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Grief manifests itself in unusual ways.  Sometimes, it tears families apart. Helping people deal with their grief by leaving your affairs in order is one of the most lasting gifts you can give.  It is your legacy.

Knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of in your absence brings peace of mind when you need it most.  A carefully crafted estate plan can help ensure that your legacy survives.

When to Update Your Estate Plan

Estate plans, once out of sight, are often out of mind.  As your life evolves, so should your estate plan.

     •     Marriage or dissolution of marriage

          •     Additions to your family

          •     Someone named in your Will predeceases you

          •     Your children are grown or married

          •     You move to a new state, or your state's laws change

          •     A change in the value or nature of your estate

          •     You retire

          •     It's just been a few years

A Will is the centerpiece of most estate plans.  A Will can transfer property to the heirs you choose and control how that transfer will take place (Probate). Don’t confuse this with a Living Will, which contains advance instructions for your end-of-life care.

What happens if you don’t have one – Intestacy

Local judges follow the state legislature’s instructions for people who don’t leave behind a valid will.  Here are some possible outcomes:

          ●          Children from a previous marriage become co-owners of the surviving spouse's home.

          ●          If your heir dies a week after you, your property will pass through them, and then to their heirs, with each transfer requiring a separate

              court proceeding.

          ●          A court may have to supervise the distribution of your property, which can be costly

          ●          Your estate's administrator may have to post a bond.

          ●          If you own property in another state, your estate's administrator may have to go through the other state's probate process in addition to ours.

          ●          In the most extreme cases, all your property could go to the state.

          ●          Not having a valid estate plan results in unintended consequences, and can easily be more expensive than the cost of creating one.

Not having a valid estate plan results in unintended consequences, and can easily be more expensive than the cost of creating one.


Estate Planning




An inheritance can sometimes be disruptive when the recipient is not in a position to manage it wisely, either because of age or some other consideration.  Trusts give you greater control over how the inheritance is managed.

Trusts are an enormously flexible estate planning tool, and they are used for a wide variety of purposes.  These include:

          ●          The ability to control your assets long after you are gone

          ●          Tax benefits

          ●          Shielding assets from creditors

          ●          Providing for someone (including yourself) who is disabled or has special needs

          ●          Leaving behind assets that are difficult to divide

          ●          Charitable donations

At its most basic, a trust separates the role of legal ownership (the trustee) from the right to benefit (the beneficiary).

The person who creates the trust (the settlor) can reserve the right to take the property back (a revocable trust), or they can relinquish this right (an irrevocable trust).

Trusts can be created during the settlor’s lifetime (an inter vivos trust) or through a Will (a testamentary trust).



Other Documents                              

In addition to a Will, and possibly a trust, most estate plans should include the following components:

          ●          A Living Will directs your end-of-life care if you are not able to do so.

          ●          Powers of Attorney and Designations of Agents or Guardians give certain people the authority to do particular things on your behalf.

          ●          HIPAA releases allow other people access to your medical records.

          ●       Additional instructions for organ donation and your funeral, if you are so inclined.


The Risks of Doing It Yourself

The execution of an estate plan is a delicate process, and the rules are strict. Some documents must be witnessed and notarized, while others should not be.  Leaving a field blank or signing in the wrong place can invalidate the entire document.

With so many people signing so many documents, it’s easy to overlook something.  Errors in executing documents can be the same as not having them at all.

Additionally, we have probated home-made Wills that unintentionally made settling the estate much more expensive and complicated than it otherwise would have, and which invited conflict among the heirs.  At the same time, there are particular phrases that, when used correctly, can vastly simplify the process.

Our attorneys focus on finding effective solutions for your legal problems and  developing strategies to grow your business so you can preserve your financial legacy.  Please call to learn how we can help you.