It’s a simple fact: no one likes to contemplate their own mortality. Planning for your own death is hard. Yet it is a necessary step that should be taken in order to ease the burden on your loved ones.
Putting together a comprehensive estate plan ensures that your wishes are followed in the event that you are incapacitated and after you die. Perhaps more importantly, it allows your family members to focus on spending time with you and then mourning you — rather than dealing with the details of your finances and potentially squabbling over your estate.
An estate plan does not have to be complex. Working with an experienced Long Island estate planning attorney can help smooth the road for you and your family as you enter your golden years. Read on to learn more about why you should not put off estate planning.
One Family’s Story
JayDee Pohs lost her mother unexpectedly in 2019. As expected, she was overcome by grief, but felt another strong emotion: stress. Her mom died without a will, trust, or any form of estate planning. This left JayDee and her family in the unenviable position of sorting out her mom’s paperwork instead of spending time with her as she died.
According to JayDee, she had to leave her mom while she was dying in hospice to attempt to get more paperwork done for her estate. Now that her mom has passed, she is overwhelmed by all of the details of handling her mom’s estate without a will or trust. According to JayDee, “You have every emotion you could ever have, because you are about to lose your loved one, and you have to deal with everything else on top of it.”
JayDee is not alone. The AARP reports that just 4 out of 10 American adults have a will or living trust. This means that 60% of Americans do not have an estate plan. Fortunately, most older Americans have done at least some estate planning. 81% of Americans aged 72 or older have estate-planning documents. Just 58% of those aged 53 to 71 have done some form of estate planning.
How Estate Planning Protects You — and Your Family
Many people view estate planning as something for the very wealthy. The reality is that no matter your net worth, an estate plan can not only protect your assets, but your wishes as you near the end of your life (and even after you pass away).
Your estate consists of everything that you own. It may consist of your house, car, bank accounts, stock, life insurance, jewelry, ownership of a professional practice, and other possessions. Estate planning is the process of designating how these assets will be distributed upon your death. It also dictates how your affairs will be conducted if you cannot make decisions for yourself.
The most common estate planning tool is a last will and testament. This document lays out your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets. If you die without a will (known as intestate), the state of New York will decide how your assets will be distributed. To make sure that your assets are distributed in a way that you want, it is best to have a will.
Trusts are another common type of estate planning tool that can be used to keep your affairs private. There are a number of types of trusts that can be used as part of an estate plan. Many of these will allow you to minimize taxes and avoid the probate process, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
A living will is a document that makes provisions for your care in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. With a living will, you can name another person, such as a spouse or a child, who can make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Similarly, a financial power of attorney will give a third party the ability to take control over your financial affairs if you are unable to do so. This could be a spouse or child, or a financial advisor. In conjunction with a will, a financial power of attorney is a powerful tool to help prevent elder financial abuse.
Work with a Long Island Estate Planning Attorney
An estate plan can help you make arrangements for your future, and give both you and your family peace of mind. It can be relatively straightforward, and set forth your wishes in a way that minimizes the burden on your loved ones in the event that you become ill.
At Winkler Kurtz, LLP, our team of attorneys is skilled at working with individuals and couples to create estate plans that work for them. We represent clients who have estates of all sizes. Contact us today at 631-928-8000 or online to schedule an appointment with a Long Island estate planning attorney.