Estate planning can seem like an overwhelming endeavor if you want to be certain you are doing everything right. In actuality, though there are some options when it comes to asset transfers, the basic structure is relatively straightforward.
Let’s look at four bases you should definitely cover when you are planning your estate.
The financial part of the equation will come first, and you can state your wishes in this regard with a simple will or some type of trust. A lot of people think that trusts are only useful for very wealthy people, but this is not the case.
You accept limitations if you use a will, and the administration process is anything but simple.
An executor that you name in the document would act as the administrator, and they would not be able to act independently. The will would be admitted to probate, and the court would supervise during the administration process.
It will usually take about nine months for a simple case to pass through probate, and no inheritances are distributed until the estate has been probated and closed.
Probate expenses consume a noticeable portion of the estate before it is transferred to the heirs, and records are available to the general public.
The inheritors receive lump sum distributions when a will is utilized, so there is no asset protection going forward. This can be a source of concern if you are leaving resources to someone that is not ready to handle a windfall.
If you use a revocable living trust as the centerpiece of your plan, all of these drawbacks will vanish.
You would act as the trustee while you are living, so you would have total control of the assets. After your passing, the successor trustee that you name in the document would distribute the assets to the beneficiaries outside of probate.
A spendthrift provision would protect the principal from the beneficiary’s creditors, and the trustee can be instructed to provide limited distributions over an extended period of time.
This is one type of trust that can be useful for a wide range of people, but there are other trusts that satisfy specific objectives. For example, you can provide for someone with a disability without impacting need-based government benefits if you establish a supplemental needs trust.
People often seek Medicaid eligibility because the program will pay for long-term care, and Medicare does not cover custodial care. Assets in an irrevocable trust would not count if you apply for Medicaid.
These are a couple of additional reasons why trusts are used, and there are a number of others.
Your estate plan should account for the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life. A living will can be used to state your preferences regarding the use of resuscitation, feeding tubes, artificial hydration, and other life-support measures.
You can also state your organ and tissue donation choices and comfort care medication preferences in a living will.
Durable Powers of Attorney
Medical scenarios can arise that do not involve the use of life-support. To account for this, your plan should include a durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy.
You use this document to name someone that would act as your representative for medical decision-making. A durable power of attorney for property should be added to empower someone to handle your financial affairs.
If you have a living trust, you would name a disability trustee to assume the role in the event of your incapacity.
The final piece of the puzzle is a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release. This authorization will give doctors the freedom to communicate freely with your health care representative and anyone else that you would like to include in the loop.
Attend a Free Webinar!
Cincinnati estate planning attorney Barry Zimmer has been conducting webinars on an ongoing basis during the pandemic, and you can learn a lot if you attend one of these sessions. Best of all, you will qualify for a one hour free virtual consultation if you participate, and this is a $400 value.
You can see the dates if you visit our webinar page, and when you identify the session you would like to attend, follow the simple instructions to register.