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National Estate Planning Awareness Week – October 19-25, 2015

By Howard C. Stross
October 15, 2015

Use National Estate Planning Awareness Week to educate yourself about the need to have an estate and mental incapacity plan in place. Most Americans have no estate or incapacity plan. Yes, you read that correctly – no plan at all – not even a discussion with loved ones. There are also folks with an estate plan to take care of their assets after they pass away but no plan for potential mental incapacity before they pass away. There are others whose estate and mental incapacity plans were completed many years ago. An old plan may have been good then but the law, as well as the person’s family situation, has changed much over the years. An updated plan would consider those changes.

There are many reasons folks put off or never prepare an estate and mental incapacity plan. Well-meaning people that would do anything for their family overlook simple protections because they falsely believe such a plan is only for the elderly or the financially rich.

Here is the reality. It matters not whether you are 25 years old, a newlywed, a small business owner, a baby boomer, a senior citizen or anyone that may require long-term care; estate and mental incapacity planning is the bedrock to protect you, your wishes, your independence and your family throughout your life and the lives of your loved ones.

  • Family: If you have minor children, estate planning allows you to appoint the persons you select if your unexpected death or mental incapacity occurs. By using trusts, you can protect minor children, and even adult children, who may not be ready to receive a large sum of money at your demise. Healthcare directives and durable powers of attorney make it easier for your family by avoiding a formal guardianship for your medical and financial concerns if your health prevents you from making your own decisions. Estate and mental incapacity planning is designed to help protect your loved ones from unnecessary legal costs, taxes, frustration, hard feelings and family feuds during a health crisis or because of an unexpected death.
  • Financial: Size does not matter in estate and mental incapacity planning. Personally-tailored planning will help your loved ones and favorite charities – not the government – receive more of your assets after your death.
  • What you want done at your incapacity or death; When you want it done; How you want it done: Are you part of a non-traditional family? Is yours a blended family? Do you have a family member with special needs? Would your family be cared for according to your wishes if you could not be there for them? Will your family share in the treasure you expect to have when you are gone? Is there someone you trust to make important medical decisions for you if you cannot do so? Is there someone you trust to make important financial decisions for you and your family if you cannot do so? Without an up-to-date estate and mental incapacity plan, your mental incapacity will be dealt with through formal guardianship and your estate through the probate court. Florida law will dictate what happens to you and your assets during mental incapacity and after death.
  • Independence: With an estate and mental incapacity plan in place, using living trusts, durable powers of attorney, insurance policies and healthcare directives, you can have a plan designed for your care now and in your later years.

At a minimum, everyone needs a basic estate and mental incapacity plan. Some plans are more complex than others. This type of planning is not “one size fits all.” National Estate Planning Awareness Week is your time to review your life and consider the consequences of untimely mental incapacity or death. Learn how wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health care documents that form the elements of your plan can help protect your property, money, pets and the people you love.

There is no good or bad time to do this. Make your wishes known – now. Take time now to contact your estate planning attorney. If you have no estate planning attorney, please give us a call at 813-852-6500 to arrange a complimentary appointment to see what can be done for you and your loved ones.

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