What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning addresses the management and disposition of your assets (e.g. money, investments, real property), support for you and your loved ones, and end of life decisions. A sound estate plan keeps all your options on the table in case of your incapacity or death. For example, an estate plan covers the transfer of your wealth to your desired inheritors. The plan makes sure you and your family are taken care of according to your wishes. With the right plan, you maintain control of your assets and your health care and end of life options. Remember, if you don’t have an estate plan, the state will make choices for you.
When Do You Need an Estate Plan?
Most people only address estate planning when they are older and have a catastrophic health issue. It would be safer to create an estate plan much earlier. For example, anyone with children should have an estate plan. New York State law says if you are married, have kids and you decease, your spouse would receive half your assets and your children would receive the other half. The right estate plan makes sure you have a trust in place your children. With a trust, their inheritance helps them with tuition, housing, and similar needs as they grow and mature. Without that trust, the courts get involved in a controlling and restrictive manner.
What are the Key Elements of an Estate Plan?
Estate Plans may be elaborate, but they should contain these key elements.
- A Last will and testament that specifies how you want your assets distributed after you decease.
- A Power of Attorney that names a trusted individual to make legal decisions for you if you are not able to speak for yourself
- A Health Care Proxy that names trusted individual to make health care treatment decisions for you if you are not able to speak for yourself
- A Living Will that indicates whether you are to be kept alive by artificial means if you are unable to speak for yourself
- Do not Resuscitate Order (DNR) that tells health care providers not to revive you if your heartbeat and respiration stop. *
- A Medical Order Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) that tells health care providers which life sustaining treatments they should or should not provide, if you cannot tell them. Examples are “I do not wish to be intubated” or “I do not wish to be transfused.” There are many other possible life sustaining therapies that can be listed in your MOLST.
* These elements of your estate plan are prepared by your physician after consultation with you.
Your Plan Should Evolve
An estate plan is not a “set and forget” proposition. Instead, it should live and evolve with you. Over time, your family may grow, and your life circumstances may change. Therefore, your estate plan might transition from “how do we make sure the kids are protected?” to “how do we make sure we are taken care of?” However, it is not just changing life circumstances that drive estate plan evolution. Laws covering inheritance, taxation, and end of life options may change. Being proactive with your estate plan is your best defense against unexpected and unwanted interference with your wishes.
Estate Planner Skills
Estate Planning is a legal specialization demanding a complex amalgam of skills. So, it is critical to select an attorney who focuses on estate planning, rather than one who writes the occasional will. For example, a comprehensive estate plan includes tax planning, Medicare planning, and ensures these elements are properly integrated.
Sometimes wills are contested. So, find an estate planning attorney who also does Surrogate’s Court litigation. A Surrogate’s Court litigator understands attacks on wills and how to avoid or mitigate them.
Finally, life in the information age demands your estate planner use modern cutting-edge technology. This drastically reduces redundant manual efforts and focuses on getting you results without wasting time and money.
Estate Planning Tips
In this complex field, there are a few good rules to remember.
A failure to plan is a plan to fail. If you have no estate plan, the state will take actions you may not want.
With Medicaid “the sooner the better” is the best rule. The time to plan your asset distribution is when you are well. Once you become ill, it is more difficult to shield your assets.
Young families may not yet have an estate, but they do need a plan. Pick a guardian for your children in your estate plan. Your wishes will be respected, and you will avoid a family fight about who cares for the kids.
How Should You Find Your Estate Planner?
If you do not yet have an estate planner, reach out to the trusted advisors you do have. Your accountant and / or your financial advisor are good sources of recommendation. These experts already know you and are present for the important events in your financial life. Another sound approach is to ask someone who has had a great experience with an estate planner. Remember, you will be building a relationship with your estate planner that will last a lifetime and beyond. So, choose wisely.
At Sheryll Law, P.C., we receive most of our recommendations from trusted advisors and happy clients. Our clients come to us from all over the NY Metropolitan area with a focus on the East End of Long Island. About 50% are retirees. Some have done estate planning before, but their concerns have changed as their lives have evolved. Many now want Medicaid planning or tax planning. We encourage planning early, so we get you the best results. However, if you wait to the last minute, we can still improve your outcome.
Begin Your Estate Planning Today
Why is today a good day to begin? Life is unpredictable and full of uncertainties. Anything can happen any time. No, we can’t avoid the unexpected, but we can plan for it.
Think about Medicaid planning for Nursing Home reimbursement. Nursing Homes stays are costly, and Medicaid reimbursement only begins when your assets are nearly exhausted. Medicaid uses a five-year lookback window to see whether you have made any asset gifts. If you have done so, you will be penalized on reimbursement. However, if you begin your estate planning early, your assets will be fully preserved.
Power of Attorney is another good example. If you become incapacitated with no power of attorney in place, prospective guardians must bring a guardianship procedure to the court. This is expensive and invasive. To answer the procedure, the court will appoint an attorney and a referee to ensure you need a guardian. With a Power of Attorney, this is all avoided.
Delay Adds Risk
What are the risks of doing nothing or delaying action? The main risks are loss of assets, loss of control, and family strife. For example, without a health care proxy, your children could fight for control of your healthcare decision-making, while you are unable to speak for yourself. These stressful situations often bring back the worst of the family problems from the past. If you deceased with no will in place, your family might devolve into open conflict, destroying the family for good.
Take the First Step Now
Reach out and contact an attorney you are considering and schedule an appointment. At Sheryll Law, P.C., when you contact us, we provide you with an intake questionnaire and schedule a no-cost first call. Spend a free hour, give us the basic information that would inform your estate plan, and you will receive a flat-fee quote for the estate plan. Then you may retain Sheryll Law, P.C. and get things rolling.
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How Estate Planning Helped Two Parents
Some years ago, a mother and father, both professionals, did create a HEMS trust (Health, Education maintenance, and Support) for their minor child. Sadly, the parents were killed in a head-on car crash in Wading River. NY, thereby activating the trust. The trust plan paid for the child’s schooling and the child’s first apartment. The plan’s trustee had broad discretion to make those distributions to benefit the child, without going to the court for permission.
If no trust plan were in place, the court would have acted conservatively, trying to keep all the child’s money amassed until the child turned 18. The trust plan avoided annual accountings to the court, requests to spend funds, and similar actions. Your trustee could be a family designee or an attorney. Remember, part of trust planning is to identify successors for trustees, as they may decease or become incapacitated during the life of the trust.
How Electronic Assets Change Estate Planning
Perhaps the greatest change in the past decade has been the pervasiveness of an individual’s presence online, and the acquisition of electronic assets. Federal laws and state laws may overlap concerning electronic assets. Distribution of Bitcoins and similar electronic currencies must be handled correctly. Turning off your LinkedIn profile, terminating your Facebook presence, and removing your photos from Snapchat all must be addressed in your estate plan. At Sheryll Law, P.C., we stay on top of the newest cases from the federal and state government, protecting you and your estate as situations change.
Why Sheryll Law, P.C. Should Be Your Estate Planner
No one can foresee the future, but we do our best to plan for it. Sheryll Law, P.C. offers “white glove”, hands on estate planning that protects you. We deliver our services at a reasonable cost and we will find a cost structure that will work for you. If we can estimate a cost under our control, we offer a flat fee. So, most of our work is on a flat fee basis rather than transactional billing. That way, you don’t feel the clock is running every time you speak with us. If necessary, payment plans are a possible option. We use technology to avoid meaningless redundant manual work.
Get Peace of Mind with Your Sheryll Law, P.C. Estate Plan
Are you ready for the peace of mind that comes with an estate plan from Sheryll Law, P.C.? Are you ready to meet the trusted advisor who will make all this possible? You know it’s time to speak with us. Contact us now and get started on that peaceful feeling.