Now that the holiday season is winding down, it’s time to get back to business—and that includes making sure you and your loved ones have your estate plans all set.
If you’ve got older parents or relatives, says Fox 5 NY in its article “Why estate planning is important regardless of your age or wealth,” you’ll need to start having conversations with them about their estate plan. Don’t neglect your own, because whether you’re rich or poor, everyone needs an estate plan.
How can you have a successful conversation, without making your family members feel uncomfortable? The key to a successful discussion depends upon the right approach.
Try to always make suggestions, rather than demands. One great way to start the conversation with family members, is to mention what you're doing. You might say something like, “I just took care of my own estate planning. Have you done anything? Maybe we should talk about it.” That might get the conversation rolling.
Many people believe that, as they get older, they need a will. However, that’s just one piece of the puzzle: core estate planning includes a trust or will, power of attorney, health care proxy and asset protection.
For most of us, the asset we most want to protect is our home. One of the best ways to do that is through an irrevocable trust. This trust may have tax advantages, could protect your home during a healthcare crisis, and protect your home from your children's creditors.
You also need to find people you trust to help with finances and health care. A power of attorney is a legal document in which you grant a person the authority to handle finances on your behalf.
Similarly, a healthcare proxy is an individual who makes healthcare decisions, if you get sick or are in an accident and can't make decisions for yourself.
You can use one person to do both or separate individuals for each role. You can opt for a family member or a trusted friend. However, either way it should probably be a younger person, who won't be dealing with the same aging issues as you.
You should also note that your will doesn't cover everything. Make certain that any beneficiaries designated in your retirement plans or life insurance and any additional names on joint bank accounts are current. The beneficiaries you appointed by a designation form will get the money in those accounts, no matter what it says in your will.
An estate planning attorney will be able to sort through all of your questions and concerns. Your best choice is one in your area, as estate and trust laws are governed by your state’s laws. The attorney’s office will offer guidance as to what you need to bring with you to the first meeting, and may even have a checklist for your convenience.
Rich or poor, everyone needs an estate plan. If you do not have an estate plan, or if your estate plan is out of date, please contact us today.
Reference: Fox 5 NY (December 12, 2018) “Why estate planning is important regardless of your age or wealth”