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Paying for long term care will be unique to your situation

Long term care planning may be important for you and your family. Many Pennsylvania residents make the smart move of planning for the future, which, in most cases, means serious financial planning and estate planning. However, there may be one aspect of retirement or growing older about which some people have not thought -- the potential need for long term care.

Even if some people have thought about the possibility that they may need long term care, many have not thought about a plan of paying for long term care. Relying on your savings account, home equity or retirement funds may not be enough. For those who may not have the means for paying directly for long term care, Medicaid/Medical Assistance planning might be an option to consider.

Remember who your Will helps - your beneficiaries

Why don't many people engage in estate planning? They think that they don't have enough assets to even need a Will or an estate plan. Another common mistake, for those who do have estate plans in place, is to think that once the documents are signed that they can be set aside and never reviewed. Both mistakes, as a recent article pointed out, can cause all kinds of headaches for your beneficiaries.

The recent article noted that almost everyone probably needs to have an estate plan in place, even if the estate planning is just to have a simple Will prepared. It doesn't matter how old you are or your perceived lack of assets. Think about it: most people have a bank account, right? Most adults own, at a minimum, a vehicle and, probably, a home or condo. Who would receive those assets if something happened to you? If you have not done estate planning to spell out who will receive your assets, state law will dictate who receives them and these may not be the people you want to benefit.

What are the basics of probate?

Many people know that estate planning involves crafting a set of priorities for assets and determining who will become the guardian of minor children. But, there are certain terms involved in the estate planning process that some people may be unfamiliar with, like "probate." So, what is probate and what is the role of a probate court in estate administration?

Depending on the components of their estate plans, most estates will go through the probate process. Probate is the process whereby a person's assets will be distributed to designated heirs and beneficiaries and debts will be paid from the estate. Probate courts are specifically designed to oversee these matters.

Appoint the right people for important roles in an estate plan

When Pennsylvania residents are having a comprehensive estate plan drafted, they are, out of necessity, determining who they can depend on in crucial moments of their life. First and foremost, choosing the right attorney to help craft your estate plan is a big decision. But, who will you appoint to play key roles when your estate plan is put into effect?

For instance, every estate plan will need to have an executor in place. The executor of an estate will be the person who is responsible for making sure that all of your assets are accounted for, that all applicable debts and taxes are paid, and then ensure that the remaining assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of the will. Choosing the right person for this role is obviously important, as this will be the person who will take charge of your personal affairs and make sure that everything is in order before the assets in your estate are distributed. Pennsylvania residents will want to pick someone who is detail-oriented for this role, as well as someone who will have the time to take care of these important matters.

Estate Planning For One

As society changes, more people are living alone. Some are marrying later in life, if at all, and having fewer children. Many will reach the end of life with few if any close living relatives nearby. While people who are living alone are in many cases "making their own families" out of their other social connections, this trend has social and financial consequences, one of which is figuring out estate plan.

It may be tempting to believe that if you have no children or other living heirs, that you don't need to have an estate plan, but this isn't necessarily the case. It's still important, if more challenging, to figure out what you will do with any property you owe, or retirement accounts or other assets that you have.

Dying without a will in Pennsylvania

Previous posts here have mentioned how important it is for people of all ages and asset levels to do estate planning. For some, the most important aspect of estate planning is to designate beneficiaries for the distribution of assets. For others, naming a guardian for minor children is even more important. Regardless of your reason, comprehensive estate planning is not something to put off to "old age."

Dying without a will in Pennsylvania, also known as dying intestate, may result in unintended consequences. For instance, if a married man with no children and no living parents dies in Pennsylvania, his wife inherits the entire estate. For many people in this type of situation, an estate plan would call for the same result. But, what if the couple is separated or getting a divorce? Life changes like this make it clear that, without a will, dying intestate could lead to unintended outcomes.

Making sure your guardianship goes smoothly

Guardianships are something that most people don't think about until a need arises. In Pennsylvania, relatives may become incapacitated and unable to care for themselves. It is a fact of life that, as our loved ones grow older, they may not be able to make appropriate decisions for themselves and may not have planned ahead for this possibility. For other families, a special needs child could be born, who will never have the capability of caring for himself or herself due to a physical or mental disability. When these types of situations occur, guardianships may be needed.

The good thing about guardianships in Pennsylvania is that these issues come from a place of love. No one wants to see their relatives go through hard times when they are suffering from dementia or have special needs that leave them unable to make important financial or medical decisions. It is at this point in life when caring relatives can step in and ask a court for legal permission to be allowed to tend to these matters as guardians.

The basic components of an estate plan

Some people avoid the topic of estate planning because they think it is morbid. Why would you spend time thinking about what could happen to your property after death? Well, perhaps the biggest reason to think about estate planning is to consider the impact that passing on your assets to heirs and beneficiaries will have on those people's lives. When it comes to estate planning, the biggest step is to just get started.

So, what are the basics of an estate plan? Well, a recent article covered several of the documents that will likely make up the contents of comprehensive estate plans in Pennsylvania. For starters, there is the will. A will is a document that delineates how your assets will be distributed after you die. In some cases, specific items of property are noted, while in others, the will may delineate percentages of the estate to be passed on to specific people.

How to avoid most guardianship matters

Guardianships, if possible, should be avoided. How? By planning ahead and preparing an estate plan which includes Durable Financial Powers of Attorney as well as Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. These documents permit you to name an agent to handle financial matters and an agent to make medical and end-of-life decisions.

Why is it better to avoid guardianships? If a family member is the subject of a guardianship proceeding, it means being involved in a court proceeding. If often means that no estate planning was done. A judge in Orphans' Court would need to appoint a guardian to make decisions on your behalf, who may not be the person that you would have chosen.

What should you know when you get started on estate planning?

If there is one thing that Pennsylvania residents can agree upon when it comes to estate planning, it is that the whole process can be somewhat of a mystery. Where do you start? What estate planning documents are right for you? Is it so bad to die without a will? All of these questions are completely understandable. But, it is best to start at the beginning. So, where do Pennsylvania residents start when it comes to estate planning?

Well, the first step is understanding that, no matter what you think of your assets or finances situation, it is best to have an estate plan. Many surveys and studies suggest that the majority of American adults still haven't reached this point. In fact, it has been reported that an estimated 60 percent of adults in America do not have any type of estate planning documents. With no estate plan, the law of the state in which you reside at the time of death determines how your assets are distributed.

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