Estate administration, that is, when the executor gets busy with paying debts, taxes and distributing assets, is often the time when any missing steps in an estate plan are revealed. The best legal problems are the ones that don’t happen, advises the article “Practical tips for estate administration, pre-planning advice, and a Coronavirus update” from the Winston-Salem Journal. Here are tips to avoid problems:
Do you need a trust to avoid probate fees and simplify estate administration?
Think of a trust as a secret box, treasure chest or bank account. If you own property in another state, want adult heirs to receive their inheritance over a period of time, have a beneficiary with special needs, or simply don’t want the public to learn about your assets, then a stand-alone revocable living trust is something to consider. A will doesn’t avoid probate – but a trust can. This is one of the biggest advantages of a trust – it is not subject to probate; assets in a probate estate become public record. If privacy is an issue, you’ll want a trust.
Is your estate plan out of date?
If your estate plan has not been updated in the last three or four years, it is likely that your plan doesn’t give you all the benefits that a current plan would. Every year experienced estate planning attorneys add new language to their estate planning documents that cover new laws or legal strategies. Even though estate planning documents don’t technically “expire,” they do become much less effective as years pass. It’s also likely that you are missing out on tax savings opportunities. There have recently been a huge number of changes to estate and tax laws.
Did you inherit real estate with your siblings?
If the sale of the property is still pending, get it wrapped up as soon as possible. If one of your siblings dies, or moves away, managing the disposition of real estate can become complicated and expensive.
When was the last time you reviewed Power of Attorney documents?
If you are not competent and critical steps need to be taken for your care, your agents may find themselves unable to act on your behalf, if your POA and related documents are “outdated.” They may need court intervention to make even simple decisions.
How has coronavirus impacted choices in long-term planning documents?
If your will, POA, medical power of attorney and HIPAA release forms have not been updated recently, decisions may be made without any discussion with the people you trust most.
Speak with an estate planning attorney now to get your legal and financial affairs in order. Many states have granted attorneys the ability to have documents executed and witnessed remotely, so there is no reason not to go forward now.
Reference: Winston-Salem Journal (May 3, 2020) “Practical tips for estate administration, pre-planning advice, and a Coronavirus update”