Your “Estate” consists of all the assets (stuff) you’ve accumulated over the course of your life. Among other things, these include:
- Real Estate
- Bank Accounts
- Brokerage Accounts
- Retirement Plans
- Life Insurance
- Personal Effects
- Anything else that you own that has value
The best time to plan for your estate is when you’re alive and healthy….because you’re making plans for when you’re no longer either of those.
We try to help you plan for 3 stages of life: The Present, Disability / Incapacity, Death
In the present, we seek to help you to maintain control over your assets while also protecting them from creditors, predators, bankruptcy, etc. Things should be only as complex as necessary. Flexibility is the key as rules, laws, family relationships, and many other things are often dynamic and constantly changing.
Disability / Incapacity:
Surveys and demographic trends suggest that at least 60% of us will at some point become disabled or incapacitated to the point that we are unable to make decisions for ourselves. One of the most important things you can do is to have a plan for who will make decisions on your behalf, and to provide guidance for that person. Those decisions include financial decisions and decisions related to you health. Who will manage your affairs if you cannot?
Finally, we deal with what happens when you die. We plan for who will manage the distribution of your estate and to whom the estate will be distributed. We try to minimize taxes when applicable and try to simplify the probate process. If you have minor children, its important that you decide who will raise them and care for them, rather than allowing a court to make that decision for you.
Some people think that estate planning is all about avoiding probate and saving on taxes. Those are important goals, but are only a small portion of the overall goals of estate planning. With proper tools and advice from a qualified estate planning attorney, many specific goals can be accomplished for dealing with all 3 of these life stages.