In a recent legal seminar, the term “academic estate planning’ was used to describe the “dated” family dynamic. When you consider the way today’s family looks to one, say, in the 1960s, it does appear many of the estate planning techniques that worked then are a bit antiquated for today’s family. Of course, the core needs remain the same, but there are a few distinctions that may not be applicable today.
It’s important that not only estate planning, but financial planning too, evolves with the needs of a modern society. The new tradition is one that doesn’t always include a mom, dad, 2.2 kids and the family dog. These days, you’re more likely to see three generations under the same roof. The fact that baby boomers are transitioning into the retirement in record numbers, especially as we’re still clawing our way out from under and especially difficult recession, only add to the energetic, though stressful, environment.
For perspective, consider this: a full one-quarter of households are single people who live alone. That’s more than twice the number in 1965.
Of course, that’s not the only non traditional dynamic, but it does beg the question, does this change the way estate planning is approached? Considering that most probate laws are made to address the more traditional sense of family: assets pass to spouses, children, etc., there are issues that singles or anyone else in a different dynamic will have to consider. Even taxes are approached differently.
One example includes intestacy statutes. For instance, in Vermont, if you die without a will, your assets pass to your children if you don’t have a spouse. If you have a spouse they receive everything. If you don’t have a spouse or children, then the list continues to include parents, siblings, nieces & nephews and so on. Absent of any of these family members, it goes to the state.
Even though the laws are changing with same sex marriage, there are powers of attorney that you should consider and don’t forget the far reaching repercussions of the new HIPAA laws. Many hospitals and nursing homes maintain their “family members only” policies, which can pose problems for those with different familial dynamics.
Along with those realities, a different consideration came into play as the seminar progressed: many clients are uncomfortable discussing their family details, which can lead to (and often does) avoiding it all together. As estate planning lawyers, our goal is to ensure a client is serving his purpose when he comes into our offices. It’s important to always alleviate what can be uncomfortable for a client. The last thing any attorney wants to know is that more could have been done if he’d only known.
This is why those initial consultations are so important. We ask a lot of questions so that we’re providing a solid plan for our clients. We assume nothing as we move forward. We also remain sensitive to any potential discomfort a client feels, all the while, maintaining our goal of providing solid legal advice that provides the same peace of mind across the board – every client, every time.
If we can arm you with the information you need to progress through estate planning, we’ve empowered you to make the best decisions for your unique situation – whether it’s traditional or something a bit less than traditional.
We invite you to contact our office to schedule a free consultation regarding estate planning in Essex Junction and the entire state of Vermont and see for yourself the difference a law firm makes when the goal remains focused on the client and the efforts result in a far better relationship dynamic.