Estate planning covers a lot of issues and questions they raise relating to life, death, and illness. The most common: What happens to your assets when you pass away? If you have minor children, who becomes their guardians and how is that care to be funded? Who’s to take care of you in case you’re so sick or injured that you can’t make health care decisions for yourself? And, if you’re like me, even more importantly: how are the people you leave behind to be taken care of? And then once you’ve decided to execute an estate plan, what documents are necessary to ensure that your assets are, with certainty, controlled by the plan so that ambiguity and questions are not left for your loved ones to sort out once you’re gone? Further, and I hate to say it but it’s true, I’ve been doing this long enough to have seen firsthand what happens to people when money is involved: families can become stressed and strained to the breaking point, all over a fight over what you left behind (and which can be avoided by providing certainty and direction in the form of an estate plan).
All the above questions and more are what the practice area of estate planning is about, and are exactly what I’ll help you answer and then develop a plan to address. We’ll use tools such as a will, trust, and the various documents you need to put an estate plan into place and give you and your loved ones the peace of mind that only certainty can provide.
No, they’re not. They are just as effective for the average family as they are for the wealthy (though the rich have lots of bells and whistles on their estate planning in an attempt to minimize their taxes on large estates). Many people have an understanding of estate planning’s basics: the will and the trust; but what do they mean? How do they work? Very basically, they work together to plan out and dictate what happens to your stuff after you pass away. If you only have a will then your survivors will have to go to court after you die and file a legal proceeding by which a court will assess your assets (i.e., your “estate”) and ultimately order how they’re to be distributed. This is called Probate and, as you’ve likely heard, it’s expensive, time-consuming and you have little control over how your assets are distributed. How do you avoid Probate? With a trust. A trust is, basically, a contract by which you set forth how you want your assets to be handled and/or distributed when you die. There’s no court, there’s minimal cost, and, most importantly of all, you’re in control of who gets what. You can set it up almost any way you want, and I’ll help you work through the details, from identifying the issues to setting it all up.