Estate planning involves more than naming your heirs and crunching a few financial numbers. Estate planning involves a comprehensive review of your entire estate. This review includes addressing who will raise your children in the event of your death, creating a trust for heirs and learning about estate tax laws and how they apply to the management and disposal of your assets. Additionally, estate planning services also include executing a financial power of attorney to ensure that in the event you are incapacitated and not able to do so yourself, the person you appoint will pay your bills on time, and healthcare power of attorney dictates who makes medical decisions on your behalf.
Jeffrey B. Bock has extensive experience working with clients and conducts thorough estate planning reviews. He works with a variety of families that are interested in estate planning, including parents with young children, families with adult children, families that set up trusts to provide for special needs children with disabilities, community property planning for spouses and much more.
What is Estate Planning for Families?
- Will – A will allows you to designate a personal representative for your estate who is in charge of distributing your assets, as well as designating guardians for your children that are under the age of 18.
- Trust– A trust is a legal document you establish, where you give another person the legal right to handle your assets in case you become disabled and if you pass away. A trust is a type of estate transfer, and there are two different types: living and testamentary.
- Living Trust – Many people select a living revocable trust to help avoid court involvement in their life during disability and their family’s life after they pass away. A living trust is created during your lifetime, and you place your assets in the trust. If you become disabled, your designated Trustee can manage your affairs without court involvement. When you pass away, the trustee then transfers your assets to your designated beneficiaries. A living trust is also effective when you are alive and gives specific instructions on how you want you and your family’s affairs handled
- Testamentary Trust – In a testamentary trust, you can also give instructions to a trusted person on how you want to distribute your estate. At death the major difference between a testamentary trust and a living trust is that a testamentary trust does not avoid probate. A testamentary trust is included as a portion of the will, detailing the distribution of your estate and placing those assets in a trust.
- Financial Power of Attorney– If you are incapacitated, who will be in charge of paying your bills and making financial decisions? You do not want to risk creditors showing up at your doorstep, having your home go into foreclosure and cause your family undue stress. You and your spouse need a financial power of attorney giving you each control to make financial decisions in the event something happens, in addition to naming a second person, if both you and your spouse are incapacitated. You can also use a financial power of attorney in conjunction with a living trust to give your Trustee specific instructions on how to take care of you and your family.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive or Living Will – In the event that you cannot make your medical decisions, it is essential that you give this decision making power to your spouse or someone that you trust, especially if it comes to carrying out your wishes about resuscitation.
- Protecting Minor Children– Protecting minor children by naming guardians and setting up a trust is crucial. As parents, you do not want a judge deciding who will continue raising your children, nor do you want a court-appointed guardian in charge of allocating your assets for your children. By having proper estate planning documents in place, you can help ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of your death.
- Blended Family Planning– If you have a blended family, estate planning can be more complicated, which is why having an attorney plan your estate is necessary. A blended family is a family that has children from different spouses or previous marriages. Not having proper family estate planning documents poses several challenges, including the potential for some children to be disinherited, delays in your children’s inheritance if your spouse survives, asset protection from any former spouses and disputes over the division of responsibility and authority.
- Special Needs Planning– If you have a child that is disabled or has special needs, estate planning is especially critical. Having a special needs trust for your child helps to ensure that your child or someone you trust will have access to funds, should you or your spouse unexpectedly pass away.
- LGBT Family Planning – Although gay marriage is now recognized, many gay people still have families that are hostile to their spouses and many employers, institutions are reluctant to recognize gay spouse and partners. Many states and judges while recognizing gay marriage resist in giving gay spouses full rights. Planning your estate is essential to ensure that your spouse and partner are protected.
- Community Property– The law sees property as separate or joint or community and many people mistakenly assume that after they marry all of their property automatically becomes joint or community property that will automatically pass to their spouse. If you have children from a previous marriage, you may find that you want to designate which property goes to your children and which property goes to your surviving spouse." Not all states recognize community property and laws vary from state to state. In community property states ownership of property is not dependent on whose name appears in the title as the owner of the property and you may not be free to leave your entire estate to whom you designate.
- Foreign Trust Rule – If you are a U.S. taxpayer but have international ties and wish to set up a foreign trust account for your children or heirs, detailed estate planning is advisable. Improperly funded trusts can make this inheritance amount taxable. Expert legal advice is required to help establish trusts in the correct state that can offer more tax benefits, as U.S. estate tax and home country law provisions can significantly affect your estate planning.
Contact Us to Learn More About Family Estate Planning
To learn more about how estate planning can help your family, spouse and children, please call 281-962-8529 in Texas or 561-392-8788 in Florida or request an initial confidential consultation online. In your initial consultation with Jeff, he will discuss your estate planning needs, helping you determine the best type of estate planning strategy to meet your current and long-term goals. Jeff’s knowledge and expertise about basic and advanced estate planning requirements are unparalleled, and he can help answer any questions you have while helping you make informed decisions.