Your health-care agent will be tasked with ensuring that your wishes are followed. A “do not resuscitate,” or DNR, order is a separate document that is part of a living will that describes under what conditions you would not want life-saving treatments. It is important to be aware that health-care institutions often require that people fill out their own in-house forms regarding health-care directives. Also try to ensure that your health-care agent can in theory be present if you are admitted to a hospital emergency room, so their authority is immediately recognized. It is thought that living wills are the most important things to address because they kick in while you’re alive,” said Garrett, who lost her spouse six months ago. “The rest of the stuff applies when you’re dead.”

Lawyers will cost you anywhere from $100 to $400 per hour. Many offer a package price to have all these documents prepared for you. Simple wills should not require more than a couple of hours to draft with complicated estates requiring a couple of hours more.

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Contact our office to help assist you in getting these documents prepare. We can be reached at (256) 886-2372 or at www.alabamaestateplanningattorneys.com