professional man writing on a paper on a table estate planning

When people hear the phrase “estate planning,” they think of wills and they think of older individuals. Yes, wills are a part of estate planning and, yes, older people should absolutely have an estate plan in place. However, estate planning is important for everyone and addresses so much more than wills. The experienced estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. have a thorough understanding of comprehensive estate plans that will address all of your specific needs. Let our attorneys help ensure that you and your family’s futures are protected with a comprehensive estate plan.

What Can Be Accomplished by an Estate Plan

Plan for incapacitation. Facing the prospects that you may one day be incapacitated and unable to express your wishes for the care you want to receive and how you want your finances handled is unfathomable. It is, however, something that everyone should consider and plan for in order to ensure that your wishes are carried out, even when you cannot communicate them. Estate planning tools such as a living will and a durable power of attorney are important to put in place as soon as possible.

A living will is a legal document that states the type of medical care you want and your end of life care decisions should you become incapacitated. This is especially important to put in place if you are older or have a serious medical condition. Should your family be put in the position of needing to make end of life decisions for you, a living will may give them the comfort of knowing they are following what you would want. This can provide much needed reassurance during a difficult time.

A durable power of attorney allows you to select someone as principal who will act in your place should you become incapacitated. You may grant the principal broad powers under a general power of attorney. This will allow the principal to exercise all the legal rights and authority that you have. You may also elect to have a limited power of attorney which would grant the principal limited authority  to make financial decisions, or, more narrowly, signing checks or managing a specific financial account. You may also grant the principal the power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Provide for your children. A well drafted estate plan can put a wide variety of legal instruments in place to ensure your family has help dealing with matters after you die. Losing a loved one is emotional and can put a level of strain on a family that is difficult. You can help your family by easing those burdens during this overwhelmingly emotional time. With an estate plan, you can provide for counseling services and other resources to be available for your spouse to help your spouse and family handle financial and legal matters that may have been your responsibility. You can also set up financial help for your family after you pass.

Additionally, you can plan for the possibility of both you and your spouse passing away at the same time. An estate plan will allow you to select a person to manage the assets your minor, and in some situations disabled adult, children may inherit. You may also select a guardian for their care. It may even be a good idea to have different people selected for these two important roles. You could have someone focused on your children’s financial well being and someone else focused on their upbringing.

Avoid probate. While a will is an often used estate planning document and can serve many important purposes, it also goes through the expensive and lengthy probate process. Consult an estate planning attorney about your options for distributing your assets after you pass away. There are many other estate planning instruments and methods that may help you avoid the probate process. For example, jointly held property with right of survivorship will pass directly to the surviving owner upon the death of the co-owner. You also may be able to add a “payable on death” designation for bank accounts and other financial holdings. Upon your death, your beneficiary can go directly to the financial institution and access the money.

Establishing a living trust is also a great option to consider in the estate planning process.

The main purpose is to serve as platforms to control the disposition of property after death.  Another important purpose is that assets in the trusts will not be subject to probate administration.  However, any property which not transferred to your revocable trusts and which is probate property will pass under your Will and will be subject to probate.  A third purpose is that trusts afford you greater privacy since the terms of your estate plan are contained in your trust rather than in your Will.  Also, another purpose is that you have will have named a successor trustee in the trust documents who will be able to manage your financial affairs in the event either you become incapacitated.  This may avoid a guardian or conservatorship proceeding at the courthouse, and it could save you and your family considerable time and money.

Support causes you hold dear. If you know of an organization that champions a cause you believe in, a charitable bequest is a great way to show your support for its continued success.  You can transfer the gift in your will or through a trust. Giving options include a percentage of your estate, a specific asset or amount of money, or even your retirement assets. You may designate a charity as the beneficiary of all or a portion of your retirement account. Besides supporting an important cause and leaving behind a legacy to be proud of, a charitable bequest will also reduce estate tax liability and the taxes incurred by your family after you pass.

Estate Planning Attorneys Working in the Best Interests of You and Your Family

A well-drafted estate plan has so many important benefits for you and your family. Plan for a future you want for you and your family today. Contact the trusted estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey A. Herzog, P.A. Our attorneys provide compassionate client support to ensure we create the best estate plan for you and your loved ones.