Wills & Trusts: Legal instruments to safeguard, hold and transfer assets
No two estate plans are the same because no two clients are the same. Each client has a combination of personal beliefs, family situation and financial circumstances that is unique to him or her. That is why our firm takes the time to know our clients, their personal needs and motivations, their financial situation and many other factors (asset protection needs, creditors, businesses owned, etc.) that may influence the type of estate plan they need. We offer solutions suited to each client’s personal circumstances. We advise our clients about the estate planning options or tools available to them and make certain recommendations given their personal circumstances so that the client can then make an informed decision.
We then draft and tailor their estate planning documents to fit their needs. The instruments may include:
What is a will?
A will is a legal document in which you determine who will inherit your property at your death. In your will you name an executor who will distribute your property to your beneficiaries according to the provisions of your will and will represent the estate in probate court.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will then the laws of the state determine who inherits your property. For example, if you are married and have children, one half of your property goes to your wife and the other half to your children. If any chid is a minor then the court will set up a guardianship for the minor’s property until the minor is 18 years old. If you are single and both parents are dead, then your property goes to your brothers and sisters in equal shares.
What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process by which the decedent’s estate is transferred to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. The basic probate process involves proving the will (if no will, intestacy succession law applies) and affirming distributions of property to heirs and beneficiaries. The probate process involves both time and costs. There are statutory probate fees which are payable to both the attorney and the executor. Furthermore, probate files are open to public scrutiny since they are public documents.
What are the advantages of a revocable living trust?
An intervivos revocable trust, also known as a “living trust”, is one of the most commonly-used estate planning tools because of the following characteristics:
– Amendable, changeable, revocable during the lifetime of the person who sets up the trust.
– Avoids probate proceedings by holding property “in trust” instead of the decedent’s estate. Time, costs and public disclosure involved in probate can be avoided. (Caveat: The trust must be funded to avoid probate.)
– A conservatorship is usually not necessary if the grantor/settlor/trustor becomes incapacitated.
What happens to our minor children if we do not have a will or a trust?
The probate court will appoint a guardian of the minor to manage the estate and to raise the children. The guardian(s) is/are appointed from among the family and friends who request the court for appointment. Court supervision will continue until the minors reach age 18. In order to avoid this, your can provide in your estate plan whom you wish to care for your minor children and manage your estate should you die.
What if I am unable to care for myself?
If you have not planned in advance, the court appoints a conservator to care for you and to manage your estate subject to court supervision. In order to avoid this, you can plan in advance and provide in your estate plan who will manage your estate and provide for your care in case of your incapacity.
What are irrevocable trusts?
There are many types of irrevocable trusts and they are used for various purposes, including income tax and estate tax savings, asset protection, and wealth preservation and transfer. We can advise you about trusts for minors, life insurance trusts, charitable trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, and other forms of irrevocable trusts designed to suit your needs.
What are charitable trusts?
We help many clients who wish to combine philanthropy with personal financial security and tax benefits by establishing a charitable trust.
A charitable remainder trust (CRT) allows you to designate assets, such as stocks or real estate, as a gift to one or more qualified charities during your lifetime. Because the gift isn’t transferred to the charity until you or your beneficiary dies, you or your family will continue to receive income from those assets throughout your lives.
A charitable lead trust (CLT) allows the charity or charities you designate to receive income from your gift for a period of time. At the end of that term, the asset is transferred to your beneficiaries.
By creating a CRT or a CLT, you can support a charity you care about, and reduce or eliminate income taxes and estate taxes.
Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your estate planning needs.