Where There’s a Will, There’s Not Necessarily an Estate Plan.

5 essential estate planning issues you need to address.

If you were playing a word association game and said “estate planning document,” it is likely that the most common response would be “a will.” Indeed, folks who may not have a full understanding of the universe of estate planning possibilities at least know that they should have a will. What they don’t realize is that a complete estate plan includes much more than a last will and testament.

The whole concept of estate planning is based on the desire to secure your financial future and provide protection and peace of mind for your loved ones. The reality is that a will, while a great start, is often insufficient by itself to accomplish those goals. Whether you are just starting your estate planning or are thinking about updating and enhancing your current documents, make sure that you address these five essential issues.

Incapacity Planning

A will only becomes effective after you die. Unfortunately, many of us will face the possibility that we will become severely ill, disabled, or incapacitated and not be able to make important decisions regarding our health, treatment, and financial affairs. If you haven’t addressed these issues in advance, your loved ones will be left to wonder about your wishes and what they should do, adding another layer of stress and confusion to what is already a difficult time. This is why incapacity planning is a vital part of any thorough estate plan. With an incapacity plan, including such documents as a power of attorney for health care or property, you can appoint a responsible, trustworthy person to oversee your financial and health care needs if you become unable to handle them on your own.

Probate Avoidance

Most people seek to avoid probate, and there are plenty of good reasons for this. The probate process can consume a tremendous amount of time and money, putting stress on loved ones left behind. A well-drafted estate plan can ensure that your heirs receive your bequests swiftly and without the burden of a prolonged probate process.

Retirement Planning

As human longevity increases, and people stay healthier well into their 70s, 80s, and beyond, it’s important to plan for an extended lifespan. You want to have enough money to live comfortably throughout all of your retirement years. Your estate plan should incorporate detailed retirement planning that helps you achieve this goal.

Business Succession Planning

Many business owners plan on selling their businesses as they approach their retirement and use those funds to provide for themselves and their family during their golden years. However, in a recent PwC survey of family-owned business owners, 73 percent reported not having a substantial and documented succession plan. In a family-owned business, this lack of planning can create significant conflict and damaged relationships. A business succession plan provides answers for a variety of contingencies, such as what happens if the owner becomes incapacitated. By providing clear direction, it allows the business to run as smoothly as possible in the event key leadership dies or can no longer oversee the business.

Medicaid Planning

Few people like to think about the possibility of needing Medicaid, but they ignore planning for it at their financial peril. Without proper planning, you might have to pay out-of-pocket for nursing home care. A prolonged stay at a long-term care facility can consume a lifetime’s worth of assets in a relatively short amount of time. With the right strategic planning, you can preserve your estate for your spouse and other beneficiaries.

The Law Offices of Louis R. Fine

When you are ready to start working on your estate planning or if you just have questions about how to proceed, give me a call at (312) 236-2433 or fill out my online form for a free initial consultation. I will work with you to create an estate plan that suits your needs, budget, and goals. While thinking about your own demise may be unpleasant, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have provided for your loved ones and spared them from additional grief is invaluable.

Your Choice of a Lawyer Matters. Here are Four Qualities to Look For.

I meet with new clients and potential new clients on an almost daily basis. When I do, I know that the reason they are in my office is because they have important issues that need to be addressed; issues that can have a profound impact on their career, family, and future.

I also know that the decision as to which attorney they hire to assist them is one that they don’t, and shouldn’t, take lightly. There is no question that the quality and competence of an attorney can play a significant role in the outcome of a given matter, and how that attorney approaches his practice and relationship with clients can make the difference between peace of mind and constant worry.

Based on my experience, here are some qualities you should consider if you are in the process of looking for an attorney:

  • Knowledge of the Law. It goes without saying that your lawyer should know what he’s doing, and that includes keeping up to date on new developments and approaches. The law is constantly changing; new legislation, court decisions, rules, and guidelines come out all the time. It is crucial to hire a lawyer who not only understands the law as it is but who is aware and alert to the impact of changes which may take place.
  • Experience. So much of what happens in a legal matter is not based on things that can be found in books; knowing the nuances of both the law and the reality of practice is crucial to obtaining successful results. Look for a lawyer who knows their way around the courthouse, hearing room, or conference room. Look for a layer who knows how things work, and knows how things get done. Sound judgment and insight isn’t learned at a seminar. That is something that only comes from years of experience.
  • Communication. You no doubt have many questions about your situation, what may happen next, and what the plan should be going forward. Throughout your case, you’ll want to know that when questions and concerns come up, your attorney will be there, available and ready to answer and resolve them. You also want a lawyer who will actually listen to you and who will take the time to understand your needs and goals.
  • Empathy and Trust. When you meet with a lawyer, you are not there necessarily to discuss a case or a file; you are talking about your life. You want an understanding and compassionate lawyer who you can speak to about your concerns and issues and you want to feel as if they truly care and understand what is at stake. Choose an attorney who makes you comfortable, who is trustworthy and ethical, who you feel will truly expend all necessary efforts on your behalf, and who gives you a feeling of peace of mind every time you leave his office or hang up the phone after speaking with him or her.

The attorney-client relationship is a unique and important one, and the trust you place in your lawyer is something he or she should value and work every day to earn.