ESTATE PLANNING

OVERVIEW

Estate Planning is vital to protect and provide for your loved ones should anything happen to you.  Without your own, the state  has a plan for you...one that doesn’t consider your wishes on how to provide for your family and certainly doesn’t minimize the fees and taxes the state will take off the top during a long, drawn-out probate process, eventually, giving what is left to your family who has been suffering emotionally and financially.
 

Therefore, setting forth your own estate plan will include fundamental elements to ensure that your family and friends; are given the proper authority to act for you (whether that be as your executor, attorney-in-fact, or health care agent), may care for your children (as a temporary or permanent guardian), and receive your assets (as a fiduciary to manage and delegate to children at the proper time or as a beneficiary).
 

It also encompasses leaving detailed information, instructions, and memories that will make an emotional time an easier transition period as you “speak” to your family and friends through the customized family plan you put in place.
 

Without an estate plan, when something happens to you, your family and friends are;  left guessing what you would have liked and what they should do, may be left without the authority to do anything, and will have a difficult, expensive, and long road ahead of them to receive the assets from you that will help them maintain some of the most basic aspects of the life they had with you --- a home, food, support, and an education.
 

It is a process everyone knows they need to do, but many procrastinate.  The problem with procrastinating is that if something does happen to you tomorrow, you are leaving yourself and your family to the whims of the state, who does not and cannot profess to know what is best for your family.

Our primary focus is to help parents like you ensure you are in the best position to protect and provide for your loved ones. 
While you probably have short-term goals and plans for the family’s day-to-day lives, have you sat down to consider your long-term plans? 

Estate planning encompasses a family’s long-term insurance, finances, and legal needs.  While many believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy, it is  most crucial for families with young children. 



  • If anything were to happen to you, what would happen to your children?  

  • Young children are helpless without their parents, emotionally and financially. 

  • Who would take care of them?

  • What money would they have to live in their home or go to school?

  • Would they have memories of you, know the hopes and dreams you had for them?

 

An estate planning attorney at WLF will provide you with the tools you need to make the best decisions for yourself and your loved ones and hold your hand to put an estate plan in place.  While you may not want to think about or believe that anything will ever happen to you, you most likely have health insurance if you get sick, auto insurance if you are in an accident, homeowner’s insurance for your home, and if your employer offers disability and life insurance you have probably signed up for it and are grateful to have it -- just in case. 

So, why wouldn’t you put a similar plan in place for your children just in case something happens to you?
 

WLF will help you design, draft, and organize a custom family estate plan to place in a comprehensive and easy to understand manual that will act as a guide and a safety net to protect your family and those you entrust to help your family.   You will then become part of our extended family and we promise to be your family’s trusted advisor for life.  You are welcome to take advantage of our on-call service for any questions or issues that arise and you will receive complimentary plan reviews for life.

LEGAL ELEMENTS

Last Will & Testament

They are public documents that state three main things, 1) to whom you want your assets distributed to when you pass away, 2) who you would like to care for your minor children if you don't have a separate Guardian Nomination; and 3) who you would like to oversee this responsibility. Everyone over the age of 18 needs a will.  Dying without a will is known as intestate, meaning the state decides all of the above and can charge a lot to do so.

Guardian Nominations

Statement of who you would like to raise your minor children if you are not able to do so.  We recommend you have both a permanent and temporary guardian nomination in place to account for your death, incapacity, or inability to care for your minor children.

Trusts

Trusts are private legal documents that allow you control how and when your assets distributed to the people you chose.  Since a minor cannot inherit assets, a trust is necessary.
 

Almost every parent needs a family trust, they are not just for wealthy families, they are for parents who want to provide for their children with a plan that helps transfer the largest percentage of their assets to the children in the most careful and thoughtful manner possible. The benefits of a trust are to allow your assets to be distributed privately (protecting your children from predators who search public records to determine which children are inheriting money), to your children via the trustees you put in place (rather than the court-appointed trustees who may charge hundreds of dollars per hour to serve), as soon as it it needed (rather than the 12-18 months it could take the probate court to release the money), minimize the amount of probate court charges (which average 5% of the estate), and minimize state and federal taxes (which can take over 50% of the estate depending on the total assets).

Financial Directive

A Power of Attorney helps you delegate authority to another person to handle your finances if you are unable (i.e. incapacity) or unavailable (i.e. traveling) to do so.

Health Care Directives

Health Care Directives may be divided into four documents.  

 

Health Care Proxy grants the authority a trusted agent to make health care decisions, both mental and physical, on your behalf if you are unable to communicate necessary decisions yourself.  Without a Health Care Proxy you could be in the precarious position of not being able to communicate how you would like to be treated and your family without the power to chose or authorize what care you need or desire.

HIPAA Release authorizes the disclosure of confidential medical records to your Health Care Agents to enable them to make the best informed decision on your behalf.

 

Advance Directive is a statement of your desire that the process of dying not be artificially prolonged if you are terminally ill and the treatment you would like to receive under less extreme circumstances.   Without an Advance Directive, your desired course of treatment will probably not be known to your loved ones, doctors, and health care agent (if you have one), and therefore, the decisions made will not be your own and you could end up enduring a course of treatment and enduring a life you never wanted.

Final Disposition Instructions and Authorization are detailed instructions for your health care agent on how you would prefer to be laid to rest, services to be held, and donations to be made on your behalf.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Here are some FAQs we have received.  If you have another question, please email us at info@wilsonlf.com and we will answer you and add the question to this list.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning is the process of putting your personal, family, and financial affairs in order. The goals of estate planning are: (1) to maximize enjoyment an individual’s estate during his or her lifetime; and (2) to maximize beneficiaries’ enjoyment of the estate after the individual’s death.
 

Is an estate plan necessary if I don't own much?

Proper estate planning requires an initial investment in lawyers’ fees, in addition to the time needed to collect information and meet with your lawyer. The return on this “investment” may be substantial. We recently calculated that the savings (from probate fees alone) for preparing the estate plan of a $1 Million gross estate resulted in at least a 920% return. At this rate of return, making an “investment” in proper estate planning should be a no-brainer!

Why shouldn't I just use DIY online forms to save money?

We don’t recommend it because the cost of improper planning is often higher than not planning at all. A few inadvertent errors we have come across include: accidental re-assessment of real estate, resulting in higher property taxes; failure to integrate non-probate assets with the estate plan; un-funded trusts, resulting in unnecessary probate proceedings; and out-dated or inappropriate estate tax planning techniques. Because the risks of “do-it-yourself” forms and kits are so high, we cannot recommend this approach.

© 2020 WLF|TRUST&ESTATES

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