Estate planning, especially for people as they age and those with disabilities, means much more than preparing a Will or tax planning for the disposition of your assets upon your death. Estate planning is the means to maximize the goals of the estate owner. The goals of estate planning in the elder law context typically include providing for administration and protection of assets during lifetime and for decision-making in the event of a disabling illness, along with making sure the greatest amount of the estate passes to intended beneficiaries and minimizing the amount of taxes due.
Ms. Allen can assist in establishing a complete estate plan which should contain:
- A Last Will and Testament
- A Trust, if applicable to the person’s unique circumstances
- A Durable Financial Power Of Attorney naming an agent responsible for asset and financial management if one is unable to do such things for oneself.
- A Designation of Health Care Surrogate naming an agent responsible for medical decision-making
- A Living Will giving instructions concerning the type of end-of-life care one wishes to receive (or avoid) in the event of a terminal illness or persistent vegetative state.
Estate planning is an opportunity to make wishes known about your health care and asset distribution and to determine what person(s) will be responsible for carrying out those directives. Critical for those facing long-term care issues and/or disabilities, estate planning allows the individual to state his/her preferences concerning the type of care wanted, the preferred setting of that care, and who will act as agent in carrying out those wishes. Without estate planning, then there may be confusion as to what the individual’s wishes might have been and who should act as decision-maker. If you do not leave a Last Will and Testament or trust, your assets will be distributed according to the state laws of intestate (no will) succession. These laws govern the rights of surviving spouses, heirs and next of kin in the absence of a Last Will and Testament. For family dynamics involving second or third marriages or loved-ones receiving governmental disability benefits (or with the potential to receive them), not having an estate plan in place can have drastic unintended consequences.