Estate Planning & Administration
Estate Planning & Administration Services
Estate Planning is the process of planning for events following one’s death. This planning can include establishing Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, simple Wills that allocate who your property passes to upon your death, complex tax planning for larger estates in order to minimize estate taxes, and planning for the guardianship of minor or disabled children. One does not need to be wealthy to have an estate plan, as everyone should be able to choose where his/her property passes upon his/her death and who should raise his or her children. In addition, estate planning means carefully planning for someone to handle your health care and your finances if you should become incapacitated. This is important for people of all socioeconomic means and includes the use of Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, and Advanced Directives (Living Wills).
Estate Administration occurs after an individual passes away and is the process by which the decedent’s affairs are wound up. Whether you are a named executor of an estate, or a child or family member of a deceased loved one, we can assist you in navigating probate, liquidating the decedent’s personal or real property, dealing with the decedent’s creditors and otherwise successfully passing property to the appropriate heirs or beneficiaries.
While no one plans to develop severe dementia or other incapacitating illness, planning for this possibility is crucial. Having a plan for financial decision making and general affairs as well as your health care in the event you become unable to manage such affairs yourself is critical. With a General Durable Power of Attorney and Durable Health Care Power of Attorney in place, you will know that your affairs will be taken care of while maintaining control of the individuals in charge of your assets and health care. Putting off these documents can have dire consequences. If one becomes incapacitated without a durable general power of attorney and durable health care power of attorney, their family or other concerned individuals must petition the court for guardianship. Guardianship proceedings are slow, expensive, public record and allow the court to determine who will oversee managing your assets and health care.
Whether you own just a few assets or immense wealth, the disposition of your property upon your death is an important decision which only you can control. Your Last Will passes the property you own on the date of your death via the probate system. Although estate planning usually involves the avoidance of the probate system, most individuals will have some amount of property passing via probate upon their death. Therefore, your Last Will is an important part of a comprehensive estate plan. If an individual dies without a Last Will, the disposition of some of their property may pass via the Intestate Succession statute, which provides default rules for who will inherit. Having a properly executed Last Will in place, ensures your control in determining who will receive your property.
Trusts provide a way for you, a family member or other trusted individual to own property in a fiduciary capacity as trustee for the benefit of certain beneficiaries who will ultimately inherit such property. Trusts come in many shapes and sizes and provide various benefits depending on the type of trust which include asset protection, avoidance of probate and public record laws, greater asset control after death and simplicity when dealing with many beneficiaries and complex distribution schemes.
While everyone needs a Last Will, we can help you determine whether a testamentary or living trust makes sense in your estate plan.
While a goal of estate planning is generally to avoid Guardianship, it is sometimes a last resort that must be pursued. It is also a great tool to combat abuse of a power of attorney or other financial exploitation of an individual.
Guardianship is often pursued for elderly or incapacitated individuals but can also be necessary for minor children under 18 in some cases where they receive an inheritance from an estate plan without a holdback trust.
Life is unexpected and planning can be delayed or imperfect. If a need to pursue guardianship is evident, our firm is adept at using this system as efficiently and prudently as possible.
With the estate tax exemption currently so high, long-term care and medical debt is the single biggest threat to the average American’s wealth. Certain strategies can be employed to protect real property and other assets from nursing home expenses, Medicaid estate recovery and other estate claims for unsecured medical debt. We can explain these strategies and help you determine whether employing their use would make sense in your situation.