Discussing about death and dying is challenging and certainly unpleasant. Nonetheless, there are matters associated with death and dying that need to be discussed with specific family members under certain circumstances. These include matters associated with estate plans.
Estate Plans: Information on the Basics
Even in situations in which you might elect not to share the specifics of your estate, you do need to make sure a family member or family members have some basic, essential information relating to your estate. The reality is that many people neglect to convey this basic information. This can have seriously negative consequences when a person passes away.
One of the key types of information associated with estate plans that must be conveyed is the location of key documents. A family member, or someone else you trust, must be advised of the location of documents like your last will and testament. In addition, the location of a life insurance policy is also important to convey. Someone in your family, or a trusted friend, should also know where you have a safe deposit box. You might even want to arrange for someone to be able to access a safe deposit box upon your passing.
Advising of a Role Related to Estate Plans
You need to advise a family member or friend if you’ve designated them to serve as the executor of your last will and testament. You cannot keep such a person in the dark about your desire for that individual to serve as your executor. Indeed, you should take the time to question the person about his or her willingness to serve your estate in this capacity.
Information About Legal Counsel
If you have an attorney who has assisted in developing your estate plans, you need to make sure a family member (or friend) knows who this individual is and how to make contact with that professional. There may be some value in arranging an appointment with your estate attorney and a loved one so they have at least some connection while you are alive.
If you are only now contemplating your estate plans, a Pennsylvania estate attorney will schedule an initial consultation with you. There is no charge for an initial consultation to discuss your estate plans.
If you are like many individuals, you’ve given thought to the need for comprehensive estate planning, but you’ve done nothing about it. You’ve talked about comprehensive estate planning, but haven’t spoken with an estate attorney. There are five key facts about comprehensive estate planning to bear in mind. Considering these facts may motivate you to schedule a prompt appointment with an experienced estate lawyer.
Comprehensive Estate Planning is Not Just for Wealthy Individuals
A common misconception is that comprehensive estate planning is only for wealthy, well-healed folks. In reality, nearly everyone benefits from comprehensive estate planning. The starting point is scheduling a consultation with an estate lawyer. There is no charge for an initial consult regarding the need for an estate plan.
Absent Comprehensive Estate Planning, the State Runs the Show
You must keep in mind that if you do not estate plan, the state runs the show when you pass away. Without an estate plan, the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania dictate what happens to your property when you die. Your wishes, whatever they may be, become complete irrelevant.
Proper Comprehensive Estate Planning Can Protect Children Financially
If you have minor children, or if you have adult children who may not be the best money managers, estate planning is a must. Through a properly crafted estate plan, you ensure that your minor children are taken care of after you pass. A solid estate plan ensures that your adult children are taken care of but that they do not waste money or assets in a frivolous manner.
Comprehensive Estate Planning is Crucial for Non-Traditional Relationships
If you are in a non-traditional relationship, you must develop an estate plan. For example, if you live with your significant other, but are not married, you must have an estate plan in place. Once again, the absence of an estate plan in this type of situation results in the laws of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania determining where your property goes after death. Your significant other can be effectively locked out of receiving your property if you die without a suitable estate plan in place.
It’s Never Too Early to Start Estate Planning
You are never too young and it is never too early to begin comprehensive estate planning. Make an appointment with a qualified estate attorney today to schedule a no-cost initial consultation to analyze you specific needs, goals and objectives.
If you are in a non-traditional relationship, estate planning is a must. Non-traditional estate planning has become a major issue in this day and age, with so many people living in a wide range of different types of relationships. This particularly includes individuals who live together without the benefits associated with a traditional marriage.
The Reality of No Estate Planning
The stark reality of a lack of non-traditional estate planning is that when you pass, your loved one will not benefit in any way, shape or form from your estate. For example, assume that you’ve lived with your partner for years, decades even. You pass on. Despite the length of your relationship, despite the commitment to your significant other, all of your assets will pass so a family member or family members as set forth in the statutes of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Side Arrangements with Family Members are No Substitute for Non-Traditional Estate Planning
Time and time again, a person in a non-traditional relationship makes what can best be described as a side deal or side arrangement with a family member (or family members) in lieu of proper estate planning. A person requests that a family member “take care of” his or her significant partner when the individual seeking help from a relative passes away. The person asks a family member to make sure his or her relationship partner “gets my property” when death occurs. This may sound like you. And, if it does you are not alone.
The odds of a family member honoring your desires informally expressed in this manner are not guaranteed. Moreover, there are tremendous legal and tax consequences associated with this type of informal “arrangement.” In short, side arrangements with family members do not work. They simply are no substitute for bona fide non-traditional estate planning.
The Necessity of Legal Assistance
Estate planning for a person in a non-traditional relationship can be quite complex. Informal arrangements won’t work. In addition, it is crucial that the legal documents necessary to create a suitable estate plan properly are prepared. Therefore, if you are in a non-traditional relationship, you must be proactive and retain the services of a skilled estate attorney. An estate lawyer will schedule a no-cost initial consultation with you to discuss your options.
If you have children, and are at the beginning of your life in the proverbial “adult world,” you may have begun to give thought to estate planning. In that regard, you may be considering having a last will and testament prepared. There are a number of points to bear in mind when you have children and are considering having a last will and testament made.
Financial Considerations of a Last Will and Testament
In any situation, including when a person has minor children, financial considerations represent the primary thrust of a last will and testament. The focus in your case would be on making sure that your children have the financial provisions necessary to live appropriately. As part of this endeavor, specific provisions need to be included within the will that address who will oversee and manage the financial arrangements made for the children in the last will and testament. This typically includes the appointment of what is known as a conservator.
Guardianship for Your Children
Another key element of a last will and testament when you have children is a provision for who will take care of them when you pass away. The last will and testament proposes a guardian or guardians for your children. Oftentimes, this is a close family member, or close family members.
The court needs to take additional action to formally designate who you select in your will as guardians for your children. However, by making the designation in your last will and testament, you better ensure that your wishes regarding your children are carried out when you are gone.
College and Your Children
Most parents desire for their children to obtain a higher education. You may be among them. If that is the case, you will want to include a provision in a last will and testament that addresses funding for college.
Because of the unique complications associate with a last will and testament when you have minor child, retaining a qualified estate attorney is highly recommended. An estate lawyer will be able to evaluate your unique circumstances, and those of your children. Armed with that information, an estate attorney is able to draft the ideal last will and testament to meet your needs, goals and objectives.
If you have made the decision to either start the process of estate planning, or if you need to update your estate plan, an initial step in that process is to consult a qualified attorney. An estate attorney will schedule an initial consultation with you to discuss your estate planning needs, typically at no charge to you.
There are a number of factors to bear in mind when it comes to preparing for an initial consultation with an attorney. These include developing a list of questions for a lawyer, identifying your major assets or significant property, considering who you want your possessions to pass to upon your death and who you desire to oversee the distribution of your property.
Questions for an Estate Attorney
Prepare a list of specific questions you desire to ask an estate attorney during an initial consultation. By writing questions down, you will be less likely to forget raising a point that is important to you.
You do not need to inventory and itemize every piece of property you own in advance of an initial consultation with an estate attorney. (In reality, to estate planning purposes, you really never need to list each and every piece of property.)
Rather, in advance of a meeting with an estate attorney, prepare a list of property by category. This will allow you to have a more intelligent conversation with an estate lawyer about your particular circumstances, needs, goals and objectives.
Your Intended Heirs
Although you will not need a final list of who you want your property to go to upon your death, you should begin to at least assemble a preliminary list of these individuals. Having at least some idea of who you intend to benefit through a will or trust tends to be an important piece of information to share with an estate attorney during an initial consultation with that professional.
Selecting an Executor or Trustee
A key consideration to ponder before meeting with an estate attorney is who you desire to serve as the executor of your estate, if you intend to have a will drafted. In the alternative, if you think you will need some type of trust, based on your financial status and other considerations, you will need to make at least a tentative decision as to who you desire to serve as the trustee.
Oftentimes a person selects a trusted family member for one or another of these important roles. However, there are instances when a person elects an estate lawyer or some other third party fiduciary to serve in one of these capacities.
Estate planning is not only for older, wealthier individuals. Rather, financial experts and estate lawyers make it clear that it really is never too early to start the estate planning process. There are some key factors to keep in mind when it comes to estate planning for people under the age of 35.
Focus on the Essentials
When it comes to estate planning for people under 35, the basics – the essentials – typically are most important. Of course, there are instances in which a younger person accumulates a more significant amount of assets at an early age in life. However, that is the exception and not the rule. In those less common cases, a person will need a more complex estate plan.
The most common elements of an estate plan for people under the age of 35 include a will, a living will (or durable power of attorney for healthcare), and a financial durable power of attorney. In addition, at this juncture in life, a person needs to take a close look at obtaining appropriate life insurance. This particularly is the case if a person is married, in a committed relationship or has children.
Estate Planning for Today – Not some Future Date
When embarking on estate planning under the age of 35, a person oftentimes has a mindset based on some future date. This is not solid thinking. Rather, even when a younger person embarks on estate planning, he or she cannot think about some time down the road.
Estate planning, even for a younger person, needs to have a focus on the here and now. What that really means is that a person needs to develop a comprehensive, appropriate estate plan based on the possibility (no matter how remote) of passing away in the more immediate future.
With that objective noted, the need to regularly review an estate plan is imperative. Once a younger person has established a meaningful estate plan, he or she should review it at least annually.
Seek Professional Guidance
A person under the age of 35 need not go it alone when it comes to estate planning. Indeed, that is not advisable at all. A younger individual in need of an estate plan should retain the services of a skilled estate attorney.
According to data collected and maintained by the National Association of Estate Planners, a shocking 120 million adult Americans do not have an adequate or up to date estate plan in place. In other words, a majority of adult Americans run the risk of not having their wishes followed when the pass away. Moreover, a considerable number of these same people also face the prospect of paying more in estate tax and probate related fees because of their failure to properly plan.
There are a number of steps that people need to consider taking in order to ensure that they have a viable estate plan in place that meets their specific needs. The first step in the process is to consult an experience probate and estate attorney to determine what specifically is needed when it comes to developing a meaningful, effective and appropriate estate plan.
Write a Will
The most basic, fundamental step a person may need to take to craft a meaningful estate plan is to have a will written by a capable estate attorney. A will is an appropriate estate plan vehicle for many individuals who do not have the need to reduce estate related taxes and associated costs. A will ensures that a person’s wishes are carried out following death.
Review Beneficiary Designations
Another step that many people need to take as part of developing an estate plan is reviewing – and updating as necessary – beneficiary designations. For example, it is important to review life insurance beneficiary information to make sure it is up to date and reflects a person’s wishes.
Advise Family Members of Key Documents
Preparing estate plan related materials and instruments is all well and good. However, a person needs to make sure that trusted family members know where these and associated documents can be found. If they cannot be located when a person dies, it really as if these documents do not exist at all.
Make a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney
As part of developing a comprehensive estate plan, a person is wise to discuss a durable healthcare power of attorney with an experienced estate lawyer. This instrument ensures that a person’s wishes are honored when it comes to healthcare decisions and medical treatments and procedures.
When many people hear the phrase “estate planning,” they presume that it doesn’t apply to them. These individuals quickly conclude that they lack the assets necessary to warrant estate planning. In fact, estate planning is for everyone who has a desire to leave things to loved ones when they pass.
Estate Planning: It’s Not Just About Dollars and Cents
Even individuals with a minimal amount of assets will likely have some idea where they want this property to go when they die. In some cases, a person will confide in someone they trust, telling that confident what they want done with property when that person passes away.
In the final analysis, telling someone else what a person wants to see happen with property upon that individual’s death just doesn’t cut it. The confident is under absolutely no legal obligation to carry out these wishes. Although there may be a moral or ethical obligation, that simply is not enough to ensure the appropriate distribution of assets at the time of death.
In other words, a person cannot simply say “I don’t have much, and I’m sure so-and-so will follow my wishes.” A person in such a position must take formal steps to ensure property goes where desired upon death.
Estate Planning from a Legal Professional
Although a person with significant assets may require a complicated estate plan, someone of modest means does not. There are some straightforward – and affordable – options available to a person who is most interested in ensuring that prized possessions end up in the hands of the intended individual. In many cases, when taxes are not a prime consideration, this objective can be accomplished through a last will and testament.
An estate lawyer can schedule an initial consultation to discuss the specific options available to a person with a more modest amount of property. There typically is no fee charged by an estate attorney for this type of meeting.
Through an initial consultation, an estate lawyer will also lay out what the creation of a last will and testament is going to cost. Typically, an individual who desires to make sure his or her wishes are met after their passing finds the cost associated with the proper preparation of a will to be a most reasonable investment – an affordable option. In the end … estate planning really is for everyone.
A durable financial power of attorney is designed to extend authority to another individual to manage the financial affairs of the person who creates the instrument. In order for a financial power of attorney to be legally effective, it must be prepared in a certain manner. Although the laws governing financial powers of attorney are matters of state statute, the requirements for preparing them are usually the same in all jurisdictions.
Selecting an Agent-in-Fact
The first step in creating a financial power of attorney is selecting what is known legally as the agent-in-fact. This is the legal term for the individual who will be granted authority to act in regard to certain financial matters on behalf of the person who creates the power of attorney.
The person designated as the agent-in-fact must be reliable and trustworthy. The agent needs to have a general knowledge of the types of financial matters that will need to be addressed via the power of attorney. Finally, the agent must have the time necessary to devote to dealing with the designated financial matters.
Drafting the Instrument
The reality is that standard durable financial power of attorney forms are fairly readily available. Many financial institutions maintain these forms for their customers or clients. In the alternative, many attorneys draft powers of attorney for their clients. However, they are not always sufficient. With that said, the best course to take when in need of a durable of a durable financial power of attorney is to seek legal assistance. Oftentimes, an estate attorney will prepare this instrument as part of overall estate planning for a client.
Executing the Instrument
Properly executing, or signing, the completed durable financial power of attorney is crucial. The failure to follow the legal requirements associated with its execution render the power of attorney ineffective.
The signing requirements vary from one state to another. Therefore, it is important to confirm what is necessary in your jurisdiction. At a minimum, the instrument must be signed by the person who creates the power of attorney in front of a notary public. Some jurisdictions require witnesses to the signing.
Maintaining the Power of Attorney
The original durable financial power of attorney signed by the creator must be provided to the designated agent-in-fact. The agent-in-fact will be called upon to present the original document when dealing with various financial matters.
A person needs to be proactive when contemplating situations in which assistance with finances might be necessary. A durable financial power of attorney is an ideal tool to ensure a person’s financial interests are protected and properly managed.