Estate planning is not a "one size fits all". Elder law and estate planning is all we do. We start by providing our clients factual information and dispelling myths so they can make better informed decisions based on their own personal circumstances. Estate planning is for everyone, not just seniors and retirees.
Your last will and testament is just one part of a comprehensive estate plan. If a person dies without a Will they are said to have died "intestate" and state laws will determine how and to whom the person's assets will be distributed. Some things you should know about wills:
will has no legal authority until after death. So, a will does not help manage a person's affairs when they are incapacitated, whether by illness or injury.
Trusts come in many "variations," they can be simple or complex, and serve various legal, personal, investment or tax planning purposes. At the most basic level, a trust is a legal entity with at least three parties involved:
The trust-maker, the trustee (trust manager), and the trust beneficiary, oftentimes, all three parties are represented by one person or a married couple. In the case of a revocable living rust, for example, a person may create a trust (the trust-maker) and name themselves the current trustees (trust managers) who manage the trust assets for their own benefit (trust beneficiary). Depending on the situation, there may be many advantages to establishing a trust, including avoiding probate court. In most cases, assets owned in a revocable living trust will pass to the trust beneficiaries (or heirs) immediately upon the death of the trust- maker(s) with no probate required.
Certain trusts also may result in tax advantages both for the trust maker and the beneficiary. Or, they may be used to protect property from creditors, such as the nursing home, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the trust-maker(s) and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the trust-maker dies or becomes incapacitated.
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