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It’s 2024! Are your estate plans in order?

Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is just for extremely wealthy families, but that’s a myth! Estate planning is the process of preparing for your future death and incapacity, and all families should consult with an attorney to develop a plan that works best for their circumstances. Here are the top ten estate planning goals our clients come to us with:

 

  1. Avoiding or Simplifying the Probate Process

The probate process can be expensive and time-consuming. With proper planning, however, it is possible to streamline or avoid the probate process altogether.

 

  1. Planning for Incapacity and Selecting Your Fiduciaries

If you don’t execute the proper documents while you have capacity, your family will have to navigate the court system to obtain legal guardianship of you and your affairs should you lose capacity. This takes months, costs thousands of dollars, and results in a judge deciding who should make your decisions on your behalf.

 

  1. Protecting Minor Children

You’re the best person to decide who should look after your minor children (and their inheritance) should something terrible happen. Without a plan in place, the courts will make this choice and your children could end up in foster care in the interim.

 

  1. Distributing your Assets on your Terms

Most people want to decide who the beneficiaries of their assets will be and how they will inherit (e.g., a structured trust or an outright distribution). Without an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the State’s default inheritance rules, which may vary dramatically from your preferences.

 

  1. Minimizing Taxes and Other Expenses

Regardless of your level of wealth, there are various taxes and administrative expenses that may be incurred because of your death. Many of these expenses are avoidable with proper planning.

 

  1. Protecting Heirs from Creditors/Spouses 

Keep your hard-earned legacy in your family. Easy-to-implement estate planning tools can ensure your family’s inheritance will be protected from judgment creditors or spouses in the event of a divorce.

 

  1. Protecting Special Needs Family Members

Without proper planning, an inheritance can disqualify an individual with special needs from receiving state and federal aid. However, the use of a Special Needs Trust can prevent this disqualification while still providing support.

 

  1. Blended Families

Many modern families are blended, which can complicate asset distribution after death. Children from different relationships may not be treated fairly by the surviving partner or under the State’s default inheritance rules. But you can strike the right balance for your family with an estate plan, controlling the ultimate disposition of your assets.

 

  1. Financial Security for Surviving Family

Without the income replacement provided by life insurance and/or disability insurance, coupled with a plan for its distribution, your family may be unable to maintain its current standard of living.

 

  1. Continuation of Family Business

Many family businesses do not survive past the first generation. With a plan in place, you can help ensure that your family business will thrive and continue to provide income for future generations.

 

Regardless of net worth, all families need to consult with an estate planning attorney about the goals they have for their legacy. Our attorneys have the experience and expertise to custom-tailor a comprehensive plan for your family – don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation with us today.

 

Authored by:

Jessica Walsh, Associate, Liff, Walsh & Simmons

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Jessica Walsh

Ms. Walsh is an Associate Attorney and member of the firm’s estate planning and administration practice group. Ms. Walsh assists in the firm’s diverse practice areas in matters involving estate planning, estate administration, and end-of-life issues.

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