We never like to face it, but death is one of those certain events in our human experience. Just as you would plan a vacation or make arrangements for family to visit for the holidays, everything that is certain to happen should be planned out for as many details and contingencies as possible.
Yet, very few people actually do any estate planning, even as death is the most certain of certainties.
Don’t let this certainty go without planning ahead. The most loving thing you can do for your family and friends is to have the distribution of your assets already arranged ahead of time, so your family and loved ones can mourn your passing in peace and calm, not having the extra agony of questions about what to do with your possessions.
Estate Planning Process
Estate planning can be a difficult process, but the challenges you face yourself now will more than offset the potential pain your family may go through if you don’t do what is necessary to protect your assets and pass them along to your survivors. We are here to walk you through everything you need to create an effective estate plan so you can leave a positive legacy.
Here are the various planning tools we can help you prepare, based on your specific situation.
- Will – This is the primary legal document that is your direction of how and to whom the various parts of your estate should be distributed upon your death. Without this document, most estates go into probate court, where a judge (and not you) decides what happens to your estate.
- Powers of Attorney – These are documents that allow you to name a person to represent your interest I the case of your mental or physical incapacity. A durable power of attorney is for personal and financial decisions, while a medical power of attorney gives the designee power to decide any medical treatments to be used or withheld in case you cannot think or speak for yourself.
- Living Will – In some places, this is called a Directive to Physicians, but this is a document that can supplement the medical power of attorney in that it declares the general type of medical care and treatment you would want or what should be specifically withheld according to your preferences.
- Trusts – A trust is one way to protect some of your assets from taxes, creditors, and even from the beneficiaries themselves (especially if they are minors or have disabilities that prevent them from making sound decisions). Assets placed in trust are managed by a third party on behalf of the beneficiaries, and you can designate at what point in time the assets may be released to the beneficiaries. There are several types of trusts:
- Revocable Trust: This is a trust that can be updated and modified while you are still alive. Assets can be added or removed, beneficiaries changed, etc..
- Irrevocable Trust: This is a trust that once made, cannot be changed or modified.
- Living Trust: This is a trust that you can manage yourself while alive, and you can designate a person to manage it should you become incapacitated.
- Special-needs Trust: Assets are placed in this trust and managed by a third party on behalf of a beneficiary who is disabled.
- Qualified Real Property Trust: Have a house you’d like to pass down, or perhaps a family farm? A real-estate asset could be placed in this trust, which prevents the liquidation of the property upon your death unless you so designate.
- Oher trusts are available based on your specific situation and needs.
- Assistance Agreements – Should you need help with making financial decisions, you can draw up one of several types of assistance agreements, which allow a person you designate to provide advice and assist you in your decision-making process for financial, legal or medical matters. This is a good idea if you have special needs but have the capacity to make decisions. This may also include a HIPAA release form, which allows a person you designate to have access to your medical records to help you make medical decisions.
- Guardianship Agreements – Should you become incapacitated, or if you die while your children are still minors, you can designate a person to serve as a guardian for yourself or those minor children. You can also designate people you do not want to take on the role.
- Transfers – These are documents to transfer a deed or title of property (a home, car, etc.) to another person is the event of your incapacity or death.
Benefits of an Estate Plan
We know what you’re thinking. Estate planning seems like a lot of work. We won’t lie to you – it can be. But you don’t have to do it alone. We are by your side every step of the way, and in fact, we’ll do much of the work for you, with your direction to guide us.
We are knowledgeable in the following areas:
- Probate Administration
- Avoiding Probate
- Estate Litigation
- Advanced Estate Planning
- Estate Tax Planning
- Trust Administration
- Business Succession Planning
- Family Limited Trusts
- Pet Trusts
- Wills & Trusts
But why should you do an estate plan?
If you don’t, you relinquish everything you have worked so hard for in the hands of an unknown judge, who will likely then assign an executor of your estate to someone you may not know, or to a family member that you may not have wanted to do the job. An estate plan keeps you in control of your estate and what will happen to it when you pass away.
With that control, you can choose people you trust to handle such vital roles as guardian for your children, executor of your estate, administrator of your trusts, and so on. An unknown judge in probate court won’t know your crazy brother from your trusted second cousin.
Also, having an estate plan can not only ease the stress on your family and friends about your estate, but it can save on probate costs and can minimize the amount of estate taxes you would owe to the federal government. And who wants to pay more taxes than they have to?
Contact Our Estate Planning Attorneys Now!
While death itself is a certainty, when we pass away is never for certain. That is why every day you’re living is a gift – that’s why it’s called the present. Take advantage of your breaths by contacting our office today to set up an initial appointment to build your estate plan with one of our estate planning attorneys, so you address the uncertainty surrounding the certainty of death.