When we pass away, we want to know that our loved ones will be taken care of. The best way to do this is to plan for all the financial and legal issues that your friends and family may have to deal with after your death. While most people assume that a will alone is all that is needed for clear transfer of property and a minimization of costly legal entanglements after your death, the reality is that this is only really possible through careful estate planning.
Simply put, estate planning is the process by which you take care of all the tasks necessary to manage your assets if you are alive but disabled and also after your death. A will is an important part of estate planning, but a will cannot help your family manage your assets if you are disabled or deal with assets that do not pass through a probate, such as life insurance, IRAs and other retirement assets or property that is held in joint tenancy. Using a will alone also means your estate will probably go through probate, which is a public proceeding in which a judge must approve the distribution of your estate.
What does estate planning include?
If you want to reduce the stresses associated with Probate Court, ensure that much of your estate is passed on without burdening your heirs with excessive taxes, and protect your loved ones, a coordinated effort at estate planning is vital. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you to minimize any undue burden on your family associated with your disability or your passing, eliminate uncertainties over the administration of a probate, and maximize the value of your estate.
When you work with an estate planning lawyer, the process will include several distinct actions. The following are some of the most important:
- Creating an explicit and clear will for property division;
- Setting up trusts in cases where helpful,
- Limiting estate taxes,
- Naming a trusted executor to oversee distribution of property,
- Establishing beneficiaries for accounts and plans, such as IRAs, life insurance policies, and 401(k)s,
- Setting up funeral arrangements,
- Putting in place annual gifting to reduce taxes before death,
- Naming guardians for minor or dependent adults,
- Drafting a durable power of attorney to direct other assets and investments, and
- Minimizing all uncertainties in asset division and inheritance after your passing.
All of these actions may sound complex, but they can be done quite simply by a probate attorney familiar with the needs of any family from estate planning. Whether you are quite wealthy or an average American concerned about helping pass on your wealth to loved ones, estate planning is a powerful way to accomplish your goals. At Larsen Law, we’d be honored to answer your questions about the process and help you get started protecting your loved ones.