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Estate planning can be an uncomfortable and confusing topic for many people. Nobody necessarily likes thinking about what will happen when they die. However, estate planning is an important activity for adults to consider, even those in their 20s and 30s. A recent article from USA Today highlights the need for millennials to consider estate planning as part of their plans as they move forward. In fact, the article cites a 2015 study that found more than 60 percent of Americans don’t have a will. This number likely includes a disproportionate number of millennials.

Responsible Financial Planning

Responsible, comprehensive financial planning doesn’t just involve being good with money. In the still-lingering shadow of the most recent recession and with an increased potential to carry large amounts of student loan debt, it isn’t uncommon for millennials to have a sense of the importance of treating money responsibly. However, while short-term money management can provide the foundation for a lifetime of financial stability, it is important to keep long-term financial planning in mind, too. Long-term financial planning includes the creation of a comprehensive estate plan that includes documents such as a Last Will and Testament, power of attorney, trust, and/or other related financial planning documents. As the article notes, these things are not just important for older adults – but for everyone.

The estate planning process can be complex and confusing, which is one of the reasons it is a good idea to work with an experienced estate planning attorney as part of creating a comprehensive estate planning strategy. This is especially true for business owners. Recently, we wrote about some important estate planning considerations for business owners. One potential question many business owners may have when considering estate planning for their business is whether or not it is a good idea to remain in control of their business or transfer their business to their heirs.

When a business owner wants to remain in charge of their business, this can be a difficult question because transferring the ownership of a business can often mean transferring the management responsibilities of the business, too. While the answer as to whether or not remaining in control of your business is right for you depends on each business owner’s individual circumstances, one possible technique to consider is business recapitalization. Business recapitalization will allow you to separate ownership from management, and could be the right strategy for you.

Benefits of Recapitalization

Comprehensive estate planning involves more than just creating a Last Will and Testament and possibly a trust for your heirs. Estate planning is also an opportunity for you to make sure that your wishes for end-of-life care and other related decisions are known to those who will administer your estate, your loved ones, and your estate planning attorney. For many people, part of end-of-life planning and care often includes nominating a Health Care Proxy. The State of New York Office of the Attorney General offers individuals some clarification and advice related to a New York Health Care Proxy.

Health care Proxy: An Introduction

In New York, a Health Care Proxy is available to anyone over the age of 18. The purpose of a Health Care Proxy is to allow you to appoint a trusted person to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to make such decisions yourself. The inability to make health care decisions could arise because you are being kept alive via artificial means such as life support machines or even because you are unconscious for certain medical reasons. When a health care agent has been entrusted with the authority to remove you from or prevent you from undergoing potentially life sustaining treatments or procedures, New York requires that a second doctor must confirm the original doctor’s determination that you are unable to make your own health care decisions.

In general, estate planning can be a difficult topic for many people. It can be especially difficult and personal when it comes to determining specific funeral plans that you may have. However, even though it is a difficult subject, it is important to consider how funeral planning as part of comprehensive estate planning can actually help your loved ones be more at ease when the time comes for them to make decisions regarding your funeral arrangements. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal serves as a reminder that if you are considering estate planning or have already created a comprehensive estate plan, you may want to consider including a funeral planning document to help your loved ones make decisions related to burial in accordance with your wishes.

Funeral Planning Documents

While planning for end-of-life care can be complex, ensuring that you do so accurately and completely is critical to saving your loved ones from unnecessary hardships as well as for ensuring that your wishes are adhered to. Including funeral planning documents can be an important part of the process. Many people are aware of other end-of-life forms, like a Healthcare Proxy nomination, but overlook funeral planning.

Dogs, cats, parakeets, horses, iguanas, ferrets…no matter the pet you have in your life, chances are you treat them more like family than just a possession. We want to make sure our pets are comfortable, have the best food, have plenty of entertainment, are healthy, and enjoy a long, happy life. It is possible to make sure that those conditions exist for pets even after pet owners pass away. By utilizing a trust, you can help make sure that your best friend is well taken care of.

Pet Trusts

A recent article in USA Today talks about the function that a pet trust can serve. Pet care can be very expensive. There are grooming costs, medical costs, food costs, and other costs related to keeping a pet. Generally, the bigger the pet, the greater the cost of care can be. In fact, the article notes that Americans spent roughly $62.8 billion on pet care in 2016. While pet trusts are certainly less common than trusts created for human heirs, they can serve an important purpose in making sure that any pets you have can enjoy the same quality of life after your passing that you were able to provide for them.

For most people going through estate planning, the goal is to pass on as many assets and as much wealth as possible. Most people don’t engage in estate planning with the goal of paying the most taxes possible or distributing assets to creditors. In fact, creditors can take a bigger chunk out of your assets than taxes can, so if you want to avoid costly claims during your lifetime and upon death that could significantly impact your estate it is important to take proactive steps to protect your assets from creditors as part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy.

In fact, there are several strategies that could help you save on taxes while keeping your assets secure from creditors, though it is important to make sure that whichever actions you choose comply with the Uniform Voidable Transactions Act that covers the transfer of assets in an attempt to defraud existing creditors. Some options for protecting your assets from creditors that comply with the provisions of this act might include:

Gifting

Today, moving across the world is far more common than it used to be. More college-age students leave their home countries to pursue educational experiences abroad, and many often remain in the country in which they choose to study. Others leave their home country for a job opportunity or to start a new family of their own. Whatever the reason for leaving, many residents of the United States born in other countries that still have strong, close familial ties in those foreign countries may be at risk of losing portions of the inheritance their family members in other countries may wish to give them.

Tax Consequences

Not every country has a version of the estate tax, though the United States estate tax is not the highest estate taxing country out there according to Tax Foundation. As a result, residents of many other countries may not have to contend with an estate tax in planning to distribute their estate. Leaving an inheritance to their children outright is likely commonplace and causes little disruption to the inheritance process in many places. However, when a citizen of a foreign country wants to leave an inheritance to their child that may be a U.S. citizen, there can be estate tax complications. With the United States estate tax rate of 40 percent, this can have a significant impact on a U.S. child’s foreign inheritance.

There are many factors that can influence how we decide to distribute our assets to heirs after our death. Most of the time, a large portion of our estate is left to our closest family members, including a spouse and children. However, determining exactly what we leave to those family members can be challenging especially when we consider the many additional factors that can be important in this part of the process.

When Equal Isn’t Necessarily Fair

Many individuals seek to make the asset distribution process easier by simply dividing assets among their heirs equally. However, depending on the personal dynamics of your family, that may not be the wisest choice. The following example, adapted from a recent article from Forbes, helps highlight this type of situation.

There are plenty of fancy words in law that actually have very basic definitions. Estate planning law is no different, with plenty of legal terms that can often be hard to unpack and understand. One such term that gets thrown around a great deal in the field of estate planning is “executor.” Who is an executor? What is their role? The following information may help you understand more about an executor and their role in your estate planning.

What is an executor?

The person creating a Will, known as the testator, will name someone that will be responsible for administering the provisions of the will in compliance with the law known as the executor. Basically, an executor oversees making sure that debts are paid and remaining assets are distributed per the testator’s wishes. Depending on the characteristics of your estate, some of the executor’s jobs may include:

In an increasingly digital society where we have become use to just “googling” the answers to our questions, there is no shortage of online legal advice and self-help. While some of this information can be valid and very useful, it doesn’t take the place of an actual lawyer that is able to apply the law to individual circumstances.

In fact, the ready availability of do-it-yourself legal guides on the web can pose a serious risk to people that use them, especially in the case of wills. Given how important your last will and testament is, it is essential to make sure that all details have been addressed and that all of your bases are covered so that you are able to distribute assets you have worked a lifetime for according to your wishes. According to the American Bar Association, three common dangers of do-it-yourself wills include:

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