Legal Matters – A Good Time to Review Your Estate Plan
As the new school year begins and summer draws to a close, parents return to their normal routines and focus on needed priorities. Grandparents and adults without children also complete vacations and settle back into routine. For adults of all ages, fall is a good time to make reviewing your estate plan a top priority. In reviewing your estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney, be prepared to answer these 14 questions:
- Do you want a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust? Another way to ask this question is: Do you want to avoid the probate process and its expense and red tape; or, are you comfortable with your personal representative going through the probate process?
- Do you want your spouse to have unlimited control over assets after you die – even though he/she may remarry and leave those assets to a new spouse; or, do you want to make sure your spouse has your assets while remaining assets go to your children?
- Do you have family members that have debt problems? If so, you probably do not want to leave assets outright to those family members. Instead, controls may need to be in place to protect the family member from creditors or wasting the assets.
- Do you have family members with substance abuse problems? Again, you probably want controls in place so the assets are not used to fund the substance abuse.
- Do you have a disabled child? If so, you need to make sure the inheritance you leave the child will not cause the child to lose government benefits.
- Who will you name as guardian(s) to take care of your minor children if both parents are deceased?
- Who will you name to manage your assets for your minor children if you are deceased?
- Do you want to disinherit someone? If so, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a later will contest.
- Does you have estate and gift tax issues? If so, steps must be taken to reduce or eliminate taxes.
- Are you implementing creditor and lawsuit protection in your estate plan for your surviving spouse and children?
- If you have a revocable living trust, has it been properly funded?
- Are your beneficiary designations consistent with your estate plan?
- Who will make financial and health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated?
- Do you have a plan for long-term care as you age?
As you can see, estate planning involves answering many serious questions and is about receiving sound advice to answer these questions. Be wary of form documents. These questions should be answered by you with professional guidance. If these questions are not answered properly, the state will answer the questions for you. Make time this fall to get your estate plan in order.
-Melanie B. Bradford
Partner, Bradford & Holliman, LLC
Practice focuses on estate planning, elder law and special needs trust.
2491 Pelham Parkway, Pelham, Ala. 35124
This article is for educational purposes and is not intended for specific legal advice.