Estate Planning and Living Trusts
We believe in building strong relationships with our clients. Creating a proper estate plan involves getting to know an individual/family in a very intimate way. This includes details about your family’s dynamics, your financial details, your short & long-term goals, any potential health issues, etc.
For a married couple, a comprehensive estate plan will address at least five stages of life:
Alive & Well: The stage most of us will spend our lives in.
Alive & Not-So-Well: Planning for this stage will address what you want to have happen in the event of a health care crisis (i.e., emergency medical decisions need to be made) and what you want to have happen if you have a dreaded chronic (usually cognitive) condition such as dementia.
What Happens When One of You Dies: Do we need to protect assets from the estate tax? How about possible remarriage by the surviving spouse?
Surviving Spouse - Alive & Not-So Well: Planning for the survivor’s healthcare and end of life decisions after the first spouse dies.
What Happens When the Survivor Dies: This is what most consider of when thinking of “estate planning”. Who do you want to receive what you have when you are done using it? What is the best way to give it to them? How do you do this at the lowest possible cost?
Lifetime Control over Financial and Health Care Decision Making
Generally, the areas of “lifetime control” addressed by estate planning can be broken down into three distinct areas:
- Control over financial, legal and property matters.
- control over personal health care and medical matters.
- control over the care and nurturing of minor children and other dependents (if applicable).
Planning for the Quick & Inexpensive Transfer of Assets
When you are dead and gone, creditors, financial institutions, and other interested parties must be notified; funeral and burial arrangements must be carried out; debts must be addressed; taxes must be paid; tangible and intangible assets must be protected and eventually transferred to beneficiaries;
and the decedent’s overall wishes must be carried out. There is quite a lot to do, and for the ones you leave behind, this may not be the best time for them to experience these tiresome and tricky situations. Proper estate planning identifies all the “hurdles” that may arise post-death and minimizes their effect. Understanding what needs to be done for a particular client requires experience and knowledge of the various available tools and techniques.
Planning for My (Our) Family
We often discover that most of our clients have definite ideas about how they would like their beneficiaries to use their inheritance. Similarly, there is usually a strong desire to protect the beneficiary’s inheritance from outside forces, like “creditors and pre¬dators.”
An estate plan should address many of the following family maintenance and protection issues:
Elder Law – Specific Senior Issues
A comprehensive and useful estate plan must address the unique challenges faced by our aging population. Elder Law focuses on the legal needs of the elderly, and utilizes a variety of legal tools and techniques to meet their goals and objectives. All of the typical estate planning concepts are still applicable, but the elder law client also frequently needs assistance in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care and comprehensive end of life decision making. Planning to coordinate private and public resources to finance the cost of care, and working to ensure the client’s right to quality care are all part of Elder Law planning.
Legacy planning emphasizes the belief that wealth goes beyond just material possessions. It involves your heritage (ancestors, traditions, heirlooms); your family beliefs, values, and connections; and your community (including work, friendships, affiliations, and philanthropy). Legacy planning is as varied as the individual and means different things to different people. It may include planning for your children and beneficiaries, charitable planning or business succession planning.
Living trusts afford significant flexibility in carrying out these wishes. These trusts can serve as a blueprint for detailing how you want your assets managed during your lifetime and your estate distributed after death. Moreover, revocable living trusts can serve as a “funnel” through which all your purchases can be directed seamlessly.
As a result, a revocable living trust has emerged as the centerpiece of the client-centered estate plan based on its flexibility, efficiency, and adaptability to many situations. When it comes down to it, the question is whether or not you feel the need to create a “comprehensive” plan or are comfortable with a piecemeal approach. The revocable living trust-centered plan is the only plan that enables the coordinated distribution of all of your assets while maintaining the most significant degree of asset control – both during your lifetime and after death.