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.

We have written several aspects about the role IRAs can play in your comprehensive estate planning strategy, as well as several concerns that accompany them. Here, we will address the two common choices facing non-spousal individuals listed as heirs for an IRA account that is not slated to go to a trust for that individual heir. These two choices are to take a lump sum withdrawal or to keep the account invested. Each of these may have different consequences for an individual heir that are important for everyone to keep in mind.

Lump Sum Withdrawal

Non-spousal IRA heirs have the option to elect to make a lump sum withdrawal of the assets within the IRA. Choosing this option could be beneficial on several levels, such as enabling the heir to make use of a large sum of money for important large purchases like a house or renovations. It could also enable them to pay off otherwise crippling debts. However, inheriting a large sum of money all at once can carry complications, some of which are determined by the amount within the IRA as well as the type of IRA.

The current makeup of the federal government makes it very likely that some type of tax reform will happen within the next couple of years. Many individuals that have comprehensive estate plans in place or are considering engaging in creating a comprehensive strategy may have questions about how such tax reform could impact their estate plan. Recently, WealthManagement.com published an article discussing some approaches to estate planning while waiting to see how tax policy develops.

Tax Policy and Your Estate Plan

You must not underestimate the potential impact that tax policy can have on your estate plan. For individuals with larger estates with values that surpass the current estate tax exemption of $5,490,000, taxes play an even bigger role. If your estate is valued above the estate tax exemption, you have a variety of tools at your disposal that can help you alleviate some of the financial burdens imposed by taxes. Perhaps you will utilize your annual gift exemption to distribute some of your assets during your lifetime. You may end up creating a trust and title some of your assets under the trust instead of in your own name. Whatever tools you utilize, and even if the value of your estate falls within the estate tax exemption, taxes play a crucial role in the design and implementation of your estate plan. An experienced estate planning attorney can and should help you understand exactly how taxes might affect your personal estate plan and can also help you stay abreast of new developments in tax and other laws that could impact your estate plan.

In the past, a trust was something that seemed useless for many Americans. It was a term often used to refer to the bank accounts of wealthy individuals. However, trust can be useful tools for many individuals. You don’t have to be a millionaire to make use of them, either. They can be an effective part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy that help you provide your loved ones with financial security after your death. While trusts are much more accessible than they once were, there is still confusion surrounding them. Many people wonder why they need a trust if they have listed assets as payable on death to another individual. While payable on death accounts can be an effective way of naming a beneficiary for those accounts, there are some limitations that can be addressed by a trust.

Payable on Death Limitations

The largest limitation of a payable on death structure is that while it will allow you to name a beneficiary for the asset in question and thus avoid the need to probate such assets, it typically only allows title to the asset to pass upon your death. In other words, if you become incapacitated while still alive, the person the account is meant to pass to may not be able to access the asset. Additionally, not all types of assets can be listed as payable on death, which leaves things like personal property in limbo in case of your incapacitation or death.

For some people, the term “estate planning” conjures up images of wealthy families complaining about the estate tax. However, estate planning is an important responsibility for all adults with assets that they wish to leave behind. This is especially true today as most people are becoming increasingly familiar with the use of various online accounts. Online accounts can be used for a variety of different things, ranging from online banking to social media. As technology becomes an ever-increasing aspect of each of our lives, almost everyone needs to consider the management of online accounts during a period of disability or in case of death when considering the various important aspects of estate planning.

New Legislation

According to WealthManagement.com, several states have adopted relatively similar laws that allow individuals to control access to online accounts in the case of disability and/r death. While individuals serving in roles such as an executor or trustee can generally access information related to electronic communication that includes the sender, recipient, and date/time of a message, they typically need a court order to access the content of these communications. However, new legislation allows you to control scenarios in which individuals could get greater access in three ways:

An important part of your estate plan is making sure that it provides for your heirs in the way you want it to. While you may take pains to make sure your estate plan is comprehensive and covers all your bases, it is important to factor your heirs and their possible actions into the equation. The final part of our series on some of the most common biggest mistakes individuals tend to make in estate planning will explore these more subjective aspects of the estate planning process, which an experienced estate planning attorney can help you navigate.

Lack of Flexibility

Comprehensive estate planning can be a long and detailed process. You may feel like you have everything worked out perfectly by the end of it. However, it is important to keep in mind that you cannot plan for every event. For instance, even if you establish a trust for your only child and transfer assets to the trust successfully, you may not have included mechanisms that protect your child from creditors or even a potential future divorce. That means the assets within that trust could be susceptible to claims by other individuals, and if you establish a trust in your child’s name when the child is five then you may not be planning far enough ahead.

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