“How do we protect our estate?”
Carol and Roger both grew up in modest homes. After their marriage, they spent a lifetime working hard, and now, as older people, they discovered that they are unexpected millionaires! They own a large home, mortgage free. Both Carol and Roger have sizable retirement plans, and they were both prudent investors and accumulated a significant stock and bond portfolio. Roger owns a life insurance policy that will pay out at his death. They hadn’t given much thought to estate planning because they didn’t realize they had enough wealth that needed a plan.
But now Carol has begun to accumulate a list of medical issues — some minor, some not. Roger and Carol have begun worrying that late-in-life medical needs and/or estate taxes could take a big bite out of their assets. They now realize they need a plan.
What should they do?
Carol and Roger need the assistance of an Elder Law attorney who can assess their situation and create the best strategy for them. An Elder Law attorney will help answer important questions such as: how can Carol and Roger protect their assets from the costs of long-term care and taxes? Do Carol and Roger have a taxable estate? In New York, an estate may be taxable on both state and federal levels: 1) when a resident dies owning assets in excess of $6,580,000 it is a New York taxable estate, and 2) where assets exceed $12,930,000 the estate will also be subject to federal estate tax. The federal tax threshold is due to reset to a lower threshold amount on January 1, 2026, unless legislative action is taken before then. It is important to remember that all assets owned by the deceased are part of the taxable estate, including life insurance and retirement assets.
The Elder Law attorney may suggest to Carol and Roger that they create wills or trusts that include credit shelter provisions, or lifetime gifts to irrevocable trusts to reduce the taxable estate and protect assets from long-term care costs. The Elder Law attorney will also help Carol and Roger with other very important disability planning documents, such as revocable trusts and powers of attorney. Once they get the help of an Elder Law attorney, Carol and Roger will be able to enjoy their golden years in comfort and security, knowing they have a plan.
If you find yourself in a situation like Carol and Roger, we can help. It’s never too late (or too early) to think about your estate. Remember, we are only a phone call or e-mail away.
This is the final part in a series on “How your Elder Law Attorney Can Help You” in honor of Elder Law Month.