Life works best when you call the shots. But in your absence, who can you trust to make the right decisions?
In the event of your death or incapacity, other people must make judgements on your behalf. Without a plan, control of your health and money might fall into incompetent hands.
With help from an estate planning attorney, you can be assured that these important decisions will be carried out according to your wishes
Learn how a few legal documents and a little forethought can protect your legacy.
1. Financial Incapacity. If you are unable to make decisions regarding your money, who will make them for you? In the United States, there are no default provisions. If you do not have a Power of Attorney, then no one has the right to act on your behalf, and the decision falls to a judge.
2. Health Incapacity. If you are unable to make your own decisions regarding your health, they automatically fall to the doctors administering your care, unless you have a Health Care proxy. This document states your wishes in the event of your incapacity, and names an agent of your choice who can act on your behalf. If the doctors do not see a Health Care proxy, they will do everything possible to prolong your life, regardless of your prior wishes.
3. Will. How would you like to distribute your money after you die? If there are children, friends, charities, spouses, or other entities you want to receive a piece of your financial pie, a Will is an absolute must. Without a will, the rules of your State determine the distribution.
4. Trust. Sometimes, a Will is not enough to distribute your money wisely. A Trust is a plan for more specific conditions. Do you have a special needs child? Are you trying to protect your assets from creditors? Are you planning for long term care? Is there a charitable project that you would like to continue supporting? All of these require different types of Trusts.
5. Long Term Care Planning. Even if you’ve saved for end of life care, these funds can dry up quickly. For example, if you ever require 24 hour care at home, it will cost about $15,000 a month. Medicare and private insurances won’t pay for it. Medicaid does – but you need to be poor enough to qualify. There are several steps that you can take to ensure that you and your family are protected in the event of your long term illness.
6. Taxes. Do you own low basis real estate? Or perhaps a privately held business that is hard to value? Do you own assets in other countries? All of these require different types of planning to ensure an efficient tax structure. You can save hundreds of thousands of dollars simply by planning properly.
7. Irresponsibility planning. Did your daughter marry a man who spends more than he makes? Is your son more interested in becoming a gambler than pursuing a more stable career? Are you concerned your spouse might remarry after your death and squander all of your children’s inheritance? There are multiple ways of protecting your assets from the bad judgment of other people.
Think of estate planning as preventative care. Just as you make regular appointments to see the doctor or dentist to prevent big health problems down the road, an estate planning attorney can provide you with peace of mind. Don’t leave decisions about your health and financial legacy to chance.
Katya Sverdlov, CFA, Esq. is an attorney focusing exclusively on estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, and probate. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Katya spent twelve years working for several top Wall Street financial companies. Katya can be reached at SverdlovLaw.com, 212-709-8112, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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