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Thursday, October 8, 2020

Is My Estate Plan Good Enough?

Did you finally give in and create an estate plan, only to find yourself worrying about whether that plan is sufficient to address all of your needs? Are you wondering if your existing estate plan is really comprehensive enough to meet the diverse needs of your family members, your business, and the changes you will confront as you age? If so, join the club -- a great many people of varying ages are in the same boat.

Sometimes, doubt enters your mind when you see the problems a beloved older relative runs into at retirement or when illness strikes. Sometimes, the birth of a child or grandchild with special needs opens your eyes to possible inadequacies in your plan. Other times, a friend’s addicted teenager makes you consider previously unimaginable future occurrences. Whatever sheds light on potential flaws in your estate plan, now is the time to address them with an estate planning attorney who has a well-deserved reputation for covering all the bases.

If you live on Staten Island or in nearby New Jersey and need to create or revamp your estate plan, you should contact Merlino & Gonzalez for superior legal service. If you have not yet considered that your estate plan may be seriously imperfect, consider the following common estate planning mistakes.

Estate Plan Mistakes

Not having a will

No matter how many trusts you have in place, you don’t want to die without a will (intestate). Without a will, your beneficiaries and guardians of your young children may wind up being determined by state law and the courts. Just remember -- very few people expect to die young and yet we all know that some do.

Not Keeping Your Estate Plan Up-to-date

Life is full of changes, many of which necessitate changes in your estate plan. Such changes include:

  • Relocating or changing jobs
  • Starting, buying or selling a business
  • New baby in the family
  • Death in the family
  • Marriage or divorce of yourself of a loved one
  • Temporary of permanent disability

Moreover, not all changes occur in your own personal world. Changes in state or federal laws affecting taxation, employment, inheritance, or government benefits must also be addressed in your estate plan. This is why it’s so important to work with an attorney who keeps current with state and federal laws that may affect your future.

Not Planning for Disability or Long-term Care

Though we don’t like to think about it, the majority of people over 65 will require long-term care before they die, and some of us will suffer a serious injury, illness, or medical event that disables us prematurely, perhaps permanently. Since long-term medical or nursing care is exorbitant, the vast majority of us must think about how we will finance our retirement, support ourselves and our family if we become incapacitated. and protect our assets if we end up needing long-term care.

Not Protecting Assets Sufficiently

Unless you work with a highly competent estate planning attorney, who fully understands and makes use of trusts, joint property ownership, personal and charitable gifts, and other tools designed to protect and disburse assets, you run the risk of having the funds you worked so hard to accumulate depleted by:

  • Estate taxes
  • Creditors
  • Lawsuit settlements
  • Scam artists
  • Claims by estranged relatives

Lacking Sufficient Liquid Assets

A sharp estate planning attorney will be certain to draft your estate plan in such a way that your executor is able to pay off all outstanding debts, pay your final taxes, take care of your business (either by buying out a partner or keeping your business going until your estate is settled). Life insurance and bank accounts are effective ways to maintain liquidity.

Because Your Life Is Unique, Your Estate Plan Must Be Personalized

The above-mentioned mistakes in construction of estate plans are representative, but by no means inclusive. Unfortunately, most weaknesses in estate planning documents show up when it is too late to correct them. This is why it is so important to work with a tuned-in estate planning attorney who is hypervigilant about changes in state and federal law, routinely meets with you to keep your estate plan current, and with whom you trust your personal, familial, and financial information.


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