It is common for people to get their estate in order at the end of their life. Without an estate plan, heirs may need to pay avoidable taxes, spend time in probate, or even lose their inheritance altogether.
One of the critical estate planning documents for people at the end of life is a Durable Power of Attorney. This document allows a trusted agent to handle the financial affairs of the maker.
Another critical estate planning document is the Advanced Healthcare Directive. This document lays out your views on several medical conditions from the application of pain medication to how long you should be kept alive by machines to organ donations. It should also include a Power of Attorney for Healthcare where you can designate your agent for health decisions in the event you are not able to make them yourself.
At the end of a person’s life, it is also important to go over all of the beneficiary designations to make sure they correctly reflect your wishes and are consistent with your estate plan. Most financial accounts and products, such as insurance, retirement, and investment accounts, all have beneficiary designations that could potentially overrule or avoid an established estate plan.
Charitable gifts may also be desirable for those approaching the end of their life. Making charitable gifts while alive can provide several benefits, such as reducing the size of the estate and reducing income tax. But charitable donations made after death have no tax benefit.
An estate planning attorney can help make sure the estate will be passed in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. The most effective strategy will be the avoidance of probate by using revocable trusts. These tools can give an instant transfer of property upon death without the costs and time of a typical probated estate.