What is Estate planning?
Estate Planning is the process of making arrangements ahead of time to ensure that 1) if you become unable to make financial or medical decisions for yourself because of some incapacity, someone you trust is legally authorized to make those decisions for you, and 2) at your death, the things you own will be distributed to your loved ones according to your stated wishes.
How does it work?
The first of these needs can be accomplished using two simple documents: the health care proxy and the durable power of attorney. In the health care proxy you name an agent to make medical decisions for you; in the durable power of attorney you name someone to make financial decisions for you.
Death time issues can generally be dealt with through the use of a Will. The Will can state specifically who is to receive your property at death, be it a spouse, children, relatives or charity. In a Will, you can name a Personal Representative (formerly an Executor) who will be in charge of the administration of your estate after your death.
The simple Will is sufficient for many people. However, you need to know that Wills are administered through the Probate Courts. If you wish to avoid probate, then the Will will not be enough and you may prefer a trust.
A Trust is a more complex legal document but it may be superior in providing for your beneficiaries.
The most popular use of the Trust is to avoid Probate. Generally, any asset held in trust will not go through Probate but will pass according to the terms of the trust. Even for clients with smaller estates that include real estate, the trust can save time and money over a Probate Court administration.
Trusts have many other benefits and uses as well, and can be drawn according to your specific need. For example, Trusts can be used to plan for: young children, a disabled child, to reduce estate taxes, to protect assets from spendthrift children, children with unstable marriages, a divorce, and children with addiction issues.
how can we help you?
We prepare all types of estate planning documents to ensure a smooth administration of your estate at death, as well as help people with specific issues concerning the transfer of assets at death and protection of assets for children, including children with special needs and disabilities. We assist people with simple revocable trusts designed for probate avoidance at death as well as with more complex estate tax driven trust planning - including marital deduction and credit shelter trusts, and irrevocable life insurance trusts. Every will and trust is individually written for you and addresses your particular situation and needs.
We ask that clients fill out and return a Client Intake Form before their scheduled appointments. You may print this form here, or request that one be sent to you in the mail. This form allows us to gather routing information needed for the formulation of your estate plan, but it is also a general use form so do not worry if some of the questions do not apply specifically to you.
At your appointment, the attorney will go over the information with you to make sure we have a complete picture of your particular situation and that we understand exactly what you hope to accomplish with your estate plan. The attorney will then make a recommendation of what he believes is the best option or options for you - and you will decide what, if anything, you wish to do.
Once you decide that you wish to move forward with the estate planning process, we will prepare all the documents and send them to you in the mail for you to review. When the drafts have your approval, we will schedule a second appointment for you to come in and execute the documents.
At your second appointment, the attorney will review the documents with you one final time to make sure that you understand what the documents say and that your wishes are stated accurately. Then, he will supervise the execution of the documents, ensuring that your wishes as stated in your Will and Trust will be fully carried out when the time comes.
After the meeting, copies of everything will be made and forwarded to you. We recommend that you store them in a safe place, such as a desk drawer, where they will be easily found when needed.
And remember - as your personal life changes, so should your estate plan. Please check back with us from time to time, and after any major life-changes, to make sure that your estate plan remains current.