It was reported on the news recently that some of Aretha Franklin’s family members have found what they believe to be her will. It was handwritten, stained and crumpled up in a couch. The courts may or may not choose to honor it, depending on whether or not they are able to verify its authenticity.
It’s too bad that this happened to the Franklin family, but it happens often. A family member dies unexpectedly or becomes incapacitated at a young age and they never did the right planning. Sometimes worse, they did the right planning, but the documents are decades old, out of step with current laws and the power of attorney is so old, that no financial institution will recognize it.
The problems that these scenarios create for loved ones are stressful, expensive and take a fair amount of everyone’s time. Solutions are offered in the article “Planning for the unexpected–4 Steps to get your affairs in order” from the Post Independent.
These four steps will help make the unexpected events of life a little less challenging.
Have a will and other estate planning documents prepared.
A will is a list of instructions to the court that details how you want your possessions to be distributed after you die. It should be drafted by an estate planning attorney who is licensed to practice law in your home state. The will goes through the probate process, which takes care of your legal and financial matters. In some states, the probate process is a simple process. In others, it can be problematic. Your elder law attorney will be able to advise you about the probate process in your area.
A revocable living trust is a useful estate planning document that is used to establish more control over your assets, while you are alive. It should also be created by an experienced elder law attorney. At your death, assets held in your trust then pass to heirs and avoid the probate process.
Make sure you title your assets properly.
Once you have a will and any trusts in place, any assets you wish to have placed in the trust need to be titled correctly. If you own a property with someone else and want to be sure your share of that property goes to the other owner, you’ll need to title it jointly.
Don’t forget to review the beneficiary designations that are usually a part of your bank and investment accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies. Any beneficiary designation will override the will. If you haven’t reviewed beneficiary designations in a long time, now is the time to do so. There is no way to undo a beneficiary designation, once you have died.
Have power of attorney agreements created.
These documents give another person, the “agent,” the power to act on your business, financial and legal affairs, if you are incapacitated. The laws vary from state to state, which is another reason to work with an estate planning attorney licensed in your state. You’ll need these documents:
Prepare a letter of instruction.
This is not a legally binding document, but it can provide loved ones with a great deal of clarity when you have passed. Consider including this information:
Once you’re done, review the documents every few years and when there are major events in your life, including births, marriages, divorces, deaths and other “trigger” events. Remember that the laws change, so don’t let too much time go by without a thorough review of your estate plan.
Reference: Post Independent (July 22, 2019) “Planning for the unexpected–4 Steps to get your affairs in order”
I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.
The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!
Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.
Josh Nelson, and his staff, have been amazingly helpful to our family. The ins and outs of nursing homes, the rules and regulations that govern Medicare and Medicaid are daunting and the folks at Nelson Elder Care Law have been informative, responsive, and above all, empathetic. I cannot emphasize enough how their service has taken a weight off of our shoulders especially during a world pandemic that has targeted nursing homes across our country. I highly recommend retaining Josh and his firm!
I had a simple legal question to them that I needed answered and they very helpful in giving me the information I needed. I highly recommend them and will reach out to them if I need more advice or assistance. Thank you for taking your time to just answer a couple of questions I had!