Despite common belief, estate planning is not reserved for wealthy and retired people. Estate planning and more specifically trust planning is for everyone. However, if you do not have a plan, your state will have one for you, but it won't protect your interests and wealth in the same way that you would. At Intrepid Law, we believe that good estate planning can include the following things:
A comprehensive will or living trust.
Most family estate planning begins with a will or living trust.
Will: A will is a well-written plan that outlines the way a property will be distributed after you have died. The document can also name a guardian to care for children that are not of age. It can be amended at any time during your lifetime. A will has to go through your state's probate process before any assets are distributed to beneficiaries.
Revocable Living Trust: Most family trust planning involves a revocable living trust. Contrary to a will, a revocable living trust can avoid probate at death, so many families pursue this type of trust planning. Other benefits of a living trust is that it prevents the courts from controlling your assets if you become disabled and provides families with ultimate privacy. A living trust is valid in every state and can be changed at any time while you are alive.
Great life insurance to provide for your family after your death.
One major benefit of including life insurance in an estate plan is its ability to produce an immediate estate. In other words, instead of waiting for a trust to settle or probate to close, the funds from the policy will be available right away. Most life insurance carriers only require a copy of the death certificate to release the money. Once the proceeds are distributed, the funds can be used to pay for funeral expenses, federal and state estate taxes, courts costs, and more. Life insurance can also be used as an inheritance for your loved ones.
Directions for passing down values
Also known as an ethical will, a legacy letter is a message that you can write from your heart for any close loved ones. Instead of focusing on distributing your valuables, the letter will convey your words of wisdom, and vision for future generations. The legacy letter can also be an appropriate space to relay the values and beliefs that you want to be passed on. While each letter is unique, you can also include your spiritual blessings and hopes and dreams for future generations.
Detailed instructions for high-quality care in case you ever become disabled.
When someone is unable to make healthcare and financial decisions due to mental or physical incapacity, it’s extremely important that another family member or professional has the authority to make those decisions. Otherwise, if your name is on the title of your assets while you are disabled, a court appointee will have to sign for you if there is not a plan in place. To ensure that the court does not control your assets or serve as your legal guardian, you need to pursue disability planning.
Make sure you keep these things in mind when planning for an unexpected disability.
Conservatorship: A conservator should be selected to help protect and manage your funds and property
Guardianship: A guardian should be chosen to help you make life decisions for yourself if you become disabled.
Financial Powers of Attorney: Often referred to as your agent, a financial power of attorney should be appointed to act on behalf of your financial and business matters like withdrawing funds from bank accounts, paying bills, and trading stocks.
Healthcare Advance Directives: In the event where you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, a pre-constructed healthcare advanced directive can be used to designate another person to make these decisions for you. The appointed person will have the authority to decide the kinds of medications that you should take, the doctors who should treat you, and the hospital that should provide you with care. The designated person can also determine if surgery would be appropriate.
A means to provide for your family if you ever become mentally or physically incapacitated.
A great estate plan should include disability insurance so that your income will be replaced if you cannot work because of a mental or physical illness.
Provide for the transfer of your wealth and business at the lowest cost possible.
When you have proper estate planning, your wealth can be distributed according to your wishes. The best plans will state when your assets will be distributed, the people who will receive your wealth, and the person who will manage your estate or business. By using various strategies, these goals can be accomplished without incurring much state and federal taxes.
Name a property guardian of minor children
While minors can be beneficiaries, they cannot legally own their property until they become of age in the state that he resides. In your will, a property guardian should be named to manage your child's assets until he/she is of age, which is 18 in most states. If a property guardian has not been selected, the court may appoint one to manage your child's inheritance.
Provide for family members with special needs without eliminating needs-based government benefits
If you have a family member with special needs, your family trust planning should include an inheritance that can supplement but not replace government benefits. A special needs trust can be used to enhance your loved one's quality of life by offering comforts and luxuries that are not paid for government benefits. A pooled trust can be an option if you are leaving the family member a large sum of money or can't think of a great person to serve as the trustee. These types of special needs trusts are handled by nonprofit organizations that pool and invest money from many families.
A means to pay for care that is needed long-term.
Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance that can cover long-term services and support when you can no longer take care of yourself. The insurance covers services, like bathing, dressing, and eating that are not covered by traditional health insurance. Most long-term care providers will pay for care that is provided in your home, a nursing home, adult day care, or an assisted living facility.
The Best Time to Create an Estate Plan is … Right Now
If you are putting off trust planning because you think that you are too young, don’t have enough assets, can’t afford a complex plan, or some other reason, your family may not be prepared to handle a death or an unexpected illness. While you probably do not want to think about your own mortality or the inability to make decisions for yourself, a properly prepared plan will provide you with peace of mind and will protect your family. Even after you have created an estate plan, you should review and update the documents frequently as family and financial situations often change. Do not delay family estate planning any longer. Contact Intrepid Law as soon as possible and receive a free consultation that will detail how we can help your family get started with trust planning.
Important Terms to Know During the Family Estate Planning Process
An estate is everything that you own including life insurance, investments, real estate, cars, personal belongings, and checking and savings accounts.
The gross estate is the total gross value of a person’s estate before he has died. The gross estate figure typically includes a deceased person’s assets and properties.
A life estate is a type of joint ownership of real estate that enables you to maintain 100 percent control of the house while you are alive and to stay in a home until your death. Even when the life estate deed is transferred to children or other beneficiaries, you can reserve the legal right to live in the house for the rest of your life. Many people choose to pursue a life estate deed when they want to avoid probate or give a house to children without giving up his right to live in the house.
This type of trust is used to significantly lower federal estate taxes for a married couple’s estate.
A personal representative is an individual who will be named the administrator for an estate of a deceased person. The administrator is expected to meticulously follow a will and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
National Association Of Estate Planners And Councils or NAEPC
Established in 1962, this professional organization is strongly committed to ensuring standards for the estate planning profession. The two estate planning credentials that NAEPC offers are the Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) and the Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS).