WHY DO I NEED AN ESTATE PLAN?
A well-thought-out estate plan ensures that your instructions for your medical care, guardianship of minor children, and management and distribution of your assets will be carried out according to your wishes and not left to the State or others to decide.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON'T HAVE AN ESTATE PLAN?
If you don't create your own estate plan, then the state government will decide what happens with your assets. This is called "intestacy," and all of your property will be distributed under the state's own disbursement laws. Those statutes almost never match how you would have divided your assets yourself. Moreover, any person who wants to act as the Administrator of your estate must petition the Probate Court for approval and authorization to manage your estate, and must establish that he/she is the appropriate person to do so.
The Probate Court will likely appoint guardians for your minor children. The Court may appoint a conservator to make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to do so. Without a valid plan, all decisions about your estate, your children, and your health care will have to be approved through the Probate Court system.
WHAT SHOULD I CONSIDER BEFORE I BEGIN?
Who will be the executor of your Will?
Who will be the successor trustee after you if you draft a Trust?
Who should be the Guardian for your minor children?
Who will make financial decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself?
Who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself?
How do you want your end of life medical care handled?
Do you want to make any anatomical gifts at your death?
How you want your estate to be distributed at your death?
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A "WILL" AND A "LIVING TRUST"?
A last will is a written document that states who you wish to be the guardians for your minor children and how you would like your assets distributed at your death. The last will names an executor to facilitate the management of your assets during the probate process.
Trusts are a legal construct that allows you to create a separate legal entity to hold your assets. A trustee is named who manages the assets for the benefit of you an your beneficiaries. Revocable living trusts are created and funded during your lifetime and you often name yourself as trustee to maintain control of the assets until your death or incapacity. A testamentary trust is created after your death by a provision in your will. Trusts are very flexible and there are many different types. The type of trust used is dependent on your specific goals and circumstances.
A Living Trust offers protection should you become incapacitated by allowing your successor trustee to manage your assets without interruption. Please note that even with a Living Trust you should still have a will known as a “pour-over” will. These wills make sure that any assets, which may not be in your Living Trust at the time of your death, “pour-over” into the trust. Your Trust Package will include all of the necessary estate planning documents including a “pour-over will.”
HOW WILL I KNOW WHETHER I NEED A "WILL" OR A "LIVING TRUST"?
Based on your particular circumstances we can assist you with making the right decision. Every person's needs are different, and so our estate plans are customized to make sure you are matched up with the right plan for your needs.
CAN I BE MY OWN TRUSTEE OF MY LIVING TRUST?
Yes. In fact, most people who create Living Trusts act as their own trustee. If you are married, you and your spouse can act as co-trustees. During your life, you will have complete control over all of the assets in your trust. In the event of your incapacity, your hand-picked successor trustee assumes control over your affairs.
IS A LIVING TRUST VALID IN ALL STATES?
Yes, a Living Trust is valid in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia.
ISN'T A LIVING TRUST ONLY FOR THE VERY RICH?
No. A Living Trust can help anyone protect his or her family. Any person with an estate large enough to require probate may derive meaningful benefits from a Living Trust. And even a small estate can benefit from a Living Trust if it contains real property.
WILL A LIVING TRUST SAVE ON ESTATE TAXES?
A living or a testamentary trust may help save on taxes in certain circumstances. The estate and gift tax laws are complex and fluid. Trusts are flexible vehicles that are often used in tax planning. Your individual situation will determine what trust type, if any, will help best preserve your assets.
WILL A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST PROTECT MY ASSETS SHOULD I HAVE TO GO INTO A NURSING HOME?
No. Because you maintain complete control over your assets titled in your Living Trust, those assets are considered available for your use should you have to go into a nursing home. Other options are available, including irrevocable trusts, to help prepare and plan for old age care.
WHAT TYPE OF LIVING TRUST DO WE NEED?
There are a number of different trust types for a married couple; all of which are typified by the result after the first death. The factors which go into determining the correct type of trust are the size of the estate, the tax laws, the underlying ownership of the trust assets and the comfort level the couple has with the degree of control the survivor should have over the trust.
WE ARE NOT MARRIED. CAN WE STILL HAVE A JOINT LIVING TRUST?
You have the option to prepare a Joint Trust along with all of the matching supporting documents for a “Non-Traditional Couple.”
MY SPOUSE IS NOT A U.S. CITIZEN. ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL PROBLEMS?
Yes. A non-citizen surviving spouse can be required to pay substantial estate taxes at the first death if a proper estate plan is not in place. Depending on the size of the estate, it may be necessary to have your Living Trust set up as a “Qualified Domestic Trust” to avoid the payment of any taxes at the first death. We will create the appropriate trust for you based on the information you provide.
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO AFTER I CREATE A LIVING TRUST?
You need to make sure that you title appropriate assets in the name of the trust. Once a trust is created and funded, it will continue on until it is revoked or it is distributed pursuant to its terms. There are no on-going costs or fees to establishing a Living Trust; nor are there any separate accountings or tax returns required during your lifetime. IRS Regulations provide that a revocable living trust uses the tax identification number — your Social Security Number — of the Grantor as its identification number and no separate tax returns should be filed for the trust. Instructions on how to transfer or title assets into the name of the trust will be provided, and we can assist you with this process as applicable.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I WANT TO USE YOUR SERVICES?
Developing an estate plan is a smart and caring act on your part, but we realize that coming to terms with our own mortality can be one of the most difficult steps to take. By visiting our website, you are taking the first step towards gaining control of your affairs, and your loved ones will be very grateful.
We offer traditional, attorney prepared estate planning, and we meet with our clients in-office (with appropriate distancing and safeguards) as well as remotely using very easy-to-use computer video conferencing and delivering documents electronically. We have found that our clients appreciate the ability to promptly create or update their estate planning documents from the convenience of their own homes.
We also are excited to announce that we now offer Express estate plans, which allow you start creating your own self-prepared estate plan online, with an option for an attorney to review your plan, as well as an option for an attorney
to draft and prepare your plan. By completing an easy online interview and entering the data yourself, you can immediately begin building your plan
at your own pace and convenience, while saving money at the same time.