Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Why An Estate Plan

  • Avoid Probate
  • Provide Responsibly
  • Avoid Complications
  • Protect Assets
  • Reduce Taxes
  • Leave A Legacy

Estate planning is sensitive because it relates to death and dying. These are matters people tend to put off. Few like to spend time thinking about when they will no longer be with family and friends, but it is a reality that we all face. One of the most responsible things an individual can do is have their affairs in order so their family does not have to deal with difficult decisions alongside the grief they are already experiencing. An attorney can help you craft an estate plan for your particular situation.

What is an Estate Plan?

There are many reasons individuals choose to begin planning, and frankly there are no good reasons not to plan. The younger you are the better. The younger you are the more your plan will focus on your current and future creditors. As you age, the focus will become responsible succession planning. Note, an important part of our estate planning is asset protection planning which you may learn more about here. Estate planning is the process by which you make financial and other arrangements in anticipation of you no longer being here. Formal estate planning is often combined with business planning to provide additional benefits during your lifetime. After all, there is no luggage rack on a hearse - so you should try and maximize the benefits available to you while you can.

Our planning encompasses the calculable, e.g. tax savings, while providing a complication free means for handling decisions regarding the end of life and how beneficiries should be treated.

5 Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

1) Avoid Probate: Probate is a court mandated process for those who didn't plan properly. In such cases, the court intervenes to decide how the estate should be distributed. The charge is a fixed fee of several percent of the GROSS estate and the proceedings are public record. All of our plans are designed to bypass probate. Learn more about probate here, revocable living trusts and how they are different from irrevocable trusts.

2) Reduce Taxes & Fees: A large portion of the inheritance can be lost through fees and taxes. Recent increases in the estate tax threshold mean most couples do not currently face an estate tax problem. However, the estate tax rate and threshold have been in flux since their inception. Our plans are designed to minimize any estate taxes in case of adverse tax law changes. Learn more about reducing estate taxes here.

3) Avoid Complications If you don't make your wishes clear, then you cannot reasonable expect them to be fulfilled. Worse yet, the vacuum left behind leaves room for family fighting and court interventions. Those are disastrous to wealth and family harmony. The gift you leave behind can be a blessing or a curse. An estate plan will avoid unnecessary family squabbles over who pays for what, who gets what and when they get it. These types of issues can pull an already stressed family apart and cause further pain and suffering that the deceased never would have intended. We have all seen or heard of families tying up an estate in court for years over petty disagreements. Learn about durable power of attorney here.

4) Protect Beneficiaries: There are two general manners in which to protect beneficiaries:

a) Protection of minors,
b) protection of beneficiaries from bad decisions, outside influences and divorcing spouses. If the beneficiary is a minor, a guardian or conservator will be appointed to oversee affairs on the minor's behalf. An estate plan in these instances will protect beneficiaries from themselves or those who may try to take their inheritance.

5) Protect Your Assets During Your Lifetime: Asset protection planning is increasingly integrated into estate planning to assist with protecting from lurking creditors. It is important to plan before problems emerge. It can benefit the holder in life and their families in their passing. Protections for spouses, such as AB Trust, can be created and ABC Trust or lifetime trust for other beneficiaries. Learn about domestic asset protection trusts here. and private trust companies here.

You have worked hard to accumulate money, property, shares, etc. in your lifetime. Don't let the government come and tell your family what can be done with it. Take the time to meet with an estate planner today.

What's Next

The first step is taking an inventory of your assets, this includes your home, investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, etc. Don't worry if you don't have a complete inventory. Our specialists are experts at helping you with this step.

After you have an inventory, you need to determine your needs and know who you would like to provide inheritances for. You will also want to know whom you would like to make legal and medical decisions for you if you should ever become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.

You can also name a guardian for your minor children if needed. If you die without planning, you will have no control over who inherits your assets or how they spend the money. While a revocable living trust does avoid probate, it fails to protect your heirs from creditors or minimize taxes.

Last Thoughts

Don't worry if you don't feel you have everything in order or know the answer to every question. Our trained specialists will guide you through the process. What is important is that you start now. Your plan will be amended and modified through time as circumstances dictate. While you will always have a chance to make changes, you won't get the chance to go back in time and plan if you don't start now. Learn more about the estate planning process here.

Related Reading

Estate Planning Process

Learn what estate planning is about, from asset protection to planning your legacy.

Asset Protection Trust

Place your assets into a trust and outside the reach of creditors.

Private Trust Companies

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Asset Protection Strategies

Learn various strategies for protecting your assets.