When you think of an “estate,” you might think of a grand home full of the rich and privileged. It might surprise you to realize that nearly every working adult has his or her own estate—but we’re not talking about a fancy house. Everything you own—your home, cars, boat, vacation condo, furniture, jewelry—are part of your estate, along with monetary assets such as savings and checking accounts, life insurance policies, retirement plans, stocks, and investments.
Who will get all of that when you’re gone? Who do you want to get it?
With a comprehensive estate plan facilitated by an experienced attorney, you can ensure that your assets will go where you want them and that your beneficiaries will be saved the burden of disputes, unnecessary taxes, and court costs.
What Exactly Can an Estate Plan Do for You?
The simplest estate plan consists of written instructions laying out whom you want to receive something of yours, what you want them to receive, and when you want them to receive it. However, estate plans can—and should—do a lot more than that. When you work with an estate planning attorney rather than a free online service, you can also do the following with your plan:
- Express wishes for your care if you become disabled before you die.
- Appoint a guardian and trustees for minor children.
- Establish a special needs trust for disabled family members without disrupting government benefits.
- Leave special instructions for loved ones who might be irresponsible with money or who may need future protection from creditors or divorce.
- Include various insurance plans to provide for your family at your death, replace your income if you cannot work due to illness or injury, and help pay for your care in case of an extended illness or injury.
- Plan for the transfer of your business at your retirement, disability, or death.
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
- Express your wishes regarding religion, education, and other values for your beneficiaries and heirs.
- Make your estate plan an ongoing process. Your plan should be reviewed and updated as your family, financial situation, and laws change over your lifetime.
The estate planning attorneys at Blackwell, Vishio & Fisher will work with you to create an estate plan designed just for you. No two families are exactly alike, so a cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blank will cannot possibly meet all of your needs.
Does a Will Do Everything You Need?
When people think of naming who will inherit their estate, they usually think of a will—or what is often called a “Last Will and Testament” in books and movies. A will can accomplish some important things, but there are limitations. What serves many people better is a revocable living trust. We discuss the differences here.
- Will. While you can provide instructions for what you want to happen after your death with a will, your assets will have to go through the probate process (the official validation of a will by a court) before being distributed to your heirs. This can be time-consuming and expensive. The advantage of a will is that it is inexpensive to set up to begin with and is probably all you need if your estate is small and uncomplicated.
- Revocable Living Trust. A living trust is written while you are alive and can be changed or amended at any point during your lifetime. A trust does not pass through probate, so your heirs will get their inheritance faster and avoid court costs. Your estate plan will remain private as a trust does not have to become part of the public record. Also, you can designate when you want your beneficiaries to get their inheritance and the timing will be managed by your appointed trustee. Trusts are more expensive to set up initially, but will save your heirs time and money in the future and give you many more options for expressing your wishes.
Deciding exactly what your estate plan needs to be in order to fulfill your wishes will be difficult to determine on your own. Working with an estate planning attorney will ensure that the people you care about will be taken care of when you are gone.
The Time for an Estate Plan Is Now
Life is full of surprises—some good, some not. You do not want your family to be left sorting out your assets because you didn’t take the time to make your wishes known before the unexpected happened. Now is the time to sit down with one of our estate planning attorneys to discuss your options. The investment you make now will give you peace of mind and leave your loved ones the legacy you wish for them. Click our contact link to start the process.