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Estate planning is an important step for those looking to have a way to control what happens to their assets after they pass away, but that is not all you can accomplish with thorough, well-written estate plans. Find out a few important answers to common questions about estate planning, and see why working with an estate planning attorney may be a good idea to help you get started.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning can be defined as a set of tools and strategies that can be used with the goal of helping you preserve your assets while you are still living, record your wishes for how your assets should be divided after you pass away, and could also be used to achieve other related goals, such as minimizing your estate tax liability. By leveraging the knowledge and experience of an estate planning professional (such as an attorney), you can be confident you are making the right choices for your estate planning goals.
There are several documents that are usually part of an estate plan and work together to accomplish your desired goals. Those documents may include a last will, a living will, a power of attorney, a living trust, and several others. Each person’s estate planning needs are unique and may need a unique combination of estate plans. For example, some individuals may only need to have a last will, while others may need to set up a revocable living trust to reach their goals.
How Do I Know if Estate Planning Is Right for Me?
Many people have the impression that they do not need to have any estate plans because they do not consider themselves to be wealthy, nor do they have any illnesses. They may also believe that estate planning is not for them because they are not of advanced age or for a number of other reasons. The truth is estate planning is an important step for absolutely everyone, from an 18-year-old college freshman to a 75-year-old retiree and beyond.
While it is clear that the estate planning needs of a wealthy senior citizen would be radically different than that of a young and healthy college student, both individuals would benefit from having basic documents in place, such as a living will and a last will, regardless of age or economic status. Without any estate plans, it will be up to a judge to decide what happens to your assets, and you may not be able to have a way to communicate your wishes for medical treatment to your family should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. Simply put, estate planning is for everyone, and the sooner you begin working on it, the more peace of mind you may enjoy.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will or Any Estate Plans?
In Pennsylvania and in most states, when you die without a will, you are considered to have died intestate, and therefore your assets are subject to the intestacy rules of the state. This means that instead of simply dividing up your assets according to your wishes recorded in your will, a judge will follow the intestacy laws to divide your assets according to who your surviving relatives are.
For example, if you left a spouse and have no children, the spouse will likely inherit everything. If you have children, the assets will be divided among your spouse and your children. The spouse receives at least $30,000 plus one-half of the remaining assets, while the children receive the other half of the assets that are left. The intestate probate process can be more laborious and take longer than simple probate in which the decedent left a valid will. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets, it is best to have a valid last will and testament so that your loved ones may avoid the headache of going through intestate probate.
How Can Estate Planning Help Preserve My Assets for My Heirs?
Another aspect of estate planning many people overlook is long-term care planning and Medicaid planning. If at any point you were to become disabled and need to be placed at a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home, you may end up depleting your assets due to the high cost of care at these facilities. If you choose to receive benefits through Medicaid, your beneficiaries may also find that there is not much left for them to inherit after repaying Medicaid with your estate assets.
The good news is that by working with an estate planning lawyer, you may work out a plan to set aside enough funds to receive the care you need while you are still alive without jeopardizing your entire estate. Tools such as trusts can be extremely helpful in protecting assets from Medicaid, for example. Speak to your attorney to find out more about including long-term care planning in your estate plans.
Why Should I Work With an Estate Planning Attorney?
As you may see, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to estate planning. By working with a seasoned estate planning attorney, you can receive the guidance you need to navigate the estate planning process, write the necessary documents, and craft a unique strategy that works for you. At the Pile Law Firm, PLLC, Attorney E. Nego Pile helps clients in Blue Bell, PA, and surrounding areas with all of their estate planning needs. Contact our office at 610-718-6368 to get started.