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Existing family relationships a common hurdle in estate planning

Though most people here in Florida prefer not to consider what the end of their lives might look like, it is an important conversation to have. That doesn't mean that it is a comfortable situation to navigate, particularly when one has to explain final wishes to family members who may not approve of one's choices. These potentially-volatile family relationships can be a serious obstacle to proper estate planning, as recent research indicates.

One financial services company conducted a survey of its financial advisors. The results found that an overwhelming majority, 73 percent, of financial advisors said that dealing with the sometimes-difficult dynamics of a family can be the most difficult part of estate planning. Some of them speculate that their clients may have trouble discussing the subject with their families because they are worried of potential arguments that may arise.

Ways to fortify your wishes through your will

A will can be beneficial to various estates, both big and small. In short, it provides a blueprint for distribution of the estate and helps to reduce or eliminate confusion.

If you are looking to develop or revise a will for your estate plan, consider a few important aspects. In fact, some elements can help to fortify your wishes through your will.

Medicaid planning important part of an estate plan

Families in Florida who are affected by Alzheimer's or dementia know just how much work it can be to provide for a disabled family member. However, most families want whatever is best for their loved one and will do what it takes to ensure that they receive proper care. There are several things that experts recommend that families should do when establishing disability or Medicaid planning for someone with dementia.

The primary action to undertake is to assemble certain legal documents that will aid in the care of the patient. A financial power of attorney can designate someone who will handle financial choices for a patient who is unable to do so for him or herself. A medical power of attorney is very similar, except that it is meant for medical decisions. A personal care plan outlines the exact directives to care for someone who is unable to care for him or herself. The personal care plan can guide the person or persons who are designated as the medical and/or financial power of attorneys.

Advance directive makes incapacitated patient's wishes known

When people consider the end of their life, they often think about things like how their personal property will be managed or how they might like their remains to be handled. Many do not realize that those are only part of the picture. Other aspects that Florida families may want to consider involve health-related decisions, such as whether they approve of using life support or who will make decisions for them if they are incapacitated. Experts say that an advance directive is the best way to address these concerns.

An advance directive has multiple parts. It can designate a specific person as a health care power of attorney who can make health-related decisions on behalf of the person specified. The agent can also legally sign documentation for the person he or she represents. The directive can also contain a living will, which can direct medical professionals not to keep a person alive if he or she will remain unconscious and never recover. The living will also can specify certain treatments that the person approves.

Owner of assisted living facility convicted of elder abuse

Older adults are a vulnerable group of people. Their loved ones often worry for their safety and will do whatever is needed to ensure they receive a proper level of care. When Florida families make the choice to put the elder in a nursing home or assisted living facility, they trust that the caregivers will treat the elders with the same level of attention to detail as they would themselves. Sadly, that doesn't always happen, as illustrated by a recent out-of-state trial where one man has been convicted of elder abuse and manslaughter.

The case pertained to the death of a 65 year-old man who was staying at an assisted living facility back in 2014. The man was jogging in the dark 10 miles away from the facility when he was hit and killed by a car. The patient had dementia, and prosecutors argued that the facility should not have accepted him since they were not licensed to care for patients in his condition. The state Attorney General said that the facility placed profit above the man's safety when they accepted him.

How estate planning can protect an addicted beneficiary

Those who create an estate plan here in Florida do so generally in good faith. There is an assumption that beneficiaries will use any inheritance to care for themselves and anyone or anything else designated by the person who created the plan. Unfortunately, some potential beneficiaries may have difficulty handling such a responsibility, especially if the beneficiary suffers from an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. Yet, leaving such a person out of a will may not be an option either -- it could result in the addicted person spiraling further into turmoil. Experts do have some recommendations for those considering estate planning who find themselves in such a situation.

Many families willingly spend all of their savings hoping that they can help a family member overcome an addiction. Some individuals may worry that an inheritance will be spent solely on the addictive substance that their family member struggles with. Financial experts say that an estate plan that contains an incentive trust is one way to avoid this. A trust can dictate exactly how certain assets are distributed, and an incentive trust can be tied to specific behaviors or conditions. For example, money can only be received by a beneficiary after he or she has completed a drug treatment program.

4 things every servicemember should have in an estate plan

As a member of the armed services, you have a strong devotion both to your country and your family. After all, unlike many Americans, you agree to put your life on the line to protect everything that makes our country great. As such, even though you are young, you may have an increased risk of dying. 

If you have not thought about what happens to your possessions and your children after your death, you may be missing the mark. With a comprehensive estate plan, you do not have to wonder. On the contrary, you formalize your wishes in a legally binding way. Here are four things you may want to add to your estate plan. 

Start of new year ideal time to review estate plan

Not many people enjoy thinking about the end of their life. Besides being an unpleasant thing to consider, it can bring up difficult decisions that may need to be made. Many people would prefer not to think about it at all, but that could be a mistake. Families here in Florida and around the nation can use the new year as a reason to update or create a new estate plan, to ensure that their assets are handled the way they want and that their final wishes are honored.

Some may mistakenly think that if they are young or don't have a lot of assets that they do not need an estate plan. If they wish to pass anything they own onto a spouse or another loved one, a comprehensive estate plan is essential. Taking note of exactly what is owned, such as a house, car, or stocks is a great first step. There are several options afterwards that can be utilized in order to complete an estate plan.

Veterans' benefits: Things to know

Florida residents who served in any of the branches of the armed services and were discharged honorably have the right to collect certain benefits. There are various types of veterans' benefits, some that most veterans know about, some that aren't too widely advertised or are more difficult to utilize than others, and some that are meant for the family members of deceased veterans. This week's column will name some of the different types of veterans' benefits out there. 

When it comes to major benefit programs, there are four. These are disability compensation, pension, medical care and education programs. These benefits are pretty straightforward and do not require a lot of explanation. Most veterans know that these benefits are available to them. 

Estate planning involves periodic review of legal documents

For those Florida residents who have jumped out ahead of the curve and have an estate plan in place, all of the work is not permanently wrapped up. Estate planning is an organic process, and it will be necessary to review the plan with the attorney approximately every three years.  When a tax law changes, its impact must be compared to the existing terms of one's plan so that updates can be made if necessary. In addition, there are several other reasons to review periodically the continuing accuracy and efficacy of one's plan.

An estate plan can be impacted by the occurrence of certain life events. This may include but is not limited to marriage, divorce, death of beneficiaries and the unavailability of persons nominated to serve as executors and trustees. Even moving to another state may call up the need for review of the estate plan due to the nuances of legal mandates from state to state.

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