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Do you have an estate plan? If you already have an estate plan, have you reviewed it with an estate attorney within the last three years?
Our attorneys offer a highly professional, yet completely personal approach to the estate planning needs of clients on Long Island. We help clients formulate effective estate planning strategies and put a plan in place when they do not have one. We also update and revise existing estate plans for clients as needs and life situations change over time.
How do we accomplish your estate planning goals?
Our Long Island estate attorneys understand this complex area of the law and they have strong, technical legal expertise and experience in the area of wills, trusts and estates. Our estate planning attorneys take the time to get to know you and your needs. We also communicate in a caring and responsive manner and we listen to you. Together we design estate planning strategies for you, your family, and your business to effectuate your goals.
What is the goal of estate planning and what should I include in my estate plan?
> If you own a pet or pets, your estate plan should encompass provisions that protect them in the event of your sudden illness or death.
The goal of estate planning is to create an efficient and cost-effective strategy for the management of your property and assets during your lifetime and their distribution after your death. A comprehensive estate plan is essential for the preservation of your assets. Estate planning involves wills and trusts, beneficiary designations, powers of appointment, tax strategies, property ownership (joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, tenancy in common, tenancy by the entirety), gifting, and powers of attorney, health care proxies, living wills, appointments of agent to control disposition of remains. Estate planning tips:
- Your estate plan should provide a practical approach for distributing assets to the people or entities you choose — Beneficiaries — in accordance with your wishes
- Your estate plan should account for your individual and joint holdings and be tailored to your anticipated lifestyle
- Your estate plan should designate who will make your healthcare decisions in the event that you are unable to do so
- Your estate plan should assure a seamless transition for the management of your affairs in the event of incapacity or illness
- Your estate plan should incorporate provisions to protect your Beneficiaries against the possibility of financial mismanagement due to their own incapacity, disability or age
- Your estate plan should minimize the payment of estate taxes and the cost of settling your estate
Your estate plan’s success depends on a number of interrelated factors and can be evaluated only from your standpoint and that of your loved ones. The estate plan that is right for you requires careful evaluation of your accumulated wealth, your health, physical and mental well-being, as well as that of your spouse or life partner and others for whom you wish to provide. It must take into account your family structure and retirement goals, and many other complex considerations. Identifying and quantifying these are the first steps to developing your estate plan.
Examples of basic estate planning strategies you can consider:
Trusts are among the most effective estate planning tools. They help you avoid probate and accomplish many other estate planning and asset preservation goals. Visit our trusts page. Learn how a trust can help you preserve wealth and protect your assets.
Power of Attorney (Powers of Attorney)
A Power of Attorney is a document by which the Principal (you), appoint an Agent, to manage your financial matters immediately or at some future time. A Power of Attorney can be broad or restricted to a specific transaction. All Powers of Attorney expire at death. Powers of Attorney can give as much, or as little, authority to the Agent as you deem appropriate. Since illness or accidents may strike at any time, each of us should have a Power of Attorney to ensure that our financial matters are addressed and to avoid the expense and emotional trauma of a guardianship proceeding.
Wills | Last Will and Testament
Your Will, known as a Last Will and Testament, is an essential part of your estate plan and should be prepared in direct coordination with your estate planning attorney. Your Will specifies the manner in which you want your assets distributed after death. It has no affect during your lifetime. Visit our Wills page. Learn about what should be in my Will and the drawbacks of Wills.
Health Care Proxies
A Health Care Proxy is a formal designation of another person to act as your agent on making health care decisions if you become incapable of communicating your wishes. These are decisions concerning diagnosis, treatment, services and procedures relative to your physical or mental well-being and may include whether to continue or terminate life-sustaining treatment.
Each of us should be protected by a Health Care Proxy. More importantly, however, it is imperative that we fully and frankly discuss these issues, and the way in which we wish to be treated, with our designated Agent. Unless your Agent knows your preferences, for example, artificial hydration and nutrition (the provision of food and water through a feeding tube), he or she may make decisions that are contrary to, or inconsistent with, your wishes.
Even after you have appointed an Agent, you have the right to continue making health care decisions for yourself for as long as you are able to do so. Your Agent does not begin making your health-care decisions until you can no longer communicate or your doctor determines that your decision-making is impaired. Remember, it is not just Alzheimer’s disease or stroke that causes incompetence, mental faculties may be impaired as a result of accident or other illness.
Gifting and Gifting Strategies
Gifting is an easy and effective way to reduce your taxable estate. Various gifting strategies may be employed to achieve estate tax savings depending on the size of your estate, your willingness and ability to gift. Laws do change over time, so it is important to work with an estate planning attorney who understands gifting strategies and how to develop a viable and enforceable solution to achieve your goals.
A gifting strategy must be designed in consideration of your Beneficiaries’ ages and their ability to effectively manage the gifts. For example, a child or young adult may not be capable of effectively managing a large gift despite the fact that, under the “Uniform Gift to Minors Act,” assets can be demanded by the child at the age of eighteen. Alternatively, the establishment of an “Irrevocable Gift-Giving Trust” takes advantage of the estate tax savings while providing a means for delaying distribution of the gift. Such a Trust can be drafted so that the funds are utilized to pay for college tuition, for instance, with the balance remaining under management for distribution when the Beneficiary is truly capable of appreciating and managing it.
Life Insurance Policies and Life Insurance Trusts
Life insurance, coupled with a life insurance trust, forms a powerful estate-planning tool. Proceeds of a policy can provide liquidity to an estate. Liquidity is important to enable the payment of estate taxes and can be used to supplement the sum available to your Beneficiaries. If you own or control a life insurance policy, the proceeds (the entire face value together with any additional death benefit to which you are entitled) will be included in your estate when calculating estate taxes. If you do not control the policy, it may not be included in your gross taxable estate.
Do you need assistance from a seasoned, trusted Long Island estate planning attorney?
Call Us Now Berwitz & DiTata LLP at 516-747-3200
Berwitz & DiTata LLP
310 Old Country Road
Garden City, NY 11530