What is a Comprehensive Estate Plan?
Having an estate plan in place to provide direction and peace of mind for our families towards the end of our lives and after we are gone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to those you love the most.
With high emotions surrounding unforeseen changes in your life or while mourning your death, comfort can be found within your family, knowing that you have a plan that explains your wishes and your desire to care for them even when you cannot.
So perhaps you have considered a will or added a Payable on Death (POD) to some of your accounts in anticipation of old age or your mortality. These are significant steps to take, but a comprehensive plan can encompass several other aspects that help your family feel secure moving forward, both financially and emotionally.
What are Aspects a Comprehensive Estate Plan May Cover?
A durable POA, or Power of Attorney, is an essential aspect of an estate plan because it appoints a trusted person in your life to handle decisions for you when you are incapacitated.
Financial POA typically handles matters of financial concern, such as business matters or ensuring your taxes are paid and debts settled. A medical POA allows an appointed person to make medical decisions on your behalf. A “health care proxy” can be created that stipulates your wishes clearly and helps to alleviate questions for your family to have to sift through during an already trying time.
Creating a will is another essential aspect of an estate plan. A will can provide direction regarding a guardian for your children, leave instructions to distribute assets to family or charitable organizations, name an executor to ensure your wishes are followed, and more.
A Living Trust or Revocable Living Trust can be created while you are alive and help ensure that assets are transferred according to your wishes upon death. Trusts can be designed to help beneficiaries save time and money in receiving their assets.
What is a Testamentary Trust?
A testamentary trust is created knowing it will not come into effect until after the creator has passed. Typically these trusts are created within a will and are often designed for minors.
A testamentary trust allows for a substantial gift to be left to children. A trusted guardian can be named the trustee to ensure that the gift is appropriately managed until the child reaches legal age.
A testamentary trust can also be used to help relieve the surviving spouse from “countable” assets when determining eligibility for Medicaid. Assets held within the trust are typically exempt from “countable” assets and can be set aside expressly for the surviving spouse. It is important to note that if used for this reason, assets may need to be renamed in one spouse’s name rather than jointly, so they are sufficiently protected. Each situation will differ based on the family’s wishes, and an experienced estate planning lawyer can assist you with how to word a testamentary trust to protect your family best.
Disadvantages of a Testamentary Trust
One of the disadvantages of a testamentary trust is that it does have to go through the probate process. The probate can be sufficiently planned for in advance by ensuring that the intended trust beneficiary has access to other assets while the probate process takes place.
As discussed above, the trust may not serve its intended purpose if assets are not structured appropriately. Some restructuring may be necessary to achieve the desired results for the assets. These aspects must be reviewed closely with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure all parties are taken care of.
Why is it Important to Help Your Family Avoid Probate?
If you haven’t had to endure the probate process following a loved one’s death, you may not know how long the process can take and how costly it can become.
Suppose some items are contested or disagreed upon by heirs, or insufficient information is available. In that case, the process can take over a year or longer, and during this time, the assets in question typically can’t be accessed. This lengthy and costly process can lead to unnecessary financial distress for your family members, who are left to consider taxes, debts, and other expenses that could be covered by transferring assets.
Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can provide several “safety nets” so that your family won’t have to deal with a costly and lengthy probate process after your death.
Why Work with an Estate Planning Attorney?
It can be challenging to try and think of every aspect of our mortality and how ever-changing laws may affect our family long after we are gone.
Estate planning attorneys have significant knowledge and a passion for aiding families in planning and protecting their families from some of the unknown aspects that affect all of us towards the end of our lives.
You can provide yourself and your family with an added sense of assurance during times of uncertainty by working with a skilled and compassionate estate planning attorney to proactively plan for the inevitable.
Contact our offices today at (781) 531-8673 to discuss your specific questions and your goals for your family plans, and learn how we can best serve you. We take estate planning seriously and look forward to lending our years of experience and compassion to you while carefully planning for your legacy.
We look forward to serving you and your family.