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Estate Planning

Every person needs to do “estate planning” regardless of the “small amount” or “large amount” of assets owned. Frequently good planning is more important for someone with a nominal amount of assets than for a ‘millionaire.’

Peace of mind is the goal when attorneys and clients work together to plan an estate. Peace of mind means fully understanding your options, making informed decisions and then obtaining legal instruments designed to distribute your property according to your wishes with the least possible taxes, expenses and delay that can be achieved in your circumstances. Estate planning also includes planning for disability, which may last for many years before death. The following are some of the estate planning tools we use.

Wills

A typical disposition of a moderately sized estate can be handled with a Will. Even a person with a small estate can benefit greatly from having a Will.

A Will can provide for a self-proving affidavit that, in most cases, will avoid the need to bring witnesses to court after death. You can also provide for a Personal Representative, guardians for minor children and trustees for assets passing to minor children and other beneficiaries with disabilities.

Complex Wills

If you need tax planning, or if you have special needs or special circumstances to be addressed, a Will can be drafted that is right for you, including, as appropriate, bypass trusts, disclaimer trusts, contingent trusts, special needs trusts for disabled beneficiaries, trusts to protect beneficiary’s Medicaid benefits and trusts to protect minor beneficiaries, financially irresponsible beneficiaries, beneficiaries with bankruptcy or creditor problems, or beneficiaries who may be abusing illegal substances or alcohol.

Trusts

There are many types of “ Trusts.”

  • The special needs trust is a useful device when there is a desire to leave money for the benefit of a person with a disability without interfering with their government benefits such as Medicaid. This type of trust allows the person to have many of the “extras” that the government will not otherwise pay.
  • A knowledgeable Medicaid attorney can assist in the creation of management trusts for personal injury awards or other assets. These types of trusts preserve the client’s qualification for Medicaid benefits or other forms of public assistance.
  • A trust may be useful in saving federal estate taxes (inheritance taxes). This trust is used in a married couple scenario allowing the shelter of a large estate from federal estate taxes. Failure to use it can leave families paying large amounts of taxes unnecessarily.
  • Revocable or irrevocable living trusts may be something you wish to consider if you desire privacy, own property in multiple states or hope to avoid probate altogether.
  • Additionally, your estate, if large enough, may justify the need for family limited partnerships, life insurance trusts, or a regular gifting plan to take advantage of the annual gift tax exclusion.
Property Not Subject to Will or Trust

Property held in joint tenancy is not subject to a Will until the last surviving joint owner dies. Life insurance, IRAs, profit sharing plans, etc. frequently are payable to a named beneficiary(ies) and are NOT controlled or subject to a Will or Trust.

Power of Attorney Documents

Proper planning should include a well-drafted set of Powers of Attorney for financial matters, health care matters and mental health matters.