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The Importance of Estate Planning

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When I refer to a basic “estate plan,” I am referring to a will, healthcare directive, and financial power of attorney. A proper estate plan provides you with control of who benefits from your estate, ensures your medical wishes are followed, and makes certain that someone you trust is designated to handle your financial affairs. An estate plan is more than distributing assets and settling debts. An estate plan can help avoid family conflict, provide for special needs individuals, designate a guardian, and ensure you leave a legacy to your family. It also can memorialize your decisions about healthcare and end-of-life decisions.

Almost everyone has something of financial and emotional value they would like to pass on to specific individuals.  A will acts as your voice after your passing — ensuring your wishes are known and honored.   When someone dies without a will, they die “intestate.”  Here, the decedent’s assets are distributed in accordance with the laws of “Intestate Succession.”  These laws are designed to protect and provide for the surviving spouse and the children of the decedent.  In the context of second marriages, the laws of intestate succession may have unintended consequences.  A will ensures your spouse and children are provided for as you – rather than Government – deem appropriate.

Besides determining how your property is distributed, a will can designate who will care for your minor children after you die. Appointing a caretaker that you trust in your will affords you time to discuss how best to handle your children’s mental, emotional, and financial life preparedness.

A healthcare directive designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so.  In essence, it appoints a medical advocate.  I always encourage my clients to appoint someone that loves you, knows your wishes, and is willing and able to insist that you receive the medical care you require.

A properly prepared financial power of attorney is a critical tool in preserving your estate when a spouse requires nursing home care.  If a spouse requires a nursing facility due to Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia, they may lack the legal capacity to engage in Medicaid Planning in order to preserve assets and accelerate Medicaid Eligibility.  Of course, any transferring of assets in this context should be made only after consultation with an attorney qualified in Medicaid Planning.

Our Certified Medicaid Planners at Luschas, Naparsteck, & Crane, LLP are happy to sit with you discuss your estate plan.  Call 570-784-4654 to schedule a consultation.

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