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Protect Your Family
A major life event (marriage, divorce, birth, graduation, incapacity, and loss of a loved one) can often trigger the need to create or update your Estate Plan. Whether your concerns are probate avoidance or creditor protection for you and your survivors, we can advise you.
When a family is dealing with the loss have a loved one, it's the absolute worst time to be faced with decisions that will permanently impact everyone in the family. Without effective estate planning, such as a will or trust, families are too often left in turmoil while they try to sort out misunderstandings and disagreements, all at a time when they should be dealing with their grief, remembering and honoring the family member who has recently passed. Additionally, when there is no estate plan in place, the estate goes through a probate process that can take months, if not years, to finalize.
Fortunately, most of these issues can be addressed effectively and cost-efficiently in advance, resulting in peace of mind for you and your family. As an experienced, licensed estate planning attorney, I have an extensive background in helping families and individuals protect their families and their assets.
These are the two most common tools families use to protect their financial assets. Which of these options, a will or trust, is right for your family depends on your individual circumstances.
Often referred to as a “last will and testament,” a will is a legal document that puts what you want to happen to your estate after you pass in writing. A will can also include other intentions you may have, the most common of which would be who you want to take care of your minor children and what you want done with your remains, as well as any other wishes you may feel are necessary.
If you pass away without a will, all the decisions that would have otherwise been covered in the will are made according to state statute by a judge. It’s unlikely that these decisions will be the same as the ones you would have made. And even if there are no disagreements among family members, this probate process can take a long time and cost a lot of money.
A trust is a legal tool based on a “trust agreement” that allows you to transfer assets into it and still have access to those assets while living. Upon your passing, these assets can be distributed to your heirs directly, without going through probate. Plus, if you should become incapacitated due to an illness or injury, a beneficiary you choose manages the assets in the trust. Without a trust, a court decides who will manage your assets.
Another advantage of a trust is that it is considered a private legal agreement between two individuals, the grantor and the trustee, and avoids probate court, so it isn’t required to be included in public records. This means your family’s private financial information is kept private.
Estate Planning Services
Some people believe that estate planning is only important for people who have large “estates,” in other words, families who have accumulated a great deal of wealth. Estate planning, however, covers so much more than just money, real estate, and investments. Done correctly, estate planning is how you make your intentions and wishes clear about who will care for your minor children upon your passing, instead of letting a judge you’ve never even met decide.
With a properly executed will or trust, you can decide who will manage your affairs and make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated due to an illness or injury. If you’re married, those decisions would clearly be made by your spouse, but what if he or she were also incapacitated? Who do you trust to make those decisions?
In my practice, I work with a wide range of clients, helping them protect their assets for future generations of their families. Often, their primary assets are little more than the equity in a home and money in a 401(k). However, no matter what they add up to in terms of value, a lack of a will or trust could mean real problems for your family as the estate works its way through probate. I also offer estate planning services that involve the process of collecting and managing the estate, paying any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property to the heirs, who are determined by the will or, if no will exists, by the court.
No matter what your circumstances are, no matter the size of the estate, no matter how many heirs you have, my purpose as your estate planning attorney is to make sure you and your family are prepared for the passing of a loved one. And with every client, I strive to handle these needs with the highest levels of professionalism and compassion.