Wise Planning in the New Year

Essential documentsMany of us are not very proactive in estate planning or aware of the issues of elder law, even though we know that eventually we could face incapacity and will eventually die.

Needless to say, you have heard this from me before but it bears repeating: everyone needs these three documents—a will (or trust), a health care power of attorney, and a financial power of attorney.

A will. If you die with no will, state law has a pecking order as to who will inherit your assets, starting with your spouse and children. A valid will must be signed by the person who wrote it, witnessed by two non-relatives who saw them sign and notarized as to the identity of the signer and witnesses.

Your will should name a personal representative, otherwise known as an executor. This should be done far ahead of time to be certain that they are willing and able to undertake the task. Let this person know the location of a copy of your will.

A living will details your end-of-life choices. Without authorized directions, your family may not be able to make the decisions you’d want. A living will can also include funeral wishes.

A medical power of attorney gives the individual you select, the authority to make health care decisions for you, if you’re incapacitated.

A financial power of attorney lets your appointed agent make financial decisions, pay your bills and take charge of your bank accounts, if you’re unable to do so.

A revocable living trust is a document that lets you assemble all of your assets in one place. The assets must be retitled to the trust, not to you as an individual. A trust can help with out-of-state real property or leaving money to a child with special needs who is receiving means-tested government benefits. When you die, the assets in the trust aren’t subject to probate, and are distributed as you instructed in the trust.

Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney for personalized advice that considers your assets, divorces, stepchildren and many other factors.

Reference: Arizona Jewish Post (December 2, 2016) “Estate planning and elder law benefit all ages”


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