Many areas of the law are constantly changing based on a variety of factors. Estate planning is no exception, especially given that there are potential changes coming to the United States tax policy under the current administration. One of those potential changes is the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax. For individuals with trusts or considering establishing a trust as part of their comprehensive estate planning strategy, the elimination or restructuring of the estate tax may make people wonder how effective those trusts will be in achieving the goals behind their creation. Even with the potential for such changes, trusts are still an important tool when it comes to comprehensive estate planning that will continue to provide many important benefits like those below.

Avoiding Probate

With or without the estate tax in its current form, trusts can help you avoid the headaches that often come with probate. By creating specific types of trusts to handle various assets and properly assigning such assets to those trusts, you can avoid the need to probate those assets This can save time and money, and can help ensure that your assets are distributed in the way you see fit.

The number of Americans choosing to cohabitate in lieu of marriage is steadily increasing. While nontraditional approaches to relationships are becoming more common, the importance of traditional measures related to comprehensive estate planning remain just as important. In fact, for couples that cohabitate without entering a traditional marriage, comprehensive estate planning can be an integral part of ensuring your partner’s financial security and preserving assets the way you want. The National Law Review recently published an article highlighting the importance of estate planning for cohabitating couples and while the following important information is not an exhaustive list of considerations, it is a place for cohabitating couples to begin when approaching estate planning.

Real Property

If the home you share with your partner is not in both of your names, you are likely to run into complications if they pass away. Without a traditional marriage, intestate succession will not work in your favor when it comes to property. Without a Will in place that specifically leaves that home to you, you would need to vacate the home after the title holder’s death or purchase the home for fair market value. Neither of these scenarios are ideal, and they are likely contrary to the plans you and your partner had for any property you own in the event of one of your deaths.

Growing older and the inevitability of death are unpleasant topics for most people. Often equally unpleasant is the thought of being alive but being unable to make important decisions for yourself. Part of a comprehensive and effective estate planning strategy includes ensuring that you have planned for the possibility of future incapacity. Incapacity typically refers to the inability to make important medical and financial decisions, but proper planning for the possibility of such an occurrence can help make sure that should such circumstances arise, your designee will be adequately prepared to handle them. Failing to plan for incapacity can result in serious financial consequences and may inhibit your ability to distribute your assets as you see fit.

Perhaps the most important part of ensuring that you have adequately planned for the possibility of incapacity is working with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure all of your estate planning documents accurately reflect your wishes for them. An estate planning attorney can review your estate plan for accuracy as well as for compliance with the law, and can ensure that any steps you have taken to plan for incapacity will fulfill your goals. The following suggestions can help you plan for the possibility of incapacity and avoid the pitfalls that come from being unprepared.

Power of Attorney

Comprehensive estate planning is a responsible way to protect your assets. One of the primary ways you can utilize estate planning to protect your assets is by ensuring that your estate plan accurately reflects how you wish to have your assets distributed in the event of your death. Taking steps toward preventing individuals from contesting your Will is one way to help make sure that your estate will be distributed according to those wishes. A common approach many people take to contesting a Will is by claiming that the testator – or the person that created the Will – made decisions within the Will because of undue influence. While this claim is not always wholly unavoidable, there are steps that you can take to decrease the chances that such a claim will arise.

Understanding Undue Influence

There is nothing wrong with an individual asking for specific property or even a child encouraging a parent to leave specific things to them instead of their siblings. Courts do not typically view these actions as examples of undue influence, even when an individual is fervent about their desires. However, such requests move closer toward undue influence when the testator is in a compromised position such as being mentally or physically ill. For instance, if the child asking for property is the ailing parent’s caregiver, a court may find that repeated requests for certain assets could qualify as undue influence depending on the other circumstances surrounding the request and individuals involved.

Most individuals look forward to retirement for many years. The chance to enjoy the hard work you have put forth throughout your lifetime is appealing, and being able to do so without being tied down by work or other responsibilities often sweetens the potential possibilities that await you in retirement. For some people, retiring abroad is one of their life goals. Maybe they visited a place they simply fell in love with or maybe they want to take advantage of more favorable economic situations that can exist for some individuals in other countries. Whatever the reason for desiring a retirement abroad, there are some important estate planning considerations to keep in mind.

Double Taxation

If you remain a United States citizen, you will still be subject to U.S. taxes. That means you need to be aware of the tax policy in any country you might be considering retiring in outside of the United States. If the country you want to retire to will also impose taxes on you, you may end up paying double the taxes on your income and potentially on your assets. This can significantly reduce the size of your estate, in turn hindering your ability to leave as much of your assets as possible to your heirs. While you can renounce your U.S. citizenship, doing so carries a wide range of consequences. It may become more difficult to visit loved ones in the United States, and you may even be subject to the U.S. expatriation tax.

Nobody likes thinking about serious illness, especially a serious illness that could lead to death. Unfortunately, such illnesses can cause massive financial difficulties for friends and loved ones which can in turn significantly deplete the assets you had been planning to leave to your heirs. The moral of the story is that, no matter your age, it is never too early to start planning for the potential need for end-of-life care. The following tips are adapted from a recent article on this topic found in USA Today, and they may provide you with some important concepts to consider when thinking about healthcare issues.

Be Explicit About Your Wishes

Telling people in passing how you hope to be cared for in case of serious illness is important, but it isn’t necessarily always enough. It is important to write down your wishes and be explicit about how you wish your health care to be handled. You should also work with your estate planning attorney to create documents such as health care proxy nominations and/or a living will that express your healthcare wishes in detail.

While comprehensive estate planning can certainly be a difficult process, there are some things that remain rather constant. Most parents will choose to leave the bulk of their estate to their surviving spouse and/or their children, with the surviving spouse typically leaving the remainder of the estate to children. However, it is not uncommon for individuals thinking about retirement and other aspects of estate planning to not have children and/or not be married. When those situations arise, many of those individuals find it challenging to determine how they would like to distribute their estate and to decide whom they should nominate to make important decisions. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand the myriad options available to you, and a recent article from CNBC can help you start exploring your options.

Shaping Your Will

According to the article, a 2016 survey indicated that 64 percent of Americans do not have a Will in place. While the survey did not focus on childless adults, it is safe to say that many of those individuals do not have a Will in place, either. When you die without leaving a Will, your state has a statute that determines to whom your estate will be distributed.

Typically, many people tend to think an estate plan only includes your Will. In today’s day and age, however, most people have a much more diversified estate plan than they realize. Your estate plan is far more than just your Will and includes things like trusts, investments, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. One of the challenges of comprehensive estate planning can be understanding how these assets work and to whom they should go to. Recently, Forbes explored the way several assets within a typical estate plan usually work and understanding this could be an important part of your estate planning decisions.

Wills and Trusts

Those selected to benefit from assets distributed through a Will may have to wait a little longer than if you were to use a trust or other vehicle to distribute such assets. Wills are required to go through the probate process to prove that they are valid and to make sure they comply with the law. Typically, assets within a Will cannot be touched until the probate process is complete. While the probate process in New York is easier than elsewhere, it can still be time-consuming especially for an individual that may need immediate access to the assets in your Will.

Most individuals recognize the importance of comprehensive estate planning, although they may still choose to avoid it. One important part of your estate plan is your power of attorney (“POA”). Basically, a POA is a document that nominates an individual to make legal decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so for yourself. You can choose the extent of the decision-making power you vest in the individual you have chosen by working together with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine how to best represent your goals. However, it is important to be aware of some of the pitfalls that could weaken your POA. According to a recent article from Forbes, the following tips may help you do just that.

Use an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Too many people decide to cut corners by using any number of online forms and legal information available for download. However, these forms are not tailored to a client’s individual needs, nor do they help you understand important aspects about making sure your POA and other estate planning documents meet the needs you have expressed. Designing your POA and other estate planning documents with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you make sure that your estate plan complies with the law. This can save you and your loved ones time, money, and stress down the line. With something as important as estate planning, you want to be sure that you

Once an individual decides to engage in comprehensive estate planning, several concerns may arise. One of those concerns often involves leaving a large sum of money to an heir that may be facing financial difficulty or may not yet have the ability to budget in a responsible manner. In such cases, individuals likely still want to make sure that the heir in question is financially provided for, but may have serious concerns over whether or not the heir is able to utilize an inheritance in a reasonable manner. In such cases, CNBC notes that increasingly popular IRA trusts might be the solution to helping you make sure that an heir’s inheritance accomplishes the goal you want it to meet.

Basics of an IRA Trust

An IRA, or individual retirement account, typically comes in one of two forms: a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. There are different tax structures in place for both types of accounts, but regardless of the type you choose these retirement accounts can often grow to include sizeable amounts of money over time. As these accounts grow, it is increasingly important for you to ensure that your comprehensive estate planning strategy makes the best use of them.

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