Have you been considering preparing a will, living will or health care proxy? Many adults in the U.S. do not have a plan in place to protect their loved ones. According to a 2021 Gallup Poll, only 46% of U.S. adults say they have a will, which is typically the foundation of most estate plans. If you’re among those who have yet to start your estate plan, there’s never a better time than right now.
The office of Natasha Meruelo, Attorney at Law, helps people make plans for the future that can protect themselves in the event of serious illness or health issues and also their loved ones. By developing a comprehensive estate plan, you can make a number of important arrangements that can ensure your wishes and your loved ones’ needs are taken into account and that arrangements are put into place to protect both your and their interests. As an estate planning lawyer in White Plains, I can also help you make the plans you need to ensure your choices regarding your healthcare and personal medical decisions are respected and understood if you are hospitalized or nearing the end of your life.
There are many decisions you can predetermine with a proper estate plan, which is why working with an experienced legal advocate like me can help you understand your options and make the decisions that feel right to you.
“Natasha Meruelo is professional, knowledgable and a solid attorney. She made sure I was well informed, prepared, and empowered throughout the court process. Having her support was invaluable. I am so grateful I followed my intuition and chose her to represent me. I highly recommend her!”
A last will and testament is the legal document that allows the executor you named in your will to carry out your stated final wishes such as administering your assets and personal property. Other objectives many people commonly worry about can also be laid out and addressed in a will.
Some of these objectives include the following:
- Determining guardianship of minor children
- Minimizing estate-related taxation and administration expenses
- Determining how an estate’s property is disposed of or apportioned amongst loved ones
- Determining funeral and burial arrangements
If you have minor children or other dependents in your care, legal guardianship might be the most important issue for you to address. You can use your will to designate a legal guardian to care for minor children in your place should you unexpectedly pass away.
Without making such arrangements, you run the risk of the court determining a legal guardianship arrangement with persons who you may not prefer or even wish to care for your children.
Minimizing Estate Taxes & Administration Costs
The arrangements you make in your will and your overall estate plan can also help you minimize your estate’s exposure to unnecessary taxation and lower the cost of administrating your estate. This is important because it can mean preserving as much of your estate’s wealth as possible, allowing it to pass on to the next generation of your family.
Disposition of Estate Property
Most people are very familiar with the property aspect of wills. A will is essentially a roadmap you leave your loved ones as to how you want your property to be distributed or dealt with upon your death. As part of this process, you choose a person to implement the desires you set forth in your will. This person is named an executor or executrix. When you create a will, you can state who you wish to inherit property (or not), specific gifts of property you wish to make, such as an amount of money, specific items, or a combination of things. Alternatively, you can provide for your property to be sold and the proceeds to be allocated amongst loved ones. These are just a few examples of how you can address your property or assets within your will.
Making arrangements for the disposition of your assets and property is important because by dying without a will, you might unintentionally leave those out of an inheritance who you would otherwise have wished to provide one. This is because of what is commonly referred to laws of intestate succession, which determine who will inherit an estate in a pre-determined order of priority determined by the state. These laws often only account for a person’s closest relatives (spouses, children, siblings, parents), which can leave other important people in your life left unaccounted for.
If having control over exactly who you want to inherit property and what they should inherit is important to you, you need a will to accomplish this goal.
Funeral & Burial Arrangements
Your will also provides an opportunity for you to decide what you wish to happen to your remains and what kinds of arrangements should be made for your funeral or memorial service.
Many people tend to have strong religious or ethical convictions when it comes to aspects of these decisions, such as whether or not to be an organ donor, whether or not cremation is acceptable, whether burial is preferred and what kind of religious ceremonies should be performed before being laid to rest.
Your will can remove doubt among your relatives about your wishes for important decisions like these, and you can also use it to make specific requests or arrangements (such as the song that should be played during your service) that add a personal and loving touch to your Earthly sendoff.
Your estate plan is about more than what happens to your property and children when you pass away. A crucial but often overlooked aspect of estate planning addresses your wishes for medical care if you are incapacitated and unable to state your wishes.
A living will is a legal document that lists your wishes for medical treatment if you are incapacitated and can’t communicate your wishes in the moment. The decisions you can make in your living will can direct the kind of medical care you receive as well as the extent to which doctors should take efforts to save or preserve your life.
A health care proxy is another legal document that allows someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf. When used in tandem, a living will and a health care proxy can answer a lot of questions about how you wish to be treated at critical junctures during the course of your medical care.
Finally, you may wish to consider establishing a power of attorney to care for your finances in the event of your incapacitation
Learn About Other Estate Planning Options Today!
There’s a lot you can do with a comprehensive estate plan including giving yourself peace of mind about the our loved ones, their care and what happens to property we may leave behind when we pass away.
If you want to learn more about how you can make an estate plan that works for you and your family, don’t hesitate to contact Natasha Meruelo, Attorney at Law online now!