Estate planning refers to an orderly transition of your assets in the event of your death or disability. Our version of estate planning is to make this transition possible by planning for the following four barriers.
- Probate. Probate costs time and money.
- Taxes. Income taxes and estate taxes can be expensive.
- Control. How you want your beneficiaries to use the estate.
- Disability. Protect yourself and your estate with powers of attorney.
Your goals are the main ingredient when it comes to creating your unique estate plan recipe with our attorneys: Who do you want your money to go to on your death? Who will control the money? When should your heirs get the money?
Organization & Letter of Final Instruction
The letter of final instruction answers questions that even the best wills and trusts cannot. It provides an avenue for explaining where your accounts are located, how to access them, which professional advisors your beneficiary’s should use and your requests for funeral arrangements. Frankly, attorneys do not suggest these types of letters often because they can’t bill you for it. Only you can write your letter of final instruction.
We have created a useful letter of final instruction template that you can download and print at your convenience. It will save your family a lot of time and effort, and will give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out as they should be.
Goals and Objectives
The next part of the process is to create documents to meet your goals and objectives. Everyone should have a Power of Attorney for both financial matters and for health care. A Durable Power of Attorney allows someone to act in the event of your disability. The Financial Power of Attorney allows someone to conduct your financial affairs, take care of your children, and take care of assets. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows someone to hire and fire health care professionals, allow or withhold treatment and make decisions regarding your life. A Will is a written set of instructions for the Personal Representative and/or the probate court. The Will distributes property and also will designate a guardian for minor children. Sometimes, adding a Living Trust may be necessary. A funded Revocable Living Trust holds your assets under your full control, and then distributes them according to your instructions, free from probate court interference.
Funding Your Estate Plan
Many times, we see elaborately constructed estate plans that don’t take the final step: funding the plan. When you create and execute an estate plan, all of the assets should be titled and administered in accordance with the plan. Real estate should be deeded, beneficiaries should be potentially changed, accounts may need to be re-titled. In addition, you should have a method to always add new assets to the estate plan. They say two things in life are certain: death and taxes; and an effective estate plan can get your assets to your heirs much easier in the case of the first event.