Many people believe they don’t need estate planning (wills and trusts) because they think they don’t have an estate. Or they think the value of their estate is not great enough to cause estate taxation, so what’s the point?
With all but a few exceptions, everyone has an estate. The young child with a custodial account in his name or the granddaughter who received a lovely piece of jewelry for her 16th birthday, these both have an estate.
Bottom line is if you own something of value that you would like to pass on to someone else upon your death, you have an estate. Whether you know it or not, you also have an estate plan. The state has one for you free of charge (that you may not like) if you do not write your own will.
Broadly speaking, an estate plan (either a will-based estate plan or a trust-based estate plan) encompasses the accumulation, conservation and distribution of an estate. A good estate plan will enhance and maintain the financial security of individuals and their families.
Designing an Estate Plan
Designing an estate plan is a process. At Pearson Bollman Law, we will ask you a lot of questions. Below are just some of the questions we go through to assist us in designing an estate plan (either will-based or trust-based) that meets your goals.
- Do you want to provide for and protect your spouse?
- Do you want to provide for and protect your children?
- Do you want to avoid probate?
- Do you have a family business or farm you want to leave your children?
- Do you want to protect your assets from lawsuits or creditors?
- Do you want to protect your children’s inheritance from the possibility of failed marriages?
- Do you want to ensure your death shall not be unnecessarily prolonged by artificial means or other measures?
Estate Planning Documents
Some of the documents we utilize to implement your estate plan are as follows:
- A will. This legal document outlines who will manage the probate process for you, how your belongings will be distributed, and, if applicable, who you want to be nominated guardian of your minor children or other disabled family members after you die. If you die without a will the state makes these decisions—often at an added cost to those you love most.
- A trust. This legal document is generally an alternative to a will. The primary purpose to use a revocable trust instead of a will is to avoid probate.
- Financial power of attorney. This delegates the power to someone you name to legally handle your financial affairs should you become disabled or incapacitated. Without this, no one may be able to access your bank account, securities, or any other property in your name without lengthy legal proceedings.
- Healthcare power of attorney. A healthcare power of attorney names a spouse or trusted relative to make health care decisions for you in case you are physically or mentally incapable of doing so on your own.
- Living will. A living will informs medical personnel that you do not want certain life-sustaining procedures if you are in a terminal condition (which includes a persistent vegetative state and a coma) and unable to decide for yourself. It is important to inform your physician of your desire to deny any medical procedures, treatments, or interventions that use mechanical or artificial means to sustain, restore or supplant a spontaneous vital function, and would serve only to prolong the dying process.
Contact one of our estate planning attorneys to learn more about your estate planning options.