Planning for you and your family’s future is one of the most important reasons to hire an estate planning attorney. Without estate planning documents, your life’s work is divided according to a scheme created by legislators in your state. Depending on the current state of the law, it may even be subject to a tax before it can be distributed to your family.
Rather than leaving your family with the myriad of regulations and filings required by your local court, I will work with you to create a comprehensive estate plan, so you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your estate is protected and your family is cared for.
Elements of an Effective Estate Plan
Everyone’s situation is unique, but an estate plan typically includes the following important documents:
- Last Will and Testament. Your will names an executor of your estate and outlines the distribution of your assets that do not already have named beneficiary designations.
- Power of attorney. If you were to become ill or injured and unable to speak for yourself, power of attorney gives the person of your choice the legal authority to manage your affairs. This includes tasks such as paying bills, depositing checks, and filing taxes.
- Healthcare proxy. A healthcare proxy gives the person of your choice the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. The person will follow your previously outlined wishes regarding resuscitation or other lifesaving procedures but use their own judgment to resolve any additional concerns that must be addressed.
A trust agreement isn’t necessary for every circumstance but is often used as a tool to avoid the time-consuming probate process, minimize tax liability, and protect assets from creditors. It is best thought of as a supplement to your will.
Additional Factors to Consider
Once you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to think about your specific estate planning needs. This might include:
- Caring for minor children. If you’re a parent, who do you want to care for your children in the event of your death? What resources would this person need to be effective in their new role as a guardian?
- Providing for family members with special needs. If you have a spouse, child, grandchild, or other loved one with a physical or mental disability, simply gifting money outright can jeopardize their claim to valuable government benefits. I can help you create a trust that will provide for your special needs loved one in the most effective way.
- Planning for the future of your business. If you own a small business, we’ll discuss what steps should be taken to ensure the company continues to thrive and that its resources help your loved ones maintain their desired standard of living.
- Giving back. Many of my clients are passionate about helping others. If you’re interested in supporting a charitable cause as part of your legacy, we can discuss how the various options will affect your overall tax liability.
Estate Planning Is an Ongoing Process
Estate planning isn’t a “once and done” type of task. As your finances and personal circumstances change, your plan will need to be updated to ensure its continued effectiveness. You should schedule a review of your plan after experiencing any of the following:
- Significant increase or decrease in income
- Changes in your relationships with your beneficiaries or the people named in your power of attorney documents
- Birth or adoption of a child or grandchild
- A family member suffering a disabling injury or needing to enter a nursing home
- Purchasing property outside your primary state of residence
Even when your general circumstances remain the same, a review should be scheduled every three to five years to see if there have been any recent legal changes that could make your plan less effective or result in an unnecessary tax burden.
Get the Help You Need
Failing to create an estate plan puts your loved ones—and everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve—at risk. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through this process alone. Whether you’re a single parent with young children at home or a successful business owner interested in supporting your favorite non-profit organizations, I can ensure your estate plan will make your wishes known. I am licensed to practice law in Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
Contact me today to schedule a complimentary Legal Strategy Session. I am available to clients for in-person Legal Strategy Sessions from both my Edina, Minnesota and Brooklyn, New York offices. However, if you prefer, we can also meet virtually.