Estate planning mistakes

These days the internet offers many ways to create your own estate planning documents and you can take that route if you want to save money, but you are better off hiring a professional to insure all your documentation is legally valid. We suggest you not do the following.

Don’t consult an expert

There’s nothing wrong with saving some dough by drafting your own estate-planning documents. You can find templates for basic wills and such online or in bookstores. But that should be followed with a review of those documents by an expert to insure everything is in order

Massachusetts estate planner Leanna Hamill, told AARP that, “Ninety percent of the online estate planning documents I see don’t do what the people think they’re going to do. I’ve seen people use online documents, documents out of estate-planning books or documents borrowed from friends. But they screw up their estate plan because they don’t understand the legal and technical aspects of the documents.”

Hamill told AARP that she knows of one client who signed a deed transferring his house to a trust but hadn’t properly created the trust. Thus, the deed had no effect. Another client’s confusion over the term “beneficiary” resulted in the immediate transfer of all his property to his children and required him to pay them an annual income, leaving his wife in the cold.

So even though you can do it yourself, err on the safe  side and contact a professional like Jeffrey Weinstein @  212-693-3737 for a free consultation.

 

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Digital assets and your will

We’ve written ad nauseum about how less that half of Americans have a will. Well, almost that many also forget to include their digital assets in their estate plan.

Most Americans don’t keep track of their online assets like Paypal, Facebook, and merchant loyalty reward programs and chances are will forget to include them in their estate plans. By neglecting these things a it can cause hassles for beneficiaries, powers of attorney and executors.

One group of things that people tend not to think of are reward programs like frequent flyer miles. For example, Anthony Bourdain left his unused frequent flyer miles to his estranged wife and they were substantial. We suggest you write down all your digital assets including logins and passwords and store them when only someone you trust knows where they are.

If you find it all too daunting there are businesses popping up that will do it for you. One business is out of Durham, North Carolina called Back Up Your Life which their site says

We help you organize your life’s documents, details, and contingency plans. If you’re ready to be ready, let’s back up your life.

Then there are digital estate services, such as Everplans, which helps her clients by providing a digital archive of everything your loved ones need if you die or get into an accident and can’t communicate.

Among the things Everplans takes care of:

  • Wills, Trusts, and insurance policies
  • Important accounts and passwords
  • Info about your home: bills, vendors, etc.
  • Health and medical information
  • Advance Directives and DNRs
  • Final wishes and funeral preferences

 

 

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Health Care Proxy. Should you have one?

Under the New York Health Care Proxy Law you can appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make those decisions yourself. That person is considered your health care proxy or agent

A health care proxy is a way to eliminate confusion among your loved ones and health care providers about your health care wishes should you no longer b able t make those decsions yourself. Hospitals, doctors, and other medical providers must follow the agent’s decisions as if they were your own.

Here are a some common questions and answers about health care proxies:

Who can be your health care agent?

Anyone 18 years of age or older, including a family member or close friend can be your health care proxy.

A doctor can act either as your proxy or your attending doctor, but not as both simultaneously. A number of special rules apply to patients or residents of a nursing home, hospital, or mental health facility who want to name a staff member as an agent.

What powers do health care proxies have?

Your proxy can decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes, but he or she is legally obligated to always act in your best interest.

The person you select as your health care agent will have as little or as much authority as you want. You may allow your agent to make all health care decisions or only certain ones.

A health care proxy is different from a living will because it does not require that you know in advance all the decisions that may arise. Nevertheless, you may give your agent instructions that he or she must follow and specify on the form the treatments you do or do not want.

Also, note that you can continue to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you’re able. You can also cancel the authority given to your agent by informing him or her or your health care provider orally or in writing.

To appoint a health care proxy, you and your agent must sign a New York health care proxy form in the presence of two adult witnesses. This is best done in an attorney’s office like the Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein. Mr Weinstein is an estate professional and can guide you through what you need to do to insure your wishes are carried out.

Here are some instances when you would need a proxy:

  • You are in a coma from an accident or illness.
  • You are terminally ill and not expected to recover.
  • You have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.
  • You are under general anesthesia, when something unexpected occurs.
  • You are in a persistent vegetative state.
  • You suffered from an illness that left you unable to communicate.

 

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Estate planning, not just a good idea.

End-of-life planning isn’t fun.  In fact, it’s a drag. But it’s an important aspect of managing your assets and protecting your family. That’s why it’s surprising that 6 out of 10 Americans don’t have estate planning documents, much less a will.

Surveys show only 42 percent of U.S. adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust. For those with kids under 18, it’s even lower, just 36 percent.

People don’t like thinking about death especially their own.That study was conducted in January by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, who asked 1,003 adults whether they currently have estate-planning documents in case of their death, and if not, why not?

Debbi King, author of “The ABC’s of Personal Finance” says,  “This is the ‘I’m going to live forever’ theory. No one literally thinks that, but we all want to believe we are going to live until our 80s or 90s so we don’t think we need a will right now. This isn’t true, of course. We all have an expiration date and no one knows exactly when it will be. The best thing you can do for your loved ones is have a will now.”

The Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein is here to help you with all your estate planning needs. Call us for a free consultation.

 

 

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Dying in debt

Pretty much everyone dies with some amount of debt, Mostly it’s run-of-the-mill bills. But there can be some debt that can shock heirs, especially if they didn’t know about it. Creditors need to be paid so the question is, so does all debt need to be settled? The short answer is: that depends.

Your liability depends on the nature of your debt. Mortgages and other debt secured by property must be paid, while unsecured debt such as credit cards and student loans, are another matter entirely. Your liability depends very much on the nature of the bill, the type of property and your state’s laws. The following applies to New York State.

If an accounting of your debts exceed the value of your estate, probate may not be the way to go. If there’a not enough money in your estate to pay your creditors, a court will have to make a settlement which is an additional cost to the estate. There are instances where it might be advisable to proceed with probate, but you should obtain experienced counsel before proceeding. The Law Offices of Jeffrey Weinstein can help you navigate this process. Call us for a free consultation. 347-305-8752.

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