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Communication is key for estate planning success

Obviously, the property-specific aspects of estate planning are very important. Thoughtful and knowing use of wills, trusts, lifetime gifts and charitable bequests will serve to protect your legacy and pass as much of your assets as possible down to your beneficiaries. Estate planning tools like trusts, long-term care insurance and Medicaid planning can also help you manage the sizable costs associated with the need for lengthy rehabilitation or assistance caused by age-related health issues, accidents, injuries or illness.

There are also estate planning strategies, particularly for those people with considerable wealth and property, that effectively manage estate tax consequences while still protecting assets. Some of these require residence of the estate holder in a particular location or that the property itself is in a specified geography. These types of complicated arrangements should only be made after very careful consideration, and only then by a trained estate planning attorney with in-depth knowledge of relevant laws and regulations, and who understands possible complications.

The perils of inadequate communication

Even the most thoughtfully prepared estate plan will not be truly effective if it is not adequately communicated and understandable. For example, if your estate plan incorporates sophisticated methods to avoid overpayment of taxes on your assets, but these arrangements aren't communicated to your "attorneys in fact" (people appointed by powers of attorney) or estate representatives, your entire strategy could be compromised if you are no longer able to express your wishes due to sudden illness or incapacity.

The same could be true if the language used in the estate planning documents isn't clear, coherent and legally sufficient. There are, as to some matters, particular language or phrasing that must be used to adequately convey property, appoint powers of attorney, indicate end-of-life wishes or protect assets. Such jargon could possibly be difficult to understand for laypeople, so a letter addendum to the will or trust that explains the concepts in "plain English" can be invaluable.

If you choose to "do it yourself" by using a boilerplate purchased will or trust document, or you hire an inexperienced attorney to handle your estate plan, you may be unaware of these idiosyncrasies. You could also be jeopardizing your assets, putting your legacy at risk and making it impossible for your true wishes to be carried out. These are all considerations that a truly skilled and experienced estate planning firm will take into account. When you are dealing with such important matters as a lifetime's hard work, vital healthcare decisions, the guardianship of your children and long-term care planning, you need the most able and knowledgeable help you can find on your side.

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