Advance planning necessary to avoid problems

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Family conflict can easily emerge if you fail to plan ahead to protect your assets.

This duty you have to protect your assets applies to protecting your assets during life as well as providing for smooth transfer of property to loved ones in such a way that the assets are protected from divorce and their creditors.

With a good estate plan, which will include a variety of legal papers, you can rest assured knowing that your loved one will be able to make health and financial decisions for you if you ever have difficulty handling your own affairs.

That person will be able to take steps on your behalf to take full advantage of government programs such as Medicaid. Your instructions will be clear so there will be no room for family conflict.

Unnecessary probate court costs and legal fees will be avoided. Assets will be preserved and left to loved ones in a manner where those assets are protected from in-laws in a divorce and from other lawsuits, so you can guarantee assets will stay in your family bloodline.

If you have only a will and powers of attorney from another state, you might want to update your plan to avoid probate fees and costs. With a properly funded revocable living trust, you can avoid many costs and much delay in administering an estate.

With an updated general power of attorney, you can authorize your agent or loved one to do Medicaid planning for you under limited circumstances. These steps are imperative if you want to avoid problems.

For instance, Jack and Jill moved here from New Jersey and they have two children who are married with children. They have no long-term care insurance but they do they have a timeshare in Florida.

Their plan should be updated to ensure their spouse and children have the authority legally to do Medicaid planning. They should use trusts to avoid administrative expense and cost on both deaths. This will avoid unnecessary costs and fees related to their timeshare interest.

If they leave assets to their children "in trust," they can ensure their assets will stay in their bloodline. As always, a little advance planning can make a big difference.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate and elder law planning attorney. mwinnesq.com

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