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Estate Planning

There’s no time like the present to prepare your important documents.

Attorney Chris Bratton and Anne Markel Crozier, director of care coordination from Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys presented “Documents that are Necessary, Nice, or a Nuisance” at the July session of Angelic Health’s “You. The Sequel.”

While we often plan for retirement with enthusiasm, thinking about end of life is something most of us avoid. But according to elder law and estate planning attorney Chris Bratton, now is the time to let your wishes be known. Bratton, along with Anne Markel Crozier, director of elder care coordination both from Bratton Estate and Elder Care Attorneys recently presented “Documents that are Necessary, Nice, or a Nuisance” as part of “You. The Sequel.” This is part of Angelic Health Speakers Bureau program for Baby Boomers and is held monthly at the Angelic Health Community Outreach Center in the grounds of the Millville Army Air Museum.

Estate planning is an overall look at “what ifs” and includes designating who will receive your assets and when, who will handle the distribution of the assets and how this can all be accomplished at the least possible cost, and with the minimum amount of taxation.

“A comprehensive estate plan will also provide for administration and protection of assets during your lifetime and will provide for decision-making in the event of your incapacity,” explained Bratton to the standing-room-only group attending this first session.

A will is a legal document that becomes effective only upon the death and sets forth who will be the beneficiary and what share of the estate they will receive.

“When drafting a will, you will be asked to choose an individual, called an executor or executrix (if female), who will carry out your wishes as dictated in your will,” Bratton explained. “Trusts may be established within the will.

While wills are valuable tools for any individual, Bratton explained that they are especially beneficial when it comes to, protecting your children, safeguarding those with special needs and guaranteeing the continuance of your non-profit distributions.

A trust is basically an agreement between you (the grantor or trustor) and a trustee (which can be either an individual or an entity) that is made during your lifetime. The trust agreement determines how assets placed in the trust will be managed and distributed. There are a variety of reasons that people establish trusts, such as asset management, asset protection or to minimize the estate or inheritance tax.

A common trust is a Revocable Living Trust, which is a “will substitute.” It appoints another person, a trustee, to manage the assets set aside in the trust. A trustee can be an individual or an organization. A revocable trust will not protect assets from a nursing home or other long-term care needs. It contains provisions regarding asset management and disposition of assets upon death.

Another type of trust is a testamentary trust which is a trust, which is funded only upon an individual’s death. You may have read about life insurance trusts as well.

“This is a technique used to provide estate tax savings, Bratton explained, adding that a special needs trust is one designed to provide funds to the beneficiary in such a way that the individual remains eligible for public assistance programs.

Some other types of trusts include an Express Trust, Minors Trust, Income Only Trust, Special Needs’ Trusts, A Dynasty Trust, Standby Trust (a.k.a. Pourover Trust), Protective Trust, and Credit Shelter Trust (a.k.a. Bypass Trust).

A revocable trust is a trust that can be modified, altered, or cancelled by the grantor. The grantor holds certain powers that cause inclusion of the trust in the estate of the individual. An irrevocable trust is a one where the grantor relinquishes control and allows the trustee to manage the trust assets. This type of trust, depending on how it is structured, may cause the assets of the grantor to be excluded for estate purposes.

Another necessary document is A General Durable Power of Attorney. This is a written document whereby you authorize someone to act on your behalf as it relates to finances and/or other decisions if you are sick or impaired and unable to make such decisions. The document may also describe the types of health care the individual wants or does not want if he or she is not able to make health care decisions.

The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule regulates the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI) held by “covered entities,” explained Crozier: “Generally, health care clearinghouses, employer-sponsored health plans, health insurers, and medical service providers that engage in certain transactions.” This document will allow those you authorize to be able to speak to your physicians and other health care professionals about your health care issues.

The next presentation in this series will be on Wednesday, August 18, “Good Grief: How to Live After Any Loss.” We grieve more than death of a loved one, we also feel the loss of our identity after retirement, and face independence challenges. This session will be presented by Bereavement Counselors Margaret Pancoast, CSW, and Ken Jackson, spiritual care.

These presentations are free, but registration is required by calling 609-515-4182, or e-mailing Light refreshments are provided.