How can an estate plan make things easier on my family after I die?
Essentially, planning now saves your family money and emotional grief. Read more to find out why and how. A “Last Will and Testament” or a “Will” is a legal document that expresses your postmortem wishes. It appoints a personal representative or executor to administer your estate. It designates a guardian of the person and property of minor children. It usually covers burial instructions, funeral expenses and estate tax apportionment.
However, it is most commonly understood to govern the transfer of a deceased person’s property to his/her designated beneficiaries. The term “”Property”” includes everything you can possibly own, such as cash, stocks, bonds, houses, vehicles, jewelry, artwork, business interests, and even future interests-think Michael Jackson. His estate will be open for a very long time. In other words, property is everything you own, both now and in the future. *Please note that a will does not avoid probate. A properly drafted and executed estate plan will remove all assets from your name and provide for a smooth transition for your family not only after death (avoiding probate), but in the event you become incapacitated from injury or illness (guardianship). It’s a no-brainer for both financial as well as emotional reasons. A trust is an incredibly valuable and versatile tool to accomplish many of your estate and business planning objectives. Basically, you create a separate legal entity that owns and administers property for the benefit of certain beneficiaries. One or more trustees are appointed to administer the trust pursuant to the document’s precise instructions. They must adhere to the instructions at the risk of being held personally liable. That’s why trustees are called fiduciaries, because they are subject to a higher standard of care in exercising their duties. Because they are separate legal entities, they do not “die”. In fact, they can last up to 360 years in Florida!
Since they can own virtually any type of property, trusts ensure a smooth transition of family and/or business assets or wealth to subsequent generations while still exercising a fair amount of control over the property far beyond the time of death. Trusts are also employed in connection with estate and gift tax reduction strategies. Where they are relevant to everyone is how helpful they are in avoiding probate and avoiding guardianship, which as you now know, can be very time consuming, expensive, not private and dangerously unpredictable. There are many types of trusts, with each having unique advantages and disadvantages. Some are excellent for simple estate planning. Others are useful for estate and gift tax planning. Still others can be used for current and deferred charitable giving. Finally, trusts are excellent vehicles to integrate into an asset protection plan, thereby taking advantage of both estate planning and asset protection techniques planning simultaneously. Given how powerful trusts can be, you have to ensure that they are carefully drafted. Small mistakes often have dangerously large consequences. We strongly advise you to retain the services of an attorney that focuses exclusively on wills, trusts and estates, and avoid do-it-yourself products and services at all costs.
“Planning with Purpose,” Haimo Law (HaimoLaw.com) can help you plan for and protect your family and your business’s interests for the immediate and long-term future. Together, we can take advantage of incredible tools and techniques that are available to you right now. Call us for wills, trusts, probate, asset protection and business planning. Haimo Law offers premium professional representation at an affordable price. Alternative fee arrangements are available upon request. We are reliable, approachable, honest, hard-working and attentive. Helping your family and business is our priority. We look forward to meeting and exceeding your expectations.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose
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