Not Having a Will Should Scare You
Not Having a Will Leaves your Family with a Mess

Not Having a Will Should Scare You

For families of people who don’t have a will, dealing with their estate is an expensive, stressful and time-consuming experience. A will isn’t anything to be afraid of, says the Herald Journal in the article “It’s Halloween, do you have a will?” Here’s a list of things not to do that should be useful for anyone who doesn’t have a will yet.

Don’t procrastinate. You can keep on waiting until there’s a better time, but life has a way of happening while we’re waiting. Now is the time to do your will. For your sake, and your family’s sake, don’t put it off any longer.

This is not a do-it-yourself project. No matter how simple you think your estate is, it isn’t. A form that you download from a website may not be legal in your state. Nothing can replace the sense of security that sitting down with an experienced estate planning attorney can give to you and your family. You’ll know that your will is legally valid in your state, follows all the right steps and was created for your unique situation.

An estate plan requires more than a will. There are many other documents and strategies to consider. Chances are that you already have more than a few other accounts to consider, like an insurance policy, investment accounts and jointly owned accounts. For an estate plan to protect you and your family, you’ll need a power of attorney, health care power of attorney, a living will and possibly a trust. A qualified attorney will help you coordinate all of your assets and make sure everything is properly prepared.

Don’t set it and forget it. Your life changes, and so should your estate plan. There have been some large changes to the tax law in recent years, and a number of bills are now pending in Congress that may bring even bigger changes in 2020. Your family may have celebrated a marriage, welcomed a new child or experienced a loss. All of these issues require updates to your estate plan.

Don’t hide your will and estate planning documents. Having all of these documents prepared properly is step one. The next step is to make sure that your family members know where the documents have been stored and how to access them. They should not be in a safe deposit box, as those are usually sealed upon the death of the owner. If you don’t own a waterproof, fireproof safe, consider purchasing one. Then tell a trusted family member where it is.

If charitable giving is part of your life, make it part of your legacy. Making a charitable gift as part of your estate plan can be helpful in reducing your estate taxes. It also sends a positive message about philanthropy to your family.

Make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to create your will, establish protection for yourself and your spouse in case of incapacity and create a legacy.

A will is a start but not a complete estate plan.

Reference: Herald Journal (October 26, 2019) “It’s Halloween, do you have a will?”

A Good Estate Plan Equals Peace of Mind
A Good Estate Plan Gives Peace of Mind

A Good Estate Plan Equals Peace of Mind

The problems aren’t always evident when the first parent passes. Often, it’s when the second parent becomes gravely ill, that lapses in estate planning become evident. For one family, everyone thought estate plans were all in place after their father died. When their mother suffered a stroke, the adult children learned that they had no access to her financial accounts or her health care directives. No one had thought to update the estate plan.

However, when one parent passes, the family needs to take action. That’s the lesson from the article “Avoid heartache and anxiety with estate planning” from Post Independent. In this case, the family never thought to modify or add anyone’s name to the financial accounts, power of attorney documents, medical power of attorney documents, or HIPAA consent forms. What often happens in these cases, is that family members start bickering about who was supposed to do what.

For those who have not taken the time to learn about estate planning, planning for end-of-life legal, financial and medical matters, the quarrels may be inevitable.

Estate planning is not just for wealthy families. If your aging loved one own property, stocks, bonds or any other assets, they need to have a will, advance directives, powers of attorney and possibly some trusts. Take the time to understand these documents now, before an urgent crisis occurs.

There are few formal courses that teach people about these matters, unless they go to law school. Nearly half of Americans age 55 and over don’t have a will, according to an article appearing in Forbes. Fewer than 20% of these people have health care directives and the proper types of powers of attorney in place.

When it comes to preparing for these matters, the laws are very specific about who can participate in health care and financial conversations and decisions.

Here are some of the documents needed for an estate plan:

  • Last Will and Testament
  • General, Limited and/or Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Advance Care Directive
  • HIPAA Consent Form

Preplanning will greatly assist family members and loved ones, so they know what medical and financial efforts you or your parents would want. Having the documents in order will also provide the family with the legal means of carrying out these wishes.

The legal documents won’t solve all problems. Your brother-in-law will still be a pain in the neck and your oldest sister may still make unrealistic demands. However, having these documents in place, will make the best of a bad situation.

Speak with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan, or your parent’s estate plan, is properly prepared. If someone has moved to another state, their estate plan needs to be updated to align with their new state’s laws.

Don’t leave your children guessing on what you want.

Reference: Post Independent (November 3, 2019) “Avoid heartache and anxiety with estate planning”

Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?
Having a Good Power of Attorney in Place is Critical if You Become Incapacitated

Why Do I Need a Power of Attorney?

You might nominate both of your children as attorneys-in-fact, requiring that they agree to act on your behalf under a power of attorney.

Fed Week’s article, “Giving Someone the Power of Attorney,” uses the example that you might suffer a stroke with no prior warning signals and be unable to sign your name. This could mean serious financial consequences. However, executing a power of attorney can protect you in that kind of situation.

It’s important for just about everyone to have a power of attorney. You can name more than one attorney-in-fact, stipulating if they are permitted to act alone or if they must act in concert.

Of course, the individual you designate must be someone you trust. This is typically a close (albeit younger) member of the family or a close friend.

If desired, you can assign different responsibilities to different individuals. For instance, you can name your spouse to make your housing decisions and your son to manage all your financial affairs.

You may not want to give power over your assets to a family member, while you’re still in command of your faculties (or have capacity). To address this, many states recognize springing powers of attorney. These do not become effective, until specified events take place, like incompetency (certified by a doctor) or when you go into a nursing home.

If your state doesn’t recognize springing powers, you often can see the same result with a durable power of attorney that’s accompanied by a letter saying that the power will go into effect, if certain events occur. For example, in Florida, contingent or “springing” powers are not permitted after legislation was passed in 2011. However, the State of Minnesota does recognize them.

Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney. He or she can also keep these signed documents until they’re needed.

Your attorney will also know if the law also provides that powers of attorney properly executed under the laws of another state are recognized in your state of residence.

You can create a power of attorney without giving up control.

Reference: Fed Week (October 3, 2019) “Giving Someone the Power of Attorney”