Matter of law 2.17.2021

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 1:49 PM EST
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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) -it’s something that we don’t think about often but should think about more: estate planning. On this week’s edition of Matter of Law, Megan Cole speaks with Frank Bemis of Bemis and Rossignol on what steps you should take so that your family is taken care of.

Welcome to another edition of Matter of law I’m Megan Cole here with Frank Bemis of Bemis and Rossignol. Frank, thank you for joining us today!

“Great to see you Megan.”

So just starting off our topic today is estate planning so what is estate planning and what is some of the paperwork that can be associated with that?

“There’s really two phases I think people need to think about with estate planning one is what to do while they’re alive and another what do with when their passed so most important really is when you’re alive because that’s when we care, when you’re gone you’re gone but while you’re alive it’s pretty important that you have some things in place one of those things is called a power of attorney there’s two types in Maine there’s a financial power of attorney and there’s a healthcare power of attorney. In essence you’re naming a agent whose going to act in your behalf if you’re unable to act or if you just chose not to act for instance many people will appoint a power of attorney and let them handle their checkbook or will have someone who will help them through medical process or you may say I may become unable to do these things and so that person will take over when that person becomes incompetent.”

So what are some financial aspects as well that come with estate planning?

“Well like I said with a power of attorney that’ll handle the financial matters, should be someone that the person really trust because that person can take actions and even sell your property and they’re supposed to do things in your best interest but it’s a very powerful document you should only give it to someone you trust there’s other things you should consider during your lifetime that is maybe a mortuary trust that’s where you contact a funeral home of some kind and you set things up in advance sometime you can prepay even and I find that really helpful for families because lets say your loved off passes and they have it all set up as to how they wanna be buried, cremated arrangements such as that you know that that loved one has made their own decision and your carrying out their wishes whereas if you don’t have one of those in place then many people don’t like to talk about their death and they’re really not comfortable talking in advance about burial cremation and you’re left wondering are you doing the right thing for your family member so I think it’s something that is good estate planning hygiene to have one in place if you can.”

So if people are starting to think about estate planning should they contact a lawyer so they can kind of start that process and see where their first steps should be?

“Yeah lawyers is one person you should definitely contact. As I’ll tell everyone when they do come in lawyers not the end of this story because you need to look at how you own things. The lawyer can help you describe how you own your real estate for instance if you own your house in joint tenancy with your spouse and one of you dies the other the automatic owner of it. Well there’s other things that are like that that an attorney can’t help you figure out. Those things are like IRAs, retirement accounts, life insurance policies now so I have a life insurance policy that names my wife as the beneficiary. If my will says to some other- the animal shelter or something, my wife will still get that life insurance policy so it’s very important that you contact your financial planner your life insurance salesman and make sure you have the things in place that’s gonna be a complete plan but an attorney is an essential part of your estate plan for sure.”

So would you consider a will an essential part of your estate plan as well?

“Yes now we talked about the two phases during your lifetime and after death so a will is only in effect upon your death and obviously a very important thing. If you don’t have one, the Maine legislature written out what they think you would want, essentially it goes to your spouse maybe to your children if you don’t have any then to your parents brothers and sisters. Obviously it’s much better if you decide where your assets go. But almost well, more important for those people with children if you should be indicating who would raise your children if you’re unable to do so. Many families would say Gee I don’t want aunt Sally to raise the kids I much prefer aunt Barbara well it’s very important that you set that out otherwise a court is going to make that decision based upon the information brought forward whereas if you made this decision as to who should be guardian of your children, that’s almost assuredly where the children will end up going.”

So Frank my last question to you is when should people consider estate planning. Should they be doing this periodically throughout their life or should they start as soon as possible and get everything done?

“I don’t think anyone start out of college is in a great rush to start with estate planning. I think once you’ve had your first child it’s important that you begin looking at estate planning to talk about issues regarding your children. Certainly once you acquire some assets and once the older you get the more important it is to have an estate plan and then I tell all my clients this should be reviewed oh you know probably every ten years but more importantly it should be reviewed every time there’s a big change if your life.”

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