Traditional Estate Planning is failing us. As a board certified Elder Law attorney I am troubled by the fact that “estate planners” and “Estate Planning” have not changed in 50 years. It is all and only about death, Taxes and Probate. Wealth Preservation is not a collection of documents that everyone has. Just as your path to your success was complex and different from your neighbor, so is your Wealth Preservation Plan. Wealth and Legacy Preservation is a state of being.
Look around your community. It starts by planning for your own lifetime. We are living longer. What happens if you become Incapacitated either by a cognitive or mobility impairment? How will these long term care needs be paid for? Do you have long term care insurance? Are you self insured? Have you positioned yourself to get Medicaid or Veteran’s Benefits? Good planning means protecting your hard earned money against the high costs of long term care needs during your lifetime.
Have you provided the right tools to your family to be able to exercise your plan? Have your prepared advance directives, durable powers of attorney, health care surrogates and other important documents? Are they updated and well written? Have you reviewed them in the last 5 or10 years? In those 10 years, I am 10 years older, you are 10 years older and the laws have changed more than 10 times! The Elder Law Model for a Wealth and Legacy Preservation plan is a living, breathing plan. It needs to be reviewed an updated regularly.
Are you concerned about creditor protectionfor yourself or family members? Is one of your children a spendthrift? Do you have a grandchild with Special Needs? Are you or a family member in a 2nd marriage, step family, same-sex relationship or other non-traditional relationship. We need to plan and protect now against assets being wasted or going to the wrong person.
Will you owe Estate Taxes at your death? Next year, the exemption amount will be $1 million dollars. Potentially, anything over that can be taxed at a 45% rate.
Finally, what legacy do you want to leave your family? Have you done an Ethical/Legacy Will? Does your wealth preservation plan reflect the legacy you want to leave behind? Have you planned so that we don’t leave unnecessary friction among family members? How you will be remembered is an integral part of this holistic process. This is all reflected in your Wealth and Legacy Preservation Plan.
As I said, Wealth and Legacy Preservation Planning is a state of being.