Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning
It’s all about them!
Estate Planning means getting your affairs in order before it’s too late – before death or incapacity occurs.
Proper estate planning allows you to:
- Name an agent under a power of attorney so that person can act on your behalf if you are unable to do so
- Name someone that you know and trust, that will raise your minor children if you are unable to do so
- Protect the assets that your spouse, children or other beneficiaries inherit from you, from their creditors
- Distribute your estate with minimum aggravation and expense
- Minimize estate and transfer taxes
Since no two situations are ever the same, each estate plan must be tailored to your specific needs.To make your estate planning experience as pleasant as possible, follow these steps:
- Choose your estate planning team. Your estate planning team should include your attorney, and if appropriate, members of your family, your accountant, your financial planner, your life insurance agent, your trust officer, and the representative of your favorite charity. The members of your team can then work closely together to preserve your estate and pass it on to your beneficiaries with minimal taxes, aggravation and expense.
- Determine your goals and objectives and gather the necessary information. Make copies of all relevant legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, deeds to real estate, beneficiary designations under retirement plans and insurance policies, and other documents showing the ownership of your estate.
- Prepare a list of who should receive your property and who should not, name a guardian of your minor children and act as a fiduciary on your behalf. This list should include your agent (the person acting on your behalf under your power of attorney), your trustee (the person administering your trust), your executor (the person administering your will) and the guardian of your minor children. Make sure you have successors for each person in case your first choice is unable to act.
- Contact your attorney and if appropriate, the other members of your estate planning team and chose the proper plan to suit your needs.
Basic estate planning is accomplished through the use of such legal documents as a Powers Of Attorney, a Will, or a Trust. By the way, Powers of Attorney are the most important estate plan documents that you can have because they are operative while you are alive. It’s powers of attorney that prevent the very expensive nightmare of adult guardianship proceedings.
Properly drafted estate planning documents allow your estate to save taxes and avoid probate, if desired. They allow you to appoint a guardian for your minor children and to pass on creditor protection to your beneficiaries. Moreover, in the event you are no longer able to take care of yourself, these documents allow your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf and to manage your financial affairs without the necessity of having a guardian appointed by a court. How Often Should Legal Documents Be Reviewed? Although no two situations are exactly alike, it is prudent to review and update legal documents whenever major life changes occur.