Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the transfer of an estate. Planning is intended to eliminate uncertainties over the administration of an estate and maximize the value of an estate by reducing taxes and other expenses. This involves wills, trusts, gifts, powers of attorney (specifically durable medical and durable financial powers), and directives to physicians.
Estate planning is an ongoing process and not just a one-time event. Everyone has some type of property to be transferred after death.
Most of us put off the preparation of the will for as long as we can. It’s not very pleasant to consider our demise. However, considering how hard you are planning and working to create your estate, wouldn’t it be wise to spend some time planning how to distribute your estate in a way that will truly benefit those who receive it?
Estate planning in its simplest form includes the preparation of a last will and testament. In a will you indicate who you want to administer your estate. This person is called the personal representative, formerly known as the executor. If you have minor children you may also want to appoint a trustee to receive and hold assets while the children are young. The will is the document by which you indicate what you would like to happen to your assets – who gets what and how.
We would encourage you to have a durable power of attorney and directive to physicians. The durable power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf in the event you are unavailable to act personally. A power of attorney can be effective immediately upon signing or effective upon physical or mental incapacity. We can help you understand why you might want to consider one or the other. The directive to physicians allows you to state what you would like to happen for your medical care if you are in a terminal condition, unable to express your desires, and where life-sustaining procedures would only serve to prolong the moment of your death. We can help you through these deeply personal decisions in a dignified and respectful way.
We can help you prepare a trust that is effective during your lifetime or that becomes effective through your last will and testament. We don’t believe that everyone needs a living trust. These are sometimes marketed by enterprising attorneys as a means to avoid probate. You might be concerned about probate. While that procedure is not free, it is probably much less of a burden than you may expect. Probate in the superior courts locally is generally an efficient and prompt way to administer estate. A trust, however, may be very helpful if you have real estate in more than one State or if you have real concerns about the privacy of your estate. We will be happy to discuss with you the law or related to trusts and how and when they are best used.
Not all estates require probate (court approved estate administration). In many cases probate can be avoided with wise planning. Probate is the process of having a judge confirms the last will and testament presented to the court is in fact your last will and testament and that the individual(s) you have appointed as personal representative has your authority to administer your estate. When probate is advised, proper planning can assure that it is an efficient means of administering your estate.
Talk to us about the practical, real life process of estate planning and estate administration.