Life’s big moments – a wedding, birth of a child, or even a
divorce – tend to get people thinking about their long-term life
plans. Questions such as, “What will happen to my family when I’m
gone?” or “Am I prepared for when my parents are no longer
with us?” are more present in our minds when we pass a major milestone.
Answering these questions can seem daunting. Bringing in a qualified professional
to guide you through creating a comprehensive estate plan can ease that
Ben Siracusa Hillman is the chairman of Shaheen & Gordon’s Elder
Law, Estate Planning, Probate, and Trust Group. We asked him to answer
some questions about estate planning in New Hampshire for those who are
just beginning the process.
Who needs estate planning?
Potentially everyone could benefit from
estate planning. Often, clients come to our Concord estate planning attorneys following
a significant change in their lives, such as the birth of child, a new
marriage, the sale of a business, or a divorce. We also see clients create
an estate plan after retirement, as they evaluate the later stages of
life and their future long-term care needs.
It is a common misconception that estate plans are only for the wealthy.
Those of modest means can often benefit from an estate plan just as much
as those who are more affluent. Forgoing an estate plan can place significant
costs on one’s beneficiaries that can be avoided with a well-crafted plan.
What’s the difference between an estate plan and a will?
A will governs what happens to one’s assets after one’s death,
but only for a limited set of assets – assets that are individually
titled and do not have a beneficiary designated. Writing a will is part
of an estate plan, but it’s only one part.
In addition to the creation of necessary documents, planning includes the
opportunity to have conversations and receive advice from an estate planning
attorney about the options available, including planning for a beneficiary
with special needs, a substance abuse problem, a bad marriage, or spendthrift
habits. It also involves planning for one’s own incapacity and potential
need for long-term care. Ultimately, a plan may include several documents,
including a will, revocable trust, durable power of attorney for financial
matters, durable power of attorney for healthcare, and others.
How often should one revise an estate plan?
Because concerns and needs can evolve and change over time, it is usually
a good idea to check in with your Concord estate planning attorney any
time a major life event has occurred, or at five-year intervals in the
absence of such an event.
What do I need to begin estate planning?
Talking to a well-qualified estate planning attorney is a good first step.
An attorney with expertise in estate planning will focus on your specific
situation and provide advice on how to achieve your goals and provide
security to you and your loved ones.
Preparing for that initial meeting with an attorney can help guide that
conversation. Compile a list of your assets, liabilities and debts, and
who you want to be beneficiaries of your estate. Also consider who would
be the fiduciary – the person who manages assets in case of your
incapacity or death – and also who would care for your minor children.
Estate planning attorneys often provide a questionnaire that allows you
to communicate this information in a structured way.
As you begin the process of estate planning, keep in mind that an attorney
that focuses in estate planning can provide much more than a set of documents.
An estate planning attorney provides expertise, time, experience, and
knowledge so that you can be assured that the plan you are creating fits
your circumstances and that any potential issues specific to you and your
family have been explored.
To learn more about Shaheen & Gordon, P.A.’s Estate Planning,
Wills, Trusts and Probate practice, or to seek assistance with any of
these matters, contact Ben Siracusa Hillman.