What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the process of determining to whom and the manner that your assets will be distributed when you die or become incapacitated.
Furthermore, a complete estate plan will include a Power of Attorney to handle you financial and legal matter should you become incapacitate. It should also include a Health Care directive and Health Care Proxy that stipulates who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf and what your wishes are for end-of-life care.
Although estate planning can be a thoughtful and emotional process, most people experience a peace of mind after their estate plan is complete knowing the have protected the ones they love.
What is the benefit of estate planning?
The benefit of estate planning is that it allows you to determine how and to whom your assets are distributed after you die. Without a Will, the state has a default plan that will determine how your assets are distributed which may or may not conform with your wishes. By creating a Will, you can have peace of mind that your asset are distributed to your love ones in accordance with your wishes.
What do I need to plan my estate?
To plan your estate, you simply need to inventory the assets that you own (car, home, cash, stocks, bonds, etc.), and thoughtfully consider to whom you would like to distribute those assets after you pass away. Beneficiaries typically chosen are family, friends, or charitable organizations.
When should I create a Will?
In New York State, you must be 18 years old and have mental capacity to make a Will. Mental capacity is typically defined as being of sound mind, capable of making decisions, and capable of reasoning.
You should create a Will if you own assets such as a car, cash, stock or bonds, or have other material possession that you would like to leave to family or friends in the event of your death. Wills can be very simply, easy to understand documents if written properly. It is also important to know that you can easily update your Will whenever there are important changes in your life, such as divorce, marriage, or birth of a child.
Creating a Will is easy to do and Gregory Law is more than happy to help guide you through the process.
Complete Estate Planning
A complete estate plan includes the following:
A Will directing the disposition of your assets to family and friends after you die.
A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agents to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
A HIPAA Release to allow your family or appointed agents to get information about your physical and medical condition in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself.
An Advance Health Care Directive names a medical decision maker for you and specifies your choices for end-of-life care.
A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint a person to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated.
Additional options consist of a Living Trust, Charitable Trust, Trust for Minors, Life Insurance, Transfer of Death accounts, or strategies to reduce or eliminate estate taxes.
Should I create a Will or a Trust?
I recommend that everyone over the age of 18 with mental capacity have a Will at a minimum. You work hard for the assets that you acquire during your lifetime and creating a Will allows you to decide who you ant to give your assets to when you die. If you die without a Will, each state has a default plan that dictates how your assets will be distributed. This may or may not conform to your wishes. Creating a Will gives you the opportunity to control where your assets go so you can protect the ones you love.
All Wills must go through a probate process where a court will determine the authenticity and validity of your Will. Probate can be a time consuming process (7-9 months in NYS) and has expenses associated with it as well. Furthermore, once a Will is submitted to a probate court, it becomes a public record.
If you prefer to eliminate delay in the distribution of your assets or if you would like to keep the distribution of your assets confidential, you should consider creating a Trust.
There are numerous types of Trust that can be created. Some of the most common forms are as follows: a Revocable Living Trust, a Marital Trust, a Trust for minor children, a Pet Trust, and an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust.
The steps to creating a Trust are very straight forward as delineated below:
- Decide on the type of Trust you want to create.
- Choose a person to act as Trustee to manage the trust if you become incapacitated or pass away.
- Decide who the beneficiaries of the Trust are.
- Decide on the terms of the Trust (i.e. my children should not inherit the money until they reach the age of 21 unless needed for education, medical, or living expenses).
- Fund the Trust
- Sign your Trust documents and store in a safe place.
Protecting Those You Love
Gregory Law can provide simple answers and solutions to difficult questions you may have about your estate. I can also help you design a simple estate plan by creating documents that are easy to understand so you can protect the ones you love. The initial consultation is always free with no obligation, and clients are always quoted a fixed fee prior to the commencement of any services.
That's right - a free consultation from a licensed attorney. About time, right?
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