The Importance of Life Insurance in NJ Estate Planning

nj estate planning

If you have people relying on you, no doubt you have spent some time thinking about how to protect them in the event that something happens to you. In order to create a solid estate plan, life insurance should be a component of providing security for your loved ones even after you’re gone. Most life insurance policies fall into two categories: term life insurance and whole life insurance. How do you know which life insurance plan is best for you?

  • Term life insurance is only in effect for a specified period of time.
  • Whole life insurance covers you until death no matter when that is.

You’ll pay lower premiums for term life insurance than for whole life insurance. Other things to consider when selecting a life insurance policy include:

1. How much coverage do you need?

The end goal of term life insurance is to substitute the income you would have provided your family with. If you live past the coverage period of the policy, you receive nothing. Most policies cover for 10, 20, or 30 years. The premium (payment) for a term life policy is static throughout the life of the policy and is based on your age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Regarding term life insurance, the insurance company is betting that you will outlive the policy and they will not have to pay anything to your beneficiaries. Hence the lower premiums.

2. What kind of payments can you afford?

Whole life policies, on the other hand, are more complex. Because there is an absolute value and guaranteed payout for every policy, premiums are much more expensive. Insurance companies cannot gamble on whether or not they will have to pay out for your policy—they know they will have to.

3. How is your general health?

4. Do you make relatively smart lifestyle choices?

5. Do you want the option to borrow from your insurance policy?

Often, a complete health and wellness exam is required before an insurance company will issue a whole life policy. With whole life policies, part of the money you pay in premiums will go directly toward the value of the policy itself. This is your money. If you cancel the policy, you would still get some money back. While it will diminish the death payout of the policy, you can even borrow against a whole life policy.

6. What is your relationship status?

7. How much debt do you have?

If you are single, debt-free, and dependent-free, you probably don’t need life insurance at all. For most of us, this isn’t the case. Ask yourself what problems may arise if you were to die today. For instance, if you still have 20 years left on your mortgage, you might want to consider a term life insurance policy for 20 years so you know your mortgage will always be covered. On the other hand, if you have a lifelong dependent who requires constant care, setting up a whole life policy to cover their long-term care is probably the better choice.

8. How old are you?

Some people decide to invest in both a life and a term life insurance policy. When you’re younger, you may not be in the financial position (or have the need) to pay the premiums for whole life insurance. Many life insurance companies allow you to convert your policy from term to whole life as your circumstances change and as you age. Your new premiums would be based on your age when you convert. You may have to submit to a new medical exam, but by converting, you can benefit from lower premiums when you are younger while still putting money toward (what will become) a whole life policy to cover you later in life.

Estate planning, and life insurance in particular, can seem like intimidating tasks, but they don’t have to me. Veitengruber Law offers long-term planning guidance for all stages of life. We believe in utilizing personalized strategies to help our clients protect themselves and their loved ones. Schedule your free consultation to discuss all of your estate planning concerns.

Choosing the Right NJ Estate Planning Attorney

NJ estate planning attorney

When it comes to estate planning, it can be confusing to know where to begin. Despite the many benefits of working with an estate planning attorney, people taking the first steps to plan for the future can be hesitant to discuss their assets and personal details with a professional. The best NJ estate planning attorneys provide in-depth knowledge of all the tools you will need to secure your future, but it can be hard to know where to start looking for the qualified professional that fits your specific needs. Here is how you can make sure you’re getting the best legal advice for your personalized estate plan.

 

  1. Talk to friends and family.

One of the best sources for finding a quality estate planning attorney is to ask friends and family who they have used in the past. If you know someone who has recently created an estate plan, ask them if they worked with an estate planning attorney. Getting a recommendation from a trusted friend will typically mean more than any online review. The people close to you will also be able to tell you about their experiences so you know what to expect.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to look outside your area.

While you certainly want to work with a lawyer that is licensed to practice in your state, don’t just settle for the attorney that is the closest to you. It is better to find an attorney that fits your needs first and look at geography second. Many attorneys will be willing to work with you if travel is difficult for you, or may have a satellite office in your area. The right attorney will make the effort to meet your needs.

 

  1. Consult with other professionals.

If you work with an accountant, a financial advisor, or another kind of attorney, ask if they could suggest any estate planning attorneys. These professionals tend to work together for clients and therefore know the best of the best in each specialty area. It’s even possible these trusted professionals worked personally with an attorney on their own estate plan. They will have insight into a potential estate planning attorney’s work ethic, business practices, and expertise.

 

  1. Watch out for internet directories.

While google searches have become the internet’s version of the yellow pages, be wary of relying too much on internet directories. Most of these directories are compiled of attorneys and law offices that have paid a large fee for a good review as a “specialist.” Only trust lists that are verified by a third party. These directories are not paid to list an attorney and they use specific criteria to rank qualified professionals. One great website to search for lawyers is the verification site www.avvo.com.

 

  1. Bar Association referrals.

State and local Bar Associations offer lawyer referral services to the public. The NJ Bar Association sorts their referral lists by specialty so you can look specifically for an estate planning attorney. Keep in mind that the Bar Association is not assessing attorneys based on the quality of their work and that attorneys pay a fee to be featured in these lists. Just because an attorney is listed on this website, it doesn’t mean they will be a good match for your legal needs. However, if you are struggling to find an attorney, this may be a good jumping off point.

 

  1. Look for signs of accountability.

A good estate planning attorney will have a malpractice insurance policy. Even the best attorneys make mistakes. An attorney that acknowledges this fact and has taken the necessary precautions shows trustworthy judgment and professionalism. You can also see if the attorney is part of any professional organizations. This can indicate that they are interested in keeping up with the latest estate planning developments. Taking the time to be involved in these organizations means an attorney is constantly sharpening their knowledge and networking with other professionals. Keeping up to date on recent laws and planning techniques will benefit you and your family.

 

At Veitengruber Law, our legal team is experienced in providing estate planning and asset protection services that are customized to fit your specific needs and future goals. We know how intimidating it can be to consult with an attorney. We will take the time to sit down with you to discuss your concerns and make sure you understand all of your legal options. We want you to be able to make informed decisions about your future. Call us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation. We work with clients throughout New Jersey and can discuss your options over the phone if travel is difficult. We also have a satellite office in Bordentown, NJ.

 

Don’t wait to make a plan to secure your future. Talk to an experienced estate planning attorney today.

NJ Estate Planning: CPA or Attorney?

nj estate planning

Estate planning and asset protection are broad terms that encompass a wide array of financial and legal arrangements. A lot of people think that if they have a will in place, their estate planning is complete. A good estate plan, however, uses many more tools to help protect your assets and your legacy. There are so many different options when it comes to estate planning that it can be hard to know where to turn for the best advice. CPAs and attorneys both offer NJ estate planning services, but which professional is right for you?

Ultimately, choosing between an attorney and a CPA for your estate planning needs will come down to the kind of advice you are looking for and your overall estate planning goals.

CPAs, or certified public accountants, are trusted financial advisors with detailed knowledge of tax laws. An understanding of tax laws is important to estate planning because different estate planning tools are subject to different taxes. Tax laws change constantly and it is a CPA’s job to understand the implications of these changes. A CPA will be able to provide insight into estate and gift tax laws that could save you and your beneficiaries’ money in the long run. Complex estates with a lot of financial resources would benefit the most from the expertise of a CPA. That being said, a CPA is not a substitute for an estate planning attorney.

Experienced estate planning attorneys will also be familiar with the intricacies of how each estate planning tool will impact taxes and fees. Additionally, attorneys bring their vast legal knowledge to the table. There is a wide array of estate planning tools and each one will offer different protections for different situations. An estate planning attorney experienced with asset protection will know which tools to use and how to maximize the protections on your estate to ensure you and your loved ones are protected for the long-term.

With so many estate planning tools available, it can be difficult to understand which tools are best suited for your purposes. Most people have a will, but is that enough? This is where an attorney can make all the difference in the strength of your estate plan. The process of establishing a power of attorney, revocable and irrevocable trusts, and other estate planning tools is complex and will require a deep knowledge of the law. An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to help you make informed legal decisions by creating an estate plan made up of purposeful tools customized to meet your specific goals.

Your attorney can work with you and your family to distribute your estate as you wish and create plans that will benefit you and your loved ones in your lifetime and after. Estate planning attorneys may even be able to help you with the administration of your estate plan, either through the probate process or as the trustee of a trust. An attorney will have first-hand knowledge of your wishes and know exactly how to make sure to see your plans through to the end.

The more complex your estate, the more likely it is that you will want to work with both a CPA and an attorney. While certainly not necessary for everyone, this kind of estate planning “team” can work together to create a detailed, tightly woven plan to protect you and your loved ones. A CPA can offer the financial and tax advice to supplement the legal knowledge of an experienced estate planning attorney. However you decide to seek advice on your estate plan, do your research. These professionals will be intimately involved with you and your family’s affairs during your lifetime and after you’re gone. It is important to choose someone you can trust.

Estate planning is a very detail-oriented, complex legal process. It is in the best interest of you and your loved ones for you to consult with an attorney experienced with estate planning. The dedicated legal team at Veitengruber Law has years of experience providing personalized asset protection strategies based on each individual client’s needs. We treat our clients like family. Our attorney and legal team will work hard to protect your future so you can rest easy today.

Should I Make an Online Will or Hire a NJ Estate Planning Attorney?

nj estate planning attorney

Today, you can do pretty much anything online. From shopping to taking an online class to becoming ordained, there is typically a way to use the internet to accomplish your goals. There are even online tools to help you create a will. When it comes to estate planning, a will can help you prepare for end of life decisions and prevent disputes after you’re gone. A quick Google search will provide dozens of websites designed to help you create a will in less than an hour. It is important, however, to know all of your options. Before you create your will online, take the time to make sure this is the best choice for your specific needs.

There are three main ways to create a will. The first option is to prepare the will yourself. While this option is free, it requires a lot of detailed planning and instructions. You need to think of every single asset you possess and the logistics of passing on those assets. If you accidentally leave something out of the will, your loved ones could face legal fees and tax consequences to try and fix the mistake.

The second option is to use a do-it-yourself online service. These (paid) online services will give you access to software that provides suggestions and step-by-step directions as you create your will. While these services typically charge less than an estate planning attorney, they will not provide you with any legal advice.

The final option is to seek the help of an experienced attorney to create a will. While this is the most expensive and maybe even the least convenient of the three options, it is undoubtedly the one that will lead to a binding, well-drafted will. An experienced attorney will know exactly how to protect your assets to the full extent of the law. The added human touch of working with an attorney will assure you get a will personalized to your individual needs.

How do you know which option is the best for you?

First, it is important to check the laws where you live. In New Jersey, the will must be signed by at least two witnesses who are required to watch you sign the will. The witnesses do not need to read the will, but they must be people who don’t stand to benefit from the will. If you are creating a self-proven will, you and your witnesses must sign a sworn statement before a Notary Public. NJ law does not require that you file your will with a government agency. Instead, you should keep it in a safe place where your executor can access it when needed.

The next step is to take an honest look at your estate and what your needs are. Take into account your assets, your family situation, and the complexity of the will you will need. If you have little property and small investments, doing a will on your own or through an online service will probably work out fine. But the more complex your situation, the more likely it will be that you will need the advice of an attorney when drafting your will. An experienced attorney will be able to provide expert advice on different estate planning tools that may fit your circumstances better than a simple will.

For most people what it really comes down to is cost. Obviously, the cost of creating a handwritten or typed-out will could be nothing or very low. For online services, the cost can vary from $10 to $600+ depending on what documents you need and the service you use. The cost of hiring an attorney or estate planner will vary, but it does tend to be the most expensive option at face value. But it is important to note that these professionals know how to get it right the first time and can offer invaluable legal advice that can save you financially later down the line. Estate planning lawyers are knowledgeable about tax considerations, alternative estate planning tools, legal requirements, and dealing with a variety of complex situations. The more moving parts involved in a will, the more money you can save in the long run by hiring an experienced NJ estate planning attorney.

When it comes to your assets and your legacy, you don’t want to have to second guess your choices. At Veitengruber Law, we offer personalized estate planning strategies. We can explain the full breadth of your legal options in plain language and help you make informed decisions about your assets. We will work with you to utilize the legal options that are best for your goals. Contact us today at 732-852-7295 for your free, no-obligation consultation.

Protecting Your Assets in 2019 with our NJ Estate Planning Firm

NJ estate planning

The typical mental image associated with estate planning may be an elderly person creating a will towards the end of their life. While estate planning is a process to help people prepare for end-of-life issues, it is much more than just creating a will. Estate planning is a concern for people of all ages who have assets to protect and/or family members and loved ones to care for. If you are looking for ways to protect your assets in 2019, our NJ estate planning team can help you get started.

What is included in an estate plan?

Every estate plan is personalized to the individual’s needs. Your plan will look different depending on your goals, your finances and your family situation. An estate plan can include information about medical care, who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf and what your funeral and burial preferences are. It can ensure the protection of your assets during your lifetime and facilitate the transfer of assets to loved ones after you have passed away. An estate plan can help you establish a legal precedent for your financial, medical, and personal decisions during your lifetime and at the end of your life. Our team at Veitengruber Law will sit down with you to create a personalized plan to suit your needs.

Why do I need an estate plan?

If you do not have an estate plan, some of the most important decisions of your life will no longer be under your control. Unexpected life events that may potentially cause you to become disabled, sick, or seriously injured could cost you the assets you’ve worked so hard for. Because it is impossible to foresee if and/or when you may become sick or unable to take care of yourself and your assets, it is crucial to establish an estate plan as soon as possible. In addition to this, some tools that help you during estate planning may take time to become legally effective. If you do not take the time to plan now, it could cost you or your loved ones later.

The goals of an estate plan are multiple and varied depending on your needs. Typically, an estate plan determines what happens to your assets, helps you protect your loved ones, and gives you the ultimate control over your legacy. With an estate plan solidly in place, you get the peace of mind that you will not be leaving behind unfinished business and your loved ones are not burdened with making big decisions on your behalf. Instead of the legal system and individual family members making decisions about your assets, you will have the final say. You can determine what your legacy will be.

It is also important to note that estate plans should be updated regularly to reflect any significant changes in your life. A divorce, the birth of a child or grandchild, or any changes to your family will need to be reflected in your estate plan across any planning tools you have in place. As your assets grow and you have more responsibilities, you may need to use different tools to ensure an easier process for you and your loved ones. We can help you keep your estate plan organized and up-to-date.

What are some key tools for my estate plan?

There are many different estate planning tools you can use to establish your goals. A last will and testament is one of the more well-known tools used to provide inheritance instructions. What a lot of people don’t realize about a will, is that in most cases your assets will have to go through a probate process, which includes costly probate proceedings, your assets going on public record, and a potentially lengthy legal process. This is to say that not every tool for estate planning is right for everyone.

There are many different tools you can use to set up your estate plan. Some of these tools include establishing a trust, inter vivos gifting, a living will, advanced directives, power of attorney, life insurance, or even incorporating a business. Creating an estate plan involves knowing which tools to use and how to use them correctly. At Veitengruber Law, we can provide you with expert legal advice on optimally utilizing these tools to your advantage.

Estate planning is a complex process with a number of potential elements involved. One error could cost your family and loved ones their inheritance. Our team has years of experience with New Jersey estate planning. We can help you establish a plan individualized to fit your specific needs and continue to work with you to modify that plan if your circumstances change. With Veitengruber Law’s specialized estate planning, you can sleep easy knowing that your legacy and the future of your loved ones has been adequately planned for.

*Photo by CreditScoreGeek.com

A Guide to the NJ Probate Process

NJ probate

The passing of a loved one brings on waves of grief, joy, sadness, and more emotions that we usually can’t even put into words. The last thing that we want to do is think about our own or a loved one’s mortality. At some point, it’s necessary to prepare for what will happen after you die; it will save everyone a load of stress and headache. Part of that preparation is writing a will and having a plan for your estate, valuables, and other assets.

Immediately after a resident of New Jersey passes away, the probate process begins. The probate process gives authority to the New Jersey probate court to distribute assets and belongings that remain. An individual is appointed by the court to take charge of the estate, itemize assets and financial accounts, pay off all remaining debt, and discern whether or not the existing will is valid. Once these tasks are checked off of the to-do list, the court will continue on by allocating inheritance to the correct heirs.

“Assets” is a general term used to refer to an individual’s possessions. The probate process does differentiate between types of property by defining them as “probate assets” and “nonprobate assets.” Property only falls into the “probate assets” category if the individual had possessions in solely their own name. Nonprobate assets, on the other hand, can typically be allotted to their new owners without probate. Common nonprobate assets can include:

·        Possessions of the deceased individual that they owned in conjunction with someone else, which are then automatically passed on to the living co-owner.

·        Assets that the deceased individual appointed to an heir outside of the will, such as a 401k or IRAs that have been named to a beneficiary.

·        Proceeds from life insurance (paid according to the terms in the contracts) or pension benefits that can be allocated to a designated beneficiary.

·        Assets that are contained in a revocable living trust.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to plan for one’s own mortality, especially if an individual dies at a young age or unexpectedly. In the situation where an individual passes without a will, the probate process takes over. Sometimes, surviving family members can utilize a simplified version of New Jersey’s probate process. Both less expensive and quicker, the streamlined version is possible if these requirements are met.

Simplified Small Estate Probate

·        The total value of all assets remaining does not surpass $20,000.

·        The surviving spouse, family member, or beneficiary is entitled to the inheritance without probate.

·        A surviving spouse or family member does not exist and the value doesn’t top $10,000.

·        With permission of the other heirs, one heir can submit an affidavit to the court in order to obtain all assets.

Regular Probate

The surrogate’s court in the county in which the deceased individual resided is responsible for carrying out the process. Ideally, the whole procedure should take less than a year. In as few as 10 days following the individual’s passing, the executor can request to be designated as the official executor of the estate. To do this, you’ll have to show a copy of the will and an authorized copy of the death certificate. If your loved one does not have a will, the court will name an administrator. According to New Jersey law, the surviving spouse or domestic partner is given the first choice of being appointed administrator.

In terms of handling estate assets, the administrator will consolidate all existing cash accounts and money that has come into the estate, such as compensations or refunds. These leftover funds are applied to any expenses for the estate.

If possible, it’s best to attempt to streamline the probate process. This saves both your time and any of the beneficiaries’ time. The cost is another point to consider, especially if loved ones are forced to resort to their own financial accounts to pay for funeral expenses. For more information on the probate process or to contact a professional to guide you, contact our office today.

Planning Ahead Eases Death Anxiety, Say “Death-Positive” Activists

nj estate planning

For most people, the thought of death can be frightening. No one likes to think about what will eventually come at the end of their life, but it is a fact that we have to face. Life on Earth does not go on forever. Knowing that, it’s crucial to plan ahead at least a minimal amount, especially when it comes to financial matters. Not only will you be assured that money and assets will go where you’d like them to, but your family will be thankful for your initiative as well.

For the big events of life, we make lists and try to be as prepared as possible. College. Weddings. Babies. Jobs. Retirement. The end of life should be no different. Of course, we have those things like skydiving, going on a cruise, swimming with a dolphin, and visiting Italy on our bucket list, also known as things to do before we die. Just like these things compose one of life’s most important lists, so does writing a will, appointing a power of attorney (POA), and considering options for long-term care.

Innumerable, weighty decisions have to be made within just hours of a loved one’s death. With the already existent burden of anxiety and grief, a family doesn’t want to have to think about making all of these decisions after a loved one passes. In addition to financial matters, a family also needs to plan the funeral. Though we don’t want to think about it, making burial arrangements before death exemplifies concern and care for your family members. Over and over again, family members have shown gratitude and confirm the relief and comfort when a family member has pre-arrangements.

Any decision that has to be made after a person passes has the potential to cause disputes between family members. Some family members are going to feel that they have a stronger say in the decision-making process, while others will argue their point of view. Unfortunately, you won’t be there to give them your opinion. Again, by making arrangements before you pass, you eliminate the potential for many issues, before they arise.

There are a few clear-cut steps you can take to side-step some of the issues mentioned above.

1.      Power of Attorney (POA). The first and most crucial decision that you need to make is to appoint a reliable POA. It’s key that this individual is trustworthy, financially intelligent, and is someone that knows you well. When you are sick or unable to do so yourself, this person will deposit checks, take care of bills, and any other financial matters. In the United States today, people are living longer, which means that there’s a higher chance that more individuals will be living with chronic diseases as they age. Some of these diseases can impair a person to the point that they cannot take care of their money. That’s the point where a POA steps in; an individual that can take over for someone in order to ensure the highest quality of life for as long as possible.

2.      Write a will. Since estates worth up to $3.9 million are tax exempt, a will is usually sufficient estate planning for most individuals. A trust is can be produced to cut down on estate taxes and circumvent probate, but taxes aren’t as much of a concern in the current day. Also, the procedures are simpler, so probate is not as common either. Usually a will and a steadfast POA will get the job done.

3.      Living will. Since you’ve already appointed a POA, this step only involves writing a living will, or an advanced-care directive. Your POA will implement your wishes at the end stages of life. Again, when you name a POA, it needs to be someone you completely trust. If you don’t create a living will, your loved ones may run into some horrific problems. If a person is brain dead, a family needs to decide whether or not the individual should be kept on life support. If you’ve already delineated this in a living will, there will be no questions about it.

In addition to these 3 major points, as well as the funeral arrangements, there are a few other minor choices you’ll want to contemplate. Consider the option of donating organs when you pass. Also, look into life insurance if your partner or kids will need financial support without you. Finally, consider long-term care. If possible, it’s best to stay out of nursing homes, as they are incredibly expensive, but if it is a necessary possibility, then you should give it some serious thought.

The most important concept: start planning sooner instead of later (the way we should approach all aspects of life). None of the above steps will happen without conversations with children, spouses, and maybe even your own parents. It’s a tough topic to broach, but it’s absolutely necessary. A few early and simple conversations can save a lot of headache, broken relationships, and hurt feelings in the future, as well as ease your own anxiety about death.

Why Beneficiary Designation Forms are so Important

Let’s imagine a quick scenario: Bob is a newlywed who starts a new job with great benefits. During the hiring process, he signs up for the life insurance policy offered through his company. As a beneficiary for this policy, he designates his spouse, Amy. Time passes, Amy and Bob get a divorce, and Bob gets remarried to Lisa. Years go by and eventually Bob dies, leaving behind his life insurance. When Lisa goes to collect on Bob’s life insurance policy, the insurance company informs her that she is not the beneficiary of his policy. Instead, the money will go to his first wife, Amy. Despite his divorce, Bob never went back to change his beneficiary designation forms. This is unfortunately a common legal issue for people who have been divorced, separated, or remarried.

These beneficiary designation forms are typically included in the paperwork you fill out the first week at a new job. As a new employee, you will have the option to fill out designation forms for your potential retirement assets, including 401(k) or IRA, your life insurance policy, and other benefits. Contrary to popular belief, these beneficiary designation forms legally override any existing will or trust, regardless of which document is most recent. It is easy to forget about beneficiary designation forms while going through the ups and downs of life. Years can pass, and despite many changes in your personal life, you may never think to go back and updated these documents. This is a huge mistake, especially because it is so easily resolved.

We at Veitengruber Law want to stress the importance of changing these documents whenever your circumstances call for it. Some states even have laws protecting insurance policy holders and their loved ones from these oversights, but the legal importance placed on beneficiary designation forms can lead to problems even in these instances. In Minnesota, for example, there is a revocation-on-divorce statue currently under review in the Supreme Court and the fate of cases affected by this statue hangs in the balance. Regardless of the laws in your state, be proactive and protect yourself and your loved ones by ensuring your assets are designated correctly.

Veitengruber Law recommends doing a periodic self-audit to assess your preparedness in these events. Do you have a 401(k), IRA, or other retirement assets? Do you have a life insurance policy? Who is listed as the beneficiary for these assets? If you find that you do have some changes to make in who is designated as the beneficiary on these forms, don’t wait to change them. Life can change abruptly and unexpectedly, so make sure you are prepared today for whatever comes tomorrow.

The last thing you want is for your loved ones to become entrenched in a legal battle after you are gone. For most of us, our loved ones are at the forefront of our thoughts as we plan for the future. If you have retirement benefits or a life insurance policy, make sure you are including updated beneficiary designation forms in your plans for the future.

Making Sure Your Loved One’s Final Wishes are Respected

At some point in our lives, we all come to the end of the last chapter – the place at which life ends. Sometimes this chapter is short and sweet and for others, the process can be drawn out and more difficult. Often, at that time, many people simply want to keep their loved ones close and help them uphold their dignity. As the caregiver, it’s your job to make sure this happens. Your goal is to honor their dignity while also respecting their final wishes.

If your loved one’s death was sudden, you may not have been given the chance to discuss their wishes before he or she passed. Without this knowledge, it can be difficult to know exactly what he or she would want, but it’s important make your best judgement for each decision that you face. On the other hand, you may have had the opportunity to talk with your loved one if his or her death was not unexpected. This facilitates decision-making when it comes to final wishes.

There is research that has shown that many seniors lack the necessary tools to ensure that their wishes are going to be upheld and carried out by caregivers or family members. It’s possible that this is due to the fact that people avoid the topic of death. Individuals are more likely to think about this when a family member is ill, but in the case of a stroke, heart attack, or other deadly event, it will be too late. Sometimes, decisions are made for that person that go against what the individual actually would have wanted if he or she would have had a say.

There are two ways in which you can be sure that your final wishes will be respected. First, gather the correct legal documents. Second, don’t hesitate to communicate your desires to family members and others close to you.

The two important documents that are necessary for every individual include a living will and a power of attorney for healthcare. A will, sometimes called an estate plan or last will and testament, usually refers to information that delineates your loved one’s final wishes in regards to his or her assets. Typically, an estate plan will detail what assets go to each family member or friend.

A living will is a type of an advance directive in which an individual specifies what actions are to be taken or not taken in the event that they are incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves.  A medical power of attorney is the most significant document that any person should have in place. This document authorizes an individual (an agent) to make decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated. If an individual is forced to make important decisions regarding their care, but is unable to due to a medical issue, he or she will want a trustworthy family member or friend that can uphold their wishes and quality of life in that situation. It’s not a good idea to store these documents in a secret or conspicuous location. Communication with your spouse and other loved ones is key in this process.

So many different names for these documents exist in each state, making it ever more important to have a bit of background information on these end-of-life processes. Because a regular power of attorney cannot be used in medical decisions, it’s necessary to designate a medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy. When and only when an individual is unable to make his or her own medical decisions, a proxy can then step in.

Although it’s a difficult planning process, thinking ahead and making important decisions concerning these crucial situations while you’re healthy can ensure your wishes are carried out. The decisions about these documents clarify your wishes to your family, close friends and health care providers.

Broaching the subject of Estate Planning with your Parents

When you were a kid, your parents dreaded having the “talk” with you, you know, that talk. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to have an even more important talk with your parents. Bringing up the topic of death can be uncomfortable for both parents and children, but when it comes to handling financial matters, the sooner the conversation takes place, the better. Not only is talking about the prospect of your parents’ deaths dreadful, but it can be just as awkward to talk about their money and where it will go when they pass.

Starting the conversation

Though it may not be obvious, there are various financial and personal benefits to having sensitive conversations with your parents about the future. Ideally, it’s helpful to have this kind of conversation before your parent(s) require help with managing their money. Remember that this discussion is about your parents and their money. Chances are, they want you to be involved in some way, so make sure to listen carefully in order to understand their desires and needs. You may have a few suggestions for them. Bring them up when the timing is appropriate, but know ahead of time that they may not take your suggestions. One of your main goals should be ensure that your parents will be properly taken care of as they age.

With an open dialogue, you and your family will have a sense of empowerment, knowing that you have discussed and began planning for the future. By discussing these matters together, you will be forming a way in which your family legacy and values can be continued through generations. Initiating this conversation early will be beneficial if by the unfortunate chance one of your family members was to become ill or incapacitated before expected. Finally, you, your parents, and your children will develop a stable plan that will bring a sense of comfort and resolve.

How do you bring up the topic of money and death? In reality, there is no easy answer, since this is difficult for even the most open families.

  • Find a comfortable environment during a calm(er) time. This would not be a subject to broach during a disagreement or crisis; make sure everyone is emotionally stable before you start the conversation.
  • Be open and sincere about your plans. Make sure your family knows that you have good intentions about developing a plan that will guarantee care for them in the future. Be transparent, accept constructive criticism with grace, and offer any suggestions that may be helpful.
  • Emphasize the significance of the conversation for all individuals involved. Show your family an example of another family and estate that was not handled properly and as a result caused hurt feelings, confusion, and a financial mess because family members did not have this conversation.

Topics of Discussion

A few important things that you need to know include:

  • Where to find your parents’ will
  • If they have a power of attorney and who it is
  • Whether any health care plans or trusts are set up.

Also, find out if they have a life insurance policy or other assets, and how you can gain access to that when necessary. Make sure you gather or know the location of the passwords to their bank or online accounts and have a list of their debts. If your parents are retired, find out information regarding their pensions, IRA withdrawals, Social Security, and how they’re supporting their retirement.

If by chance, your parents are unable to manage their own finances, you need to seek out a power of attorney. A power of attorney will legally help you manage financial transactions. For example, if your parents need to enter a nursing home, but need to sell their home in order to afford care, a power of attorney will assist in this process.

Finally, there is a possibility that your parents will not have any of their financial matters sorted out and will have no idea as to how to deal with major financial decisions regarding their future. In this case, it may be best to meet with an estate planning lawyer.

Sorting through finances and developing a plan for the future is intimidating for both parents and children, but it’s a crucial step in the process of aging. It will be comforting to know that your parents are in a stable financial state and have all financial matters sorted out. When you feel the timing is appropriate, reach out to your parents and initiate the conversation.