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Having a tank doesn’t mean you have a battle plan. Having a trust doesn’t mean you have an estate plan. A trust is only one of the tools we use in creating a comprehensive estate plan.
What an Estate Plan Does:
An estate plan is more than its individual components, the pieces work together to accomplish four purposes.
Probate is a time consuming and expensive process. It also exposes your children to predators since their inheritance under probate is a matter of public record that anyone can access. Proper planning ensures that your selected agent can step in immediately to take care of your affairs, without going through a lengthy, confusing, and expensive court process.
The risk faced by adults is that in the event of disability, there is no one to act for them. What if you can’t – or shouldn’t – make decisions for yourself?
In extreme circumstances a conservatorship may be required. This is a lengthy, potentially expensive process where the court determines that the person is completely incapable of managing their personal affairs. The legal standard of proof is high, and may be impossible to meet in some cases.
The better alternative is to have a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive in place.
Living Trusts have more options than most people realize. They can be designed to have the trustee manage the funds until a child graduates from college or reaches a certain age. They can be designed to protect children with long term disabilities and preserve the benefits they depend upon. They can be designed to reward savings and hard work. They can be designed to protect the inheritance from creditors, divorcing spouses, and lawsuits. In short, they can do more – a lot more – than simply avoiding probate.
Estate planning deals with the two certainties of life: death and taxes. The choices you make in your estate plan can make things simple for your surviving spouse and children, or they can add complications, and worse, expenses. An estate plan will consider your assets and your goals and use tools to reduce and eliminate taxes where possible.
What Is Typically in an Estate Plan:
While individual plans may vary greatly, there are some common tools we use in creating an estate plan.
For estates with a gross value of over $150,000 a revocable living trust is the centerpiece to the plan. The trust design will avoid probate, and pass your hard-earned money to your children in the way that you choose.
A will is a necessary backup document, and the place where you will name a guardian if you have minor children.
Your incapacity documents are your Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive. These documents name one or more people to take over your financial and medical decisions when you are unable to do so.
A plan is worthless without a way of implementing it, and for a trust, that means putting your assets into the trust. For our clients we’ll prepare and record trust transfer deeds and letters to banks to assist in ensuring that nothing is exposed to probate, and all your wishes will be carried out correctly.