Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Estate Planning

Estate Planning – A gift to yourself and your loved ones

Estate Planning is about protecting yourself and your loved ones, planning for the unexpected, and preserving your legacy.   For most people, estate planning does not have to be too complex or too costly to adequately prepare for your future. 

Why do I need an estate plan?  An estate plan should be part of your or your family’s overall financial plan, like saving for your retirement or a child’s college tuition, or investing your financial assets.  A good estate plan will not only consider what happens to your assets when you die, but it will also consider what happens to you, your finances, and your property while you are alive but incapacitated due to accident, injury, or illness.  If you have minor children, planning for their future will help a court to decide where your children will live and who will make important decisions about their money, education, and way of life.  Our attorneys can assist you in making these important decisions in a simple, easy-to-understand way that protects you and future generations of your family.

When is a good time to establish my estate plan?  It’s never too late to plan for your future, but the earlier you plan, the less risk you have for being unprepared when life takes an unexpected turn.  Our experienced estate planning attorneys can help you understand what documents you may need, how to best protect yourself and your children, and whether you should update any estate planning documents you already have. 

Consider the following reasons for consulting one of our estate planning attorneys:

  • Minors - Avoiding the need for a conservator if a parent dies?  Whether a trust for a minor’s benefit should be named as the beneficiary of my retirement accounts?  What about my other assets?  Why are trusts important when estate planning for young children?  What happens to my minor children if both parents die?
  • Younger adults – Heading off to college? Getting married? Buying a house?  Setting up your first retirement account?       
  • Middle-aged adults – Moving to or building a new home?  Involved in a long-term relationship or marriage?  Birth or adoption of a child?  Divorce or separation?  Second marriage?  Estate planning for surrogacy?  Planning for business succession? Have a disabled child?
  • Retirement-aged adults -- Long-term care planning for you, your spouse, or a significant other? Involved in the probate process?  Named as a personal representative, power of attorney, or trustee in a legal document? Wanting to leave a legacy for your children or grandchildren?  Minimizing tax consequences or administration fees for your estate plan?
  • Elderly adults – In need of powers of attorney for health care or finances?  Medicaid or long-term care planning? Difficulty living independently? Experiencing cognitive decline? Fearful of financial exploitation?  Who will make my funeral arrangements?

Why should I consult an attorney to help with my estate plan?  With pre-made estate planning documents readily available on the internet, it’s only natural to wonder why you should consult with an attorney for your estate plan.  However, estate planning is serious business, which can also have serious legal consequences.  It’s important to fully understand the purpose of each document, the nuances that accompany different types of language in each document, and the consequences for signing any legal document.  Every word, sentence, clause, and yes, even punctuation mark, can have significant legal consequences.  One missing word or signature can invalidate a document or change your intent.  When it comes to protecting yourself and your family, cheaper typically does not equate to better—so buyer beware!  Consulting with an attorney can still be affordable, and it can save your family from the very real, sad, and often-times even more costly realization that the estate planning document you downloaded will not work as you planned.  Our attorneys have seen far too many documents, many downloaded from the internet or drafted by inexperienced attorneys, which have not only been improperly executed or worded, but which have cost our clients more in legal fees to defend or correct than it would have cost to have them done properly in the first instance.   Our experienced attorneys know the pitfalls to avoid, the added language needed to protect you and your loved ones, and the legal requirements necessary to ensure that your customized plan is properly executed.   

What is Probate? Probate is the process a court uses to supervise a deceased person’s estate.  At times, it can be costly and time-consuming, so many people consult with an estate planning attorney to try to avoid the probate process.   A common misconception is that if you have a will, you can avoid the probate process.  However, while there are several ways to avoid probate, merely having a will is not one of them.  Our attorneys can discuss with you the various and often free or inexpensive ways that you can avoid probate for many of your assets.

Should I try to avoid Probate in my estate plan?  The short answer, is maybe.  For many estates, you may be able to save your loved ones from the expense, time, and headaches that probate can cause by establishing a solid estate plan designed to avoid probate.  But there are always exceptions to the rule.  For a few people, their probate assets may be small enough that a unique procedure for small estates can be used that is quicker and easier than typical probate.  Additionally, some assets may be easily handled through the probate process, while others may not.  Thus, it is important to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about the subject of probate law to help guide you through the considerations.

Below are some of the more common estate planning documents. 

Click on the links for more information:

Wills

If you have a will, you’re a step ahead of half of all Americans, whose families stand to lose significantly if they die unexpectedly. Why you need a will Your will lets you control what happens to your property. If you have minor children, a will… Read More

Trusts

What is a trust? A trust is a legal document that names a particular person (a trustee) to hold and manage assets belonging to the trust.  Trusts can be helpful to avoid probate, manage your assets after you die, protect assets for your children or… Read More

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances is a legal document where you appoint someone else to manage your financial and business affairs.  This document is a very powerful document because it allows the person… Read More

Patient Advocate

A patient advocate is your voice in health care decisions. A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care proxy or a patient advocate, is a document in which you appoint another person to make medical treatment and related p… Read More

Parental Power of Attorney

When your children live apart from you—or if they travel without you or you travel apart from them—we recommend that you have a parental power of attorney. This document appoints another adult to act in your place in case of your child’s medic… Read More

Elder Medition

Elder mediation helps preserve family harmony, one of the most precious gifts a family can give to an elderly member. Older adults, their families and caregivers may need help making difficult decisions related to long-term care, guardianship, medica… Read More

Probate

When you die, some of your estate may go through a court process called probate, which manages, settles, and distributes your property. The probate process is governed by state law. The effect of a will If you have a will, your property is distribute… Read More