New York residents should be aware that when they are working out a plan for retirement, estate planning is an important part that should not be overlooked. While thoughts of retirement tend to center around financial considerations, such as whether an individual can afford to retire or whether to keep the house or downsize, estate planning is part of that process.
At the outset, people should have at least a basic will that covers the distribution of assets when they die. In the absence of a will or other testamentary document, state laws of intestacy will apply, and they could produce results different from what the decedent would have otherwise wanted. For those considering a second marriage, a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement may be a good idea. Since 60 percent of second marriages do not survive, protection of assets in the event the marriage fails may be worth considering.
One item to keep in mind when preparing estate planning documents is what will happen in the event that a person becomes incapacitated. Powers of attorney can be sued to appoint an agent who would make health care and financial decisions if the principal becomes incapable of doing so. Another item that may need periodic attention is one's beneficiary designations in life insurance policies and retirement plans. These will be enforced in most cases even when there is contrary language in the owner's will, so they should be constantly reviewed and updated if circumstances have changed since they were first made.
Consulting with an attorney to structure an estate plan may be beneficial to help assure that the owner's wishes are respected and the assets that are covered are preserved and protected for future beneficiaries. Having a discussion with loved ones about the contents of these documents in advance can often prevent future conflicts.