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What Should You Include in an Estate Plan?

What Should You Include in an Estate Plan?

What exactly should you include in your estate plan? Every estate plan (whether simple or complex) should start with a Durable General Power of Attorney.  This document allows you to name agents to handle your financial and legal matters whose authority continues, even if you are incapacitated. This document is vital in emergency long-term care planning situations.

A Healthcare Proxy is another pertinent document. It allows you to name an agent to make medical decisions for you if you are alive but incapacitated.  It is important that you openly communicate with your designated agents to assure that the agent knows your wishes with regard to medical care, end-of-life decisions, and life-preserving measures.

You should also have a Living Will in place. A Living Will is specific to end-of-life decisions and expresses your wishes regarding the administration of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), feeding tubes, respirators, blood transfusions, and palliative care. You can also incorporate your religious beliefs into this document.

For you to control the disposition of your hard-earned assets upon your demise, you need a Last Will & Testament.  If you do not have a Will, New York State law will determine the recipient(s) of your assets. Contrary to common belief, your spouse does not inherit 100% of your assets!  Executing a Will allows you to reclaim control and design an asset plan for your loved ones. Your Will should include the name of your Executors, beneficiaries, and guardians for minor children. Your Will can also include testamentary trusts for minor and/or disabled beneficiaries.

In certain situations, a Living Trust is recommended. There are two types of Trusts, Revocable and Irrevocable.  A Revocable Trust is a great estate planning tool to avoid a probate proceeding that would occur with a Last Will & Testament. A probate proceeding is a court proceeding wherein your next-of-kin are notified of your death and your Will is presented to the Surrogate’s Court. An Irrevocable Trust is generally used in asset protection and tax planning cases. In that instance, the creator of the trust cannot unilaterally change the terms of the trust (with some exceptions).  A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust is a very common estate planning tool in our area of elder law practice. A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust is designed to protect and shelter its assets from the costs of long-term care. In the event the creator falls ill and needs Homecare or Nursing Home Care after the Medicaid look-back period has elapsed, all of the assets in the trust are protected dollar for dollar. It also avoids a probate proceeding.

To learn more about what you should include in an estate plan or to have one of our experienced attorneys review your current plan, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with us.

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