Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing in this world is certain except death and taxes. While we all know that death is a certainty, remarkably few families have planned for this certainty.
Regardless of your age or level of wealth, every Texan should formulate a plan for what happens to their estate upon their death. Estate planning with an attorney is an easy way to manage what happens with your assets upon your death. A properly executed estate plan can take the pressure off of your loved ones after you die, and it can ensure that your assets do not transfer to the state or to someone you do not want having control of your assets.
What Is An Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a legal strategy that dictates how your property is cared for and passed down at the time of your death. A typical estate plan usually includes:
- Last Will and Testament
- Powers of Attorney
- Medical Directive
- Nomination of Guardianship
- Beneficiary Designations
Having an estate plan provides a guaranty to you and your loved ones that your property will be disposed of in a specific way. Without an estate plan, your property is disposed of in the way that the government believes is best. A proper estate plan can also ease in transition of property from you to your loved ones. Critically, if you have a plan, YOU get to decide who is in charge of your estate after your death, rather than trusting your estate to a stranger appointed by the court.
Do I Need an Estate Plan?
Most likely, YES! People have a misconception that only extremely wealthy or older individuals need an estate plan. However, even if you have very limited assets, you still have an “estate” for which you should devise a strategy. Minimal assets like your house, bank accounts, personal possessions, and cars will still need to be dealt with at the time of your death.
An estate plan provides certainty. A properly executed estate plan directs that your assets go to the entities you choose, rather than someone chosen by the government.
Estate Planning involves a complete plan that begins with an analysis of the assets owned and moves on to contemplate what the objectives are for disposing of the assets upon death. A properly executed estate plan also attempts to minimize the taxes incurred upon death and the subsequent transfer of assets.
The simplest version of estate planning involves an appropriately drafted and executed will. However, our estate planning attorney can help you determine if there are more considerations in devising your assets. For example, you and your estate may benefit from forming a trust, participating in annual gifting programs, or established a family limited partnership. Depending on your needs and the size of your estate, our estate planning attorney can formulate the right plan for you and your family.
Your comprehensive estate plan will take into consideration all possible options in order to ensure an effective transfer of assets and minimize taxes as much as possible. Your plan may include:
- Family Limited Partnership: members of a family establish a business entity to manage all assets owned by the family. An FLP may involve gifting of assets from the business to others, over time, in order to make large tax-free gifts.
- Non-Probate Transfers: a complete estate plan should consider that there are a number of assets held by many Texans that do not pass through probate. Therefore, an estate plan should consider beneficiaries under life insurance policies, retirement plans, and joint tenancy accounts. Because those assets pass to the beneficiary on the account, rather than through a will, a properly executed estate plan must consider those assets.
- Revocable Trust Planning: our estate planning attorney can assist you in determining whether your assets should be disposed of pursuant to traditional estate plan (usually involving a Will), or via a revocable trust.
- Coordination of Your Estate Plan: Ensuring that all aspects of the plan as detailed above is critical. Many of the tools your attorney will use in the estate plan are used for the purpose of minimizing estate taxes, the cohesiveness of your estate plan can have a serious impact on how effective your plan will be.
A comprehensive estate plan not only manages what happens to your assets upon your death, but it also can provide guidance for family and friends, as well as medical professionals, while you are alive. An Estate Plan should include Powers of Attorney for Finances and Healthcare, so that you can designate someone you know and trust to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. An Estate Plan should also include a Living Will (also known as a Directive to Physicians) so that your medical team knows what sorts of life-saving or life sustaining measures to provide you.
Contact Weinman & Associates today to schedule your consultation and begin securing your family’s future.