Estate planning is the creation of a definite plan for managing your wealth while you’re alive, and for distributing it after your death. It is also about critical people issues relating to avoiding family conflict and providing for and protecting those we leave behind.
A good estate plan is designed to accomplish your personal and family goals and to ease the burden associated with management of your financial and legal affairs. Estate planning looks at people issues such as who should be given the tools to help you if should you become incapacitated or what protections those who inherit from you might need. It also looks at income and estate tax planning and asset protection.
When we talk about an estate, we mean all assets of any value that you may own, including real property, business interests, investments, insurance proceeds, personal property, and even your personal effects. An “estate plan” generally refers to your intent as to who will inherit at your death, your goals as to how this will happen, and the legal documents, asset organization, professional support and other mechanisms designed to reach these goals.
There are a lot different devices that can be used to transfer your assets at death including:
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Last Will and Testament / Probate
- Lifetime Gifts
- Joint Ownership with right of survivorship
- Beneficiary Designations
- Irrevocable Trusts
None of these things are as simple as we would like and there can be unintended results — and in some cases real problems — from using the wrong approach or combination of approaches. Estate planning is not just about choosing and setting up the right legal device, but also about evaluating and organizing your assets so that they are controlled effectively by the device you choose. Problems often arise when people don’t coordinate how their assets are owned and how their beneficiary designations are made with the estate planning device they choose.
If you have a well-drafted estate plan in place, you can ensure that your estate passes to the people you want, when you want, and in the way you want. You can spare your family the public process and expense of having the court review all your financial matters in a probate proceeding. You can minimize the amount the government will take in taxes and fees, provide an advantageous tax outcome for those who inherit from you, make sure that your plan is as efficient as possible for those who will be responsible for carrying it out in the event of your incapacity or at death, and have the peace of mind of knowing that your specific goals and concerns have been addressed. You need to be aware of the many options that exist in estate planning — and you should choose your estate planning attorney wisely.
Everything we do is geared toward providing you extraordinary clarity in the face of the unfamiliar details of preparing for incapacity or death.
Our approach takes the uncertainty out of decisions about estate planning and elder law. Before you engage our services, we will provide clarity about what is needed, what the options are for preparing more fully, how and when the plan will be delivered and implemented, what will be expected of you during the process, and what you will pay us. We will prepare you even before you decide to work with us through education in multiple forms, calculated to make the time you invest with us productive and the decision to use our services clear and easy.
- We will listen to you and your concerns so that we provide a plan that is specific to your needs;
- Our focus will be on you. We will advise you about the best ways to accomplish your goals and coach you through all aspects of your planning decisions;
- Our job is to make sure you have the right plan for you, that the documents reflect your planning goals, and that your plan works as intended. We will stay in relationship with you and your family to help make things work;
- We will work on a flat fee basis and fully explain your fee before you engage our services;
- All of your legal documents will be first rate and will be drafted by our experienced lawyers rather than paralegals;
- We will carefully explain your legal documents;
- Your plan is about much more than your legal documents. In order to ensure that your plan works as intended, an experienced professional on our team will work hands on with you and with your financial service providers to ensure that your assets are owned properly and your beneficiary designations correctly established, rather than leaving it to you to set up this part of your plan;
- We will provide you with a take away summary of your planning so you can share it with your family if you choose;
- We will follow up with you after you have signed your planning documents to answer any new questions you may have;
- We will host annual client seminars to continue our commitment to educate you about important aspects of your plan;
- We will send you an annual letter updating you on changes in the law or introducing new planning opportunities that might help you;
- We will provide, at least annually, an educational program for any one you name as Executor or Trustee in your plan documents explaining what will be expected of them;
- We will stay in touch with you through newsletters, updates on the law, and educational programs directed at keeping you informed about changes in planning opportunities so that your plan works when you need it;
- We will be there for you and your family in the event of your disability or death with the same commitment to clarity and complete services.
- We offer an affordable Legacy Client Program so that you can meet with your primary attorney every year to review and update your plan.
We want you to feel confident about the choices you make — let us be your guide on the path toward preserving your family’s future.