What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is the legal process of preparing for the transfer of your wealth and assets in the manner you decide when you pass away, become incapacitated, or otherwise do not wish to manage them for yourself any longer. You can also create plans for how to care for your children if you cannot, as well as what to do about your medical and legal decisions when incapacitated.
Overall, your estate plan should contain your:
- Life insurance
- Real estate
- Personal belongings
A well-structured estate plan ensures that you and your family are protected, there are no loose ends, and all your goals are met. An experienced estate planning attorney from our firm can structure your written, signed, and notarized estate plan precisely to your intentions. This is not just a tool of the wealthy, either. Regardless of the size of your estate, you and your family can be secure in the knowledge that you are preserving your property and possessions as well as your every desire for handling your affairs.
Important Elements of Estate Planning
When creating an estate plan, we will want to consider the following and more:
- Business succession planning: Estate planning is a vital part of securing a business. Whether you want to keep a business in the family or sell it before or after you pass away, careful planning can ensure the business continues to operate in your absence and your family does not incur a large tax liability. There are ways to pass the business to a co-owner, too, such as a buy-sell agreement, that can be structured to accommodate your and your partners’ plans. You want to be certain that a business succession plan addresses the systematic transfer of ownership of the management of your business. In addition, a proper business succession plan will ensure that your business doesn’t end up in probate.
- Elder law: There are many legal nuances and concerns that apply mostly or only to senior citizens. Elder law is the broad legal category that covers these laws. Our attorneys can help you fully understand how elder law can affect your estate plan and what to do about it so that your estate plan continues to benefit you and your family, even after you are gone.
- Health care directives: A health care directive serves as a guideline on how you wish to be cared for if you become unable to communicate such desires. Typically, people choose a spouse or adult child to act as their agent should this need arise. It is their duty to fulfill your health care directive as best as possible while you are incapacitated. For the directive to be legally recognized, it must be in writing and signed by you or an authorized representative. Witnesses or a notary public are required to be present when this document is signed.
- Irrevocable trusts: A trust establishes a trustor, trustee, and beneficiary. It allows the easy transfer of property, finances, and other assets without the need for probate. An irrevocable trust cannot be changed or revoked once it has been created.
- Revocable living trusts: A revocable living trust can be revoked or amended once it has been created. People who use a revocable living trust usually do so to avoid probate. A revocable living trust also provides flexibility if relationships or assets change over time.
- Powers of attorney: A power of attorney (POA) is an essential part of an estate plan that has both benefits and limitations. The POA names one or more “agents” or “attorneys-in-fact” to act on your behalf, who will likely be your spouse or adult child. POAs can be general, allowing the agent to take any action on your behalf, or it can be limited to specific actions. The POA is necessary because you need someone to manage your assets, pay your bills, and make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
- Transfer on death deeds: A transfer on death deed (TODD) is a beneficiary designation for real estate. It allows a piece of real estate to easily transfer ownership to the named beneficiary when you pass away.
- Wills: Also known as a “last will and testament,” a will is the basic building block of any estate plan. This document designates how one’s assets and properties will be divided upon their death. A will can also be used to name a guardian for minor children, as well as a personal representative who is responsible for carrying out the terms of the will.
Our attorneys can review the details of your current estate plan and prepare important documents to protect yourself, your legacy, and the future of your estate.