Estate planning invokes images of the ultra-wealthy; however, it is important for everyone. Estate planning is the process of ensuring that your assets are passed on to your heirs in the event of your death in a fashion that reflects your desires.
We work with our clients to ensure that their estate planning documents up to date and that they reflect their current situation.
We work with our clients to review their overall situation to help them articulate their desires in terms of who should benefit from their assets, how much each heir should receive and what assets should go to whom.
If there is a situation like a second marriage or an interest in a business that one spouse wants to keep within their family, we take these types of situations into account in delivering our estate planning advice.
It’s important that beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, like IRAs and 401(k)s, as well as life insurance policies are current and that they reflect who should receive those assets upon your death. These assets are passed on based on these beneficiary designations that override any direction contained in a will or elsewhere. We review these beneficiary designations periodically with our clients to ensure they are current and up to date.
A will is a basic estate planning document that expresses your wishes for the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children a will can also be used to designate who will care for them in the event of your death.
A will designates how and to whom you various assets will be distributed. Those who die with no will or an outdated one risk having their estate tied up in probate.
A trust is a legal format in which your assets can be held to facilitate the distribution of those assets upon your death. A trust can be used to facilitate the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries of the trust, overseen by the trustee. A life insurance trust can be a good vehicle to hold a policy in some instances.
Once a trust is established, it's important to ensure that the trust is funded with the assets designated for the trust. We help out clients make sure this is done in a timely fashion once the trust is established.
Life insurance can play a key role in your estate planning. Life insurance can provide a death benefit for a spouse, family members and others. For business owners it can be used to fund a buy-sell arrangement with other owners, or to provide liquidity to heirs not involved in the business.
Life insurance is a good way to build an estate as you accumulate assets. If can help cover estate taxes at the federal or state level. Life insurance can also act as an estate equalizer among your heirs in the case that certain assets are earmarked for some heirs but not others.
Review and update
Estate planning is not a one-time thing. We work with our clients to review their estate plans periodically and to make updates when needed. Updates could be triggered by changes in their lives such as getting married, getting divorced, losing a spouse, the birth or adoption of a child or a host of other factors. We work with our clients to ensure that their estate planning is in step with their life situation.
Our commitment to ensuring that our clients estate planning is done by a qualified professional includes a stipend that we offer to our clients. That stipend can be used towards the services of our own internal estate planning attorney, with one of the external estate planning attorneys we recommend or applied to the fees of our client’s own preferred estate planning attorney.