Estate planning is designed to protect you, your family and your assets while you are incapacitated (such as if you are in a coma or you suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s) and after you are dead. Proper estate planning allows you to control many things after your incapacity and death, such as:
- health decisions during incapacity
- financial decisions during incapacity
- funeral and burial plans and payment
- support and maintenance of your surviving spouse and children
- guardianships for minor children who are orphaned
- proper placement of pets
- transfer of your assets following death
- charitable gifts
Generally, estate planning is also designed to minimize additional future costs, including estate taxes, probate costs, and attorneys’ fees.
One of the basic components of an estate plan is a will, which directs your executor to do certain things after your death. If you do not have a valid will, then the law of intestate succession applicable in your state will govern the disposition of your assets.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney for health care and for financial decisions during incapacity are also basic components of every estate plan. If you do not have these types of valid powers of attorney, your family members will have to go through the formal legal process of having a guardian appointed for you – which will involve court costs, attorneys’ fees, and often financial and emotional hardship for your family members during this process.
A trust is another powerful tool in estate planning that is appropriate for many clients. There are many different types and structures for trusts, and each is custom-designed to accomplish the specific wishes of our clients.
Once a person dies, his or her assets and liabilities are known as an “estate.” We are available to assist the executor (if there is a will) or court-appointed administrator (if there is no will) with the process of administering the estate, including (if necessary) estate inventory, estate appraisal, transfer of assets, payment of debts, transition of accounts, insurance issues, etc.
If your estate plan does not avoid probate, then we can assist with probate, which is the court-supervised process to validate your will (if applicable), appoint your personal representative, pay your creditors, pass assets to your loved ones, and settle your estate.
Federal Tax Planning
Estates of a certain value are subject to the federal estate tax, at a maximum tax rate of 40% (as of 2013) of the taxable estate, after application of certain exemptions and exclusions. Proper estate planning can minimize or eliminate the impact of the federal estate tax.