What is estate planning?
Estate planning is the process of anticipating and arranging for the disposition of an estate during a person’s life. Proper planning eliminates future uncertainties regarding the estate’s administration and maximizes the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses.
How is an estate plan created?
Once we understand our client’s specific needs, we draft the documents necessary to protect his/her assets and implement his/her goals. Such documents may include a will and/or a trust, Durable Powers of Attorney, or an Advanced Health Care Directive.
An estate plan is as simple or complex as the client’s needs dictate.
For example, a particular trust may be drafted in order to effect the transfer of assets without negative estate tax consequences or to protect assets intended for the continuing support of disabled individuals or other dependents. In addition, if minor children or incapacitated beneficiaries are involved, guardians are often designated as part of the planning process.
Why is an estate plan necessary?
Many people avoid even the thought of creating an estate plan. It can be very difficult, uncomfortable, and overwhelming to think about the future and end of life. Some rationalize that they are too young or don’t have enough money to take advantage of any tax benefits. But as the following makes clear, estate planning is for everyone, regardless of age or net worth.
- Probate. The probate process is costly, time consuming, and of public record. A structured plan can avoid probate entirely.
- Self-Protection. A Durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate and control who will manage your affairs should you become incompetent.
- Asset Protection. Without an estate plan, your assets will pass to your heirs according to California’s laws of intestate succession. With a plan, you control who inherits from you and when.
- Guardians. With a plan, you are able to nominate who will serve as guardian of your minor children in the event of your death.
- Tax Advantages. A structured plan incorporates income, estate, and generation-skipping tax advantages.
- Special Needs Benefits. Without a plan, an individual with special needs risks being disqualified from receiving Medical, Supplemental Security Income, and other public benefits. A Special Needs Trust allows the individual to remain eligible for government benefits while using only the trust assets to pay for non-covered expenses.