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  • Writer's pictureAlan D. Feller, Esq.

Tis' The Season for Estate Planning

There are people in your life who are spectacular gift-givers. Every holiday, the present they hand you reflects an all-knowing, all-seeing understanding of who you are. If a tiny voice deep in your soul whispers an interest in painting, they will hear that voice and gift your canvases and paint. While gifted gift-givers reside on the mountaintop, most of us mere mortals appreciate the utility of the Gift Card, the Gift Basket, and the Gift Box. This holiday season can be different. There is one gift that rises above Amazon Prime - the gift of preparedness.

Choosing between a subscription to the Butterscotch-of-the-month club and a Revocable Trust is a daunting holiday challenge. Revocable Trusts allow a Trust creator to bring a diverse collection of assets under one umbrella. Real Estate, bank accounts, Investment accounts, tangible property, and businesses can all be owned by a Trust. Revocable Trusts allow assets owned by the Trust to pass to beneficiaries outside of Probate, avoid Ancillary Probate in other states and remain current through Trust Amendments that reflect changes in family dynamics. Butterscotch tastes good?

While Holiday gifts are consumed, placed on a shelf, or remain in their gift bags, Estate Planning documents have the power to maintain family strength for many years. A Power of Attorney (POA) is the ultimate stocking stuffer. POA’s become vitally important during a health crisis. A hospitalization followed by a rehabilitation stay may lead to long-term care issues. Long-term care in a Nursing Home or at home can be prohibitively expensive. Medicaid eligibility can reduce out-of-pocket costs significantly. Medicaid eligibility often requires a Power of Attorney to transfer and protect assets. Without a Power of Attorney, an incapacitated person with non-exempt assets solely in their name, over $16,800, would have trouble qualifying for Medicaid, because there is no authorized person legally able to transfer assets. An Article 81 Guardianship would be required which is costly and time-consuming. I know asking Santa for a Power of Attorney is a little unusual, but I am sure that Mrs. Claus would feel better knowing she was protected considering Santa is flying around the world in an open sled and entering millions of homes unannounced through chimneys.

Once all of the presents have been opened and the gift wrap unceremoniously tossed aside, there comes the reckoning. The sweater vest does not fit. The coffeemaker makes bad coffee. The air fryer is way too big for the counter. Time to return some gifts. Without a proper replacement for the returned gift, the whole process may make you feel frustrated. Most Estate Planning documents can also be revoked, amended, updated, and replaced. It is possible that new documents will be ready to go in less time than trying to reach a human being familiar with the return policy connected to an e-commerce site.

We cherish all the merrys and the happys. After a long year, the holidays arrive and offer opportunities to inject slivers of lightness and fun. A lit and decorated tree surrounded by legal documents could be a bit somber for some tastes, but one power of attorney among the toys couldn’t hurt.



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