Estate Planning Resolutions for 2019


When you think about New Year's Resolution, does estate planning come to mind? Probably not. However, the start of a New Year is a great time to establish an estate plan. A properly drafted estate plan can provide your loved ones with peace of mind in every situation, from what to do if you're incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions to how your assets should be distributed once you have passed away. There are two estate planning resolutions you can put in place and achieve before the end of this month: putting estate planning documents into place and putting your financial matters in order.

Putting Estate Planning Documents Into Place

If you do not have an estate plan in place, decisions may be made on your behalf that you never intended, and your assets may be enjoyed by unintended recipients. This can create headaches and hardship for your family. You need to establish a basic estate plan to provide protection for you, your assets, and your family. At Coastal Legal Counsel, a "basic" estate plan is anything but "basic". We use the term "Basic Estate Plan" to indicate that your plan does not include a trust. The Basic Estate Plan consists of the following five documents:

1) A Last Will and Testament

2) A Durable Power of Attorney

3) A Health Care Power of Attorney

4) An Advance Medical Directive or Living Will

5) A HIPAA Authorization

These documents are designed to provide instructions and binding obligations for your loved ones. The unique aspects of these five documents can provide your loved ones with peace of mind if or when they are needed.

Last Will and Testament - A "will" is a written document disposing of your property. This can bring peace of mind to your loved ones by providing binding instructions on the distribution of your estate. This prevents property from going to the wrong individual and ensures that your wishes are respected.

Durable Power of Attorney ("DPOA") - A DPOA is a document that authorizes an agent (sometime called an attorney-in-fact) to makes decisions on your behalf with regard to financial matters in the event you are unable to make your own decisions. A DPOA can include the power to bank, file taxes, and even sell and purchase real estate on behalf of another individual.

Health Care Power of Attorney ("HCPOA") - An HCPOA is a document that authorizes an agent (sometime called a healthcare proxy) to makes decisions on your behalf with regard to medical decisions in the event you are unable to make your own decisions. A HCPOA can include the power to authorize or withdraw treatment, admit and discharge you from a healthcare facility, and even provide authority to dispose of your remains.

Advance Directive for Natural Death ("Living Will") - A living will is a document that provides instruction to your healthcare providers and your healthcare agent regarding your preferences for care in the event you are near or at death's door. This can include instructions for issues such as when you want artificial hydration or nutrition and whether you want your organs to be donated.

HIPAA Authorization - A HIPAA Authorization is a document that gives the authorized recipient listed therein access to your medical records that would otherwise be protected from disclosure under federal law.

Should you need more than our Basic Estate Plan, Coastal Legal Counsel offers many different kinds of trusts that are tailored to fit your family's specific needs. We can assist you by preparing revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, and gun trusts. If you're not sure whether a trust is appropriate for your situation, we would be happy to discuss that with you at a free trust consultation.

Putting Your Financial Matters in Order

In addition to putting your estate planning documents in place, you need to get your financial matters in order. This could include taking any or all of the following steps.

Itemizing your assets: Create a list or spreadsheet for all of your assets and who you would like those items to go to upon your death. This list should be mentioned in your will or trust.

Discussing estate planning matters with your family members: Ask your family members about their estate plans to see whether they have executed the necessary documents to make their aging and eventual death easier to handle. Ensure that someone knows where your family members' important documents and instructions are located.

Consider purchasing a long-term care insurance policy: In the event of illness or catastrophe, long-term care insurance will supplement income or pay a benefit toward home or nursing care. These plans can be prohibitively expensive but should be considered if the plan will be beneficial to you or your family and it makes financial sense.

Purchase a life insurance policy: A Life insurance policy provides money to the individuals listed as beneficiaries. This can be a great way to help your family with their finances or even used as a way to build intergenerational wealth.

Consult with a financial advisor: You should work with a financial advisor that is on the same page as your estate planning attorney to ensure that you have a comprehensive estate plan. A financial advisor can help you plan your financial goals and manage your money.

Update your beneficiary designations: Ask your employer or financial advisor to provide copies of your beneficiary designation forms for any retirement or insurance accounts. Ensure that a proper beneficiary (and a contingent beneficiary) is listed. Also, utilize this opportunity to verify whether your bank or other financial accounts have any joint owners or named beneficiaries. The terms of your will or trust will not control the distribution of life insurance policies and retirement accounts, accounts with named beneficiaries or joint owners.

Consider your burial or cremation options: This may include such things as writing out your instructions for the disposition of your remains upon death to prepaying for a funeral or buying burial plots. No matter what you choose, you will have simplified this process for your family and brought them peace of mind.

While this sounds like a lot of work, Coastal Legal Counsel has developed a Digital Consultation wherein you can complete the majority of your Basic Estate Plan from the comfort of your home. We will then schedule a follow-up phone or video consultation to answer any questions that you or we may have and to finalize all of the information within each document. We offer two options for our clients to execute their documents. We can either (1) provide the documents to the client along with explicit instructions for executing the documents or (2) we can host a signing ceremony at our office to ensure compliance with the proper formalities. By streamlining the process, it has never been easier to have an actual attorney create your estate plan.

Please call Coastal Legal Counsel today at (910) 409-6231 to discuss setting up a Basic Estate Plan.