Estate Planning That Benefits Your Life
Everyone can benefit from having an estate plan, no matter your family dynamic or financial status. An estate plan includes a set of legal documents that address how your assets are to be distributed after you pass. These documents also illustrate how your assets should be managed if you are no longer able to make your own financial or healthcare decisions. At Ingold Law PLLC, we can help you set up an estate plan that makes sure your final wishes are carried out.
People often think of estate planning as making provisions for the disposition of their property and estate. Comprehensive estate planning, however, should also include making provisions for your medical and health in the event that you are unable to do so yourself, i.e., preparing advance directives.
Advance directives include a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will. Every adult, 18 years old or older, should have a Health Care Proxy. This document allows you to name a trusted, competent adult who will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself. You can give your proxy as much or as little authority as you wish.
A Living Will is a document which allows you to declare the type of medical care or treatment that you may or may not want upon your incapacitation. It allows your agent to refuse medical treatment or have medical treatment discontinued on your behalf. This document is especially important when it comes to making decisions about life support, resuscitation, and end of life plans. A Living Will is also important in that it helps alleviates the decision-making burden from your loved ones in an otherwise difficult time.
Powers Of Attorney
The power of attorney grants a trusted person (your agent) the power to handle your financial affairs in the state of New York. These affairs can include real property transactions, everyday banking, operating your business, paying bills, buying and selling property, and even amending or adding to your estate planning documents. Your agent can also, if duly empowered by you, complete a number of other financial and legal actions, including asset protection strategies. What the agent can do depends on your situation and your power of attorney.
It is important to understand how the power of attorney is an incredibly powerful document. As soon as the document is effective – which happens when the agent signs the document, not when you sign – your agent is empowered with the responsibilities laid out in the document. Who is given these powers is a vital decision. Your agent should be a person who is trustworthy, financially competent, and very organized.
Health Care Proxies And Living Wills
The health care proxy and living will are related but legally distinct documents. The health care proxy functions much like the power of attorney, but for decisions regarding your health care. It appoints a health care agent who is empowered to make decisions regarding your health. Usually, this includes procedures such as artificial respiration, hydration, tube feeding, and other procedures.
The living will, on the other hand, does not name an agent. This document outlines your preferences regarding the specific procedures you do and do not wish to have if you are in a terminal state. This legal document instructs hospital staff, family members, and friends what your exact health care wishes are so that they may be carried out on your behalf.
Whether you wish to have a health care proxy, living will, or both, our New York estate planning law firm can help.
Last Wills And Testaments
A will is a legal document that states your final wishes regarding your property after death. The will can lay out specific heirs (beneficiaries) as well as exclude those whom you do not wish to benefit from your estate. In Western New York, this document names the executor of your estate and can give specific instructions on the management of your assets, including pets.
In New York, if you do not have a will, the state’s default intestacy provisions take over. This means that the state of New York will choose who receives your property and who administers your estate – regardless of what your preferences may have been. This is known as probate. In the Buffalo and Williamsville area, probate is a public court process, it can be very expensive, and can be time-consuming for your loved ones.
If you do not have a will in New York this can be a recipe for family trouble. A will can grant assets to family members without them needing to haggle or fight over what they believe is theirs. It’s also very important for families receiving Medicaid benefits.
For example, a couple who receives Medicaid benefits for the husband’s nursing home care may have planned to shield many of their assets from Medicaid in order to pass them onto their heirs. But if the wife dies without a will, the husband’s Medicaid benefits may be terminated, and the wife’s estate would be used to pay for his care. But if she had a will excluding him as the heir in New York, his care can continue while their heirs can enjoy the assets of the estate.
Alongside your will, setting up a trust can be a wise decision. Assets placed in a trust bypass probate, making the process of settling your estate faster. It might also help you avoid estate taxes so that more of your assets go to your loved ones. There are several versions of trusts to choose from. We can go over your options and help you choose the one best suited to your particular needs.
One common type of trust is the special needs trust. This trust is for parents or guardians of a child with special needs. Having one lets you insure your assets will continue to provide for your son or daughter after you are gone, without them having to give up qualifying for disability benefits. This is just one of the specialty estate planning options we offer our clients.
Ready For Your Estate Plan?
To learn more about adding one or more of these tools to your estate plan, please contact our Williamsville office at 716-972-3698 and schedule an appointment for a consultation. We serve the Buffalo metro area and all of Western New York.