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    Aug212012

    What is included in an estate plan? 

    Some or all of the following documents are generally used in a thorough estate plan.

    Will

    A Will nominates an executor who will distribute your assets upon your death to your beneficiaries according to the terms and conditions set forth in your Will.  Guardians for minor children can also be nominated in your Will.  A Will does not avoid probate. Many people like to avoid probate because it can take a considerable amount of time and energy and be costly.   

    Revocable Living Trust

    A revocable living trust is a legal document established to manage your trust assets in the event of your incapacity, as well as, provide a distribution plan upon your passing.  Your assets are retitled in the name of the trust and the trustee of the trust manages these assets.  You can be the initial trustee and nominate a backup trustee to serve in the event of your incapacity or death. Assets that are held in the trust avoid probate upon the grantor’s passing.  Trusts can be very flexible documents that allow the grantor to set forth a variety of terms and conditions for distribution to beneficiaries.  For example, Jane Doe’s trust can provide that upon her death her trust estate is to be divided equally between her son and daughter.  However, the trust can further provide that her son will receive an outright distribution but her daughter will receive her distribution over a period of years.  So, beneficiaries can be treated differently depending upon the needs of the beneficiary and the wishes of the grantor.     

    Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

    In the event that you do not have legal capacity to manage your own financial affairs, an agent under your durable power of attorney can manage those assets.  This document can provide for very broad powers or limited powers.  It is important to consider an agent’s ability to gift or transfer assets for tax purposes or Medi-Cal planning under a power of attorney.  Your agent will manage non-trust assets.  Assets held in the trust will be managed by your trustee.  The agent and trustee can be the same person or different persons.

    In other words, if you were in a car accident tomorrow and incapacitated for an extended period of time, who would manage your finances? Pay your bills? Make important financial decisions? The person you choose could be the next of kin, or you may choose any other person that you trust. 

    Advance Health Care Directive

    In the event that you are unable to make your own medical decisions, an agent under your advance health care directive would make those decisions for you according to the terms set forth in this document.  An advance health care directive can also provide guidance to your agent regarding your wishes for life sustaining treatment, organ donation, and post death arrangements. Every person needs an advance health care directive. In fact, the younger you are- the more important it can be to clarify exactly what you want and who you would want to make decisions. 

    Advanced Estate Planning

    Advanced estate planning generally involves larger estates with goals to minimize estate taxes and provide for succession planning.  Advanced estate planning techniques could include gifting strategies, irrevocable trusts, life insurance trusts, dynasty trusts, family limited partnerships, discount valuations, charitable giving, etc.  This is generally done over a period of time with the involvement of the client’s advisors including the accountant, financial advisor and life insurance agent.

    Hope this gives you a brief overview of what is included in an estate plan. If I can help, just let me know!

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