People in Western Pennsylvania of all ages and states of life can benefit from at least some basic estate planning.

Far from being a necessity only for the wealthiest people, estate planning actually is critical for a broad cross-section of our region’s population. Here are just a few examples:

Guardianships

If a person is the parent of a minor child, then he or she may want to make a will for the sole purpose of nominating a guardian for his or her child.

This is particularly true when the child’s parents are living their lives together.

Even if they don’t have lots of assets to leave their children, the appointment of the guardian in a will still allow the parents to have a choice as to who will care for their children and provide for their needs.

If the child does happen to inherit assets, the law will most likely require that a guardian with the authority to act on the child’s behalf manage these assets until the child comes of age.

In Pennsylvania, people are allowed to appoint guardians via their wills. This means that even those couples in their forties, or even younger, may have a compelling reason to make out a will if they still have children in the home.

While they are at it, they may wish to prepare a power of attorney and health care proxy, as well as other estate planning documents, in one sitting.

Planning for a nursing home stay

In some cases, the idea behind an effective estate plan will be legally to dispose of one’s assets in a way that allows them to qualify for Medicaid.

More and more people need the help of nursing homes as they get on in years, yet costs have skyrocketed.  Without planning, even Pennsylvanians with significant assets will face the awful prospect of watching it all go to healthcare bills before they can qualify for Medicaid.

Medicaid planning takes some careful thought.

For one, a family will have to consider what to do with all of its property, even property like stocks, jointly held real estate, retirement funds and other property that does not usually get distributed under the terms of a will.

Moreover, mistakes in the Medicaid planning process could lead to serious consequences, including the inability of a family to find affordable nursing home care.

This is just one additional reason why people who think they have modest estates need to plan ahead.