Generally, Estate Planning is not only the implementation of the distribution of your assets upon your demise, but it is also to protect your family and assets if an unforeseen catastrophic event occurs. There are five (5) basic Estate Planning documents:
Last Will and Testament
This document disposes of your assets upon your death. It provides for the ability to name a guardian to care for your children until they reach adulthood. It further allows you to appoint a Trustee to manage your children’s money until they can prudently manage their inheritance on their own.
Health Care Proxy
This document allows you to appoint someone to make your health care decisions if you are unable to make decisions on your own. If you experience an unfortunate accident causing temporary or permanent brain damage or the effects of aging causes cognitive difficulties, the Health Care Proxy is allows you to choose someone that you trust to make medical decisions for you. If you do not have a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones will have to hire an attorney to commence an action in Supreme Court seeking the appointment of a Guardian, which is costly and time consuming.
The Living Will supplements the Health Care Proxy in setting forth your wishes regarding medical care. It is a vital evidentiary document to persuade the Court of your intentions.
Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated, this document allows you to appoint a person(s) to make business, financial and planning decisions such as banking, retirement benefits, stock transactions, real estate transaction, etc. Legally, the agent “steps into the shoes” of the principal to perform all financial transactions subject to a fiduciary duty of good faith.
The legislature passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), which provides, among other things, privacy of medical records. This act becomes problematic when a loved one is incapacitated and you need access to medical records. We prepare a document authorizing the Health Care Agent to access medical records to eliminate this potential issue.
Sophisticated Estate Planning
Presently in New York, if your Estate has a taxable value of less than $1,000,000.00, then the Basic Estate Planning is usually sufficient to take care of your needs. However, if you are fortunate enough to have assets in excess of $1,000,000.00, there are many estate planning tools at our disposal to help you plan to minimize inheritance tax. We can employ a number of gifting techniques such as Credit Shelter Trusts, Charitable Remainder Trusts, and Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trusts.