NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO WRITE OR REWRITE YOUR WILL
The pandemic has spurred many Americans to face a long-avoided task: writing or revising their Wills. Sadly, many people have yet to have a Will in place. Here’s the statistics: more than 30% of Americans 65 or older do not have a Will. Nor do more than 40% of people ages 50-64.
Some essential things to know about life planning circa 2020:
o You need more than a Will. A Will directs what happens after a person dies. But three other documents are just as important. One is a healthcare Power of Attorney (POA), which lets you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you’re unable. A Durable Power of Attorney, which lets someone make financial decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated and a Living Will at which directs what you want at end of life.
o These documents require hard conversations. Try to have them anyway. While it’s not a popular topic to discuss with loved ones, imagine the emotional and financial distress if no or few plans are made. Families derive an enormous sense of relief when they know what to expect.
Don’t delay. Make plans before it’s too late!
Creating an estate plan is a lot like getting into better shape. We all know we should do it, but most of us never make the first move because the task seems daunting.
If you need an estate plan, you can be sure that the seven easy steps outlined below will help you. Our firm can assist you at any phase of the process.
Step 1: Get a Will in place or Update your Will
In your Will, you will name an Executor who will have the power and responsibility to pay your debts and distribute the remainder of your estate according to your wishes. If you die without a Will, your property will pass to your survivors based on your state’s laws of intestacy.
Step 2: Name beneficiaries
By working with an attorney on your estate plan, you will want to update your beneficiaries as life circumstances change such as a death or divorce.
Step 3: Consider estate taxes
A vast majority of Americans do not have to fret about federal estate tax. Federal law establishes the taxes due are based on the size of your estate. Only about one-half of 1 percent of estates will owe federal estate tax under the current law, which Congress passed on Jan. 1 of 2020.
The federal estate and gift-tax exemption is now $5.25 million and will increase with inflation each year. Spouses may combine their exemptions, so married couples can leave or give away $10.5 million without owing any federal estate tax. Say, for example, that a husband and wife each have $3 million in assets. If the husband dies first and leaves everything to his wife, no estate tax is due. When the wife dies, leaving $6 million to their children, no tax is due because her estate can use a portion of the husband’s unused exemption.
Step 4: Leave a letter
Sometimes everything you want to tell your survivors does not belong in your will. You can use the letter to list items of sentimental value that you want certain heirs to inherit. Give the letter to a trusted relative, friend, or your attorney. Your family members and other loved ones are likely to respect your wishes.
Step 5: Seek an Attorney to also create a Durable Power of Attorney
Estate planning is not only about taking care of your survivors. A complete estate plan should also ensure that your wishes regarding your money and your health care prevail even if you become too sick to make your own decisions.
Create a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) so someone can manage your finances if you are ever unable to do so. You name a trusted relative or friend to take charge of your finances when you cannot. A DPA remains in effect when you can no longer manage your own affairs.
Step 6: Seek legal advice on creating an advance health care directive also known as a Living Will.
To maintain control over the type of medical care you receive when you are unable to make these decisions, you should consider signing a living will and a DPA for health care.
With a living will, you state the type of medical procedures that you do or do not want. In a DPA for health care, you name a health care agent or proxy who makes sure that doctors and other medical professionals carry out your wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Step 7: Organize your digital and paper files
Your executor will remember you more fondly if you organize your estate-planning paperwork and financial records and store them in a safe yet accessible place.
Pull together any of the documents your executor will need, such as the deed to your burial plot; insurance policies; statements from your bank, brokerage house, and mutual-fund accounts; and pension and other employee-benefit information. Maintain an up-to-date list of your assets, the names and telephone numbers of your legal and financial advisers, and an inventory of the items in your safe-deposit box. Store such documents at home in a locked, waterproof, and fireproof metal box, file cabinet, or safe.
And finally, review your estate plan at least every five years. Make sure all your documents still reflect your desires, and that your beneficiaries and financial and health care proxies are still willing and able to serve. In addition, you should revisit your estate plan if Congress revises the estate-tax law or whenever there is a major change in your life, such as a birth, death, marriage, or divorce.
Call Gardner Law Office for a free WILL consultation. Gardner Law Office Will package includes: Will/Power of Attorney/Living Will All for $400.00/single or $700.00/couple.
For more information on other Family Law matters and to schedule a Legal Consultation, please call (610) 866-9529 or complete an online form.
P: 610-866-9529 F: 610-866-9528 E: [email protected]
P.S. Join our conversation and follow us on social Media Gardner Law – Facebook