Is My Estate Plan Up To Date?

This is a question we must all ask ourselves from time to time. As we grow older, our needs change and our estate plans should change to reflect those needs.

When we were younger, our biggest concerns may have been providing for our spouse or our children if something happened to us. Later on perhaps we were more concerned about estate taxes or probate or we may have just put off making a decision and done nothing.

Eventually we may get to the point where we think about someday needing help in handling our affairs, staying out of a nursing home, or protecting assets from long-term care costs. This is the time to see if your estate plan still meets you needs.

With over 30 years experience in the legal issues faced by seniors, attorney KELLY S. DAVIS can help review your plan. As a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, he has the knowledge you need to make the right choices to reach your goals.

Durable General Powers of Attorney

A durable general power of attorney allows someone you choose to handle your affairs when you can't. It is one of the most valuable documents you can have. It can be the difference between retaining some control over your life or having the court appoint a guardian to make decisions for you.

Because we often can't tell if our power of attorney will work until it is too late to change it, it is critical that you get it right before it is needed. Relying on a "Do-it-Yourself" form off the internet can be as disastrous as trying to put a size 10 problem in a size 7 shoe. Having an experienced elder law attorney like KELLY S. DAVIS draft your documents now can help avoid future problems.

Things to consider in a durable power of attorney include: When will it be effective? Is the person named to handle your affairs able to do the job? What happens if they are no longer around? Does your document contain language that will be needed to preserve your estate if you end up in a nursing home?

Advance Directives

If you are ever unable to make a healthcare decision for yourself, and you have not left instructions, the decision can be made by your next of kin, provided they can agree. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. They may argue! Something you didn't want may happen!

With a durable healthcare power of attorney you can name one person that you trust to make decisions. By including an advance directive you can even tell that person what decision you want made and when. You can retain control and maintain your dignity up until the very end.

When considering your durable healthcare power of attorney, think about appointing a strong person as your agent. If that person is unable to serve, who will you name? Is there someone you do not want making decisions? How do you feel about the use of morphine to relieve pain? Do you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube? These are questions that only you can answer. Elder law attorney KELLY S. DAVIS can guide you through the process.

Last Wills and Testaments

If a person dies with property in their name and no survivorship or beneficiary designation, title has to be transferred to the heirs. Your Will is your instruction on how you want your property divided and who you want to handle it. Upon death the Will needs to be "probated" to prove it is the last will and testament. Without a valid Will the legislature decides who gets your estate. You lose control!

People often say, "I don't have much. I just need a simple will." That may or may not be the case. The question isn't just about how much you have. Who do you want to inherit from you? What if that person dies? How old should someone be to receive their share? What if someon is or becomes disabled? Is there any special bequest you want to make? What about heirlooms and tangible personal property? Is there someone you do not want to inherit? Who do you trust to carry out your wishes?

Will kits or forms you get on-line generally don't ask the key questions that address your needs. Elder law attorney KELLY S. DAVIS can help you reach your goals.

Living Trusts

Trusts have long been a useful tool for estate planning. There are many kinds of trusts: living trusts, testamentary trusts, revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, A/B trusts, QTIP trusts, ILIT's, IDGT's, special needs trusts, and more. Each has its own purpose. Selecting which one to use and when to use it requires special knowledge.

Living trusts are the most common. They are used in three primary situations: 1) To avoid or reduce federal estate taxes; 2) To avoid probate; and 3) To speak from the grave as to how you want your estate used. But as you grow older, your goals may change. Estate tax may not matter anymore. You may have property outside your trust. Heirs may have grown up. Perhaps you are looking at nursing home care and have learned that your trust will not protect your assets. An experienced elder law attorney like KELLY S. DAVIS can help you by reviewing your estate plan.