Often people will ask me if their assets are large enough to justify an estate plan. The simple answer is that if your life never changes, if you never get ill, if your assets never change and if your children’s lives are worry free, you might not need an estate plan. Otherwise, if your life is like the rest of ours, you will benefit form an estate plan. It might not be a complicated plan, but the chances are that even a simple estate plan will provide you great benefits.
What will take place during the examination phase of your estate plan? Estate planning is a dynamic, changing process to help you prepare for illness and death. It involves an examination of your property, an analysis of what you would want to happen to your assets if you become ill or your should die, a review of the tax ramifications and asset protection options available for your assets and an examination of how to best benefit the people or charities that you wish to make your heirs.
Estate planning is dynamic, because your assets and the laws and tax rules that will affect your assets continually change. A plan that might have fit years ago might have become inefficient because of changes made by congress or because your assets or family have changed. Examples of typical changes are that you have now retired or that your children are now married.
Beyond the apparently straightforward question of to whom do you wish to leave your assets when you die, a good estate plan explores other questions, such as:
- If you ever become unable to manage your assets, who do you trust to serve as your Agent and what, if any, limitations and oversight do you wish to place on the Agent?
- Are there tax advantages to move assets out of your name during your lifetime, and do these advantages outweigh the risks?
- Who should be given the power to manage your health care during your lifetime if you are unable to make medical decisions?
- Who should care for your minor child if you have died or, if you have not died but are unable to make medical decisions for your child, who should have that short-term power?
Without an estate plan you may miss out on fairly straightforward and easily implemented options available to Bucks County residents. For example:
- Bucks County residents can easily form protective trusts in their wills for their children. After your death these trusts are formed and hold your children’s inheritances, but because the assets went into the trust and not to the child, your child’s spouse cannot claim a share if there is a divorce and your child’s creditors cannot access the funds.
- If you become ill and have difficulty with maintaining your assets, you can form a Bucks County Revocable Living Trust and name your child as co-trustee. This way you can maintain control over your Bucks County assets, but your child can easily help you with paying bills and balancing accounts.
- If you are in a second marriage, your funeral can cause problems between your second spouse and the children you may have from the first marriage. Typical disputes are over who can attend the funeral, where the reception is located and where you will buried upon death. Bucks County residents are able to state in their wills the person in charge of the funeral and a great deal of family strife can be avoided by naming the right person or people to make these arrangements.
An estate plan may change a great deal over time, but having a plan and keeping it current is always a good idea.
Wills, Trusts and Estates, It’s All We Do!