A comprehensive estate plan is more than just a Last Will and Testament coupled with a trust. In includes important aspects that require careful planning for a long period of time. For instance, considering long-term medical care as part of your financial outlook and retirement planning is an important part of your estate plan because it can help safeguard assets and provide a source of financial support for your long-term needs so you can avoid draining assets from your estate to pay for unexpected costs. However, you should also consider planning for challenges like incapacity to ensure the integrity of your estate.

Tools for Planning

A durable power of attorney can help protect your rights and assets in the event of incapacitation. These documents nominate an individual to make important legal and financial decisions for you, especially in relation to your assets. The individual you nominate can work within the authority you provide them with to protect assets within your estate.

While comprehensive estate planning is an important discussion, it is not typically one families have while sitting around the dinner table or enjoying family game night. The fact is that estate planning can be a difficult topic to bring up, and discussions about the approaches you and your spouse will take can be even more challenging.

However, talking to your spouse about the importance of estate planning – especially if you have a family to provide for – is something that has to happen at one point or another if you and your spouse want to ensure the integrity of your estate and the assets within it. The following tips might help you broach the subject.

Be Clear About Your Objectives

The impact of the newest tax reform efforts will likely take a long time to settle in. However, there are many potential short-term changes that could impact retirees in the coming years. That means that reviewing and revising your estate plan could be an essential component of being prepared for the effects of new tax approaches. Recently, Marketwatch.com published an article giving some insight to some of these changes.

Changes to Property Tax Deductions

Under the new tax plan, only $10,000 of property tax can be deducted federally. That means that retires may more readily consider the impact this deduction has on their tax liability. Many retirees may consider moving from sates with higher property tax to ones with lower property tax in order to take advantage of the deduction but avoid spending additional money in property taxes that cannot be recouped.

While the stereotype of the wicked stepmother is – appropriately – more a figment of the movies than reality, stepmothers can and do play an important role in estate planning. Much like other members of blended families, it is important to address the role a stepmother will play when it comes to your comprehensive estate plan. Recently, Forbes published an article noting that stepmothers are often associated with challenges to an estate plan. This makes sense because, as the article notes, statistics show women live longer and often outlive their husbands. Understanding the source of some of these challenges and working with an attorney to help prevent them can be beneficial for everyone involved.

Late-In-Life Marriages and Estrangement

A common presumption when it comes to marriage that happen later in life is that one person is solely in the marriage for an inheritance, especially if such a marriage is subject to a significant age difference. Such marriages can stand to alienate children, though such alienation can occur with remarriages at any age.

Divorce is never an easy experience, no matter what age it occurs at. However, individuals going through a late-in-life divorce may be even more surprised at some of the challenges this experience can present. Many of the difficulties experienced by older individuals that make the choice to get divorced can have a significant impact on their estate plans. A recent article from Marketwatch.com provides some insight as to how a late-in-life divorce can impact your estate plan from those that have experienced it.

Difficult Job Market

While the economy may be on the road to recovery, history has shown us that can change at any moment. Even in the best of economic times, finding a job that can help maintain the standard of living you are accustomed to or want to experience can be very difficult at any age. According to individuals that provided commentary for the article, this is an exceptionally difficult task for older individuals. The problem may be compounded for spouses that have been out of the job market for a longer period of time, or who may not meet the educational requirements that many positions now demand.

There are a number of important factors to consider when it comes to comprehensive estate planning. Every family has unique needs, and every estate plan is different and designed in a way that best meets those needs. However, many estate plans include life insurance as an important component of ensuring loved ones are taken care of. While life insurance can be an important part of an estate plan, it is important to plan appropriately to make sure you can make the most out of your life insurance policy.

Life Insurance and Estate Tax

The new tax bill has raised the estate tax threshold quite a bit by doubling it to an individual threshold of $10 millions and a married threshold of around $20 million, with the actual number dependent in some part on inflation. The change in the law is not permanent, either. In fact, it will expire in 2025 absent further action by Congress.

Comprehensive estate planning is challenging, and the process is unique for every couple and individual. Most people put a lot of time and energy into crafting an appropriate estate plan, including working with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that the estate planning mechanisms they want to put in place comply with applicable law and will accomplish the person’s goals for his or her assets. We have recently written about some warning signs that your estate plan may be at risk of being challenged, but there are steps you can take to minimize that risk.

Work with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Preparation is key in estate planning. Not only can being prepared help you ensure that the assets you have worked hard for are secure, but it can also help you avoid unwarranted challenges to your estate plan. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you make sure there are no legal loopholes in your estate plan and that it complies with both federal and state law. This in itself can help avoid may challenges to an estate plan. The earlier you start to engage in comprehensive estate planning, the less likely your estate plan will be challenged on technical and legal grounds because you can avoid many claims of undue influence or issues related to your state of mind when creating your estate plan.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your comprehensive estate plan meets your needs as well as the unique needs of your family and beneficiaries is an important part of the estate planning process. However, even when you have created a solid and comprehensive estate plan, your assets could still be at risk when beneficiaries challenge the terms of your estate planning documents. Being aware of some of the common warning signs that your estate plan could ultimately end up being challenged is an important part of preventing such issues.

Sibling Rivalry

While a healthy amount of sibling rivalry is normal and to be expected in families with multiple children, there are times when it can become a significant issue. Sibling rivalry can be a telling sign. When siblings have difficulty getting along or seem to be in a constant state of competition with one another, there could be trouble on the horizon. You can try to avoid such issues by being explicit in your wishes and talking to children about the decisions you have made when it comes to your estate plan.

Owning a business is hard work. Whether you have started your business from scratch or purchased it, business ownership is a challenging and rewarding experience. When you put so much time, energy, and money into making sure you operate a successful business, it is important to make sure you put mechanisms in place to protect that business should you pass away. A recent article from Forbes reports that around 60 percent of small business owners across the country do not have a business succession plan in place. That means nearly three out of every five small business owners is vulnerable in the event of an unexpected death. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure the viability of your business and developing a comprehensive estate plan that includes a business succession plan working an experienced estate planning attorney can be helpful.

Basics of a Succession Plan

A business succession plan is a plan of action to transfer ownership and management responsibilities within a business. They are particularly important for small business owners that own their business outright as sudden events such as death or incapacitation can have a significant impact on your business.

The importance of education cannot be underestimated. From the foundations built in grade school to higher education, the rewards of focusing on education are many. So, too, are the costs. It is no secret that education, specifically higher education, can be costly and result in an individual incurring a lot of debt. Many people want to see their children and grandchildren avoid the pitfalls such hefty debt can cause, and comprehensive estate planning can be an effective way to help make sure the costs of college do not break the bank.

Direct Tuition Payments

If you want to contribute to decreasing the financial burden college can take, then you may want to consider making direct tuition payments to the school the individual is attending. If you have the financial security to be able to contribute in this way, there are few consequences – unless something were to happen to you.

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