MOST PEOPLE, including lawyers, think of estate planning as something that they can do “later”. Unfortunately for many, “later” often becomes “too late.” Some of the thoughts that may have crossed your mind are that: “I’m going to live for a long time and I’ll get around to it next year;” or “I rather spend my money right now on a new ultra HDTV, and I can wait to do estate planning at another time.”

I believe the whole concept of “estate planning” and the use of the term “estate planning” creates a false sense of security. I prefer to call taking the time necessary to plan for yours and your loved ones’ future by creating the essential tools a “Family Protection Plan”. The five documents I recommend are essential if you have children, grandchildren or any loved one in your life that you want to protect. These documents are as follows:

*  Last Will and Testament

*  Power of Attorney

*  Health Care Surrogate

*  Living Will with a consent to communicate medical information (also know as a HIPAA waiver)

*  Revocable Trust (when appropriate based upon a person’s assets).

Each day that goes by without these documents in place puts them at risk for an unexpected and, sadly, an avoidable tragedy. If you have loved ones, not having a Family Protection Plan is like driving a car with without seatbelts on. You just don’t know when that event will happen when your seatbelt is required that will save your life.

The minefield of do-it-yourself documents.   I would be remiss in not addressing all of the free or discounted legal forms that are available today. You can go into your local office supply store or do a quick search online, and find all the documents that I refer to above. However, you can also find instructions on how to do your own appendectomy or root canal. Again, I don’t recommend performing your own medical or dental procedures and I also don’t recommend you preparing, or rather, attempting to prepare, legal documents that will affect yours and your loved ones’ futures. While the Madison Avenue advertisers make all these documents seem simple and easy to prepare by just filling in the blanks, failure to understand the legal ramifications of each document and not properly setting them up could ultimately lead to a greater tragedy and expense for your family. The courts are filled with lawsuits as a result of incorrectly prepared documents. When you are looking to protect your most important assets, namely your loved ones, risking it all to save a couple of dollars with an online form that you’re unfamiliar with, I respectfully submit, is not in your loved ones’ best interests.

If you would like to learn more about how we can assist you in creating your own Family Protection Plan, please give us a call at 941-206-3700 or e-mail me at mark@martellalaw.com to schedule a complimentary Family Protection Plan consultation.