Proper planning with a comprehensive estate plan can avoid probate, provide protection and planning in the event of incapacitation, minimize taxes and secure your distribution provisions. An estate plan may consist of a Will, Trust, Living Will, Power of Attorney, and Medical Authorization. Attorney Kristen N. Lupoli, ESQ* will customize your estate plan to fit your unique needs. Estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth.
Contact Attorney Kristen N. Lupoli, ESQ* (*of counsel) to discuss your estate planning needs in detail.
Reasons You Need A Plan, Now!
Loss of Capacity
What if you become incompetent and unable to manage your own affairs? Without a plan, the courts will select the person to manage your affairs. With a plan, you pick that person through a power of attorney.
Who will raise your children if you die? Without a plan, a court will make that decision. With a plan, you are able to nominate the guardian of your choice.
Children with Special Needs
Without a plan, a child with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medicaid or SSI benefits, and may have to use his or her inheritance to pay for care. With a plan, you can set up a supplemental needs trust that will allow the child to remain eligible for government benefits while using the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses.
Keeping Assets in the Family
Would you prefer that your assets stay in your own family? Without a plan, your child’s spouse may wind up with your money if your child passes away prematurely. If your child divorces his or her current spouse, half of your assets could go to the spouse. With a plan, you can set up a trust that ensures that your assets will stay in your family and, for example, pass to your grandchildren.
Do you own a business? Without a plan, you don’t name a successor, thereby risking that your family could lose control of the business. With a plan, you choose who will own and control the business after you are gone.
What if your family is the result of multiple marriages? Without a plan, children from different marriages may not be treated as you would wish. With a plan, you determine what goes to your current spouse and to the children from a prior marriage or marriages.
Dying Without A Will/Trust
Who will inherit your assets? Without a plan, your assets pass to your heirs according to your state’s laws of intestacy (dying without a will). Your family members (and perhaps not the ones you would choose) will receive your assets without benefit of your direction or of trust protection. With a plan, you decide who gets your assets, and when and how they receive them.
Will your spouse and children be able to survive financially? Without a plan and the income replacement provided by life insurance, your family may be unable to maintain its current living standard. With a plan, life insurance can mean that your family will enjoy financial security.
Do you have an IRA or similar retirement account? Without a plan, your designated beneficiary for the retirement account funds may not reflect your current wishes and may result in burdensome tax consequences for your heirs. With a plan, you can choose the optimal beneficiary.
Without a plan, your estate may be subject to delays and excess fees (depending on the state), and your assets will be a matter of public record. With a plan, you can structure things so that probate can be avoided entirely and remain private.
Other Estate Planning Options
Elder Law and Medicaid Planning
Medicaid rules provide multiple opportunities for nursing home residents to preserve assets for themselves, their spouses, children, and grandchildren, especially those with special needs. There are more opportunities for those who plan ahead, but even at the last minute, there are almost always steps still available to preserve some assets. Set up a meeting today with Attorney Kristen N. Lupoli, to ensure that all of your assets are protected with a proper Medicaid plan.
The guardian can be authorized to make legal, financial, and health care decisions for the ward. Depending on the terms of the guardianship and state practices, the guardian may or may not have to seek court approval for various decisions. In many states, a person appointed only to handle finances and/or the ward’s property is called a “conservator.”
Some incapacitated individuals can make responsible decisions in some areas of their lives, but not others. In such cases, the court may give the guardian decision-making power over only those areas in which the incapacitated person is unable to make responsible decisions (a” limited guardianship”). In other words, the guardian may exercise only those rights that have been removed from the ward and delegated to the guardian.
- It is important to name a beneficiary. Do not assume that your retirement plan will be distributed according to your will. If you don’t name a beneficiary, the distribution of benefits may be controlled by state or federal law or according to your particular retirement plan or become part of your probate estate. Some plans automatically distribute money to a spouse or children. While others may leave it to the retirement plan holder’s estate, this could have negative tax consequences. The only way to control where the money goes is to name a beneficiary.
- You may want to designate a trust as your beneficiary. If your estate is more than the current estate tax exclusions and a large portion of it consists of retirement plans, it may make sense to direct that the plans be payable to a trust rather than to the surviving spouse. The trust must be properly drafted to avoid tax consequences, so consult with your attorney before doing this. If you want your money to go into a trust for your children, be sure to designate the trust as the beneficiary. If you name your children, the money will go directly to them.
- If you have major life changes, be sure to keep your plans updated. If you get married or have children, you may want to change your beneficiary. Also, if your spouse was your beneficiary, and you get divorced, your former spouse will still be the beneficiary — divorce does not automatically remove an ex-spouse as a beneficiary. If you wish to remove a former spouse from the plan, you will have to fill out a new beneficiary designation form.
- Even if you don’t have big changes, you should review your beneficiary designation periodically. Your beneficiary may not be who you remembered it to be, or it may be outdated. A Change of Beneficiary form can often be downloaded from the website of the firm holding the plan assets.