New Year’s Resolutions- Estate Planning Edition
By: Lauren C. Enea, Esq.
If you are like me, January 1 comes with lofty goals, such as elimination of cheese and fried food from my diet and a resolution of exercising at least 4 days a week. I’m hopeful I’ll make it 6 weeks! A more permanent goal, and one with very long term benefits might be getting your affairs and estate plan in order. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Have you created an inventory of all your assets, accounts, safety deposit boxes, retirement accounts, beneficiary designations and digital assets?
Throughout your life you have accumulated a variety of assets that are held and titled in different ways. Creating an inventory of all your assets will not only help you prepare to meet with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney, but will also be invaluable to your family and/or spouse in the event you are unable to handle your own finances or pass away.
- Have you reviewed your monthly income needs and created a budget for your expenditures?
Does your monthly income cover your expenses? Are you able to save money for retirement, household projects and/or your children and grandchildren? Discussing a budget with your spouse and a plan for your future with your trusted advisors is an excellent way to start the new year.
- Have you met with an Estate Planning and Elder Law Attorney?
Ensuring your estate planning documents are valid and updated can have life-long benefits. Making sure that you have designated an agent to make medical decisions for you in a Health Care Proxy, along with an agent(s) to make financial decisions for you in a Power of Attorney, in the event you are unable to make said decisions yourself. Your Last Will and Testament and if you prefer, a Revocable Living Trust should be created or updated so as to ensure you have taken advantage of all estate planning options available to you and have properly named the beneficiaries, executors and/or trustees in accordance with your wishes. If your assets are held in a revocable and/or irrevocable trust, upon your death you will avoid the need of a probate proceeding. Having a trust can also allow for ease of transition to those you want handling your affairs in the event you become incapacitated and can no longer manage your affairs. In addition to avoiding probate, an Irrevocable Medicaid Asset Protection trust can be used in order to do Medicaid Planning, and thus protect your assets from the cost of long term care.
- Have you engaged in long term care planning?
Understanding and planning for the cost of long term care will help you determine if and how you will be able to pay for the cost of your long-term care, in the event you need assistance in your home (a home health aide) or in a facility (assisted living facility or nursing home). Paying for long term care can be done in a variety of ways, including by using your life savings, using long term care insurance, or taking steps to become eligible for Medicaid benefits. Having a conversation in with an Elder Law attorney may be beneficial to determine what your exposure to the cost of your long-term care is, and what steps you can take to minimize said exposure.
Happy New Year and Happy Planning!
Lauren C. Enea, Esq. is an Associate at Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP. She concentrates her practice on Wills, Trusts and Estates, Medicaid Planning, Special Needs Planning and Probate/Estate Administration. She believes that it is never too early or too late to start planning for your future and she enjoys working with individuals and families to ensure that their estate and long- term care plan best suits their needs. Ms. Enea is on the executive committee of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Elder Law and Special Needs Section and is also the Co-Editor of the NYSBA Elder Law and Special Needs Section Journal. She is admitted to practice law in New York and Florida. She can be reached at (914) 948-1500.