Protect Your Assets and Maintain Control of Your Healthcare and Financial Decision-Making with a Basic Estate Plan
Attorney Jeffrey B. Bock will counsel and guide you in preparing and implementing a comprehensive estate plan. All too often, clients do not know what their options are and do not know how to develop plans that meet their personal goals and family needs.
Most “one-size-fits-all” estate plans do not work because they are not drafted to fit any person’s or family’s situation. With these plans, all many people do is fill in blanks using legal software, which is not estate planning. Unfortunately, many people feel that is adequate since they believe that all they need is a simple will.
However, a simple will does not take into account important variables. For example, both Texas and Florida have restrictions on the inheritance of homesteads. These restrictions are vastly different from state to state. Some of your properties may be community property, and the unique ownership characteristics of community property may thwart your intentions unless you engage in proper estate planning with an experienced attorney.
Preparing an estate plan requires you to answer some critical questions. But, the process does not have to be difficult or complicated. In fact, for many people, a basic estate plan will suffice. If you are ready to put a plan in place, Jeff will explain your options and help you choose the estate planning tools that make the most sense for your personal and family circumstances.
What are Common Estate Planning Tools?
In most cases, an estate plan will need to address at least three key issues:
- Distribution of your property at death
- Responsibility for administering your estate
- Healthcare and financial decision-making in the event of incapacity.
There are estate planning tools designed to address each of these issues, and in most cases, an estate plan will minimally include:
- Revocable trust (or “living trust”) – Many people do not want the courts involved in their life and choose to have a revocable trust to avoid court involvement during disability and death. A revocable trust is primarily a tool you can use to minimize or even eliminate court and government involvement in your affairs. For a revocable trust to work, it needs to be correctly implemented and should be designed, drafted and implemented by an estate planning attorney. Many people use beneficiary designations to avoid probate but beneficiary designations are not effective during periods of disability, and they do nothing to protect your family after you pass away. Using beneficiary designations as an estate plan may thwart your intentions. For example if designate your children as beneficiaries of your life insurance or pension plans, they may have a small fortune to with what they please at age 18.
- Will – A will designates your personal representative and contains your instructions on how you want your property to pass at your death. People frequently have trust provisions in their will giving a trusted person instructions on distributing their property, which is called a testamentary trust; and, unlike a revocable trust, there will be court involvement in your family’s life if you choose this option.
- Guardianship Designations – If you have children that are minors, a guardianship designation allows you to legally give the people you designate as guardians the legal right to raise your children and manage their properties (or inheritance).
- Beneficiary Designations – You can designate who will receive your assets in the event of your death, such as your children, or in the case of minors, a trust.
- Financial power of attorney – A financial power of attorney appoints someone to pay your bills and managing your finances should you become incapacitated during your lifetime due to an illness or injury.
- Healthcare power of attorney, healthcare directive or living will – These and other healthcare planning documents state your wishes and appoint a healthcare surrogate to make decisions for you in the event of incapacity.
- Retirement Trust– A retirement trust is used to protect your retirement savings such as those from your IRA and 401(k) from your family’s creditors and allows you to designate the terms and conditions on how your family will receive your retirement savings.
- Special Needs Trust– A special needs trust is used to protect and plan for your disabled children without endangering their eligibility for governmental benefits.
While these are all standard planning tools, it is important to emphasize that there is no such thing as a “standard estate plan.” Your needs and circumstances are unique; and, even if you only have basic estate planning needs, it is still critically important to prepare a plan that reflects your wishes and complies with the laws of your state.
Contact Us to Discuss Your Basic Estate Plan
To find out if a basic estate plan is right for you, please call 281-962-8529 in Texas or 561-392-8788 in Florida or request an initial confidential consultation online. During your initial consultation, you will meet with Jeff personally to discuss your needs and determine whether a basic estate plan is sufficient. If additional services are necessary, Jeff will explain what is needed so that you can make informed decisions and build a plan that adequately reflects your current circumstances and your long-term objectives.