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Electronic wills are likely to play a large role in future estate plans. The ability to both create and store a document align has greatly facilitated the creation of estate plans. The Uniform Law Commission also recently passed the Uniform Electronic Wills Act, which has greatly influenced how many states approach electronic wills. If you’re interested in creating an electronic will or are deciding whether an electronic will is a good idea for you, this article reviews some important issues that you should consider. 

Whether Electronic Wills Are A Good Idea

While many people wondered what parts of the estate planning process could be done electronically, this question has only become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Millennials as well as many younger individuals often find it an antiquated and outdated idea to physically sign a will. These individuals often question why if so many tasks can be performed electronically, why creating an estate plan can also not be done in such a manner. Consequently, electronic wills are playing a more common role in estate plans.

While the coronavirus pandemic has left many people uncertain about what the future holds, now might be an excellent time to take advantage of a historically low tax environment.  Although it is unclear how long rates created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will remain low, remember that many provisions of this Act will automatically expire in 2026 provided Congress does not act to prolong them. With the matter of how these regulations will be handled uncertain, whoever wins the US election in several weeks will likely play a role in influencing the outcome of these regulations.

Due to uncertainty about how long the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will remain in place, many people are taking advantage of both the high lifetime gift as well as estate tax exemptions to pass on assets to loved ones. Although there are many ways that high exemptions can be utilized, one of the best ways to make the most of these exemptions is through the use of a Spousal Lifetime Access Trust.

The Role of Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts

Special needs trusts perform the valuable role of keeping a person eligible for government benefits like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) while also paying for services in addition to what the government can offer. If you make the decision to establish a special needs trust for a loved one, many assets will likely be placed in the trust only after you pass away. To transfer these assets, there are several commonly used methods including living trusts, will, and other types of beneficiary designations. This article reviews several of the estate planning tools most commonly used to transfer property to a special needs trust.

# 1 – Beneficiary 

Many different types of financial accounts including retirement plans like 401(ks) and IRAs, life insurance, and securities allow a person to assign a beneficiary of the assets. This beneficiary then receives the funds following the owner’s death. By assigning a special needs trust as a beneficiary, it is possible to pass on an asset without subjecting it to probate. Remember, you must list the special needs trust rather than your special needs loved one as the beneficiary. If you list your loved one as a beneficiary, this could end up jeopardizing their receipt of Medicaid or SSI.

The field of estate planning involves various types of documents. While some of these documents have long-recognized roles, people have less exposure to others and are more uncertain about the role they can play in estate plans. One commonly asked question is what the difference is between power of attorney and guardianship forms. While these documents can function similarly in some situations, they are vastly different in others. As a result, this article considers the relationship between guardianship and power of attorney documents.

The Role of Guardianship

Guardianship refers to a legal relationship established where a court assigns a person the legal right to make decisions for another individual who cannot make these choices on their own. Most times, the family member, friend, or other individual seeking guardianship files a petition in Probate Court in the county where the “ward” lives. A medical examination by a physician is often required to establish this person’s condition. If it is decided that the individual can meet essential requirements involving health or safety, the court will appoint a guardian to make decisions for this individual. Additional details about the guardianship system in New York can be found in Article 81 of the state’s Mental Hygiene Law. 

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, scientists at Harvard and the University of Wisconsin determined that within the three month periods after a spouse dies, the odds that the other will pass away during this period is between 30 to 90 percent. 

As a result, each year, many couples find themselves in a similar situation. While the spouses recognize the advantage of creating an estate plan, they fail to do so. Other times, spouses create an estate plan but fail to adequately update it as time passes. To better prepare spouses for how to handle an estate plan in such a situation, this article reviews some critical issues on how to approach estate planning as a surviving spouse.

# 1 – Recognize Common Challenges

While it would be nice if it were, estate planning is not a once and done process. Instead, it is important to routinely review the terms of your estate plan to make sure that it is capable of achieving your goals. Reviewing estate planning documents is particularly important nowadays, during a time of low-interest rates and high exemptions which are likely to change in the not-so-distant future. 

Fortunately, it is possible to create estate planning strategies that allow assets to be transferred in a way that makes the most of these terms. If you are interested in making the most of your estate plan and positioning your loved ones in the best possible manner after you pass away, you should continue reading because this article reviews some important strategies that will likely have a significant influence on your estate.

# 1 – Exemptions Are At An All-Time High

Estate planning is vital if you want to leave a lasting legacy to your loved ones. Despite its importance, a survey by Caring.com, however, revealed that the number of adults in the United States than ever before are engaging in estate planning. The study found a 25% decrease in the number of individuals that have wills or similar documents since 2017. Remember, estate plans are not made for the creator, but instead are created for the benefit of your loved ones and among other advantages can avoid placing your family members and friends in the difficult position of making healthcare decisions for you in case you end up incapacitated. In the hopes of getting you started on writing an estate plan today, this article reviews 5 fast facts to remember about estate planning.

# 1 – Estate Planning Is for Everyone

Estate planning exists to protect both the creator as well as loved ones in case of incapacity or death. Despite what some people think, estate planning is not only for the wealthy. If you own any type of assets or are interested in having a say in the type of healthcare that you receive if you become incapacitated, estate planning is worth utilizing. While estate planning can be utilized to make decisions about the healthcare you receive and who will receive your assets, many people overlook estate planning because it can be difficult to face your mortality, particularly during a global pandemic.

While some people are still debating the outcome of the 2020 election, it is extremely likely that Joseph R Biden Jr. 

will be the next President of the United States. As President, Biden and his administration will likely attempt to pass new regulations that remove some estate planning opportunities to raise revenue to pay for costs associated with things like increasing assistance during the pandemic. While it is only possible to speculate at the moment, this article discusses some of the most likely changes during the administration that individuals should consider while estate planning.

# 1 – Exemption Amounts Will Be Reduced

While ninety percent of American businesses are family owned, only about thirty percent of them continue to the next generation. Half of those again make it to the third generation. The most common reason: lack of a business succession plan.
There are many reasons owners fail to plan. In addition to confronting the issues of age and mortality, the business owner also faces potentially giving up his or her life’s work – often a venture started, nurtured and grown by him or her over many years.
Business succession planning should start while the entrepreneur is young enough to spend time monitoring the next generation, be it family or otherwise. Around the age of sixty should allow enough time, say five to ten years, for the process to begin and develop.

Elder Law Estate Planning is an area of law that helps us maintain control of our lives and assets in four basic areas.

First, Elder Law is planning for disability which includes naming people who will make decisions for us if we become incapacitated. You choose the people who will act on your behalf and thereby avoid the government taking over your life in a “guardianship proceeding.” Wills do not provide for disability because they are plans for death. Living trusts, on the other hand, name trustees who manage trust affairs during incapacity. Other necessary disability planning documents include a Power of Attorney that names people who make financial and legal decisions, a Health Care Proxy that names people who will make medical decisions and a Living Will that expresses end of life decisions such as resuscitation.

Second, another protection of Elder Law is asset protection planning from the costs of long-term care. Plan A to protect assets from long-term care and nursing home costs is to buy long-term care insurance. If you do not have long-term care insurance, Plan B is the Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) that protects trust assets from nursing home costs paid for by Medicaid after the assets are in the trust for five years. The MAPT protects assets from home care costs paid for by Medicaid after the assets are in the trust for two and a half years.

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