Creating an Estate Plan is the responsible thing to do for you and your family.
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Whether you are middle-class or a multi-millionaire, keeping your last will and testament and other related documents up to date is the responsible thing to do for yourself and your family. Not having these documents at all is alarming, at best. There are many important issues that simply need to be addressed.
Do I need a Durable Power of Attorney?
It is a document that allows you to appoint one or more persons to make your business and financial decisions and this becomes even more crucial should you become incapacitated. Upon incapacity, the person you appoint can even be authorized through the Power of Attorney for Medicaid planning to protect your assets.
Do I need a Health Care Proxy?
A Health Care Proxy is a document that allows you to appoint someone to make your health care decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. It is important to choose someone who is familiar with your healthcare wishes to make decisions for you, rather than the medical professionals.
What is a Living Will?
While a Health Care Proxy is the accepted document used to make health care decisions in New York, the Living Will is the accepted document used in other states. Essentially, the Living Will provides more detailed information about what procedures you want or do not want if you are incapacitated. In addition, in case your Health Care Proxy agent’s decisions are challenged, the language in the Living Will can also be used as clear and convincing evidence of your wishes in a New York court.
Why do I need a Will?
A common misconception is that wills are only for the rich. But, that’s not true. A will is an essential part of any estate plan and is necessary to transfer your assets upon your death. A more sophisticated will is extremely useful to establish trusts for minors, spouses, in the case of divorce, and incapacitated persons so that assets do not pass directly to them. If you die without a will, state law controls the disposition of your property and settling an estate without a will is more troublesome, costly and takes a lot longer.
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What is a Living Revocable Trust?
A living trust is an agreement that you make with someone you trust called a trustee. It is set up during your lifetime and you transfer most or all of your assets into it. You have the right to receive the income from the trust assets and you may withdraw a portion or all of the principal of the trust whenever you wish. A trust can accomplish a number of things. It allows a trustee to manage your trust assets upon incapacity, it enables the trust assets to pass automatically to the trust beneficiaries without the need for a probate proceeding and in some cases, a trust can be used to protect your assets in the event you need Medicaid to pay for long term care.
What is per stirpes?
“Per Stirpes” is a latin term meaning “by the root”. When added, as directive language in a will, it means that property will pass to your decedents and/or blood relations as per your “family tree.” If you leave property to your child per stirpes and that child predeceases you leaving children surviving, the property will go to his or her children. If the child predeceases you leaving no children, his or her share will go to your remaining children.
Who should I appoint as executor?
Your executor is your personal representative after your death and will have several major responsibilities including collecting and preserving the estate assets, paying debts and expenses of your estate, making tax decisions and filing necessary federal and state income and estate tax returns, and distributing assets to your beneficiaries. You should appoint someone who is trustworthy and familiar with your wishes.