The Value of an Estate Plan
Scripture says that you know not the day or the hour. And you don’t. Nor do you know whether you will go quickly, or you will linger. If you linger, how will your care be paid for? Who will make decisions about your medical care? Who will manage your assets? Your family member or trusted friend, or a court-appointed public administrator, whom you have never met?
An estate plan enables you to prepare for these and other contingencies. Every individual needs a Will. The purpose of a Will is to make sure that your property goes to the persons you want it to go to upon your death. Every individual also needs a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney. In a General Durable Power of Attorney, you designate one or more agents to make transactions in your property for your benefit in the event you are disabled. In a Health Care Durable Power of Attorney, you designate one or more patient advocates to make decisions concerning your health care in the event you are unable to make such decisions yourself.
Most clients also need a trust. There are two principal purposes of a trust. The first is to make sure the client’s property benefits the client and the client’s spouse for as long as either of them is living. The second is to avoid probate upon succession to the client’s property. Probate proceedings are costly, public proceedings that delay distribution of a decedent’s estate. To avoid probate, an individual must not only create a trust but also transfer his or her property to the trust during his or her lifetime.
Funding is an important part of an estate plan. Funding includes transferring the client’s property to the client’s trust(s). Funding also involves confirming beneficiary designations on the client’s retirement plan interests, life insurance policies, and annuities.
Federal Gift, Estate, and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax becomes important in larger estates. Making effective use of the step-up in basis of property upon the death of its owner, and income tax on income in respect of a decedent, can be important in any-sized estate. We are expert in tax issues upon succession of property.