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Phone: 201-345-3018

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Basic issues to address in your estate plan

Estate planning is a very important task for a number of reasons, and while it may be tempting to forgo such planning, one will be better off for doing the planning. As a recent article on the Huffington Post stresses, the important thing is to get the ball rolling on one's estate plan. Oftentimes it is simply a matter of getting over one's inertia toward thinking and talking to family members about one's death.

Once one gets over the initially lack of eagerness for estate planning, there are a variety of issues one needs to address. Some of these will be things everybody needs to consider, and others will be more specifically based on one's family situation. Here we'll take a look at several basic areas that will need to be discussed in the estate planning process.

One of the more important tasks in estate planning is to establish a will. These documents are important, because they address the goals one has for one's material possessions. This covers a variety of scenarios and issues. One should also consider whether any trusts may fit into one's estate plan. Trusts are useful vehicles for a variety of estate planning techniques.

Beyond one's house and financial assets, there is tangible personal property. An estate plan should also address these items, which may have significant monetary and/or sentimental value.

One particular concern that should not go unaddressed by one's estate plan is long-term care. The operative term in this area, for many people, is Medicaid planning. Medicaid covers most nursing home costs after one has spent down all one's resources. State laws vary on exemptions, but in most of them one's principal residence and a total of $14,250 is exempted from one's assets. Medicaid planning often makes use of trusts to remove assets from one's estate while putting them to a purpose that fits within one's overall estate plan.

Another issue that should be addressed is uncomfortable family situations or faults of family members, as these issues often impact how one decides to set up one's estate plan. Those with blended families have additional concerns to address.

Everybody engaging in estate planning should be sure to consult a knowledgeable attorney. There is no substitute for obtaining professional advice. That said, one should also be sure to be actively engaged in the estate planning process. Knowing the relevant laws and useful techniques is only one half of the picture. The other half is ensuring that the plan one establishes will achieve one's unique goals.

Source: Huffington Post, "Estate Planning: What You Don't Say Can Hurt You," Ann Brenoff, April 23, 2012.

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