Helpful Estate Planning Tips

Did you know that more than a third of Americans don’t have updated estate plans? That’s according to the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils, and if you’re one of these Americans, you may be wondering what the big deal is. Unfortunately, without fully up-to-date estate plans, you can’t be sure that your loved ones will be financially protected if something were to happen to you. And while nobody enjoys thinking about life after death, having thorough plans in place is always a smart idea. The following are a few estate planning tips that you should be taking advantage of.

If you don’t have any plans at all, the first thing you should do is draft a will. Without a will, it’s up to the state to determine who gets your money. This can be especially tricky if you have multiple children, or no children at all, and if you have several forms of income and assets. Clearly stating who gets what in a will is the easiest way to avoid any problems.

When it comes to things like life insurance and retirement plans, you should review you policies to ensure all of them are up-to-date. Make sure all of the necessary forms are properly filled out and signed, and remember to update them when and if you go through a major change like a divorce.

Finally, it is important to choose the right executor for your estate. This person will be responsible for not only paying off any remaining debts you may have, but also for following your will and ensuring your assets get to the appropriate people. This can be a close friend or family member who you trust, or a professional executor.

These are just a few things to think about to help you get started with estate planning. For additional help, make sure you contact us about our estate planning services!

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To ignore estate planning for small estates can be a huge mistake.

A small estate may not incur estate taxes, but we all will incur funeral costs, medical expenses, loan and credit card debt obligations, state and local taxes and administration fees that are applied during estate settlement.

Debt concerns can include a mortgage, car loans, unpaid school loans and recurring bills. Failure to plan can result in liquidation of assets, sometimes at a discount to cover obligations. Modest estates can pose planning challenges because liquidity may not be there.

Some planning tools to consider:

• joint ownership
• beneficiary designation
• Will
• Living Trust
• Durable Power of Attorney
• Life Insurance
• Long Term Care Insurance
• Reverse Mortgage (if over age 62)

Some issues everyone should address:

• avoid family disputes - Will and/or trust considerations
• plan of succession - who gets what and when
• election of executor and/or guardian for minor children
• update beneficiary designations on policies and joint accounts or accounts of convenience
• life, disability and long term insurance considerations

Making sure all family members understand your wishes can go a long way in preventing post-death battles and hurt feelings. Just as important, you should review your estate plan every few years or when significant changes occur. Just as important the above considerations have to be coordinated in order to void inconsistencies.

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Living Will v Heath Care Proxy v Medical Directives are all different documents…?

The most common types of advance directives are the living will and the durable power of attorney for health care (in Massachusetts a ”health care proxy”).

These directives allow you to say you don’t want to be resuscitated, you want to make organ or tissue donations, and desired quality of life and end of life treatments you don’t want to receive.

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