Shot of a mature couple using a digital tablet while going through paperwork at home

Without a well-crafted, well-thought-out, up-to-date estate plan, you are likely to encounter legal problems such as: unnecessary costs and delay, family disputes (and related litigation), tax exposure that could have been avoided, loss to in-laws, loss to a child’s indiscretions, loss of government benefits, and more. 

So, in the area of estate and elder planning, avoiding these negatives is critical. 

Legal papers can be impersonal and difficult to understand. When getting this important work done, make sure you understand your options (wills vs. trusts, etc., powers of attorney, immediately effective or springing, beneficiary designations, titling on assets) and how the papers will work with your assets. 

Using visual diagrams is helpful to communicate how the legal papers will work.  

Considering the uncertain political times we are in, it is wise for people to be mindful of updates in the law and taxes (as they become apparent through various media) and to review their legal papers to avoid problems known and possible. 

It is wise to consider if you want to make sure your assets will not be lost to an in-law. If your child inherits property free of trust, they could commingle these finds with their spouse and they could be lost to frivolous spending, or lost in a divorce, with no guarantee it will stay in your bloodline. Also, it could include those assets in their estate for purposes of the estate tax.

Why allow what you have acquired to become lost to the above negatives? There is no reason to allow what you have to be lost or carelessly squandered. A good, up-to-date, flexible, properly funded estate plan will go a long way to protecting everything you have. 

The basic estate plan will have powers of attorney, and we almost always use trusts to avoid many of the above negatives.  

Plans and asset titling and beneficiary designations ought to be looked at closely and regularly. 

Imagine your estate is like that junk drawer in the kitchen – you know, the one where you keep a lot of stuff and is pretty disorganized. Every once in a while, you rifle through the mess and find what you need.  

Sometimes, it is time to get your affairs in order.

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