You don’t need to be a Rockefeller or Kennedy to need an estate plan. In fact, you don’t need any assets to need an estate plan. What you do need is the desire to control your life or finances, someone you love, the desire to maintain privacy, or the wish to avoid court interference.
For example, an estate plan empowers your trusted helpers to make healthcare decisions and manage your day-to-day business if you’re not able to. An estate plan also appoints guardians for minor children and pets. And, avoiding medical heroics through a living will is also part of an estate plan.
It may surprise you to know that estate planning has very little to do with money or legal documents. Estate planning is really about creating your legacy: protecting and providing for you, your loved ones, and your property; staying in control; and offering guidance.
Everyone is surprised when we answer this question. Even an 18-year-old high school senior needs her own estate plan. Once a child attains the age of 18, she is legally an adult and must make her own health care, financial, and legal decisions. Without legal documentation, parents are powerless to act on behalf of their adult children.
Of course an 18-year-old’s estate plan is very different than a 48-year-old’s estate plan because life, assets, goals, and family situation evolve over 30 years, but some basics are the same.
Actually, everyone needs estate planning. Children under the age of 18 are protected by their parents’ estate plan and everyone age 18 or older needs his or her own estate plan. Of course, estate plans vary immensely depending on goals, finances, family situation, domicile (where you live). There is no one-size-fits all estate plan.
Your estate planning documents may seem complicated, but they’re simply instructions so those you select to help (trusted helpers) know what to do when. Many of our clients think of their estate planning documents as an instruction book. That’s all they are.
This is how it works: You chat with us about your goals, fears, dreams, finances, and family and we help you craft an estate plan (i.e. instruction book) that includes the legal language required to carry out your plan. Even though some legal terms, descriptions, and language is required, please know that we make a sincere effort to write each estate plan in plain English readable for your loved ones and trusted helpers.
Probate & Estate Administration
In a nutshell, yes. You may see the terms: probate, trusts and estates, and estate planning attorney to refer to an attorney who both supports clients during their lifetimes and guides the family during disability and after death.
Only assets in your individual name will go through probate. Many folks use a (fully funded) revocable living trust to avoid probate. In addition, contract assets such life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities as well as assets owned by joint tenants with right of survivorship avoid probate as well.
Many people, but not all, think so. The difficulty of probate varies from state to state and from family to family because of differences in state laws, family goals and personalities, and assets. We’ll take a look at your full situation together and let you know whether a probate avoidance plan should be part of your estate plan.
“Living probate” refers to the court process necessary if you don’t have a disability plan in place. It’s also referred to as “guardianship” or “conservatorship,” depending on state law. It can be a painful, arduous, and painful process for your loved ones that is easily avoided with powers of attorney and living trust planning. We’ve found that most folks also want to keep their family and financial affairs private with a disability plan instead of dredging through a public court proceeding.
Probate is the process by which the court validates a will and supervises the settlement of an estate, including the transfer of assets to beneficiaries.
Most people want to avoid probate because it can include high fees and costs, significant time delays and stress, and everything that goes through probate is public information. Anyone can hop on the Internet and see a listing of your assets, debts, beneficiaries, and who got what. If you’re like most people, you want to keep your family affairs and finances private.