Estate Planning Overview

An effective estate plan addresses fears by providing a sense of security and comfort about the future. Estate planning declares a person’s testamentary wishes, appoints guardians for minor children and dependents, enables others to provide personal care in the event of an incapacity, attempts to minimize or eliminate federal estate taxes, and addresses the specific needs and well-being of those to whom estate assets will be given.

Many state and federal tax regulations impact estate planning, but a carefully crafted estate plan can reduce the tax burden on an estate and survivors. Both state and federal rules and regulations are extremely complex, and the advice of an estate planning attorney is highly recommended in order to maximize tax savings, particularly if an estate is likely to be substantial.

Creating an estate plan can ease these common concerns:

  1. What will happen to my home and assets if I become incapacitated?
  2. Is my estate large enough to require estate planning?
  3. Who will look after my minor children or my disabled adult child?
  4. If my spouse or I need nursing home care, will we qualify for Medicaid? Will we have to sell everything for our care and then be impoverished?
  5. Do my current documents name backups in case something happens to the people I named to take care of my affairs?
  6. What if my spouse/partner and I are in a joint accident?
  7. Who will make medical decisions for me if I can’t? What if my spouse/partner and my children disagree on my treatment?
  8. What are my rights as a second spouse versus my step-children?
  9. What are the legal, financial and medical consequences of remarrying? Is a prenuptial agreement necessary?
  10. How can I keep a particular child (or in-law) from causing problems?

Types of estate planning

A will is a legal document specifying how a person’s property and assets will be administered and distributed after death. A will can appoint a guardian of assets, can leave funds to a church, a charity, a community foundation or a private foundation, and can appoint a personal representative who will file your final income tax return and oversee the administration of the estate. Without a will, state law determines how property will be distributed and who will serve as personal representative. Properly created, a will may help minimize or eliminate federal estate taxes.