Meeting with an estate planning attorney at various stages or milestones throughout your life can save you – and your heirs – a substantial amount of money and headaches, and ensure that your wishes are carried through in the event that you are disabled by illness or injury, and following your death.
Here are two things that you really do need to put into place with your estate planning attorney, and one that you may not:
You DO Need to Assign Powers of Attorney
Everyone DOES, however, need, and should have, a financial and medical power of attorney. Thinking about death is scary, but being under a medical or other disability without a plan in place as to who you trust to manage your assets, pay your bills, or make your medical decisions for you is even scarier.
Without an assigned attorney-in-fact (sometimes referred to as “an agent”) to manage your financial affairs and medical decisions (including end-of-life decisions), the courts may be called upon to decide, and could select a person that you may have never wanted in those roles. It is also far more expensive to go this route than to have powers of attorney drafted and signed in advance—about 10 times more.
You DO Need a Standby Guardian
When individuals have children under the age of 18, they need a Designation of Standby Guardian that appoints a trusted friend or family member to wait “on standby” in case they are needed to care for a child or children should the parent suffer a severe illness or injury that does not kill them but prevents them from being able to care for the children during a period of recovery.
Not Everyone Needs a Trust
“Many people coming to see me for estate planning services for the first time are confused about whether they really need a Trust,” according to attorney Patricia E. Tichenor, managing attorney of the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C. “Trusts can be very useful, but they are also very expensive and require additional steps after you sign to fund them or re-title your assets in the name of the Trust.”
With the current Federal death tax “credit” (sometimes referred to now as “the allowable amount”) being more than $5.46 million and subject to annual cost of living adjustments, meaning you owe no additional death taxes to the I.R.S. if your estate is less than that amount, there is a lot less pressure on individuals to use Trust Planning for tax reasons. Of course, some States have adopted their own separate state death tax provisions which may still result in a tax being owed by an individual’s estate. In addition, some States have very costly probate taxes (i.e., California), which make the use of Trusts absolutely necessary.
This is why it’s very important to use an attorney licensed in the State where you reside; one who is very familiar with both Federal and State tax death tax laws. Moreover, if the beneficiaries of your estate are residents of a State that does not have an inheritance taxes, you may then only need a well-written Last Will and Testament rather than a Trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
Along with your Will, you do need to get guidance from your attorney on the pros/cons of utilizing non-probate planning, which means that you by-pass your Will and instead designate beneficiaries by name as a payable on death or transfer on death beneficiary on your bank accounts, insurance, retirement funds, etc., to avoid probate altogether. This is call non-probate planning, as these assets will never pass through your Will, and therefore, will escape probate taxes.
Contact Your Estate Planning Attorney
If you do not have powers of attorney in place or if what you have is more than five years old, we strongly recommend that you meet with your estate planning attorney to set them in place immediately. You never know when illness or an accident will strike, nor do you know the impact it will have on your family or children if you have no plan or an outdated plan in place.
We, at the Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor, P.L.L.C., will be glad to help you with any legal advice or documents needed to ensure your estate’s security. Contact Northern Virginia attorneys Patricia E. Tichenor and Camellia Safi today to set your appointment.