No one relishes doing their estate planning, that is, figuring out how your possessions will be divided after you’re gone. What’s cheery about that? It’s especially hard if your spouse just died, and you’re now faced with rearranging your will. Your estate planning really amounts to a wonderful gift to those you love: the gift of simplicity.
The most basic question you need to answer is who will get what. If you die with assets in your sole name, someone must go through the probate process with the court, which takes time and can be expensive. If you want to give your loved ones a final gift before you die, help them avoid probate. You can do it in a few ways:
- Check to see if you can name death beneficiaries on bank accounts, thus avoiding probate for those accounts.
- Consider deeding a “remainder interest” to your children while keeping a “life estate” for yourself. This way, you keep control of the house during your lifetime, and ownership automatically passes to your children after you die.
- You can give meaningful items away before you die. If you get sick, you can tell the agent in your power of attorney (a document that as a single person, you simply must have) that you want him/her to distribute your assets to certain people before you die.
- To keep control of things during your lifetime and avoid probate after you die, you can create a revocable and amendable trust.
No matter what you do, you should do something. Talk to your attorney about the estate plan that’s right for you. You’ll be giving a wonderful gift to those you love.
For more information on the right estate plan for you, watch this month’s elder law virtual seminar on Frank and Mary’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/elderlawfrankandmary, and your local cable station, MVTV, along with the “Frank and Mary on the Vineyard” cable TV show, where my co-host, Sandie Corr-Dolby, and I address many common issues facing seniors and the resources available during the pandemic. If you have any questions, please contact me at 508-860-1470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arthur and Leah are elder law attorneys in the trusts and estates group at Mirick O’Connell.