Everyone has an estate, whether they realize it or not, and everyone needs an estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan allows you to decide what happens to your family and your assets, in the event of sudden tragedy. These decisions include who will raise your children, who will manage your life insurance proceeds and other assets and who will benefit from these assets. Estate planning ensures that your wishes and desires become your reality. We assist you in crafting a customized estate plan that will ensure your assets are transferred to the loved ones you want to benefit from them in a manner that minimizes tax liability and avoids unnecessary complications and costs often associated with the end of a life. A basic estate plan will often include each of the following documents:
Last Will and Testament: In its simplest form, a Last Will and Testament is a document that states who will get your assets after you have passed away. Absent your direction, state law governs where your assets will go. A Last Will in Testament also allows you to specify who you want to be the guardian of your children. There are many formalities that are required for a Last Will and Testament to be valid. When these formalities are followed your wishes become legally binding ensuring that your wishes are followed through.
Health Care Power of Attorney: A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints someone you trust to make decisions related to your health care, when you are unable to make these decisions yourself. A well drafted Health Care Power of Attorney clearly designates who the decision maker is, eliminating the possibility for conflict and confusion regarding who the decision maker is.
Living Will: A Living Will is a document which outlines, to your Health Care Power of Attorney, your end of life decisions. These decisions include when to continue or discontinue medical treatment at the end of one’s life. This direction will give your family comfort, at the end of your life, that they are making the decisions you would have them make.
Durable Power of Attorney: A Durable Power of Attorney appoints someone to help manage your finances if you are unable to manage them yourself. With the Power of Attorney, your agent can pay bills and access your bank accounts to pay for your care and well-being.
Trust: A trust in many ways serves many of the roles a Last Will and Testament do. A trust is used to ensure that your assets are transferred to your loved ones when you pass away. However, a trust, when properly utilized, can accomplish this without the need for probate. A trust also provides a mechanism to manage assets for someone who is incapable of managing assets themselves do to age, disability, or lack of trust. This can all be accomplished without the need for lengthy court proceedings which ultimately saves your family time and money.
Question. Do I have an estate?
Answer. Yes, everyone has an estate. An estate is simply all of our assets, including tangible personal property, financial accounts, business ownership, vehicles, life insurance and real estate.
Question. Do I need an estate plan?
Answer. Yes, everyone needs an estate plan. At a minimum, everyone should have a Last Will and Testament, a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney. These documents help to alleviate the burdens that death and incapacity create on our loved ones.
Question. Does a will avoid probate?
Answer. A will does not avoid probate. A Last Will and Testament dictates where our assets go but it does not provide a mechanism to get the assets to the named beneficiaries. Often, probate is necessary to transfer assets to the intended beneficiaries.
Question. Do I have to be old to have an estate plan?
Answer. No, everyone needs an estate plan. Even young couples who are just starting to accumulate assets need an estate plan. An estate plan ensures assets, including life insurance, end up with the loved ones we want to have them. Parent’s with young children also want to be able to dictate who will be the guardian of their children if they were to die. An estate plan makes this possible.