Estate planning is a gift of love. It is not just about you. It is about who, or what, you care most about and the legacy you want to leave in our world. Effective estate planning focuses on your values—not just your valuables.
Why Estate Planning is Important
Too many families are torn apart by the fallout of an ineffective or nonexistent estate plan. Without it, mourning family members are left with the daunting task of sorting out a lifetime of assets. At its worst, questions are left unanswered, feelings are hurt, motives are questioned and trust is destroyed between family members. In the end, financial assets may be distributed as directed, but what is most important to the deceased, their beloved family, is left in shambles.
That is why we work to keep you, and what is most important to you, at the center of the estate planning process. We partner with estate planning specialist attorneys, CPA’s or enrolled (tax) agents to develop a comprehensive strategy that will not only manage your assets at the time of death, but also make the process the least painful to the people you care about. We work with both you and your attorney to prepare legal documents such as wills, trusts and powers of attorney.
What We Can Do for You
- We assure that, at a minimum, you have a will in which you state who you want to inherit your property and name a guardian to care for your young children should something happen to you and the other parent (if relevant).
- We discuss with you the advantages and costs of having a trust. We discuss the difference and attributes of revocable and irrevocable trusts. For example, if you hold your property in a living (revocable) trust, your survivors will not have to go through a probate court, a time-consuming and expensive process. In that context we also discuss with you how you can title accounts that will not be subject to probate.
- We help you consider advance directives and healthcare power of attorney. Writing out your wishes for health care can protect you if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. These documents give someone you choose the power to make decisions if you cannot.
- Typically, we suggest a durable power of attorney for each client. A POA can provide a trusted person authority to handle your finances and property if you become incapacitated and unable to handle your own affairs.
- Life insurance may be a considered component of a comprehensive estate plan. If you have young children or own a house, or if you expect to owe significant debts or estate tax when you die, life insurance (if one qualifies) should be a focus. Typically, life insurance benefits are not taxed, will pay quickly, and are not tied up in probate.
- We recommend non-probate (TOD) investment accounts for our clients’ non-retirement brokerage accounts. By doing so, we partner with you to avoid burdening your loved ones’ (i.e.: beneficiaries’) probate concerns. We generally set up non-retirement accounts with TOD/POD titling.
- We help you understand estate taxation. For 99+% of estates there will be no Federal estate tax due to high and inflation-adjusted exemption levels. However, the likelihood of estate taxation at the state level is considerably higher. Note that married couples can transfer up to twice the exempt amount tax-free, and all assets left to a spouse (as long as the spouse is a U.S. citizen) or tax-exempt charity are exempt from the tax.
- We discuss with our clients how to protect their children’s assets typically in a well-considered will or trust. Typically, these documents will include guardianship clauses.
- If you are a business owner (whether a sole owner or in partnership with others), we work with you on business succession strategies. For example if you are a sole owner, we discuss succession plan options. If you own a business with others, we will discuss buyout alternatives, sometimes in conjunction with life insurance.
- We discuss with you requisite estate liquidity so that your survivors are not burdened with immediate expenses, such as funeral bills.
- Finally, we become the repository of our clients’ stored electronic information. We want to relieve you of the anxiety over to whom your loved ones may have to turn if/when the unexpected happens. We typically offer to have family meetings well in advance so our clients’ trusted advisor is not a stranger to our client’s loved ones.