Estate Planning & Elder Law Blog

Thursday, May 30, 2019

How You Can Use Estate Planning as A Gift

What happens to all your belongings when you die? Where will your finances go? Who will be in charge of carrying out your last wishes, and who will take care of you before you pass away? 

Estate planning IS a gift. Consider, you have already taken the effort and invested significant time to meet with an estate planning expert, so your family doesn’t have to. Why did you make this effort?

The reason you made the effort is because establishing an estate plan has the potential to resolve future conflicts and disorientation that your family may experience upon your departure. Estate Planning is a loving gift that you will give to reduce the emotional stress that is attached to your passing and it will provide direction for how your family will need to move on following your death.  

In this article, we are going help you understand the various components of an estate plan and show you how your thoughtfulness today will benefit your family for many tomorrows to come.



A Will is the Glue Holding it All Together

The concept of a last will & testament, or transfer of property after death has been around as long as humans have. In many places, the method of transfer is primarily defined through existing cultural norms. In the US, and Brooklyn, however, we use estate law to clear things up a bit more formally. 

Fundamentally, your will entails where you wish your possessions, assets, minor children, and more to go when you pass away. Additionally, it will state who will be in charge of distributing those assets and managing any other affairs in your passing or incapacity. 

Legal requirements in setting up a will can be intensely specific, but only because ambiguity leads to conflict, especially after a loved one has passed. It is critical that you seek the assistance of an attorney or an estate planning expert to make sure that your will gets drafted correctly.


Joint Ownership as an Estate Planning Option

Joint ownership means owning your assets jointly with someone else like a spouse, child or a close relative. The purpose of Joint ownership is to make sure that when you die, those assets go to your spouse or heirs smoothly because they are already owners of the assets.  To head off more complicated issues and to make sure joint-owners can access all assets, beneficiary designations are helpful.



Setup Beneficiary Designations on Intangible Assets

A Beneficiary Designation on your bank accounts, your stocks and brokerage accounts may be needed to facilitate the transfer of those assets to a joint-owner, or another designee. Various kinds of Beneficiary Designations can be acquired through a bank or other financial institutions. Some of these designations are known as “transfer on death,” “pay on death,” or “in trust for account.”  

The person or beneficiary that you place on those accounts is not an owner of the accounts, presently. If they have any financial problems before you designate them as a beneficiary on your accounts, their financial issues will not become your problems, and that is a beautiful benefit.  When you pass away though, they will gain access to and ownership of the assets within the accounts, however.


A Primer on Probate

Probate is the legal process in which a will is proved or tested in a court. Many people find the Probate Process frustrating. When a will is being contested, there may be many parties involved in the process.  And if a lawyer is involved, there is a cost component…on top of the cost of probate itself. 

The purpose of the probate process is to have the will accepted as a valid public document that is the true and last living testament of the estate of a deceased person. Probate is the first step in the legal process that is needed to name the Executor of the estate. This step is essential because the Executor needs to be granted the authority to distribute assets according to the will of the deceased loved one. 

If you have questions about probate, please contact us.



When You Should Consider a Trust?

You should consider using a trust if the value of your estate is such that your family might lose a significant amount of your assets in probate or estate taxes. You might also want to consider a trust if you have special needs, like a family member who requires extra care, or a child you're concerned will not be ready to manage the assets you intend to leave them. In truth, there are a lot of reasons to consider a trust, and many different forms of trusts you might consider.

When you set up a trust you actively move assets from your possession to the trust. Usually, you are the beneficiary of that trust while you are still alive, and upon death or another circumstance of your definition - the beneficiary changes. 

A trust will sometimes feel scary because you may feel that you could be giving up your assets to a bank or other entity that you have no control over. However, you will make the decisions about how to place money in or withdraw assets out of the trust. Functionally, it shouldn't interfere too drastically with how you manage your estate now - but when you pass away, it will make a huge difference in how your assets transfer to your loved ones.


Draft a Living Will & Designate a Healthcare Proxy

A living will typically accompanies a healthcare proxy. However, these are two different documents. A Living will is simply a statement signed by you. It states how you wish to be cared for in case you become unconscious or you are in another situation in which you cannot make decisions for your care on your own.  

A healthcare proxy can be established when you appoint an individual to make healthcare decisions for you. In some places, this is called a healthcare power of attorney. Having this document in place will assist your family members and or loved ones if you become incapacitated. Moreover, this document will prevent courts or hospitals from becoming the primary decision-makers regarding your care.



Estate Planning is All This and More

We clearly believe estate planning is a gift. But it is not a gift you can grab at the store; it requires meaningful thought and responsible foresight.

In this brief article, we covered the basics you should be thinking about regarding estate planning, but for each section above we could write ten more articles. Help yourself give the gift of planning and connect with a great team of estate planning professionals.

We want to help you prepare for your future and the future of your family. Contact us today to get started on your estate plan.

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