Estate planning is an important task for anyone advancing in years, especially for anyone with a large amount of property that will need to be allocated after your demise. But what do you need to consider when you’re planning your estate? What can you do to avoid catastrophe when the worst comes to pass? Well, here’s five questions to ask yourself when you’re planning your estate.
What happens if you’re incapacitated while you’re still alive?
While plenty of people think about what will happen after they die, but estate planning starts with what happens when you’re still alive. You need to think about who will be taking care of your affairs if you can no longer take care of things yourself, perhaps because of illness or injury, or because of deterioration. Do you know who you would grant your power of attorney, or your health care proxy? Do you have a living will or a Do Not Resuscitate order? These are things you’ll need to consider before they become relevant, because you’re unlikely to be able to arrange them when you need them the most.
Who do you want to get your property after you’re gone?
This is probably the most basic question everyone thinks about when they think about estate planning: who are you going to bequeath your property to in your will? While this seems like a basic enough question, there are some complications that can arise in your estate planning. For example, do you really own the property you’re leaving to other people? All too often, for example, a person will find they’ve been left a car or house or other valuable property… only to find out the property was sold off years before and the will was never updated to reflect that fact. Keeping your will accurate and up to date can save a lot of headache in the long run.
Should you put your property in a trust?
A trust is not always seen as a conventional part of estate planning, but depending on your circumstances, placing your property in a trust can be a great tool for any estate plan. First, leaving your property in a trust means that it is handled by the trustee who manages the trust, rather than going through the probate process, saving a lot of time and money in probate court. Second, property held in a trust is protected against both taxes and creditors, making it less likely your estate will be torn apart by tax collectors or bill collectors looking to fill their pockets. The catch, however, is you need to make sure you, well, trust whoever oversees your trust, because you’re probably not going to be around to stop them if they abuse their authority over your property.
Who do you trust to execute your estate?
As part of planning your estate, you’ll need to an appoint an executor, which is the person who will be entrusted to make sure all your property in your will is allocated according to your wishes. Like with the trustee in charge of your trust, the position of executor is an important one, and ripe for potential abuse if you’re not careful. You need to make sure your executor is someone who will follow your will and carry out the dictates of the probate court, as necessary; otherwise, your entire estate may get bogged down by legal troubles from the ensuing litigation.
Who do you trust to take care of your children, pets or other dependents?
Fortunately, most people who get to the point that they need an estate plan will be old enough that their children are already adults and able to take care of themselves. However, that isn’t always the case, and you may still have other relatives who are dependent on you for care, perhaps due to severe disabilities or other medical issues. And even if that isn’t a problem for you, if you have any pets, you should figure out who will take care of them should you pass away. Making sure the people who are dependent on you will be cared for is an essential part of any estate plan.
If you or a loved one are dealing with legal issues related to aging, it is best to contact an experienced New York elder law attorney who can guide you and help you plan for your future. The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are skilled in all aspects of elder law, and are dedicated to representing clients with diligence and compassion. To speak to an attorney or to schedule a consultation, call 866-825-1LAW.