For many people, the concept of estate planning begins and ends with the creation of a simple will detailing how they want their assets to be distributed when they die. However estate planning should involve much more than merely deciding who gets what property. An effective and comprehensive estate plan can provide you with a wide range of protections and benefits. This review of some essential components can help you to determine if your estate plan is truly complete.
The Last Will and Testament
The will is the foundation for most estate plans. In addition to providing a recognizable and orderly way to transfer assets when you die, it expresses your other last wishes as well. You can name guardians for your minor children, provide instructions for their upbringing, and accomplish other important tasks that are essential to securing your end-of-life and legacy planning needs.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
The durable financial power of attorney enables you to empower an attorney-in-fact to act in your place during times of incapacitation, making financial decisions that you lack the legal capacity to make on your own. You can give your agent as much or as little authority as possible, and use the document terms to precisely define the types of decisions you expect him or her to make.
Advance Directive for Health Care
The advance directive for health care typically includes a power of attorney for healthcare – sometimes referred to as a proxy designation – to empower someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. These directives should also contain language that instructs the proxy about your preferences for care, as well as a living will document to declare your wishes with respect to life-prolonging treatments.
Many people with serious medical conditions object to being resuscitated when they stop breathing or their hearts stop beating. If you’re of a similar belief, then it is important to document that preference in a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) and include it as part of your incapacity plan. This will help to provide medical professionals with the information they need to prevent them from initiating medical treatment to restore you in those situations. Unlike a living will, a DNR order must be approved by a medical professional.
There are some things that a will just cannot do. For example, your will won’t help your estate avoid probate. It also offers no asset protection, cannot effectively provide inheritances to disabled loved ones who receive medical benefits, and is often not the best way to leave money for an heir or pet. The living trust, on the other hand, can be an essential tool for accomplishing those and other goals. With the right kind of trust, you can secure assets from creditors, minimize estate taxes, and achieve many other planning objectives.
Nursing homes are more expensive than ever before, and those costs are expected to continue to rise. When it’s your turn to receive long-term care, will you be able to afford the costs? If you’re like millions of other Americans, the answer is probably no – and that will leave you relying on Medicaid to pay for those expenses. However, Medicaid can be notoriously difficult to obtain, since it has strict asset and income requirements for eligibility. To ensure that your assets are organized in a way that ensures eligibility, you will want long-term Medicaid planning.
Asset Protection Strategies
Your estate plan should safeguard your assets from predatory creditors and litigants so your entire estate is not lost as the result of some court judgment. Using irrevocable trusts and other tools, an estate planning attorney can help you to protect those assets and provide the safeguards your estate plan needs to fulfill your goals. Your overall plan isn’t truly complete until you’ve secured your wealth in this way.
Retirement planning is essential if you want to have a chance to maintain your standard of living after your working years are complete. Unfortunately, most Americans haven’t saved what they’ll need to enjoy even a modestly comfortable retirement. With sound retirement planning, you can leverage the benefits of compounded wealth over time to amass the nest egg you will need to fully finance those golden years.
If you own a business, you have needs that aren’t always covered with the average estate planning strategy. You will need a plan to ensure that your business succession is in order, to eliminate controversy over who gets the business assets when you die. You may also need buy-sell agreements and asset protection to ensure that your business interests are properly managed at every stage of your ownership while your personal wealth is protected from business-related liability.
The exact tools and strategies you’ll need are dependent upon your unique circumstances. That’s why it’s so important to retain the services of a competent estate planning attorney when you’re creating an estate plan. At the Potter Law Firm, our team of planning professionals can help you to explore your needs and potential solutions, and develop the right mix of strategies and tools to help you meet your comprehensive goals. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure that your plan provides the end-of-life and legacy options needed to protect your interests and your loved ones. To learn more about how we can assist you with your comprehensive planning efforts, contact us online or call us today at (704) 944-3245 (Charlotte, NC), (606) 324-5516 (Ashland, KY), or (859) 372-6655 (Florence, KY).
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