Passing Along Your Assets

Most people devote far too little time to estate planning. It sounds like something only the very rich should do and even they ignore it as much as possible. Everyone should have a will and advanced directives — health care proxy, power of attorney, living will. While seniors are more likely to need these documents, anyone can be the victim of an accident or health emergency. Beneficiaries on IRAs and other retirement accounts and insurance policies should be reviewed periodically. Lacking the planning and documents, one can find his choices constrained or lacking in an emergency. Even with the proper planning and documents, it’s hard enough to handle end of life events or mid-life emergencies. Without the documents, it can be pure misery for caretakers and survivors and the best of intentions can be thwarted. I’ve yet to have a client say he would prefer to pass along extra money to the IRS or state tax departments rather than give the money to his family. But if the right planning doesn’t occur, paying unnecessary taxes happens all too frequently. At the same time, a patient’s wishes for care may not be implemented because the intentions weren’t documented or put in the hands of a trusted family member or friend. While unpleasant to contemplate, avoiding these topics can lead to unpleasant consequences. One recent article touching on end of life care was by Jane Brody in the Feb. 10, 2015 New York Times.