Do you know what will happen if you are incapacitated—unable to make your own medical or financial decisions? On the day you die, will your loved ones have access to the resources they need to meet immediate expenses? And will there be anything left after that? All these concerns are part of estate planning, and none of them involve a will.
As important as it is to have a will, it is just one part of planning your estate. The will disposes of your property once you’ve died, but it can’t help your heirs and family before you have died or even just after your death. Wills must be presented in court and go through probate, which can take months. Estate planning maps out the coming years to allow you the most comfort and peace of mind possible for yourself and your loved ones. We will gladly help you draft a will and discuss how it fits into your broader plan for yourself and your family.
Organizing Your Estate
Your family members will need to be able to access certain resources as soon as possible after your death in order to pay final bills and arrange for the funeral. A New York asset protection attorney can help you organize assets that will not have to wait weeks or months to pass through probate, such as certain types of bank accounts, real estate conveyances, and trusts. A number of legal instruments can allow your chosen beneficiaries to assume ownership on your death. As a practical matter, the fewer assets that have to undergo the probate process, the easier and less expensive it will be. But your plan needs careful supervision to avoid running afoul of laws and creditors—which may include the state.
A prolonged health crisis, or even an ordinary need for elder care, can bankrupt your estate well before the end of your life. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), a 65-year-old today has a 70% chance of needing long-term care services at home or in a care facility. These services cost thousands of dollars a month, but for those who can qualify, Medicaid will cover long-term care expenses. However, the state will attempt to recover Medicaid expenses through probate after your death. It takes long-term planning to shield any assets you hope to pass on to your heirs. We can help you learn how to qualify for Medicaid in time to preserve your estate while receiving the care you need.
Guardianship and Special Needs Trusts
Do you have a minor child or a loved one of any age with special needs? To protect their assets for the future, you will need an attorney with experience in special needs trusts. These can preserve necessary resources for a beneficiary without endangering their eligibility for SSI or Medicaid. Without specific guidance on the law, leaving your assets to your loved one by will or inheritance could lead to a financial disaster.
If you are a parent to a minor child or a guardian to someone with special needs, you will want to make arrangements for someone else to become the legal guardian when you can no longer act. Your will should convey your wishes to the probate court after your death, and the judge will take them into account, but the guardian must still file a petition. In the meantime, who takes care of your loved one, and how do they get the legal right to do so? We can help you and the prospective guardian make the necessary arrangements and filings to avoid a gap in care.
Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives
Part of estate planning is creating advance directives for your incapacity—setting out who will have the power to make decisions for you, when and how they can do it, and what kind of decisions you want those to be.
With a power of attorney (POA), a trusted individual can make specific kinds of decisions for you. One type of POA makes another person your health care proxy, giving them the power to make medical decisions on your behalf. You may decide to give that person a separate POA to handle financial issues as well, or you may give that power to someone else. Depending on your needs, you can give them this power at any time, or you can create a power that only comes into existence once you cannot make your own decisions. With careful drafting, you can ensure that the POA lasts only as long as you want it to.
In the event of terminal injury or illness, would you want the doctors to take ongoing life-prolonging measures? What kind, and for how long? We can work with you to formalize your wishes about medical interventions when you are incapacitated. It is a terrible question to contemplate, but the earlier you do so, the easier it will be for your loved ones.
You don’t have to deal with these issues alone, and you shouldn’t. As New York estate attorneys, we want to help you plan for your future. Call Marchese & Maynard today at 646-362-8600 to schedule an appointment to discuss your needs.