While some clients come to us knowing exactly what goes into creating an estate plan, most of our clients just know it's something they need to have. Since an estate plan reflects your life, each estate plan Schooley Law Firm creates is unique to the individual or family we help. Below are some elements of an estate plan that we will discuss in our initial meeting.
DISPOSITION OF ASSETS
The value and type of assets you own is an important factor in shaping your plan. How assets are handled at your death may be controlled by your will, but some assets are controlled by their instruments of title, transfer on death designations, deeds, or beneficiary designations. We will ask for information about your assets in our initial meeting, and discuss how you coordinate the many ways by which property may pass.
The strongest estate plans are often successful because clients selected the right people to manage their assets and affairs during their lifetime and after their death. The more trust you have in the individuals you name to these critical positions, the more likely you and your loved ones are to be protected when something unexpected occurs.
- Agents: Named under a financial power of attorney and a health care power of attorney, your agent is authorized to handle your finances during your lifetime, or your medical decisions in the event of your mental incapacity.
- Executors: Your executor is named in your will to manage your “probate” estate. Executors have important reporting duties under both state and federal law.
- Trustees: If assets should be held in trust for your beneficiaries, your trustee is the person who will manage those assets.
- Guardians: Guardians are the people you identify in your will who should have custody of your minor children after your death. Courts tend to follow the appointment of guardians you name in your will.
ASSET MANAGEMENT NEEDS
A variety of circumstances can lead clients to the conclusion that creating trusts to hold assets for beneficiaries is preferable to directing those assets to the beneficiaries outright. A few common reasons are listed here, but there are many reasons to create trusts and every family’s situation is unique.
- Minor beneficiaries: Children under age 18 cannot legally own any assets they stand to inherit. Creating a trust and naming the trustee means that you have control over who will manage those assets until each child reaches an age or situation you deem suitable. You are in a better position to determine who can be trusted to shepherd your property and teach responsible management to your descendants than a court that is unfamiliar with your family dynamics and characteristics. Most parents and grandparents prefer to set their own parameters and not release assets to a child at 18, the state law default without a trust.
- Beneficiaries under disability: Beneficiaries who are disabled or have lifestyle problems may be unable or ill-suited to manage a sudden inheritance. By naming a trustee to manage these assets, you can make sure they will be used to properly care for your loved ones.
- Beneficiaries with present or potential creditor issues: When you leave assets in trust for your beneficiaries, you can protect their inheritance from many types of creditors.
- Spouses with different children: Most spouses have a desire to benefit the other but still preserve assets for their own children. To minimize potential friction and disparate interests between a surviving spouse and their step-children, a marital trust for the surviving spouse may be the answer. A plan for asset management and use from the outset may be the key to preserving harmony while still acheiving other goals.
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Advance Medical Directives
- Planning for Blended Families
- Estate, Gift and GST Tax Planning
- Credit Shelter and Marital Trusts
- Dynasty Trusts
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATS)
- Family Limited Partnerships
- Generation-Skipping Trusts
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs)
- Irrevocable Trusts for Lifetime Gifts to Adults and Minor Children
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts
- "Defective" Grantor Trusts
- Sales to Grantor Trusts
- Asset Protection