Albuquerque Estate Planning Lawyers
Providing Peace of Mind
Estate planning seems like it only needs to be done if you have a large estate. However, anyone who has property or who might need someone to take over in the event of incapacity, would benefit from setting up an estate plan. A considered, thoughtful plan can allow you to avoid guardian
ship or conservatorship during your lifetime, avoid probate at your death and avoid delays in distributing your estate to loved ones. At Maxwell Gilchrist, we can provide guidance to help you develop the best plan for you and your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity. You will gain peace of mind once you prepare an estate plan as you have provided guidance and minimized the stress of settling your estate upon your death.
Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Yes, you need an estate plan. In fact, an estate plan is so important that the State of New Mexico has put a plan in place for you. Upon your death, if you do not have an estate plan, then the Court will appoint a personal representative and your property will distributed as set forth in the New Mexico intestate (without a will) statute. If you do not name a financial agent or a healthcare agent, you are relying upon the New Mexico courts to name one for you. You do, however, have a choice in how you want your state administered and to whom you leave your property. You also have a choice to name a financial agent and healthcare agent who can act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. At Maxwell Gilchrist, our Albuquerque estate planning lawyer can assist you and your family with the following life events:
Planning for Incapacity
In the event that you become incapacitated, you will need to have another person manage your affairs. In New Mexico, a community state, if your spouse is a joint owner (most likely) of your financial assets, then your spouse should be able to manage the community property on your behalf. However, what happens if you are not married, but in a long term relationship? What happens if you are single? In those cases, if an agent is not named, then the party seeking to manage your financial affairs will need to ask the court to appoint a conservator (a financial agent) to act on your behalf. Prior to appointing a conservator, the person seeking to manage your financial affairs will need to have the court find you are incompetent. Once you are found to be incompetent, then the a conservator will be appointed to manage your financial affairs. This can be a costly and an emotionally draining situation for your loved ones. This process may cause conflict within your family.
You can avoid the conservatorship process by appointing an agent and ideally, a successor agent. You will be able to name someone you trust to manage your finances, including paying your bills, taking distributions from your retirement accounts, selling your real estate and managing the bank accounts. A will does not provide this power to your agent as a will only becomes effective upon death. Our Albuquerque estate planning attorneys can guide you in determining who to name as
Preparing for Medical Decisions
In addition to naming a financial agent, it is important to name a healthcare agent. An advanced healthcare directive allows you to name someone you trust, such as a close friend or a family member, to make medical decisions on your behalf , to speak to your medical providers and receive and review your medical records in the event that you are incapacitated. The New Mexico advanced healthcare directive also includes instructions to your agent regarding your preferred medical treatments as well as direction on life-prolonging measures in the event that you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill. Although these are not easy things to think or speak about, it is vital to your family’s peace of mind that you provided guidance on end-of-life decisions. Our Albuquerque estate planning lawyers will guide through the advanced healthcare directive and take the time to discuss the various options available.
Minimizing the Probate Process
Most our estate planning clients believe that a will avoids probate. Unfortunately, a will, by itself, does not avoid probate. It can make the process more easy and simple for your family. Probate is the court process in which title that is held in your name is transferred to your estate and then distributed, either as is specified in a will, or a trust, or by New Mexico’s plan for you. The probate court will be involved in the process until your estate is settled and distributed. This can be expensive and time consuming. If you do decide to rely solely on a will, make sure that your spouse and/or your children have immediate access to cash to pay bills and other living expenses while the estate is being probated. It can weeks, months or even years before the estate funds are fully settled and distributed. Our Albuquerque estate planning lawyers can help advise you with the proper tools, based on your unique situation, which may avoid probate and allowing your assets to be transferred quickly, privately and inexpensively.
Providing for Minor Children
If you have minor children, it is imperative that you prepare an estate plan that addresses their physical and financial care. Parents with young children may want to consider a plan which could alleviate work burdens on the surviving spouse so that the surviving spouse could devote more time to the children. Parents with minor children also need to plan what will happen to the minor children should both parents die at the same time or within a short time of each other. This worst case plan should include those who you want to raise your children (a guardian) as well should manage the assets left to the minor child (conservator). If you do not name a guardian and/or a conservator, a person that you may not want could be appointed to act on behalf of your minor children. If you do not take the time to name a guardian and/or a conservator, then a court will be forced to decide for you. You know who would best raise your children if you were unable to do so. Give yourself peace of mind, knowing that your children will be protected by someone you know and trust by preparing a comprehensive estate plan with our Albuquerque estate planning lawyers.
Estate Planning is So Much More than Preparing Documents
Your estate plan will be set forth in the various documents addressing some of the issues discussed above. However, estate planning has an emotional element and you may not have considered the various scenarios that can arise in the event of your incapacity or death. At Maxwell Gilchrist, our estate planning lawyers will sit down with you to discuss your goals and your fears as well as your current assets so that we will be able to guide you in designing a plan that will work for you and your family.