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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

When a Family Crisis Strikes, Will You Get Stuck Cleaning Up The Legal and Financial Mess?

April 23, 2013

For most people, creating a will or trust is about protecting their family and making things as easy as possible for their loved ones if the unthinkable happens. Whether your goal is making sure your kids are taken care of, preserving assets, or simply making your wishes known to avoid fighting and surprises, estate planning is one of the greatest gifts you can give to the people you love.

If you’ve already taken these steps to protect your family and your financial future, congratulations! There’s no greater peace of mind than knowing everything (and everybody!) would be taken care of in the event of your death or incapacity.

But, have you thought about whether the people in your life have done the same thing?

Many people forget to check in with their aging parents, siblings, or other family members to make sure their planning in place. As the organized member of the family, you just might be the one everyone turns to when a crisis hits. You just might be put in a position to unwind the chaos created by estate plans that are decades old or even worse; the chaos created by a complete lack of planning.

Here are some of the problems that could hit you unexpectedly…

Who Will Speak for Your Mom and Dad If They No Longer Can?

If your mom or dad did a will or trust several years ago, you could be in real trouble if they experience a medical crisis. With today’s medical privacy laws, there are very specific documents that must be in place to allow you to speak for them if they are incapacitated. They may have even named someone else their power of attorney because you were a baby at the time they wrote it! Another big issue for elders is that if they created their plan years ago and now require nursing home care or need assisted living, they likely didn’t include gifting provisions that can be used today to legally protect their assets. There are many, many reasons to make sure your parent’s will or trust is up-to-date!

The Dream Vacation Home Could Be Your Nightmare

If you have a family member who was able to purchase a second home in another state as their winter get-away refuge, that may have been their greatest joy. However, if you end up having to deal with this after their death and they didn’t have a plan in place, you will be the one who will have to work with 2 sets of attorneys and dealing with multiple probate courts because each state has their own set of complicated laws. That could mean a lot of time and money traveling to and from each state to deal with their property. Maybe you should start saving now?

Inheriting the Family Business Could Be a Major Financial Boon for Uncle Sam

Are you an heir to a family business? If so, you could be hit with a major tax bill for the transfer of ownership. Will the business even survive after the taxes have been paid? Of course, that could all be avoided if they had only taken the time to create an estate plan.

Having “The Talk” With Your Family

There is an easy way to avoid these, and several other, very messy legal and financial nightmares. Just have a chat with your family members. Suggest that they do a bit of “spring cleaning” and get their affairs in order. You could explain to them how wonderful it is to have the peace-of-mind that you have knowing that your family will not suffer needlessly if something happens to you. Once they understand how little effort it will take today to save a lot of stress and chaos for their loved ones later, they will probably jump at the chance.

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A wonderful job! After watching my family deal with litigation after a death, this is so important for everyone, young and old.

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