Often the term “estate planning” brings to mind having a will prepared or establishing a living trust, and it certainly can include those. Estate planning, however, involves much more. It is the process through which an individual’s wealth and assets are transferred to others or charitable intentions are realized. It is the passing of prized family possessions to those who will most appreciate them. It is planning for existing special needs of loved ones, and also making provision for unexpected circumstances which may occur in the future. It is anticipating that someday an individual may no longer be able to make decisions for himself, and planning for that possibility in advance. And perhaps most importantly, through all of these actions, it is laying the groundwork for lasting harmony in family relationships.
Without proper estate planning, estate and probate tax can reduce the wealth available to pass to your loved ones. But the minimization of taxes is only one aspect of a good estate plan. With her considerable skill and experience in the estate planning area, Marcelle Morel can help you identify areas in your own situation which may require special planning in order to effectively accomplish your goals. In addition, it is an estate planning attorney’s job to anticipate and provide for “what ifs” that can arise in life. Careful estate planning can help ensure that your wishes about how your assets are to be used and protected are carried out, both during any period of your incapacity and after you are gone. For many people, an important goal is to simplify the estate administration process for those they will leave behind, and Ms. Morel gives appropriate weight to that goal in advising clients. Estate planning decisions are some of the most personal decisions we will make, and an attorney who will make the effort to listen to your concerns and truly understand your goals and family dynamics is essential.
Our office can assist you with making the important decisions which are part of estate planning. We will then draft the appropriate documents to put those decisions into effect, which could include wills, revocable, irrevocable, or special needs trusts, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, HIPAA releases, deeds, personal property conveyances or assignments, and more.
Who should seek estate planning advice? The wealthy, of course, and the elderly. For those with blended families or second marriages, a lack of well thought out estate planning can have significant unanticipated consequences.
For families with minor children, an appropriate estate plan can be especially important. Your estate plan should address issues regarding the upbringing of your children. If your children are young, you should discuss with your attorney how to provide for the possibility, however remote, of something happening to both you and your spouse. A contingency plan should provide for the person, or “trustee,” you’d like to manage your assets as well as the guardian you’d like to nominate for the upbringing of your children. You should give careful thought to your choice of guardian, ensuring that he or she shares the values you want instilled in your children. The trustee in charge of the finances sometimes is the same person as the guardian, but need not be. In fact, in many situations, you may want to purposely designate different individuals in order to maintain a system of checks and balances. It is important for the designation of the individuals you choose to be made in a legally effective way. Otherwise, the decision as to who will manage your finances and raise your children will be left to a court of law, and those appointed by the court may have burdens and restrictions placed on them by the court.