Estate Planning & Probate 

Wills, Probate, and Trusts

You’ve worked your whole life to establish your estate, why not take the time to protect it? A proper estate plan will protect your loved ones from having to deal with the troubles and costs involved with probate court. In addition to saving time and money a properly established plan will provide clear and concise directions when you have passed.

An estate plan should also protect you while living. By including Durable Powers of Attorney, your directives will be understood should you become incapacitated. Our Firm conducts a detailed needs analysis with every potential client and tailors planning documents to suit their needs. The documents that comprise the core of any comprehensive estate plan are:

  • Certificates of Trust

  • Will and/or Trust Documentation (depending on the results of the detailed needs analysis)

  • Advanced Directives

  • HIPAA Directives

  • Pour Over Will(s)

  • Personal Property Distribution

  • Asset Titling

"There are options in Estate Planning" - From Joe Pippen - "Ask an Attorney"

Option 1: Do Nothing

The most popular option is to put it off long enough hoping the need to plan will go away. This is clearly the worst option, although 60 to 70 percent of Americans choose this option. 

If a person fails to plan their estate, the state they reside in plans it for them. Every state has a written Will for people who fail to create their own. This is called a statutory Will. The statutory Will that your state creates for you decides how your estate will be distributed and who will be your personal representative. The stat also decides who the guardian of minor children will be and makes many decisions that individuals should make for themselves. 

Isn't it strange that people spend a lifetime accumulating assets, but fail to spend a few minutes planning what should happen to those assets upon their death? 

The option of not doing anything reminds me of the story of a lady who woke me up on a Saturday morning and asked if I would come to the hospital to help her with er Estate Plan. She was very pleased that I would and told me she would call back because she "wasn't sick enough to do her Will yet." She died about four months later, never having been "sick enough" to do her Will.

Option 2: A Will

The second option in Estate Planning is to have a Will. This can be done easily and inexpensively. The positive aspects of a Will are that you name the personal representative you want to handle your Estate and you decide how the estate will be distributed. These are very positive things that everyone should take advantage of.

However, there are four negatives about having a Will:

1. All Wills are subject to probate with the average cost being anywhere between 5%-10% of the estate. 

2. The Probate process continues anywhere from four to 12 months or longer, which means that your loved ones may be entangled in a long-drawn-out court process after your death. 

3. Wills do not plan for incapacity and if you only have a Will and become incapacitated, you probably will be declared incompetent and become a war of the court. Guardianship proceedings are very expensive with an annual fee to the county. 

4. Wills are public documents. Upon death anyone can read your Will and purchase a copy of it. Anyone looking for distressed property will search public records, including divorce files, foreclosure files, bankruptcy files and even probate files! Planning your estate with a Will offers very little privacy. 

Option 3: The Living Trust

The Living Trust, in my opinion, is the best option in estate planning. The common myths and excuses not to do a Trust simply are not true. For example, many people believe you need to have a large estate before your consider a Trust. I recommend a Living Trust for anyone whose total estate is over $60.000.

Another myth is that real estate cannot be transferred to the Trust and if your homestead were transferred to the Trust, the homestead exemption would be lost. The trust is any real estate can be transferred into your Trust and the homestead exemption will not be lost.

 

The biggest misconception about a Trust is that you lose control of your assets if you place them into a Trust. You are the Grantor (the person who manages the Trust) and the Trust is all for your benefit with no loss of control. Trusts also do not require a special tax number or separate tax returns because you use your own social security number.

 

The advantages of a Trust are that you avoid Probate (Because the assets are in the Living Trust, not in the name of the deceased person), assets can be distributed quickly to your beneficiaries, you have a guardianship plan, and it is a private document.

 

Living Trusts have been recommended in every major consumer publication of the past several years because of the above advantages.

  

Additionally, as part of your comprehensive estate plan, we offer the following services:

  • Consultation in the convenience of your home

  • Complimentary meeting with a financial professional to assist in the re-titling of your assets

  • Financial planning assistance referrals

  • Complimentary Trust Reviews

  • Lifetime Changes for a nominal fee

  • Review of your lifetime liability and personal risks

  • Settlement assistance to your heirs at a discounted rate

  • Discount on your personal and business tax returns