Every third week in October, Estate Planning Week kicks off and serves as a reminder the importance of estate planning in everyone’s lives. As estate planning lawyers, we’re reminded of the duty we have to our clients and the satisfaction that comes in knowing we’ve helped those clients cover those very important planning needs.
This week, we’re going back to the basics. Without that foundation in place, your estate plan might be missing something crucial, which can leave you and your loved ones vulnerable.
Why We Need Estate Planning Week
Estate planning is an often overlooked element of long term retirement and financial planning. In fact, it’s believed close to 120 million Americans do not have an up-to-date estate plan. It’s time to eliminate the myths and get down to facts. Estate planning is affordable and you don’t have to be a so-called “1 percenter” in order for estate planning to affect you.
Estate Planning Basics
If you haven’t reviewed your estate plan in a while, or if you’re just getting started, here are a few documents you might be overlooking.
HIPAA Release This is important because of recent changes you may not be aware of. Several years ago the federal government passed a law to help protect our health care information. In doing so, it made it more difficult for our family members or other trusted individuals to deal with health insurance matters at a time of our incapacitation. It also significantly limits the information a hospital or doctor can provide (up to and including not even confirming you’re a patient in a facility). By having this special form completed ahead of time, those individuals named in your advanced health care directive to have access to healthcare information and other notifications when you’re unable to do so.
Living Trust This has become, in recent years, the preferred method of transferring assets upon death for many people. When assets are transferred via the trust there is more confidentiality, less cost, more flexibility with distribution, faster distribution and your wishes are less likely to be contested than with a traditional probated will. For those with significant wealth, the trust might also provide some estate tax benefits.
The Total Estate Planning Picture
These documents are important, but they mean little if you don’t have the other documents in place. Don’t underestimate the importance of healthcare directives or medical power of attorney, as they’re sometimes referred to (and they do have differences, by the way). Also of importance, your financial power of attorney and your beneficiaries who will receive your assets after your death. It all goes hand in hand.
If you’d like to learn more about estate planning and how it affects you, we invite you to contact us today. For us, estate planning week is every week. Our team of legal advocates can provide guidance in accordance with applicable Vermont laws so that your financial and legal bases are covered.