Many people reduce the estate planning process to the creation of a simple will. You definitely have to express your wishes with regard to postmortem asset transfers, but there are other things to take into consideration.
Plus, a will is not always the best choice as an asset transfer vehicle. There are different types of trusts that can be used, and you should know your options so you can make informed decisions.
We will look at that subject in another post, but in this one, we will focus on some general estate plan details that many laypeople overlook.
Estate planning and elder law attorneys are forced to share some uncomfortable truths with their clients in an effort to help them prepare for the eventualities of aging or the consequences of unexpected tragedies. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of elders become unable to handle their own affairs at some point in time.
Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of incapacity, and some people become unable to handle their own affairs because of serious medical conditions. If you do nothing to prepare for this possibility, a guardian can be appointed, you could become a ward of the state.
This is not a very pleasant prospect, but you can take the matter into your own hands in advance if you execute the appropriate incapacity planning documents. For medical decision-making, you should execute a device called an advance directive for health care.
One of them is a living will, which is a directive that is used to state your life support preferences. You can itemize each different type of life-support if you choose to do so, and you can add organ and tissue donation, and comfort care medication choices.
There are medical scenarios that are not related to life-support that can arise when you are unable to communicate sound decisions. You can name a representative in a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care who speaks on your behalf to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so.
Financial decision making will also enter the picture. If you use a living trust as your estate plan centerpiece, you would act as the trustee while you are living. In the trust declaration, you can empower a disability trustee to assume the role if it ever becomes necessary due to death or incapacity.
A durable power of attorney for property can be used to name a representative to manage property that is not owned by a trust. There is also a springing durable power of attorney that would only go into effect if you do in fact become incapacitated at some point in time.
Letter of Final Instruction
You should consider the tasks that must be completed after you are gone to bring your wishes to fruition. The executor or trustee has to know how to find and access property that will comprise the estate, and they will need login information for online accounts.
This info can be shared in a letter of final instruction. The letter can also include a list of people that should be notified about your passing along with their contact information.
If there are certain details that you want to express regarding your final arrangements, you can record them in the letter. These are a few considerations, but you simply apply common sense and provide the information that will be needed to administer the estate.
You never know what the future will hold with regard to the people that you have named as beneficiaries. This applies to your will or trust, and you may have insurance policies, an individual retirement account, and/or a payable on death account.
Successor beneficiaries should be named on all of the appropriate forms, because a complicated and potentially contentious situation can arise if the original beneficiary was to pass away.
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If you know that you should work with a Staten Island estate planning lawyer to put a plan in place, there is no time like the present. We can gain an understanding of your situation and help you make the right choices to ensure the appropriate passing of your legacy.
You can schedule a consultation appointment right now if you call us at 332-456-0500, and you can use our contact form if you would rather send us a message.