Your unique estate plan should allow you to distribute your property at your death to precisely the people you would like to see inherit what you have worked so hard to preserve.
Quality estate planning allows you to plan for yourself and your loved ones without giving up control of your affairs. Your estate plan should allow you to plan for the possibility of your own disability. You should be able to give what you own to whom you want to receive it, the way you want them to receive it, and when you want them to receive it.
An estate plan prepared by a knowledgeable attorney will help you to meet your unique goals. It will allow you to plan for your disability and direct the distribution of your property at your death. It will save tax dollars, professional fees, and court costs. And, most importantly, it will keep you in control of your own affairs.
Important Pitfalls that Estate Planning can Avoid
There are pitfalls that are associated with wills, jointly-owned property, beneficiary designation, and bare bones living trusts. It’s important to not only understand what these pitfalls are, but also how to avoid them through proper estate planning.
- Wills guarantee probate. Probate generates executor and attorney fees and causes delays before your loved ones can receive their inheritance.
- Wills are fully public. They are open to inspection by anyone who wants to know about your debts and your beneficiaries or their inheritances.
- Wills offer no planning or direction for you or your family in the event of your disability.
- Wills are easily challenged by unhappy relatives.
- Wills often don’t control your life insurance proceeds, retirement benefits, or jointly-owned property.
- Wills are often form documents written in hard-to-understand language. They don’t capture your hopes, fears, dreams, values, and ambitions.
- Wills may not be effective when you move to or own property in another state.
- Your joint tenancy property can pass to unintended heirs.
- Joint tenancy does not avoid probate. It only delays it.
- There may be unintended gift and estate taxes if joint tenancy is used between non-spouses or with children.
- Joint tenancy makes no provision for estate tax planning.
- You give up ultimate control.
Planning with A Beneficiary Designation
- “Beneficiary designation” often means losing control of a major part of your estate. It does not enable you to leave instructions or provide guidance to your loved ones.
- The wrong beneficiary may be named.
- It won’t protect your spouse and children from creditors or unscrupulous people.
- Equal distributions from a beneficiary designation can cause results that won’t meet your family’s unique needs.
- Beneficiary designations make no provision for federal tax planning.
Bare-Bones Living Trusts
- Many trusts are sterile legal forms that do not contain instructions for loved ones. They only accomplish limited objectives.
- If not fully funded, living trusts do not avoid probate.
The Estate Planning Solution
The basis of a good estate plan is a revocable living trust that contains your special instructions for your own care and that of your loved ones. These instructions are what distinguish our living trust documents from wills and barebones living trusts. Your living trust can be changed or canceled at any time. As maker, trustee, and primary beneficiary, you control every aspect of how your property will be used. You also appoint the trustee(s), and you maintain control.
Good Estate Planning Meets Your Goals
A properly prepared plan meets your unique goals. It allows you to plan for your disability and direct the distribution of your property. It saves tax dollars, professional fees, and court costs. And, most importantly, it keeps you in control of your own affairs.
What Can Good Estate Planning Do For You?
- Provide instruction for your care and that of your loved ones in the event of your disability.
- Be effective if you move to or own property in another state.
- Avoid probate and the associated legal costs.
- Keep your affairs private and confidential.
- Control all of your property, including pensions and life insurance.
- Allow you to leave explicit instructions for the care of your loved ones.
- Create protective trusts and asset protection for your young children, disadvantaged children, adult children and grandchildren.
- Provide federal estate tax planning or governmental assistance planning.
Visit an experienced elder law attorney today to help you with your individualized estate plan. Don’t make a mistake by failing to have this planning done at your earliest convenience, as there is no way to predict the future, and it can save your family excessive costs at your death. Contact W.G. Alexander & Associates today for assistance.