Each of our clients has his or her own goals and concerns when they retain us to prepare their estate plans. We work hard from the beginning to listen and learn what is most important to each client. After we understand a client’s goals and objectives, we work to implement an estate plan designed around his or her individual needs.
We use a variety of tools to help clients accomplish their estate planning goals, which include:
- Wills. If you do not have a will, then the state in which you reside when you die will decide who gets your property. We work with clients to get their wills in place to make sure our clients and not their state of residence decide who gets their property. Equally (if not more important) important as who gets your property, you can use your will to appoint the guardian of your minor children when you die. If you do not appoint a guardian, the court system will be forced to decide who will care for your children without any input from you!
- Trust Planning in General. A simple will leaving assets outright to a surviving spouse or to children can have disastrous consequences. If you leave all of your assets outright to your spouse, he or she could remarry, have creditor issues or poorly manage the assets. Any of these scenarios could prevent your assets from ever reaching your children or grandchildren (or greatly diminish the amount they receive). By using a trust, you can put a structure in place that will benefit your surviving spouse but also provide protection from these threats.
- Revocable Trusts. Revocable Trusts can be used to avoid probate, minimize the impact of Federal estate and generation skipping taxes, protect assets from the creditors of beneficiaries and hold assets until minor children reach a responsible age.
- Irrevocable Defective Grantor Trusts. For high net worth individuals, these trusts can be a very effective tool for gifting appreciating assets to children and grandchildren. When structured properly, the grantor (i.e., the person making the gift) will not be subject to estate of gift taxation on the appreciation in value after the gift is made AND the grantor will be responsible for paying the Federal income tax on any income earned on the gifted property.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts. If you own a life insurance policy on your life, when you die the proceeds are included in your gross estate (for Federal estate tax purposes) and (depending on the size of your estate) may be subject to the Federal estate tax. With a properly structured irrevocable life insurance trust, the proceeds can benefit your family BUT will not incur any Federal estate tax. This can result is substantial estate tax savings!
- IRA’s and Retirement Plans. If you have IRA’s or other retirement plans as part of your mix of assets, you must properly plan to make sure they fit into your overall estate plan. IRA’s and retirement plans can be an effective tool to protect your assets and defer the payment of income taxes on both contributions and earnings on your contributions. Poor planning can result in IRA’s being taxed over five years when you die. We work with clients to make sure their IRA beneficiaries are able to stretch out over their entire lives the time over which they must income pay tax on the IRA’s (and accumulated earnings).
- Charitable Remainder Trusts (“CRT”). If you have property you want to donate to charity upon your death, a CRT can be an effective way to get a tax benefit currently, hold on to an income stream from the donated assets during your life, and accomplish your charitable goals.
- Medical Directives and Medical Powers of Attorney. These documents appoint trusted individuals to make end of life and medical decisions when clients are incapacitated. By having these in place, you will save your loved ones the time and expense of going to court to have a guardian appointed for you.
- Preparing Durable Powers of Attorney whereby clients can appoint others to make business related decisions on their behalf