WHAT IS AN ESTATE PLAN?
An estate plan is a set of legal documents that manages your care and finances during your lifetime, and distributes your assets after your death. In your estate plan, you designate how and by whom your financial and medical decisions will be made upon your incapacity or death. If you have minor children, your estate plan designates their guardian. A comprehensive estate plan protects your hard-earned assets and legacy by allowing the bypass of probate, an expensive judicial process.
WHO NEEDS AN ESTATE PLAN?
It is a common misconception that only wealthy individuals need estate plans. Anyone who has small kids, real estate, owns a business, or has assets worth over $150,000 should have a comprehensive estate plan.
WHY DO YOU NEED A CUSTOMIZED ESTATE PLAN?
An estate plan is all about your family. Every family is unique and complex in its own way. Your estate plan should accurately reflect your family’s unique dynamics and needs.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU PASS AWAY WITHOUT A PROPERLY EXECUTED ESTATE PLAN?
If you do not have an estate plan and pass away with over $150,000 in assets, all of your assets go through a judicial process called probate. Probate is very costly, time consuming and public.
HOW MUCH IS AN ESTATE PLAN GOING TO COST?
I believe in ultimate transparency. Estate planning should not be cost prohibitive. I provide most estate planning services on a flat-fee basis. Those matters that must be handled hourly are billed at a competitive rate. The cost of an estate plan varies depending on the size and complexity of the estate. I offer a free Initial Consultation as a first step to gain an in-depth understanding of each client's goals and needs, as well as to determine if we are a good fit.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN AN ESTATE PLAN?
Your estate plan will include a trust, a pour-over will, powers of attorney, a health care directive, a HIPAA release, a living will and other important documents.
WHAT IS A TRUST?
A trust is a document that allows a third party, your trustee, to make decisions with respect to your assets if you are incapacitated or are no longer living. The trust allows you to detail who makes decisions on your behalf and how they are made. Also, a trust allows you to avoid probate. I like to think of the trust as a large suitcase in which you put your belongings. Everything that is properly placed in your trust is not subject to probate. Probate is a judicial process that occurs once someone dies without a trust (it generally applies to individuals with over $150,000 in assets). Probate is very costly, time consuming, and public. If you have minor children, probate will prevent them from directly inheriting your assets. A court will instead assign an agent to hold and disperse the funds to your children until they turn 18. A well-drafted trust keeps your affairs private without unnecessary judicial involvement and saves your family both time and money.
WHAT IS A POUR-OVER WILL?
A Pour-Over Will is a document that serves two primary purposes. If you have minor children, this is where you name the guardian who will take care of your children until they are legal adults should something happen to you. Also, this document ensures that if you forget to transfer something into your trust during your lifetime, it will get “poured over” into your trust via the probate process. It essentially serves as a Plan B and guarantees that your trust will dictate how that asset is handled.
WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A Power of Attorney is a document that appoints someone to make your financial decisions, manage your financial affairs and pay bills that are not handled by the trust (e.g., retirement assets) if you are unable to do so for yourself.
WHAT HEALTH CARE DOCUMENTS ARE INCLUDED IN AN ESTATE PLAN?
There are three health care documents that I include in every estate plan. The Advance Health Care Directive allows you to appoint an agent who will make decisions for you with regard to your medical treatment by following your stated wishes. A HIPPA form authorizes certain individuals to speak to your medical providers on your behalf and obtain your medical records. A Living Will expresses your preferences on life support issues.