Earlier this week an article authored by our New York estate planning lawyer, Bonnie Kraham, Esq., appeared in the Times-Herald Record. The story discussed the need to avoid two of the biggest estate planning pitfalls–failure to address all relevant issues and failure to properly update the plan. The planning process is usually more than the creation of a single document or solution to one particular issue. Instead it should be a comprehensive review of a client’s entire situation. The plan should address potential disability issues, minimize or avoid estate taxes, streamline the cost and duration of the settling of an estate after death, and protect assets from nursing home costs. Seeking professional help in this area ensures that each and every one of these issues is addressed and included as part of the overall plan.
Ms. Kraham explained the importance of taking stock of life contingencies that may alter the legal position of an individual and affect an estate. New marriages, divorces, children, and deaths have significant impacts on New York estate planning matters–a proper plan accounts for them. One example is a situation where a client’s children are in a second marriage but have their own children from a previous marriage (the client’s grandchildren). Special steps may need to be taken to protect the rights of those grandchildren to appropriate assets from the client. If the client’s child predeceases her second spouse then the family assets may pass to the second spouse while leaving the grandchildren with nothing. An inheritance trust is one way to avoid this scenario and provide protection to all those in the family who need it.
Besides accounting for as many contingencies as possible, a proper estate plan must also be updated on a regular basis. There is no way around that fact that life changes will alter the family situation in ways that may require modification to a plan. Also, changes in the law may also have occurred which require alterations to previous strategies. Therefore, our attorneys suggest that the plan be reviewed at least once every three years. The important point is to remember that the best plans are not documents that are drafted and then collect dust in a drawer for decades.
Protecting assets, preparing for disability, and accounting for long-term healthcare costs are vital issues for all area residents. Our New York elder law estate planning lawyers are happy to help spread information about estate planning to as many New Yorkers as possible.
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