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Camden Delaware Real Estate Law Blog

Not married to your partner? Estate planning is still crucial

Many Delaware couples decide that marriage is not for them. They do not feel that they need a legal document to remain in a committed relationship. That may be true of a marriage license, but when it comes to estate planning, unmarried couples need certain legal documents in place just like their married counterparts. In fact, it may be even more important for those who are not married.

For example, if one of the parties is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself, an unmarried partner may not have any access, let alone any say, in the medical care received. A health care power of attorney could provide the other partner with access to medical information and decision-making authority. Without this document, the partner would need to go to court to obtain the right to make health care decisions.

What does estate planning look like for you?

Less than half of Americans have prepared for their death or the possibility of becoming incapacitated. This includes many people here in Delaware who have yet to engage in any estate planning. Many may be under the impression that it only helps older or richer people, but that is not the case. Every adult could benefit from having an estate plan.

Even for Delaware residents who do not have an issue with contemplating incapacitation or death, the number of decisions to be made and tasks to be completed can make some of them put off estate planning. The reason that there is so much to do is because this area of law provides numerous options depending on the circumstances. It is customizable depending on a person's wishes and goals.

Consider federal estate taxes in estate planning

No one looks forward to paying taxes, and Delaware residents are no exception. Some people face the possibility of paying taxes even after they die through the assessment of federal estate taxes, which they may consider worse than paying them while alive. Fortunately, the appropriate estate planning may reduce -- if not eliminate -- the need to pay those taxes.

Many Delaware residents with a significant amount of wealth could make use of the annual gift tax exclusion. This allows individuals to give gifts to others up to $14,000 each without the need to pay taxes or file a gift tax return. If married, that amount could increase to $28,000 per person without incurring taxes, but the filing of a gift tax return is required.

Mold is a serious issue for landlords and tenants

As the owner of rental property, you have likely researched the Delaware laws outlining your responsibilities toward your tenants and the obligations renters have. Most of these may involve the timely payment of rent and the need for keeping units in safe and sound repair.

While you may be prompt about fixing a leaking roof or making plumbing repairs, there is a sinister danger that you may have overlooked, especially after damage involving water.

Estate planning issues: Body donation

Many of the scientific advances in medicine have come from research. Some of that research has been done on deceased individuals, including some Delaware residents, who donated their bodies to science. Many people are listed as organ donors on their driver's licenses, but not as many people may know that you can donate your entire body to science as part of your estate planning.

Under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, you may donate your body (with organs intact) to a private organization or a medical school. The bodies are to be used for research such as the study of diseases, scientific advancement or training of medical doctors. It is advisable to make such a donation in advance of your death. Most organizations that accept donations such as this have forms that you may fill out.

Using elder law to care for your aging loved one

Instead of finding a Delaware nursing home to care for your aging loved one, you may decide to provide the care he or she needs yourself. However, you may be concerned about much needed Medicaid benefits. Fortunately, that does not have to be the case, and elder law could help make your arrangement happen.

You may be giving up your work outside the home in order to remain home and care for someone. As time goes on, it may become a full time commitment. You need to replace that income somehow, and Medicaid understands that. You may be entitled to payment for the care you provide.

Residential real estate issues: Adverse possession

It is not always easy to discern where one property owner's land ends and another owner's begins. Perhaps a neighbor decided to sell his or her home, and it turns out that another Delaware homeowner built a garage on the property without realizing it. It was not until a survey was done as part of a residential real estate transaction that the mistake was discovered.

The owner selling the property may demand that the other remove or move the structure even though the garage may have been there for several years. The garage owner does not want to move it, and makes a claim for adverse possession. In order to make such a claim, certain elements must exist. The individual essentially trespassing on the other person's property does not have to be aware of it, but must be continuously occupying the land without sharing it with anyone else.

Don't forget to include your business in your estate plan

You know that having a solid estate plan is important for everyone, but it is especially important for individuals who own a small business. As a Delaware small business owner, you would be wise to also consider what will happen to your business in the future, either after your retirement or your death.

Business succession planning should be an integral part of your estate plan, and by doing this, you can better control what will happen to the business you worked so hard to build and grow. Not only is it important to plan for continued success, it is important to plan for a positive transition for your business, even if you have no plans to step away any time soon.

Getting the answers to these questions helps in estate planning

Every adult in Delaware may want to find the time to think about who will inherit their property upon death. However, certain events tend to trigger the desire to conduct estate planning such as marriages, births and deaths, among other things. Regardless of the event that brings people to create an estate plan, they will more than likely have numerous questions.

Those questions need answering in order to help make the necessary determinations regarding who to leave property to and who to entrust to carry out an individual's wishes. For married Delaware residents with children, one of the first questions would be providing for them. Protecting assets so that they may reap the benefits of them after death could be a primary concern.

Remarriage later in life: An estate planning conundrum

A prenuptial agreement will more than likely not be enough to cover the concerns of Delaware residents who marry more than once and later in life. Protecting children and assets from a previous marriage may be a major concern for one or both parties. A prenuptial agreement often serves as only a part of the estate planning that needs to be done under these circumstances.

Getting older is inevitable, and Delaware residents may find that the need for assisted medical care could arise. Any assets of both parties could be counted toward eligibility for assistance regardless of whether a prenuptial agreement designated certain assets as being separate. This is where the use of trusts could be invaluable.

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