Estate planning allows you to ensure that your family is cared for the way you intend
The law provides default settings for how property is to be divided in the event of divorce or death. Those default settings can be altered by well-written estate planning tools, including prenuptial agreements, wills, and trusts. There are many reasons why an individual may wish to make a plan for their estate, including:
- to ensure their own care in the event of disability or death
- to ensure that their spouse and children are cared for in the event of disability or death
- to avoid probate court and public records altogether
- to minimize risk of loss of valuable property and business interests
- to provide for domestic partners who would not be recognized by the law's default settings
- to minimize tax exposure
- to protect property from creditors and lawsuits
Estate planning should occur sooner rather than later
Studies have shown that most Americans do not adequately prepare for their disability or death. Many people do not like thinking about the inevitability of aging and death, and almost 1/3rd of Americans believe that estate plans are only for the very wealthy. Although developing an estate plan may seem uncomfortable, there are significant benefits resulting from giving written direction about how you wish for your legacy to be perpetuated.
Estate planning tools
An Advance Directive for Health Care, also known as a "living will," is a document which allows you to instruct your medical care providers about whether or not you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments and artificially administered food and water under certain circumstances.
A Durable Power of Attorney gives authority to another person, called an "attorney-in-fact," to take action affecting your property. The document can be custom-tailored according to your needs and preferences. When a valid Durable Power of Attorney goes into effect, the person designated as the attorney-in-fact may have sweeping powers to make decisions affecting your property and care. In some cases involving disability or incapacity, a well-written Durable Power of Attorney may eliminate the need for a guardianship.
A Will is a document wherein you may provide for the disposition and division of your property after your death. A Will allows you to decide who will receive your property rather than leaving it up to state law. Anything left by a Will must go through probate court.
A Trust is a method of estate transfer where another person is given the authority to manage your property for the benefit of someone else. Trusts may be revocable or irrevocable. A properly constructed Trust may allow your estate to bypass probate court altogether.
There are often other options for avoiding probate court, including certain types of deeds and instructions for financial accounts.
How We Can Help
Each of our attorneys has received specialized education for litigating and trying civil and criminal cases involving complex financial issues. Our training and trial experience gives us unique insight for issues that come up when estate planning documents are challenged. We apply that insight when helping clients identify their goals and prepare their documents and instruments to protect each client's plan from a legal challenge.