You're getting a fresh start on the New Year, even setting some resolutions (who doesn't want to lose that extra 10 pounds gained over the holidays?). Now here comes the real "fun stuff" — finally getting to that estate plan you've been neglecting!
It may seem daunting, but with the help of an experienced estate planning legal team, you can finally get your "estate plan house" in order.
Here are answers to common questions from clients about a comprehensive estate plan:
Q. What are the key elements of a sound estate plan?
A. The key components of an estate plan include wills, will substitutes, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives, and tax considerations. It only takes one small mistake or even an ounce of ambiguity, and your estate could end up in the wrong hands or get wrung through probate court.
Generally speaking, the most important component of all estate plans is the basic last will and testament. Essentially, it outlines what to do with your possessions, whether leave them to another person, a group or donate them to charity, as well as what happens to other things that they are responsible for, such as custody of dependents and management of accounts and financial interests.
In many cases, a living trust is a preferable replacement for the last will and testament, the essence of which is to make it a lot cheaper, more private and easier for your family to distribute your wealth when you pass away (this is done through bypassing probate, the state court process).
Another key element is an advanced medical directive. In a world where we're all living longer, the longer we live, the more likely it is that we're going to need someone to help care for us. The advanced medical directive names the person that you want to make health care decisions for you if you can't make them yourself.
Q. What can make estate planning more complicated?
A. A simple will may be sufficient given certain parameters (age, assets, no children from previous marriages, etc.). However, just as society has become more complex, estate planning is increasingly a complex process. As to what makes an estate plan complicated or not, the list is driven by the specifics of each client's unique situation and what needs to be accomplished. Without covering the gamut of estate planning:
- To whom would you like to leave your property?
- Do you have sizable wealth that you seek to transfer from generation to generation?
- Do you have enough assets so that estate taxes will apply?
- How do you want to divide your assets among your heirs?
- Do you own rental properties or vacation homes?
- Do you have business ownership interests? Are any of these partnerships or other form of co-ownership?
- Is your life insurance a standard policy or complicated?
- How will your debts be covered?
- Do you have foreign assets?
- Are you a blended family, with ex-spouses and step-children, plus any children or grandchildren from the current marriage?
- Do you wish to set up a trust so that your children receive a certain sum of money at a particular age?
- Do you have minor children? Who will be their guardians?
- Do you want to establish a Special Needs Trusts for a child with a disability?
- Do you have heirs that have dependency/addiction problems?
- How will you account for death or change in circumstances of those named as executor under a will, guardians, trustees under a trust, and agents under powers of attorney?
- Are you concerned about potential divorce of any heirs and the impact of inherited property?
- Do you want to account for tax considerations when dividing assets?
- Would you like to do gifting while still alive?
- Are you planning on moving out of state?
- As might be expected, the answers to these questions can sometimes be very straightforward - and in other instances, very intricate.
Specialized Estate Planning Expertise
At Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC we have the experience and dedication to craft a personalized, creative estate plan with you. If you need an expert in developing an estate plan, please contact Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC at (714) 384-6053 to make an appointment, or use our online contact form. Our website is http://www.ocestateplanning.net.
About the author:
Tamsen R. Reinheimer, Attorney, is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law (The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). She has significant experience in all aspects of estate planning, trust administration, and probate. Contact Tamsen at email@example.com.