Do not buy into the myth that estate planning is only relevant for wealthy individuals who need tax planning.
One of an elder law attorney’s main responsibilities is ensuring that clients understand the importance of addressing these matters before they become an issue, reports the New Jersey Herald in the article “The importance of putting plans in writing.”
The message hits home especially hard, when the friends of elder law attorneys experience problems that could have been resolved earlier with correct planning. In one example, a woman’s friend began to experience unexpected health problems. Her husband is incapacitated and there are no children to step in and help. The couple’s lack of legal documents has made a difficult situation even worse.
Although discussing concepts like end-of-life care can be challenging, all adults do need to have specific plans in place, even if their estate plan is basic: a last will and testament, a living will and a power of attorney.
It is never to early to put these documents into place. Everyone who is 18 years or older should at least have a designated power of attorney and a medical directive, in case they are unable to manage their own affairs or make healthcare decisions.
Unfortunately, many people still think estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to pay less taxes. Tax planning can help lighten tax liability for some. However, there are far more important reasons to do estate planning.
The main reason for estate planning is to set down expectations and wishes, while you are alive and after you pass. An elder law attorney will help review the benefits of having a power of attorney and a healthcare directive. They can help, if the situation occurs where your loved ones have to make decisions for you. The amount of time, expense and frustration of going through a guardianship process can be avoided, if these items are in place.
An elder law attorney can also help you with completing beneficiary forms for non-probate assets, preparing a funeral plan, planning a personal property memorandum and discussing elder care and planning for incapacity.
Making decisions in advance regarding who will care for minor children, if young parents cannot and who will be the person’s executor and handle all the details of their estate, are all necessary.
Many couples choose joint ownership and consider that their estate planning. However, that’s not enough. What happens when the last “surviving” joint owner passes? There are many other issues that need to be dealt with and an estate plan can address them.
Reference: New Jersey Herald (Aug. 22, 2018) “The importance of putting plans in writing”
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