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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.

Young adults with children need estate planning options

Younger adults with children are prime candidates for developing an estate plan under Florida law. The adult parents will be concerned about what can happen to the children if the parents die before the children reach adulthood. This may be even more pressing where one or more of the children may have special estate planning needs to provide for.

Other factors such as buying a house, getting married, receiving an inheritance and having children will likely prove influential. Reciprocal wills between the husband and wife will allow for the most options regarding the best interests of the children. In the will, the parent can establish a testamentary trust that will be managed by the appointed trustee. One can specify special instructions for the use of the funds on behalf of the children and also the ages and terms of distribution.

What you should know about guardianships and conservatorships

Watching your parents grow older is difficult even under the best possible circumstances, but if your parent is also experiencing a decline in his or her overall physical or mental health, it can prove even more emotionally taxing. At some point, you may find that your loved one is no longer able to appropriately manage his or her affairs, and you may need to devote some consideration to giving the power to do so to someone else.

Often, older adults who are no longer able to care for themselves because of physical hardship, mental illness or what have you allow someone else, or have the courts appoint someone else, to take control over certain matters. A conservatorship is one such common arrangement and a guardianship is another, but there are some important differences that exist between the two.

Caregivers may benefit by having elder law planning in place

It is sometimes difficult to assess when the duties of a primary caregiver must give way to institutional or professional caregiving for a spouse, parent or other loved one. Nearly half of family caregivers nationwide and in Florida who are 75 and older are caring for a spouse or partner, according to a 2015 report. Caregiving by an elderly spouse may go on until the loved one is approaching full incapacity and cannot participate in assisting any longer or where terminal illness is diagnosed. Consultation with an elder law attorney is therefore desirable and may be more effective if it is arranged early enough in one's retirement years. 

When illness interferes with the common plan of a couple to enjoy their twilight years in leisurely retirement, it may be a stressful turn of events. It may be less so if the couple have prepared in advance for this type of health care need. Planning will be more successful when the affected family members are still able to discuss their preferences for future care. This may include discussing financial issues, the desirability of certain facilities and other issues likely to develop.

Estate planning may provide provisions for charitable giving

In Florida, it is generally easy and convenient to leave funds or other assets to charitable organizations. Many people believe that they cannot afford to give to their favorite charity without upsetting the other bequests to their family and friends. That is generally a false presumption because there are various tax benefits for charitable gifts that may possibly make up for any loss in one's corpus. The best way to see what can be afforded and how to set it up is to meet with one's estate planning attorney and, if needed, a qualified financial planning expert.

It is popular for people to donate funds to charity at the time of their death. Although it may appear to be complicated, the steps are actually fairly easy, after the determinations are made regarding gifting, tax considerations and the achievement of one's estate planning goals. The gift at the time of death will be set forth in one's will, where it can be easily measured against the gifts to a person's heirs.

Elder law planning sets one's preferences for long term care

It is highly recommended that the many retired persons residing in Florida engage in a process of elder law planning to protect the security of their remaining years. Engaging in elder law research to learn the ins and outs of long-term care planning could provide great benefits. Many people may assume that they will be maintained in their homes until death, but it does not always turn out that way.

When the demands of staying in the home become arduous, options may be available. Setting up a plan to establish one's preferences in the event of physical incapacitation is a wise strategy to implement. One way to create an effective strategy is to consult with an experienced elder law attorney as soon as possible.

3 things you must consider after retirement

Retirement is a time for you to relax and enjoy life after a lifetime of working hard. While you may not want to think about additional planning or life logistics now that you no longer have to go to a job every day, the reality is that there are some issues that you should not overlook now that you are in your retirement years.

Estate planning is a comprehensive term for a series of legal documents and decisions that you can make in advance regarding your financial situation and the distribution of your assets after your death. While no one necessarily enjoys having to consider issues surrounding mortality, if you plan in advance, you can bring peace of mind both for yourself and your family.

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