Estate Plans are for Everyone
You might think that “estate planning” is a fancy legal or financial practice reserved for celebrities or the wealthy. Certainly, you might be shocked to learn that a wealthy celebrity died without an estate plan, when there seems to be so much at stake. However, you do not need to have a vast fortune, or a scenic “Estate” in the English countryside, to need an estate plan.
An Estate Plan is a practical set of legal documents that expresses your wishes as to how you will be cared for, and how your assets will be managed, in any situation where you are not able to make decisions for yourself. There are many reasons to establish an Estate Plan, including peace of mind, legal clarity, and financial considerations. We all need to take steps to protect our family (or other chosen beneficiaries) from chaos, unnecessary costs, or unforeseen circumstances in the event of our incapacity or death.
Benefits of an Estate Plan
An Estate Plan can provide clear guidance to families if a loved one is unable to make their own decisions for any reason. An Estate Plan can also eliminate chaos families might otherwise experience after the death of a loved one. With an Estate Plan in place, you have selected your trusted agents to make decisions for you and you have decided in advance how your assets will be handled. In so doing, you have also removed the potential for arguments and costly court proceedings.
Protecting your beneficiaries is among the most important reasons for establishing an Estate Plan. You may have beneficiaries who are minors or dependent adults. You may have beneficiaries who have special needs. You may have adult beneficiaries who need to be “protected from themselves” when it comes to making financial decisions. Most states have laws requiring the appointment of a guardian for minors; therefore, designating a guardian for your minor children in your Estate Plan can eliminate confusion, family discord, and costly legal fees.
An Estate Plan can be established in a manner that circumvents the need for probate, and “avoiding probate” is often cited as one of the reasons people are motivated to create an estate plan. One tool that can be used to avoid probate is a revocable living trust. However, many people also misunderstand what probate is, and your Estate Plan should reflect all of your unique needs, not just probate avoidance. Visit the FAQ section of our website to learn more about what probate is.
Avoiding Estate and Inheritance Taxes
While federal estate tax exemptions are at an all-time high, your estate may be subject to other taxes depending on what state you live in and who your beneficiaries are. A well constructed Estate Plan can help reduce or even eliminate the burden of estate or inheritance taxes.
The time to think about protecting your assets is before you or your beneficiaries need protection. As a part of your Estate Plan, asset protection could shelter your assets from unforeseen circumstances such as a lawsuit, foreclosure of property, or claims of creditors, and more.
Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to create your Estate Plan. Our estate planning lawyers may recommend a will, a power of attorney, an advance medical directive, and the use of a revocable trust (also known as a grantor trust). We will explain, in detail, why these documents are important, and how each is an essential part of a comprehensive Estate Plan.
Consider the following circumstances when preparing to meet with your attorney:
• You have been married more than once
• You are recently divorced
• You have minor children
• You have a family member with special needs
• You are a business owner
• You own real estate
• You have retirement accounts
Contact us to schedule a consultation. There is no charge for the first meeting if you decide that you do not want to retain our estate planning services. Our estate planning fee is usually a set fee based on the documents’ complexity, rather than an hourly rate.