Many people do not have even basic estate documents in place due to the misconception that estate planning is primarily for the wealthy. Estate planning is as much about having life planning components in place to protect our quality of life and lifestyle while we are alive, as it is about directing distributions and protecting assets at death.
Estate planning provides guidance and direction to family members, protects them, and addresses concerns and the difficult-to-discuss topics. Some clients want to protect an inheritance for their children from a prior marriage, or have a daughter in-law whom they do not entirely trust, or a grandson who is still too immature to handle any inheritance, or parents who are still alive, but will one day need nursing home care, or a son whose three children need a college fund, or a special needs child who will need help for decades after they pass away, or a desire to leave a bequest to their church or favorite charity.
Everyone, from young adults to those with minor or special needs children, to those planning for incapacity while still able to control decisions regarding assets and medical procedures, needs an estate plan. In addition, state law can impact the amounts received by your family members, under the terms of your estate plan. Taxation mitigation and asset protection, therefore, are still important estate planning considerations. We represent clients in both Maryland and Florida. Read More
Asset protection is a major factor in estate planning. That is, protecting your assets, and protecting the inheritance you leave your legatees and heirs from potential creditors they may encounter. Discretionary trust provisions can also be helpful if a beneficiary has drug or alcohol dependency issues, or for “divorce proofing” a child’s inheritance.
Legacy and Succession Planning
Another advantage to trusts is planning for future generations without outright distribution of all assets to your heir at your death. Escalating tuition costs, make college funding for children and grandchildren a priority for many families. Sometimes a client with more than one child or grandchild will want to make sure that a younger child receives the same benefit that the older child or children received while the parents or grandparents were alive. Read More
Special Needs Planning
Some trusts may have provisions for distribution only at the discretion of the trustee or trustees. This can protect assets which would stop state aid to a disabled child or be recovered by the state if given directly to such a beneficiary. Trusts, such as special needs trusts, are designed to accomplish a specific goal or address a particular family situation. In general, special needs trusts seek to maintain eligibility for means tested government assistance programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) while providing supplemental services not provided by Medicaid and SSI. Supplemental services can dramatically improve the quality of life for your special needs child. Read More for a partial list of the supplemental services available to your child with a properly designed, implemented and funded special needs trust.
Estate planning for incapacity is essential. To make financial decisions during incapacity there must be at least one document in place which authorizes someone to make financial decisions for you. Without such a document it may be necessary for your family to obtain a court-appointed guardianship of your person and property. The best incapacity planning utilizes a revocable trust to accomplish your goals. Read More
The basic principles of estate planning are not that difficult. The most basic principle of all is to plan early and often. There have been many changes in the law in recent years, so it is important to keep current.
Estate Planning is as important as ever. Not only can estate planning frequently save a great deal in taxes, but proper documentation can save loved ones tremendous grief and anxiety. Estate planning includes more than wills and trusts. Estate planning also includes a Health Care Designation, Advance Medical Directive (Living Will) and Durable Powers of Attorney. Asset protection and IRA stretchouts are also essential in current strategies.