Estate planning covers a wide range of subjects that all come under the heading of “Estate Planning.” Estate planning generally, is simply ordering your estate so that it can be handled in your incapacity or upon your death by people that you trust for the benefit of yourself and your loved ones who come after you. Your estate plan is your parting gift to the people you love, and a well-ordered estate plan is a precious gift indeed.
Most people think of Wills when they think of estate planning, but estate planning is much more than simply doing a Will. A Will only relates to property that is “subject to probate.” Most people have property that is subject to probate, but not all property that you own is subject to probate. For instance, property in joint tenancy and property that has beneficiary designations who survive you are property that is not subject to probate. We put these devices into the category of miscellaneous estate planning tools.
Most estate planning is driven primarily by a Will or by a Trust. Trusts are very useful estate planning tools that give you maximum control and provide maximum benefits for your estate, making estate administration after you pass much simpler than estate planning that is driven primarily by a Will. Trusts can be created in Wills, or Trusts can be created as stand-alone documents. Learning about the benefits and uses of Trusts is a key component of estate planning.
If you are fortunate enough to have a large estate, Trusts are used for estate tax planning, along with other devices used to avoid or minimize the payment of estate taxes. Estate taxes become an issue at the threshold of four million dollars (State of Illinois), while the federal estate tax threshold is over five million dollars, currently. Of course, Congress is always talking about eliminating or changing estate taxes, so estate tax planning is always subject to change.
Estate planning should always involve consideration of the possibility that you might become incapacitated during your life. We plan for incapacitation during life through the use of a Property Power of Attorney and a Health Care Power of Attorney. Powers of Attorney allow you to name an agent (typically a spouse, close relative or close friend) who you trust to step in and manage your personal affairs and make your personal decisions if you ever become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions or manage your affairs yourself. Powers of Attorney ensure that the person(s) that you chose are the person(s) who will manage your affairs and make your decisions if you are unable to manage them and make them on your own.
Health Care Directives are another component of estate planning that should not be neglected. We never know what lies in wait for us in our future. We hope for the best but we need to plan for the worst. Illness, injury or sickness can strike anyone of us at any time. Having Health Care Directives in place to guide the process if and when we are taken down by injury, illness or disease, is an important component of an estate plan.
The final, lasting gift you can leave for your loved ones is an estate that is well planned and organized for them to take over. Do not leave your estate to be determined by happenstance and the laws of intestacy. Estate planning and administration considerations apply to everyone, but especially to people with children or want to plan their legacies.
Determine for yourself who will handle your estate, who will raise your children, who will receive your assets and how they will be managed. If you want to make the administration of your estate less costly and less time consuming, and if you want to protect the assets you leave to your loved ones, a Living Trust can be used for that purpose. If you have a sizable estate, you can avoid or minimize state inheritance tax and federal estate tax with Trusts. Put in place mechanisms for the management of your estate while you are living, but unable to manage your own affairs, with Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property.
Without gathering basic information and knowing your desires for your estate planning, we cannot quote fees to you upfront. We would be guessing about what you need and want. So, we offer an initial consultation at half our regular hourly rate in order to gather the basic information from the Worksheet and meeting with you to determine what you desire to do for your estate planning, and we can tell you then what the cost will be based on that information and your direction. If you decide not to follow through with your estate planning, for whatever reason, you can keep the Worksheet and the advice and guidance we have given you. If you decide to go forward with your estate planning, we will credit the initial meeting fee against the flat fee for the type of estate planning that you choose.
In addition to estate planning, we handle various forms of Estate Administration:
- Probate Administration – Representing executors and administrators through the probate process and other interested parties in the probate process and related estate litigation (to challenge a will, to remove an executor or administrator, for collection of debts, etc.);
- Trust Administration – representing trustees in the administration of trusts and other interested parties;
- Alternative forms of Estate Administration – Representing families and individuals in alternative, non-probate forms of administration of estates (such as small estate administration, administration with bonds in lieu of probate and the like).
- Guardianship – Representing individuals in the establishment of guardianship for minors and disabled adults.
- Adoption – Representing individuals and couples in related and unrelated adoptions.
Estate Planning Resources
Follow the link for educational and informative articles on Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorneys and many different nuances, principles, issues and considerations related estate planning in our Estate Planning Blog. We believe that the best client is an educated client!
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