“Estate Planning: Divide Your Wealth, Not Your Family”
Nobody wants his or her children to fight over the family’s treasures. Estate planning is a type of “preventive medicine” against family strife, and it does not have to be a pain in the neck. We are committed to giving you an experience less like that of oral surgery and more like the implementation of a complex security system for your family’s inheritance. I study inheritance planning intensely in order to serve clients who have high net worth, just as I pay close attention to changes of law and regulation that affect all of my clients. We can’t say our legal services are better than those of other lawyers, but we can promise to explain patiently what we do and how your estate plan works. You want an estate plan that you understand and can explain.
We can deliver your services through house-calls (low-tech) when desired but also through secure online work coordinated by virtual tools and video conferencing. Before you meet us, you can learn (at your convenience, through printed materials, web pages, videos, DVDs, and audio CDs) the entire process of comprehensive inheritance planning, including protective trusts and business-succession plans. We have a “no drag” policy, meaning that if there is anything dragging, we do not want it to be our fault.
Our goal is to be thorough and efficient while not leaving any aspect of your estate plan a mystery. We will do whatever we can to complete our task without wasting your time. Executing your estate plan will require two witnesses and a notary public, and we can bring our team to your office, your home, or a hospital or hospice if necessary. We can also prepare cover letters to each heir and trustee explaining the contents of your estate plan. Likewise, we can help you prepare a letter of instruction to leave with your family telling them where to find important documents and properties.
Our clients tend to be people repelled by litigation and willing to go the extra mile to make sure that their children get along, avoid probate disputes, and enjoy the blessings of an inheritance. I get frequent calls from people who now need thousands of dollars in legal work for relatively small estates, when a thoughtful will would have named the heirs and executor and ordered a more graceful distribution of assets. When I set up my own practice, I wanted to focus on the client’s wealth formation and preservation, and I wanted to be moving forward through planning and positive action rather than fighting draining battles in courts. An estate plan is one of the best investments you can make in the future peace, prosperity, and comfort of your family.
The six main parts of an inheritance plan are: wills, powers of attorney, trusts, deeds, insurance, and financial accounts.
- At the ground floor would be wills, which only go into effect at death and govern all properties which remain in your name at death: real estate as well as personal property such as jewelry, vehicles, cash, items in a safe-deposit box, tools, and firearms. You want to have a will even if your plan is to transfer everything you own into trusts, just in case you neglect to transfer all your assets (as Michael Jackson did).
- Powers of attorney appoint someone to speak for you regarding your money or your health while you are alive. Because most people are disabled by illness for at least a short time, it’s advisable to have both a financial power of attorney and a healthcare proxy (a.k.a. “living will” or “advance medical directive”) in your inheritance plan.
- Trusts are how assets are held “in limbo” between the giver of the wealth and the heirs. Trusts can be created to benefit the settlor (that is, the giver of the trust property), the settlor’s spouse or children, or other cause for either a fixed term of years or the lifetime of a particular person.
- Deeds describe and prove title to real estate. By deed you can give your home to your daughter while reserving a life estate to your spouse. By deed you and your spouse could hold your property in “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” and thereby pass full title to the surviving spouse without going to probate court.
- Insurance allows you to price and manage risks of death, disability, injury, long-term care, fire, liability, and almost anything else. In inheritance planning, life insurance is often used to fund trusts to benefit your loved ones.
- Financial accounts often comprise large portions of a family’s wealth, and if you properly designate a beneficiary at death for each account, the accounts usually are paid at death to the named beneficiary and skip the probate process.
In inheritance planning, these tools are the primary ways you take care of your family, assign ownership, and control the timing of transfers of wealth. No tool does everything perfectly, so you need an estate plan that uses these tools for your family’s maximum benefit.
Every estate is different; the goals, types of assets, ages of the members, needs of the heirs, skills of potential executors and trustees, and wishes of the parents vary. A creative estate plan, nonetheless, can provide for all through the careful drafting of the documents and the structures of trusts and insurance.
We are ready to help you get started with your estate plan. Please call 404-239-2661.