Estate Planning is more than simply having a Last Will and Testament. It must also address potential incapacity and probate issues, as well as, the specific circumstances of the client and their beneficiaries. In order to be effective, a basic Estate Plan should include the following five necessary documents:
Last Will & Testament – Historically, this was the go-to document to distribute your estate assets after a client passes away but this document, while still necessary to have, has become less important as it requires Probate to be valid and effective. Every good estate plan should try to avoid Probate in order to help the family save time, money and maintain their privacy.
Enhanced Durable Power of Attorney – This may be the most important document as it appoints an agent to handle financial affairs such as bill paying but it must also allow for asset protection and Medicaid powers. The standard form needs to be modified and made more comprehensive and older documents need to be reviewed regularly.
Health Care Proxy – This helpful document appoints an agent to make health care decisions if you cannot so that someone you choose and knows your wishes can always be involved if necessary.
Living Will – This is an end-of-life statement that declares that you do not wish to have life-sustaining procedures. Your health care proxy agent would use this document to ensure your wishes are followed.
Revocable Living Trust – This planning document has grown in importance over the last 10 years. It is a private written agreement that allows a person, while keeping control, to coordinate their assets and avoid the lengthy, public Probate process.
In addition to these basic documents, the following scenarios should be addressed if appropriate:
Estate Tax Planning – utilization of tools such as the Disclaimer Credit Shelter Trust to help minimize the New York and the Federal Estate Tax.
Special Needs Planning – utilization of a Supplemental Needs Trust for a disabled beneficiary.
Elder Care Asset Protection Planning – a comprehensive service that utilizes an Irrevocable Asset Protection Trust to protect assets such as the home and allow the family to prepare for care.