If you died today:
- Who would raise your children?
- Who would get your house, your car, your savings?
Your answers to these questions are unique to you, so you need an estate plan that fits your family, assets, and goals to ensure that your wishes will be carried out if you pass away.
In addition to determining who gets what, an estate plan will streamline the transfer process, saving the time and money of your loved ones left behind. A comprehensive estate plan should at a minimum address:
- What happens to your minor children if you pass away (if you have minor children)
- Where your assets go when you pass away
- When your children or other beneficiaries are entitled to control assets they inherit from you (Do you really want an 18 year old to have full control of all inherited assets without supervision? What if one of your beneficiaries has special needs or has drug addiction issues?)
- Who is entitled to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated
- Who is entitled to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated
- Defining what your healthcare wishes are through an Advance Directive, also know as a Living Will (Don’t leave it up to the courts like Terri Schiavo)
- Who will be your guardian if you are permanently disabled and one is needed
- Who will be the conservator of your estate if you are permanently disabled and one is needed
- Streamlining, minimizing, and potentially eliminating the probate process
- Minimizing the costs associated with transferring your assets to the next generation (e.g. If you own real estate in multiple states, a separate probate case will need to be prosecuted in each of those states unless you have an effective estate plan)*
*Some estate planning attorneys will try to scare clients in the door by advertising that they can minimize or eliminate the Estate Tax (a.k.a Death Tax). The reality is that very few people are at risk of having to pay the Estate Tax. In 2010 the Estate Tax exemption was set at $5 million dollars per individual to be adjusted for inflation every year thereafter, and the exemption currently sits at $5.49 million for an individual in 2017. This means a person whose estate is worth less than $5.49 million dollars would not have to pay any federal estate tax, even if they did no estate planning at all. Other recent legislation allowing for “portability” effectively doubled that exemption for married couples ($10.98 million in 2017). So, although our attorney Matthew A. Bell does have experience helping clients minimize or eliminate the Estate Tax through Family Limited Partnerships, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs), Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (IDGTs), personal foundations, and other means, the reality is that your estate plan will likely not need to do anything to avoid the Estate Tax (a.k.a. Death Tax).