WILLS, TRUSTS & ESTATE PLANNING
Estate planning involves much more than simply drafting a will. The primary purpose of an estate plan is to help you examine your financial needs and assets in order to make sure that your heirs are provided for in the best possible way, including lifetime planning as well as disposition of property at death. A proper estate plan provides guidance for your family and loved ones under a variety of circumstances, including if you may be in the unfortunate position to no longer make decisions for yourself some day. Many people decide, upon commencement of an estate plan, to prepare documents communicating their medical wishes, or giving decision-making authority to a relative. These documents are living wills (or advanced health care directives) and durable powers of attorney.
Every estate plan begins in the same manner: deciding who needs your support and how you want to protect them. As difficult as it is to plan for that eventuality, it demonstrates your responsible and thoughtful character for which you will be remembered by your loved ones. After all, you don’t want the only way your family can remember you to be through Morning Call obits or any other obituary you may have written for you (although it’s still nice to know that your obituary will be available for them all to see). If you fail to make certain decisions regarding the care of your small children or how your financial affairs will be settled, the court will make these decisions for you. The Thurman Law Firm can assist you to develop a planning strategy for a smooth transfer of assets to your intended beneficiaries, ensuring your rights by drafting legal documents that accomplish your specific goals.
While the majority of individuals understand the need for a will, a large percentage never bother to make one or even consult a lawyer to draft one for them. We routinely advise clients that the probate process, when an individual dies without a will is many times more complex and expensive than taking the time to prepare one. Furthermore, in today’s world, many opportunities exist to develop and estate plan that completely avoids any probate process. Even if the departed had expressed specific instructions prior to their death about the division of their assets, those desires are not followed unless they are contained within a well-drafted legal documents. The legal costs associated with creating an estate plan pales in comparison to the difficulty and cost that arises from not having one. The Thurman Law Firm highly recommends that every adult should consider a will, and we advise our prospective clients to seek competent advice from an attorney who practices in this area.
Estate plans can take several forms and can be used for a variety of purposes. Various estate planning forms and services we have used include:
- Non-probate transfer devices
- Simple wills
- Pour-over wills
- Living wills (Advance medical directive)
- Wills containing provisions for testamentary trusts
- Revocable and irrevocable trusts
- Powers of attorney
- Healthcare directives
A trust is no longer just an estate planning tool of the wealthy. Over the past few decades, individuals and families across all income brackets have used a trust to plan their estates and to avoid the costs and delays of probate. A trust is a separate legal entity that controls the assets you place into it. The trust agreement dictates the rules to follow (how long the trust should last, who gets what, and other rules the trustee has to follow). Trusts can be powerful tools when used properly.
An estate plan may include a “revocable living trust” allowing you to revoke or change it any time, and as often as you like. Revocable trusts are extremely flexible, and can include all or some of your property. It is very similar to a will, but administered differently upon your death. While you are alive, you still own all of your property, and may do whatever you want with it. The Thurman Law Firm can fully explain the benefits of a trust and help you in defining your estate planning objectives. Some types of trusts we have used include:
- Revocable living trusts
- Irrevocable trusts
- Life insurance policy trusts
- Educational trusts
- 529 plans
- Roth IRA trusts
- Married A-B trusts
- Special needs trusts for disabled beneficiaries
- Generation-skipping trusts to avoid taxation in the beneficiaries’ estates
- Honorary trusts for the care of your pet
- Personal residence trusts to allow a beneficiary the use and enjoyment of your home for their lifetime
- Married Q-TIP trusts