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The answer to the question about whether your family needs an estate plan is always yes. A well-prepared estate plan provides for your wishes to be communicated after you are gone and addresses your plans for your medical treatment while you are alive and no longer able to speak for yourself. Because our practice is focused on estate and tax issues, we can provide in-depth counsel for clients of all ages.
We know it’s important to make sure that your loved ones are provided for after you are gone. How can you ensure that everything you’ve worked for goes to the right place after you’re gone? Here’s what you need to know.
Your Schedule A will list your assets such as bank accounts, real estate, business interests, partnerships, and limited liability corporations (LLCs).
An experienced attorney will make sure that your beneficiaries receive the maximum amount possible. An attorney knows what language must be included in each document and where certain documents need to be filed. For example, your attorney will handle properly filing deeds with the county recorder’s office when transferring your real estate to a trust.
Most people know who they want to give their assets to after they’re gone. Preparing to care for your beneficiaries when you are no longer here will give you peace of mind. Having an experienced attorney from BETA Law to help you with your estate planning will ensure everything you’ve worked for goes to the right place once you’re gone.
Everyone should have an estate plan to determine how their belongings are distributed after they die. Everyone who owns assets has an estate, whether it’s small enough to fit into a shoebox or is a large, sprawling mansion. An estate includes all of your property such as your home, car, investment property, investments, life insurance policies, and personal possessions. Without a proper estate plan, a court might determine how to distribute your belongings according to state law. A well-drafted estate plan ensures your wishes are carried out in regards to where your assets go after your death.
A LIVING TRUST
The primary reason for a living trust is that it lets you hold the title to major assets like real estate, bank accounts, or business interests. It also allows you to retain control of your assets while you are alive. If you become incapacitated or die, the living trust transfers the power to your successor trustee(s) so they can access and manage your properties. They can pay your debts and taxes before distributing the remainder of your assets to your beneficiaries as outlined in your living trust.
ADJUSTMENTS TO A LIVING TRUST
You can alter, update, or amend a living trust at any time during your lifetime as long as you retain the mental capacity required. An irrevocable trust differs in that it cannot be changed or canceled.
Some specialized living trusts do exist including A-B, A-B-C, three-way marital, and basic disclaimer trusts. Disclaimer trusts contain embedded provisions that allow the surviving spouse to place specific assets in the trust by disclaiming ownership of the estate. The goal of any of these trusts is to reduce the tax liability for the remaining spouse.
Trusts can have “carve-outs” for a beneficiary with special needs or to create a dynasty trust or legacy for your heirs. They allow a company to capitalize on a business segment that exists outside of its core operations.
A-B & A-B-C TRUSTS
An A-B trust is traditionally used for a married couple, and an A-B-C trust is for married couples who are dangerously close to the estate tax exemption. An attorney can explain your options and advise you on the type of specialized living trust that is right for your needs. Understanding the different types of trusts will help you make the best decision for your situation.
What stage are you at with estate planning?
Check out our resources for a step-by-step estate planning guides.
Depending on the jurisdiction where you live, a living trust might be an essential part of estate planning. It is the only way to avoid the probate period required with a will. All that is required is to ensure your trust owns your assets. Then, your successor trustee will distribute the property in the trust according to your wishes. Another advantage to a living trust is that your successor trustee doesn’t need to go to court to manage your property if you become incompetent.
Choosing the person you name as the successor trustee is an important decision. This person will hold title to your major assets and oversee their distribution once you die. Your attorney will draft a living trust and backup pour-over wills to better protect your wishes.
A pour-over will ensures that your remaining assets automatically transfer to a previously established trust. This legal document is designed to work with a trust. It covers the assets that you didn’t fund into the trust at the time of your death. Without a pour-over will, the remaining assets are subject to the laws of intestate succession according to the jurisdiction. If you obtain assets after creating the living trust, it captures them as a backup even if you forget to add them.
Pour-over wills are also the simplest way to nominate guardians for minor children. It names the custodians you want for your minor children and who have agreed to the responsibility in case something happens to both parents.
POWER OF ATTORNEY
A power of attorney names an agent to handle your financial matters while you are still alive but unable to manage them yourself. This person will take care of paying your bills, filing and paying taxes, writing checks, and handling any other financial decisions on your behalf.
Every person’s situation is different, and their power of attorney should reflect this. Your attorney should draft the document to specify exactly what powers you want to give your agent.
ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE
No one expects to become incapacitated and unable to make decisions about their own healthcare. When the unthinkable happens, an Advance Health Care Directive lets you determine who should make those important decisions for you. It can also include your desires regarding burial or cremation in the event of your death as well as your preferences for organ donation.
HIGH-NET-WORTH ESTATE PLANNING
Estate planning is important for people with any size of estate, but is essential for high-net-worth individuals. High-net-worth individuals are those with liquid assets valued at several million and they typically require more extensive high-net-worth estate planning services. Specifically, people with assets exceeding the federal estate tax exemption amount of $11.4 million for a single person and $22.8 million for a married couple should consider hiring an attorney who is experienced with high-net-worth tax and asset planning.