Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning
One of the most disheartening things to experience as an attorney is the transformation that occurs within a family when someone dies and their money and assets are up for grabs. Many families have been torn apart by greed and bitterness. Your efforts now to plan your estate not only give you the final say in what happens to your life’s earnings and property but also help prevent these problems and preserve family unity.
No one likes to contemplate death. It is uncomfortable and unsettling for many. However, for a brief time, we believe it is critical for you to do so. One way or another, your property will need to be passed on. If it is passed on through a thoughtful and artfully crafted estate plan, you can maintain control beyond the grave, make the process easier for your surviving family members, reduce expenses, and preserve assets that may otherwise be lost.
At Carpenter & Associates, we have teams of professionals who specialize in helping you prepare for the future. From the simplest wills to trusts, tax and Medicaid planning strategies to family limited partnerships and complex estate plans, our teams have the experience, knowledge, and compassion needed to help you create a plan that best suits your needs.
If you think you don’t need a will because you don’t have much, consider this: Medical malpractice alone is believed to account for almost 10% of annual deaths nationwide. Another 6% or more result from accidents, and as much as another 10% can be caused by products that lead to cancer deaths. The point being that there is roughly a greater than 1 in 4 chance that you will die from something that may leave your family with a wrongful death claim.
Who will bring that claim for your family?
What will happen to the money that comes from the claim?
These questions can be answered with your estate plan.
So what constitutes an estate plan?
One of the biggest benefits of creating a comprehensive estate plan is that you could leave money directly to your new grandchild. Instead of leaving it to your own children or simply letting your family figure everything out after you pass away, you could create a trust fund or something similar to provide for your grandchild’s future. For example, many grandparents create a trust that covers their grandchild’s eventual college education.
One important thing to remember is that this type of estate planning not only helps your grandchild but also benefits your children. Perhaps they thought that they would have to save up their own money over the next two decades to pay for their child’s education. Providing that gift to your grandchild ensures that they have the money, and it also relieves a lot of pressure from your own children, giving them some level of financial freedom.
Your family becomes more complex
A will is a document that serves several important functions.
- It establishes who should be in charge of administering your estate. This person is known as the Executor. It is wise to name one or two alternative Executors in your will in case the first one dies before you or refuses to act as the Executor when the time comes.
- Your will sets forth which of your family members you intend to inherit from your estate.
- Your will sets forth what property those individuals are to inherit and what happens to items not specifically given to an heir. Lastly, it sets the rules for how your estate will be managed. A properly executed will is the single most important document in any estate plan, regardless of its complexity. At Carpenter & Associates, we are ready to guide you through the process step-by-step.
A trust is a document that can be created and become operative during your life or as a term of your will. Trusts are particularly beneficial when the estate is of higher value or when minor or disabled heirs are anticipated. A properly written and executed Trust can virtually eliminate the need for probate if the rules are followed correctly. That is the somewhat tricky part.
In brief, a Trust essentially creates an entity separate from yourself or your spouse and then names individuals as successor Trustees and beneficiaries. When you pass away, the property held by the Trust remains in the Trust, but your successor Trustees automatically gain the authority to manage that property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. This can include dissolving the Trust and distributing the property to the heirs, selling the property and dividing the proceeds, and whatever other methods you specify when you establish the Trust. The important factor is listing all assets or asset classes and transferring every asset with a title or deed from you and your spouse to the name of the Trust. Yes, this can be complex, but the reward is substantial. Carpenter & Associates are ready to assist you with it.
Powers of Attorney:
Beyond your will or trust, your powers of attorney are probably the next most important things to have in place. There are two documents here, each of which independently sets forth who you want to be in charge of your property when you lose the capacity to manage it yourself and who you want to make medical decisions for you when you aren’t able to do so yourself. These documents must follow certain rules to be effective, but Carpenter & Associates are ready to prepare them for you.
Other documents you may need and should consider include:
Advanced Directives to Physicians;
Funeral Arrangement Instructions;
Do Not Resuscitate Orders;
Remains Disposition Directives; and more.
Please feel free to ask us about these and other options.