Establishing an estate plan of your own, and having it designed by a firm that focuses on estate planning, is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Why? Because proper estate planning is not just about the efficient distribution of your assets after you pass away. It is also about maintaining complete control over your assets while you are alive; protecting them against the high cost of long-term healthcare and other threats, so that more of your estate is available for your enjoyment and that of your loved ones; passing your values and dreams on to your children and future generations; minimizing estate taxes; avoiding the delays, frustration and needless expense of probate; and more.
We will take the time to get to know you personally, gain a thorough understanding of your concerns and objectives, and then design a comprehensive plan that is uniquely tailored to address all of your goals.
We can help accomplish all of these goals, and others as well, depending on your particular situation. We will take the time to get to know you personally, gain a thorough understanding of your concerns and objectives, and then design a comprehensive plan that can help you address every one of them and to establish a relationship that will continue throughout your life.
Many people think their spouse or children can simply take over the management of their affairs in the event of incapacity. Unfortunately, without proper planning, the legal process associated with taking control of your affairs is anything but simple. To manage your finances, your loved ones must petition a court to declare you legally incapacitated, a process that is long, expensive, stressful and often emotionally devastating for all family members involved. Worse, the court may not appoint the person you would have wanted. And even if it does, the person appointed to act on your behalf may not have the ability or time to handle your finances effectively. Family disputes and ill-will that can last a lifetime are not uncommon in these situations. Fortunately, we can help you to have a proper plan to avoid this difficult situation.
We can also show you ways to ensure your healthcare wishes will be carried out should you become incapacitated. The law permits you to appoint someone you trust, such as a family member or close friend, to get information and to make decisions for you about your medical treatment if you cannot make them yourself. This is particularly important when it comes to the use of extraordinary measures to keep you alive in the event of prolonged unconsciousness or a terminal illness. For more detailed information please click here, or call our office for a consultation.
Protecting Your Minor Children
If your children are young, it is critically important to take steps to protect them should something happen to you. This may involve putting a plan in place that can:
•Allow your surviving spouse to devote more attention to your children without the burden and stress of work obligations
•Provide counseling and other resources for your spouse if he or she lacks the experience or ability to handle financial and legal matters
•Provide for your children in the event you and your spouse die at the same time
•Nominate a guardian to raise your children if you and your spouse cannot do so
•Designate a trustee to manage your minor children’s finances. (This does not have to be the same person you nominate as guardian.)
•Control how and when your children receive your assets. Provisions can be made to account for your children’s age, needs, and ability to handle large sums of money.
Obviously, your choice of both guardian and trustee are crucial decisions. We can help you select the proper candidates, make sure they are legally bound to carry out your wishes, and guide them through the myriad duties and responsibilities associated with such an important role.
Did you know that even if you have a Last Will and Testament, your estate will still be subject to the expense, delays and public scrutiny of probate? This means your heirs will not have access to your assets until your estate has been settled by the court. A situation such as this can put a great deal of financial stress on family members at a time when they are already grieving your loss. Your spouse may even have to petition the court for cash to pay for living expenses. All of this can be avoided through proper planning.
Estate Tax Minimization
We can show you a number of ways to reduce or even eliminate estate taxes, both federal and state. Given the ever-changing rules governing estate taxes, it pays to consult an experienced firm like ours, and to do so as soon as possible. The earlier you start planning, the more options we will have to help you preserve the most of your hard earned assets.
Business Legacy Planning
Have you been looking forward to the day you can retire, perhaps turn your business over to a son or daughter, or sell it? Even if you are not planning to stop working, you need to plan for the day you cannot run your business due to unforeseen illness or death. Most business owners do not take the time to plan for how they will leave their business. They are busy running the company, or they don't know where to start. But if you continue to own a business until you die, it will be included in your estate and could be subject to substantial estate taxes. Your family could be forced to sell the business or its assets at 'fire sale' prices. Then you will have worked hard all these years so that the vultures and Uncle Sam, not your family, will reap the benefits.
Planning for how you will exit from your business should be an integral part of your estate and retirement planning. Proper planning now can provide you with retirement income, reduced income and estate taxes, and even let you benefit a charity if you so choose, regardless of whether you transfer your business to family members at discounted values, to employees, or to an outside buyer. In today's market, the economy and trends are affecting the timing and value of business transfers.
Planning now to exit your company will result in you and your family receiving the best possible results, both now and after your retirement, disability or death. You can receive retirement income; you can transfer your business to your family, your employees or an outside buyer; you can make a difference for a charity or your community; and you can do all of this with reduced income, gift and estate taxes. Call our office today to learn more about Business Legacy Planning.
Planning For Blended Families
Blended families can involve children from a prior marriage as well as joint children, sometimes joking referred to as “his, hers and theirs.”
Most parents want to ensure that their assets will pass to their children, not their stepchildren. However, absent good estate planning, there is no guarantee that their children will inherit their assets. In fact, if the couple creates common “I love you” wills such that their assets pass to the survivor of them, there is a significant likelihood their children will be totally disinherited.
This is because all of their assets will pass to the surviving spouse to do with as he or she pleases. More often than not this means excluding the stepchildren, who then receive nothing.
The fact that Americans are living longer, and sometimes remarrying much later in life, means that blended family issues come into play there too. Baby boomer children expecting an inheritance may have to wait much longer than expected. But perhaps more difficult, who should pay for the cost of the surviving spouse’s care? Should the stepchildren be forced to use their inheritance to pay for an aging step-parent’s care, particularly after only a short-term marriage? Or should this burden fall on the children?
Other considerations for blended families and second marriages are:
• If each has considerable assets, it may be wise keep the assets and estate planning separate. If there will be a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, it should be reviewed by an estate planning attorney (before signing).
• If one spouse has considerably fewer assets than the other, it is possible to provide for this spouse until death or remarriage, then have the remaining assets distributed to the children of the “wealthier” spouse.
• If the new spouse is much younger, the children of the older spouse may be concerned that the new spouse is only after the money. These feelings may subside as the marriage lengthens. But if the younger spouse is closer in age to the children, they may be wondering if they will ever receive their inheritance. Consider distributing some of their inheritance upon their parent’s death, then the rest at the surviving spouse’s death or remarriage.
• Naming a trust as beneficiary for life insurance policies and tax-deferred plans is often a good choice for second marriages. This will allow the owner-spouse to keep control over how and to whom the proceeds are distributed. The surviving spouse can receive lifetime income, yet the owner-spouse can keep control (through the trust) over the rest of the proceeds. Keeping the proceeds in a trust will also protect them from irresponsible spending, creditors, predators, divorce, remarriage and even estate taxes, if done properly.
• Be sure to include planning for disability and long-term care. If one spouse becomes ill and Medicaid assistance is needed, the combined assets of the couple will be considered “available assets” to pay for the care of the ill spouse. Long-term care insurance may be needed to protect the assets of one or both spouses.
Call our office to speak to an attorney about your current family situation and how we can help.