Wills dispose of your property and money after you die. Too often, inheritances are ruined because wills were improperly drafted or improperly incorporated into an estate plan. A last will and testament is, to many clients, almost a sacred document, and it must be well prepared. Among the many considerations we address in will drafting are:
Properly capturing a client’s estate plan in clear, binding language;
Clear statements of intent, ensuring heirs are apprised of a client’s wishes;
Dealing with family situations including step-children, prior marriages, and heirs with non-traditional family structures;
Will safekeeping, so that estates are not defeated due to lost wills;
Storage of digital copies of all wills and estate documents in a secure, online “digital vault”;
Ensuring, as much as the law will allow, that the will cannot be later challenged in court;
Ensuring that title to real property passes correctly.
An irrevocable trust is a binding arrangement for controlling your property and finances.
Many – even most – of our loved ones will enter a time, later in their lives, when they are unable to handle their financial affairs and can be easily taken advantage of by outsiders (or even by family members).
A simple will does not protect against financial manipulation. For this reason, well-planned estates will contain an irrevocable trust, which keeps assets secure as clients enter old age.
Irrevocable trusts can also be used to protect clients’ access to long-term care and VA benefits.
A revocable living trust is a private arrangement for managing your estate both during your life and after you pass away. Think of a trust as a little “company,” of which you are the manager, and your property is its assets. Clients use revocable living trusts to, among other things, avoid probate, maintain confidentiality of their financial affairs, and plan an orderly estate. The savings of doing this can be enormous. Here is why:
Probate – the process of proving a will and obtaining court permission to administer an estate – can be simple, if your estate is simple. But it can also be costly and time-consuming. If, for example, you die with many heirs, then these all must be found and served with judicial process in order to probate your will. If you have assets in several states, then a new probate proceeding must usually be started in each state, and costs can run into the thousands. Finally, if any heir were inclined to challenge your will, then the probate process ensures he or she is given an early opportunity to do so.
A revocable living trust is designed to “skip” past probate. It is private, whereas probate is public. It can help avoid the cost and time of all the above eventualities and still more.
MEDICAID ASSET PROTECTION TRUSTS
A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT) is what it sounds like: a trust designed to protect assets from being counted for Medicaid eligibility.
An MATP allows a person to qualify for long-term care benefits, such as nursing home care, when it’s needed. But it also prevents the Medicaid system from selling your home to recover expenditures, after you pass away, depriving your child(ren) of an inheritance.
As long as the trust is created and assets transferred five years before the donor applies for Medicaid long-term care benefits, Medicaid will not penalize the donor for transferring assets, and the trust’s existence will not impact Medicaid eligibility. If you need to fund long-term care prior to the running of the required five-year period, then the trustee of your MAPT steps in. He or she has the power to borrow against your home, and the borrowed money may be used to fund long-term care on terms that you desire.
SPECIAL - NEEDS TRUSTS
A special-needs (or supplemental needs) trust provides for a special needs individual who would otherwise lose Medicaid coverage if given money at his or her disposal.
The ordinary problem is that a person with special needs (let us take the example of a severely autistic adult man) does not have health insurance other than Medicaid. If such a person receives extra money to care for his needs, then he is disqualified for Medicaid, which can lead to tragic results.
By placing money or property in a special-needs trust, planners can pay for, among other things, in-home aides, private hospital suites, spiritual needs, vacations, entertainment, educational aides, independent living centers, and more, all of which could disqualify a recipient for Medicaid he had received the money directly.
FINANCIAL & HEALTHCARE
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
Many of us – even most of us – will enter a time late in life when we cannot properly make or communicate decisions regarding our finances or health care.
Proper estate planning requires designating an individual to make those decisions on our behalf and giving guidance as to our preferences.
BUSINESS SUCCESSION PLANNING
If most small business owners died today, their businesses would be in a state of chaos, with regrettable results for their estate’s net worth.
Proper business succession planning is crucial and will usually include buy-sell agreements backed by life insurance, restructuring of LLC agreements, and appointment of an estate business manager, with adequate instructions to wind up and/or pass on business affairs.
ASSET PROTECTION PLANNING
Too often, good estate plans are destroyed when assets are not titled properly.
Insurance policies with no named beneficiaries can be hollowed out by estate debt.
Retirement accounts payable on death to trustees can cause a nasty tax bite. Jointly held bank accounts can be “inherited” by a child that the parents never intended to leave all the money to.
An adept estate-planning attorney will help clients protect specific assets within their estate plan.