Why Do I Need Estate Planning?
An estate planning attorney works with you to ensure that in the event of incapacity or death, your financial and personal matters are handled responsibly and in accordance with your objectives at the lowest possible financial and emotional cost.
Our Estate Planning attorneys assist clients at all steps of the process, from the planning stage before death or disability occurs, all the way through managing assets in the event of disability, to handling disputes that may arise, and to administering the estate or trust upon death or other events that require careful attention and thoughtful solutions.
If your estate plan is not well conceived and up to date:
- Property can pass to the wrong beneficiaries. For example, under the laws of intestacy, the state in which you are domiciled will determine how your assets will be distributed.
- Property can pass in unsuitable form; for example, directly to minors or disabled children who are unable to manage the funds and where the gift may result in disqualification from governmental benefits, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI).
- The estate can be subject to unnecessarily high estate, gift and income taxes, and other costs.
- Assets may be exhausted to pay for long-term-care costs and other expenses.
- Lack of liquidity may force the sale of assets such as real estate and the family business.
- Expensive and protracted lawsuits may result, concerning issues such as who will manage your assets and how the estate is to be handled and distributed.
Our estate planning attorneys will work with you to identify and meet your objectives, and to review and understand your assets, income and family circumstances, then develop a comprehensive estate plan using various strategies and techniques to insure that your assets are managed and protected in the most suitable way for you and your intended beneficiaries. The following are some of the considerations and matters that we address as part of a comprehensive estate plan for you:
- Review the ownership and nature of your assets. We normally forward an Estate Planning Questionnaire for you to complete, which includes an itemization of your assets. As part of the estate plan, we will make recommendations to you regarding restructuring of assets, changing beneficiary designations on your life insurance, IRAs and retirement plans to coordinate with your will and other estate planning documents, and to ensure your estate plan will work as designed.
- Prepare an estate tax analysis and project potential estate taxes payable on each death given your current estate plan. We then outline various strategies and techniques to minimize estate and gift taxes within your overall planning objectives. Strategies to save estate taxes may include establishing a disclaimer trust or credit shelter trust (also known as bypass or family trust) in your will or trust agreement; gifting between spouses in order to even out estates; gifting to the next generation; establishing family limited partnerships or limited-liability companies; establishing various irrevocable trusts for tax, asset protection or other purposes; designing and implementing charitable giving strategies; and business succession and transition planning.
- Identify and explore your estate planning objectives and concerns.
- Determine and provide solutions to address special problems, such as second marriage, marital difficulties, disabled or special-needs children, succession issues regarding a business or professional practice, cash and liquidity problems, financial concerns and long-term-care issues.
- Determine to whom and in what form property should pass, whether directly to the beneficiary or in trust. If in trust, we will help determine who should be the trustee and how and when trust assets should be managed and distributed by the trustee.
- Ensure that IRAs and other retirement plan benefits are structured to address the most favorable timing of income taxation, whether to preserve income tax deferral for as long as possible or to provide for immediate taxation at lower rates, such as through a Roth IRA conversion.
- Outline strategies for saving property from being exhausted for nursing home expenses and other healthcare and custodial costs.
- Develop and implement a plan for charitable giving.
- Protect assets from potential liabilities.
- Design a plan for funding college and higher education.
- View unique concerns relating to the ownership of a professional practice, closely held business or real estate, including liquidity issues, business succession planning, avoidance of fire sale liquidation, and developing up-to-date and effective buy-sell and other owner agreements.
As part of the estate planning process, the attorneys at Lacy Katzen also prepare wills and other planning instruments, such as:
- Durable Powers of Attorney – To provide for continued management of assets, particularly in the event of disability.
- Health Care Proxies and Living Wills – To name someone to make healthcare decisions in the event you are unable to do so. The living will is a declaration of your intentions regarding continued life support in the event physicians have determined there is no expectation of your recovery.
- Revocable Living Trusts – To avoid probate, establish an asset investment and management vehicle, and protect your privacy.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts – To save estate taxes.
- Personal Residence Trusts – To save estate taxes.
- Supplemental-Needs Trusts or Special-Needs Trusts – To protect assets from creditors and ensure the beneficiary of the trust qualifies for Medicaid or other governmental benefits.
- Charitable Lead or Charitable Remainder Trusts – To benefit charity and save estate taxes and income taxes.
- Buy-Sell Agreements and Other Agreements for Owners of a Closely Held Business or Professional Practice – To provide clear and unambiguous direction in the event of death, disability or other transition events affecting an owner, and to establish the value of the business and a mechanism for payment allowing for business continuation by remaining owners.
- Standby Guardianship – To name a guardian for minor children or disabled people in the event of disability, death, or resignation of the parent or other guardian.
- Pre-nuptial or Marital Agreements – To ensure the estate plan operates as designed and written, and is not subject to override later under state or federal laws concerning marital rights.
- Beneficiary Designations of IRAs and Retirement Plans – To ensure these assets pass in accordance with planning goals and to achieve tax objectives.
We are proud to represent a wide spectrum of clients with various needs in the trusts and estates area, including:
- The couple concerned with naming a guardian who will best take care of their children and a trustee who will best manage their assets until the children reach certain ages
- The retired couple with substantial assets seeking to minimize estate, gift and income taxes
- The person concerned with protecting assets from being exhausted to pay long-term-care costs
- The business owner or professional seeking liability protection and realization of value for the business or practice upon death or disability
- The person with loved ones or beneficiaries unable to manage the assets that will be left to them
- The person with the desire to benefit charitable organizations in a way that provides maximum benefit to the charity, as well as other non-charitable beneficiaries
- The person who is concerned about the potential for costly and time-consuming disputes among family members and other beneficiaries and wishes to establish the best structure to eliminate or minimize the risk
- The person who is a non-U.S. citizen or whose spouse is a non-U.S. citizen, or who may have assets in various states or countries