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Estate Planning: What to Do, What Not to Do

If you have assets, estate planning is an issue you will have to face at some point. Ideally, this should be an ongoing process – as you acquire new assets, build your existing assets, and go through marriage and divorce and have children of your own, you should update your will and related documents to reflect your wishes for your assets after your death. One specific area where your desires could potentially change significantly over the years is who will have power of attorney regarding your financial and medical decisions should you become incapacitated. Consider this carefully and keep an open dialogue with your spouse and other close loved ones as you work with an attorney to create your will, determine power of attorney, and create trusts.

Keep the following in mind as you work to plan your estate. There are areas that you might overlook or plan inadequately, which can make the distribution of your assets more difficult for your loved ones down the road.

Do Keep Your State’s Laws in Mind

Although estate planning is generally a similar process across states, each state does have some specific laws that you must follow to ensure that your will is valid. Discuss the applicable state laws with your attorney.

Do Be Aware of the Estate Recovery Act

The state may be able to recover compensation for Medicaid services you received, such as nursing home care or home healthcare through the Estate Recovery Act. There are certain exceptions to this law and ways to protect your estate for your loved ones.

Do Create a Will

This is probably the most important issue to keep in mind. If you die without a will, known as dying intestate, your assets will go through the probate process, which is a court process designed to determine the appropriate recipients for a deceased individual’s assets. Probate can be time-consuming and expensive, putting a significant burden on your loved ones.

Do Not Neglect Your Favorite Charities

You have the option to leave assets, whether those assets are cash, real estate, or undeveloped land, to a charitable organization. In some cases, donating land waives the estate taxes placed upon that land. Estate taxes are taxes on the net value of an estate before it is distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries.

Work With a La Crosse Estate Planning Attorney

Planning for the distribution of your assets after your death can be a complicated process. There are many ways that you can inadvertently make the process much more difficult for your loved ones, potentially creating rifts between your family members that last for years after you pass. You can avoid this by working with an experienced La Crosse estate planning attorney. Contact our team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd to schedule your initial legal consultation with our team today. We can help you make this process as easy as it can be by walking you through every step you need to take and avoiding the pitfalls that many estate planners face.

Published March 3, 2016
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