Have you ever wondered when you should begin your estate planning? Is it ever too late? Perhaps more important – is it ever too early to begin your planning? It’s not uncommon to see many people wait until they are close to retirement to begin to take estate planning seriously. While it is satisfying to see them begin their efforts to protect themselves and their loved ones, there is no denying that most would have much more latitude in their available options had they started years earlier. That, of course, leads to one question: is it ever too early to begin your estate planning in New York? Any Scarsdale estate planning attorney will tell you it is never too late to undertake some planning efforts.
The Importance of Protecting Your Family
If you passed away tomorrow, would your family be protected? Would assets transfer ownership to them right away, or would there be a delay of several months to a year while they waited for the probate process to play out? These are all questions that you need to ask yourself as you consider estate planning and how it can impact your family’s future security in the event that something happens to you. When you die, your family will be grief-stricken, lost, and confused. The least you can do is ensure that they are financially cared for so that their pain isn’t magnified by a protracted settling of your estate.
Security for You in Case of Incapacity
It is important to think about the possibility of incapacity in the future. Have you considered how your interests – and those of your loved ones – will be protected if you suffer an injury or illness that leaves you incapable of managing your own affairs? Oh sure – you might think that incapacitation is something that only happens to other people. To be honest, pretty much everyone assumes that until it happens to them. Here’s the thing that you have to remember, though — it can happen to anyone, and it often happens with no warning.
What happens if you are not prepared?
If you’re not prepared with a will, durable power of attorney and living will, then you could be leaving the management of your financial and medical affairs to someone chosen by a judge. You could also be subjecting your estate to the costs associated with paying for a court-ordered guardianship – costs that you could have avoided with just a little prior planning and the designation of an agent-in-fact to handle your affairs during your period of incapacity.
Estate Planning You Need
Of course, it is not enough to just decide that you need to create some sort of estate plan. You have to create something that adequately meets your needs – both now and in the future. A Scarsdale estate planning attorney can be essential in that process and can help to prepare all of the most important elements of your estate plan, including a will, trust, living will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and other planning tools.
Last Will and Testament
If you have a living trust or other trust instruments, chances are that all you’ll need is a pour-over will to capture assets that never made it into the trust. If you opt for the simpler route, though, you’ll need a comprehensive Last Will and Testament that dictates your last wishes and outlines the inheritance you’re leaving to your heirs.
If you have assets that you want to pass on without delay, or in periodic distributions to heirs, you’ll probably benefit from a trust. Your attorney can help you decide whether your trust should be revocable or irrevocable, and what it should cover.
You’ll need an advance directive to detail the type of treatment you want when life-sustaining measures are needed. This can help to ensure that your medical wishes are respected.
Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy
You need a Durable Power of Attorney for your financial decisions. This ensures that you have a designated agent-in-fact to make your financial decisions if you become incapacitated. You also need to designate a health care agent who can make medical decisions for you if you lose the capacity to do so on your own.
Medicaid planning, pet trusts, and other estate planning tools can also be used to help ensure that every aspect of your estate plan strategy accomplishes your broader life goals. Many of these optional planning tools are circumstance-particular, so discuss them with your estate planning attorney to see if they’re right for you.
If you have questions regarding a will, trust, or any other estate planning matters, contact the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C., for a consultation either online or by calling us at (914) 939-6565.