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WHY ENGAGE IN LIFE & ESTATE PLANNING?

In a nutshell, Life & Estate Planning is about making sure that your wishes pertaining to your home, your financial assets, your health care and your loved ones are clearly laid-out in a documented “Life & Estate Plan” that complies with all the necessary legal requirements - so that you can rest assured knowing that your wishes will be followed and carried out in the event of an accident, medical emergency, disability or death.

 

Depending on the details of your particular situation, a well thought-out, comprehensive and coordinated Life & Estate Plan would allow you to accomplish the following important goals:

 

  • Provides for Your Family’s Needs. It is not uncommon for families experiencing a sudden medical crisis or unexpected death to nearly fall apart due to the resulting financial and emotional strain. A comprehensive Life & Estate Plan will ensure that all your personal affairs are in order so that your family will continue to be provided for and not left to face financial ruin should something unexpected happen to you.

  • Protects Your Home. For most people, their home is their single, most valuable asset.  Therefore, careful attention must be paid to make sure that the home is fully protected from potential creditors and is legally titled in such a way that will enable the home to pass directly to your intended beneficiaries with minimal delay and with minimal tax consequences. A comprehensive Life & Estate Plan would ensure that the necessary protective strategies are implemented to preserve the home as well as any tax benefits pertaining to the property (e.g., STAR, Veteran’s and/or Senior Citizen tax exemptions, step-up in cost basis to minimize any capital gains tax, etc.).

  • Protects Additional Properties. Many people own vacation homes or condos in other states. What most people don’t realize is that, upon death, properties in other states would have to go through an additional (i.e., an “ancillary”) probate process in the court system of the state where that property is located. Needless to say, this may prove to be very costly, time-consuming and inconvenient for your family.  However, a well-coordinated Life & Estate Plan could readily resolve this issue by structuring matters in such a way that your family could avoid having to deal with the hassle of an additional probate situation.      

  • Provides a Plan in the Event of Incapacity.  Life is unpredictable. If you should become incapacitated by an accident or sudden medical event, who will take care of paying your household bills and managing your health care needs? A comprehensive Life & Estate plan would include carefully crafted Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives to ensure that a person of your choosing is legally authorized to act on your behalf and make sure that all your financial and health care wishes are carried out in accordance with your wishes. This would prevent your assets from being “frozen” and spare your family from the costly and time-consuming process of having to go through the court system to have a legal guardian appointed to act on your behalf.     

   

  • Provides for the Care of Your Children.  As unpleasant as this thought might be, what would happen to your children if something, such as a serious car accident, happened to you and your spouse? Who would pick your children up from school? Where would they live? Who would be in charge of managing your finances in order to purchase needed items for them such as clothing and school supplies, etc.?  In short, who would be responsible for taking care of your children if you couldn’t? A well-thought-out Life & Estate Plan would enable you to designate a legal guardian to care for the personal and financial needs of your children. If you don’t have a Life & Estate Plan which sets-up a guardian plan for your children, then your children could end up in Child Protective Services until the court system is able to sort out who should be appointed as their legal guardian.   

  • Ensures That Your Property Goes to the Right Beneficiaries. A well-constructed Life & Estate Plan will indicate your wishes regarding the disposition of your remains (e.g., traditional burial or cremation, etc.) and map out exactly how and to whom you want your property and assets to pass upon your death.  

  • Minimizes Your Estate Taxes and Expenses.  A comprehensive Life & Estate Plan will implement numerous strategies to minimize the amount of taxes and expenses assessed on your estate which, in the end, will result in more of your hard-earned assets passing to your intended beneficiaries.

  • Provides for Loved Ones with Special Needs.  If you have a child or loved one with a disability, a special type of Trust could be set up to provide for the disabled person’s care needs while, at the same time, preserving your loved one's continuing eligibility to receive government benefits.

  • Allows You to Control Your Destiny.  A Life & Estate Plan allows YOU, rather than the laws of the State in which you reside (i.e., the State of New York or Connecticut), to: (1) determine who will manage your assets if you become incapacitated, (2) choose who will make health care decisions on your behalf if you could no longer do so yourself, (3) determine who will take care of your children if you couldn’t, and (4) determine how and to whom your assets will be distributed upon your death.  In short, a Life & Estate Plan enables you to maintain control over the most important aspects of your life and ensures that your wishes will be followed in the future.

  • Eases the Burden on Your Loved Ones & Preserves Family Harmony.  A Life & Estate Plan eases the burden on your family and loved ones as your most important wishes regarding your medical care, home and financial assets, and remaining estate will be clearly documented and made known to them.  As a result, your family won't be left "in a lurch" having to guess or decide what needs to be done on your behalf - you already laid it all out for them.  This not only eases the burden on your loved ones, but it also serves to prevent disputes and preserve family harmony.

  • Allows You to Avoid Probate.  Many people wish to avoid the delays and costs associated with the court probate process and, instead, have their assets pass to their beneficiaries directly and as quickly as possible. If this is also your goal, you may wish to consider setting up and funding a specially prepared Trust Agreement in your Life & Estate Plan and carefully re-structuring all of your assets in such a way so as to accomplish this goal.

  • Enables You to Support Your Favorite Cause. If there’s a particular organization, foundation, or cause that is near and dear to your heart, whether it’s an animal shelter, a humanitarian organization, a religious foundation, a hospital or health association, etc., you could help others and make a difference in their lives by making a charitable contribution through your Life & Estate Plan. 

  • Provides for Your Long-Term Care Needs. The high costs of long-term care can quickly deplete one’s hard-earned assets. Therefore, a good Life & Estate Plan should address alternate means of paying for such care, including the possibility of obtaining long-term care insurance and/or restructuring assets in order to readily establish eligibility for Medicaid benefits if needed down the road. 

  • Provides for Changes in Marital Status.  If you’re undergoing a change in marital status; whether it’s entering into a marriage for the first time, going through a divorce, getting re-married and/or sharing a blended family, it’s crucial that you have an updated Life & Estate Plan that reflects your changed marital status and provides for your new family situation.  

  • Coordinates Your Beneficiary Designations.  A comprehensive Life & Estate Plan will ensure that the beneficiary designations listed on all your financial accounts, retirement plans and insurance policies are coordinated and in alignment with your testamentary wishes.

  • Makes Sure Your Business Runs Smoothly.  If you’re a business owner, you’ll need to have a Life & Estate Plan that contains an appropriate succession plan which will outline what happens to your interest in the business should something subsequently happen to you.

  • Enables You to Plan in Advance. There’s an old proverb that says “The best time to repair a roof is when the sun is shining.” Similarly, the best time to engage in Life & Estate Planning is NOW – before an emergency situation arises.  This would allow you the opportunity to address life’s most important decisions thoughtfully, with a clear mind, rather than later, in an emotionally-charged crisis situation.

  • Provides Peace of Mind.  Perhaps most importantly of all, having a comprehensive Life & Estate Plan in place will provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind knowing that your personal affairs are in good order and that you and your family will be able to weather any of life’s storms.          

 

If you would like to achieve peace of mind knowing that your personal affairs are in order and that your home, your financial assets, and your loved ones will be fully protected, call The Law Offices of Michael J. Amoroso today at (914) 686-7272 to discuss your Life & Estate Planning wishes.