5 Critical Estate Planning Questions That Are Often Never Asked

By Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

5 Critical Estate Planning Questions That Are Often Never AskedIn the information age, it may be enticing to “do it yourself” when it comes to estate planning and elder law matters. Yet the reason for hiring an experienced estate planning elder law attorney is to have someone guide you you to consider questions that you would not think of asking.

You’ve heard the expression, “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

Simply put, when it comes to estate planning, Medicaid or elder law or any combination thereof, most people don’t know enough to even begin to ask many of the most important questions that arise. In every family and estate circumstance, there are critical questions. Determining what is most important can only be gleaned from years of experience in areas such as estate planning, probate and elder law.

This article will therefore offer an example of 5 common estate planning questions that are often not asked. These are the kinds of questions that might be discussed during your initial discussion with your estate planning elder law attorney.

5 “Often Not Asked” Estate Planning Questions
The following 5 key estate planning questions are examples of common considerations that should be raised by your estate planning attorney.

1.  Have you considered ALL of your important relationships?
This may sound obvious, but often close friendships or intimate relationships can be neglected. If the parties are not legally married and no provisions have been made this planning can be missed because simple questions about who needs legal protection have not been asked.  These questions encompass the area of non-traditional estate planning in Florida.

Non-married cohabitants often reside together without the formality of a legal marriage.  Same-sex couples who may not have elected legal marriage are also in the realm of non-traditional planning.  Legal documents must prioritize these important relationships or they will not be considered under the state laws due to the non-existence of a “legal” relationship status.

2.  Who is going to take care of your pets?
Our pets are often highly valued relationships and yet are treated essentially as personal property upon the death of the owner.  This means that absent any specific provisions, they will be distributed to whomever wants them.  In a worse case scenario, pets may be rendered homeless and sent to a shelter. However, with proper Florida estate planning, Florida pet trust provisions may be includes as part of a Florida revocable living trust to both designate and compensate a desired person to take care of them.

3.  Do you have genetic material in storage?
A major area where the bounds of science has been ahead of the law is in “cord blood” and “cord tissue” estate planning.  Cord blood is one example of the burgeoning area of estate planning for genetic material.  As I mentioned, it is important to determine who receive the rights to cord blood and potentially cord tissue in the event of death and proper planning through using a revocable living trust can designate who receive these rights and also can avoid a forfeiture of survivorship rights by default.

4.  Have you ever made large gifts to others?
The federal estate tax is an ongoing estate planning concern for many wealthier Americans, and there still isn’t clear direction on this despite the change in administration. The question of large gifts is essentially an estate tax planning question and it is important because large gifts will reduce the overall amount that may be passed to beneficiaries free of Federal estate taxes.  So large lifetime gifts that are missed during the estate planning process may result in unfortunate surprises and tax consequences.

5.  What are your passwords, user names or security questions?
In the age of digital estate planning, it is so critical to ask the question of how to access your computers and “cloud based” web accounts.  Often when these questions are not addressed, substantial confusion and hardships can arise for family members who are seeking to determine the estate assets and manage financial accounts following the death of the principal.

As a bonus, another major area of oversight is final instructions for internment of remains. This oversight can lead to major legal disputes among family members.

Many more important questions may arise in discussions with your experienced estate planning elder law attorney.  Your unique circumstances will dictate the considerations that are most important for your customized planning goals.

Give us a call to make sure that you’re asking all the right questions to protect your estate and loved ones.

Steven J. Gibbs is a trust and estate planning attorney who provides complete Estate Planning, Trust Planning, Business Planning, Asset Protection, Elder and Medicaid Planning, Real Estate, Probate and Trust Administration legal services in Florida and California. Steve’s main offices are located in Fort Myers, Florida, and San Juan Capistrano, California. Estate planning legal services are provided statewide in these locations.

The Gibbs Law Office was founded by Steven Gibbs in January 2009 upon the commitment to provide client-centered legal services.

Steven Gibbs founded the Gibbs Law Office in January 2009, committed to providing client-centered legal services.

Steve as he would rather be called, is not your typical attorney.  If you appreciate the staunch egotistical mannerism of most firms, you will be delighted with Steve’s unpretentious approach to educating and then assisting his client.  Instead of giving you his complacent and lofty ideas, he would rather pursue your expectations with professional conversation about resolving your concerns under the Law.  It’s your life and it’s his job to make your legal expectations come true while using years of his guidance and knowledge.

Steve was admitted to the Minnesota Bar in 1999, the Florida Bar in 2007 and was recently admitted to the California bar. Keeping abreast of law changes in these three States, as well as the United States, assists him in all aspects of the types of law the firm practices.

Along his career path, he was an associate attorney for an insurance defense law firm; an in-house real estate negotiator for Target Corporation; and corporate counsel for Civix, LLC and Vice President for North American Properties where he was responsible for various real estate transactions, including legal issues and negotiating unresolved business issues.  Prior to opening Gibbs Law Office, PLLC, he was an associate with the firm of Roberts & Engvalson, P.A. where he gained his knowledge of trusts, estate planing and Wills.  He opened his own firm in 2008 and now focuses on laws that will enrich the needs of his clients throughout their lives and those of their children.  The firm has developed a practice dealing only with Trusts and Estate Planning, Wills, Medicaid Planning, Elder Law, Real Estate, Business Law and Probate.

Quoting from Steve “I decided to practice in areas that families will need as they progress down life’s path.  To help them with a solid foundation that will carry them throughout there lives is a rewarding experience for me and my staff.”

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