What You Need To Know About Estate Planning
Do you consider estate planning a must-have in your life? Do you agree that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”
Many of us agree that a “stitch in time saves nine,” and yet we end up “talking the talk without walking the walk.” Why is that?
You probably love your family and want the absolute best for them. The question becomes, is your love strong enough to inspire you to take action now? To face the cold, hard truth that one day, you will pass from this Earth? To take steps to protect your family with the best possible estate plan?
The biggest challenge for most of us? Facing our mortality. Coming to terms with the reality that there will come a time when we pass on from this world. Sadly, it often takes many decades of maturity, including witnessing other loved ones passing away for that fact to get through our thick skulls.
Let’s pray and assume that you live to a ripe old age. Let’s pretend that, ignoring statistics, you don’t succumb to tragedy that takes you from this world too soon. Let’s imagine you come to terms with your mortality before any unexpected catastrophe such that you take the necessary actions to plan your estate and protect your family legacy.
Otherwise, passing on unexpectedly without an estate plan leads to absolute devastation for your family. I speak from experience. My father unexpectedly left us at the youthful age of 64.
Thankfully, he had a basic estate plan set up. Sadly, he never let me update his 24 year old estate planning documents. The result? Hundreds of hours of time-consuming effort from me and my immediate family, and hundreds of thousands of dollars vanished. Monies that would have gone to my mother to ensure she enjoys the quality of life she deserves.
Eventually, we all come to terms with our mortality. For me, that day came as a complete surprise when the horrific call came in at 2:30am. It was my mother sobbing with the news that my father unexpectedly passed from this world.
For me, the experience has strengthened my resolve to help families like yours. To do all I can to prevent the countless challenges that come to you and your family without the best estate plan in place.
When the day comes that you recognize your mortality, you will know that you absolutely need to do whatever it takes to give your family the loving protection they deserve. You will know in your heart that it is an absolute must to show your love to your family, including doing what it takes to help them in the absolutely best way after your passing.
This is where estate planning comes into play. Not just a luxury for the mega wealthy, estate planning is for everyone with a family, regardless of how much accumulated assets you may have to pass on.
In today's world, most of us have comprehensive and complicated estates. The funny thing is? We don’t even realize it.
Your estate represents a major part of your legacy. It includes your wishes for your family, your physical, tangible assets, your financial and real estate assets, your digital assets (email, social media, and every account you access via computer), and your favorite charitable causes.
When is the time to set up your estate plan?
Like most of us, you’re probably very busy. Yet, you know that life only gets busier as time passes. Sadly, when death comes, we pray we are ready. By being “too busy” to prepare for the eventual reality, we pass on an immense burden to our loved ones.
What’s worse, with a weak or non-existent estate plan, the burden becomes absolutely devastating. Tremendously time-consuming and the financial costs become exorbitant. Trust me, I know from personal experience.
For the rest of this article, I want to share with you the basic components of proper estate planning.
Your Last Will and Testament
This official document is the foundation of your estate planning, ensuring your assets do not go through probate court. Avoiding probate is an absolute must. We discuss more of the reasons why in this article.
Your last will and testament serves legal notice that your wishes are set forth in your Living Trust, the private document that does the heavy lifting of your estate planning.
Your Living Trust
This official document creates the entity that offers the maximum protections under law. It keeps your information confidential and private. Otherwise, your entire estate would become public record through the probate process. It would also become vulnerable to any number of dangers that would result in the estate value diminishing drastically.
Your living trust, also known as an inter vivos revocable trust, will set forth instructions for your family and your assets. For more details, enjoy this additional resource.
Your Power of Attorney - Financial & Health Care
These legal documents allow your estate to be managed properly when you’re unable to do so. Whether you’ve already passed on, become disabled, or are considered mentally incompetent, these documents give your trusted love one the ability to execute on your wishes.
Without these documents, your family and your wishes will be blocked from making decisions on your behalf. The power of attorney documents are the legal method to ensure someone on your behalf follows your wishes. For more in depth explanations, you’ll find this article valuable.
Choosing Your Estate Planning Lawyer
Like with any service, there is a wide spectrum of quality when it comes to the professional providing the service. The question you must ask yourself, do you know, like, and trust the estate planning attorney who will help you? Are you confident that he or she is capable and experienced in creating the best protections afforded by law when it comes to your exact needs?
Choose your estate planning lawyer wisely. By selecting the best expert for you and your family, you will have the greatest sense of peace of mind knowing that every detail has been taken care of. You will sleep better at night knowing that everything has been thought through, and most importantly, that your wishes will be followed.
Be vigilant when it comes to the do-it-yourself estate planning options that exist today. You can find DIY options ranging from free to a few hundred bucks to a few thousand dollars. If you are a practicing attorney with estate planning training, then it may be something to consider to prepare the documents yourself.
Otherwise, the unfortunate reality is that DIY solutions rarely work as intended. Attempting to save a few bucks will likely cost you hours of time now and hundreds of hours of time later. Not to mention the mega financial impact as a huge portion of your financial assets disappears before your loved ones’ eyes.
Trust me when I say, your family is worth getting the process done right. You built a legacy to pass to your loved ones over a lifetime. Please consider doing the absolute best for those you hold most dear. Don’t make a mistake that devastates the future welfare of your family.
Next Steps On Your Journey To Protecting Your Legacy?
Already you’re on the right path. You’re reading this article as you research what you need to know when it comes to estate planning. I strongly suggest you continue your quest to educate yourself. Get as much knowledge as possible on what is involved with estate planning and who you want to entrust with preparing your documents.
For more information, check out the free resources we offer on our free info page. You may also enjoy the additional articles we’ve published to help you understand the process.
When you’re ready to talk about your family’s specifics, let’s schedule your free consultation. It’ll be my absolute pleasure to discuss the specifics for your family’s exact needs. Whether you decide to take action now to set up your estate plan or are simply looking to get more information, take advantage of your free consultation.
Remember, life is precious and shorter than we can imagine. Family is everything. Nothing is more important than ensuring your loved ones have the best protection possible. Show your love by taking the steps necessary now to allow for your wishes for your family to come to fruition later.
Contact me now for your free consultation.
7 Benefits Of Estate Planning: Wills & Power of Attorney - Learn more about why estate planning helps you and your family.
5 Advantages A Living Trust Brings Every Family - Learn the meaning and the advantages that living trust can bring to your family.
Free Estate Planning Resources - enjoy these free resources to help you better understand the Estate Planning process.
5 Advantages A Living Trust Brings Every Family
Do you love your children? Do you want the absolute best for them, their children, and your future descendants? Of course you do! We all do!
What happens to your family, your assets, and your wishes after you’re gone? If you do nothing, your assets are slashed by court fees and creditors. Your family fights over who gets what. Your minor children and pets end up by either whoever claims them in your family or they become custodians of the state.
When you do something about it and set up your estate plan and living trust, you’re most protected. Your wishes are followed by and for your family and your assets are distributed exactly as you want.
Like most Americans, we do NOT like the idea of the government choosing what happens to our personal lives. Especially not with our family or our property. Can you imagine letting the state raise your children? Let’s not even imagine what the state would do to your pets.
What happens when you do set up your living trust? What exactly is a living trust? What are the advantages they bring?
Continue reading to find out!
What’s a Living Trust?
The living trust is a highly popular estate planning tool. Why? Because it’s effective. Surprisingly, only 25% of Americans (including those of us in Cleveland, Ohio) are protected with living trusts as part of their estate planning. Thankfully, it is easy to get your living trust set up. Hire the right estate planning lawyer, tell him what you need, and let him take care of all of the details.
A living trust (also called a revocable living trust) is a legal entity designed to privately hold your assets during your lifetime. Being revocable means that at any point in your life, you may modify or terminate any or all parts of your living trust.
Among the myriad of legal, technical benefits, the living trust entity provides five tremendous advantages.
The Tremendous Advantages of a Living Trust:
1. Avoid Probate, Save Money
Generally, the cost of probating an estate far exceeds the cost to set it up with a proper estate plan. What’s worse, a probated estate means setting your loved ones up for a long, intense struggle with the court, and possibly among themselves.
Probate is a court-supervised procedure of dispersing a departed individual's estate. Depending upon the assets, in addition to the properties and people included, probate often ends as a prolonged and expensive process. Frequently, probate results in delayed asset distributions. By the time inheritances are distributed according to your state’s law, the diminished amount will shock your family. The court will take its fees, will make payments to unsecured creditors, and will distribute the assets in a way that triggers highly taxable events.
Thankfully, you can easily prevent probate! All that’s required is setting up your estate plan with a living trust. The result? Who you choose to manage the process (your appointed trustee) will disperse the assets following your specific instructions. Your estate not only bypasses the probate process, it is promptly transferred to the hands of a trusted loved one or friend as an executor. Someone who will fight to protect your assets from excess taxable liabilities or unjust creditors.
When you have your living trust, you set up your family for maximum success. You ensure distribution to your beneficiaries happens quickly and without unnecessary cost or risk. You also pay far less now than you would later if your estate were probated.
If you have any property in another state, a living trust saves your family tremendously. The property simply transfers to who you designate. Otherwise, your family would have to travel to that state and be subject to the whims of that court, as well as the dictates of your local court.
2. Designate Inheritors
A well-planned living trust lays out the strategy of your choosing when it comes to all of your property and assets. You set up your family to receive their inheritance in the exact way you see best.
Your living trust also gives you the opportunity to instruct exactly what happens to your minor children and pets. Without the instructions of a living trust, both your minor children and pets become subject to a court’s decision. A stranger acts as a judge to interpret your state law with transferring custody of your loved ones.
Do you really want to risk anyone besides you making decisions for your minor children, pets, and assets?
3. Liability Protection, Stop Creditors
A living trust is a legal entity, which gives liability protection similar to that of a nonprofit and for-profit legal entities. This liability protection blocks potential lawsuits against your estate, which is especially helpful if you are in a profession that requires malpractice insurance, where a person can sue for malpractice years after the event.
The liability protection also blocks potential creditors who salivate at the prospect of pouncing on the vulnerable estate. With the legal protection of your living trust, your designated trustee decides what creditor gets what, if anything. Otherwise, a court has no incentive to protect the estate. The court will not think twice in diminishing the estate upon the descendant of the predatory creditor onslaught.
Often at the end of one’s life, medical care becomes necessary. Unfortunately, we live in a society where medical care comes far from cheap. The devastation becomes very real when unjust medical debt collectors swoop in to pick an estate dry.
Living trusts also protect against in-fighting among inheritors. While not pleasant to consider, the reality is that when money is involved, things can get ugly. Why not prevent any possibility of any in-fighting? With a living trust, you ensure objections to your wishes of distribution don’t happen.
4. Privacy Protection
Among the primary advantages of a trust is the avoidance of the probate procedure, which is public record.
A living trust is a private legal document between the participants. It does not become part of the general public record. In short, you ensure your estate remains private. You prevent anyone from snooping into the details of your estate, which can be discovered with a simple web search.
Not having any estate plan, every detail of your estate becomes complete public record. Surprisingly, even if you have a will (or a last will and testament), your entire estate becomes public record, too.
The only way to ensure your private affairs stay private is with the use of the living trust, or other forms of legal trust entities.
5. Emergency Protection, In Case Of Incompetency
Heaven forbid something happens to render you incompetent, disabled, or otherwise unable to make important decisions. If anything tragic were to happen, the person you designate as your beneficiary trustee intervenes to handle your obligations. Otherwise, there would be mountains of red tape to get the same access by going through the bureaucratic procedures of a court.
Hence, you prevent a court-appointed conservatorship for your estate with a living trust.
Now that you better understand what advantages come to you when you have your living trust as part of your estate plan. Are you ready to learn more?
Why not schedule your free consultation right now? Why not get more information to better understand your situation?
Attorney Nick Costaras, an estate planning lawyer, loves protecting families just like yours. With over 8 years of experience. he will draft for you the exact estate plan you need. You will have all of the necessary documents to give you the maximum protection under United States law. You will have the perfect last will and testament, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and more for you and your family’s exact needs.
You worked hard for your family. You deserve to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done what it takes to set them up for success after you’re gone. Once your estate plan is set, you can rest easily knowing that you have successfully protected your family from the very real legal and financial dangers of dying intestate.
Schedule your free consultation now! We look forward to hearing from you.
7 Benefits Of Estate Planning: Wills & Power of Attorney - learn more about why estate planning helps you and your family.
Free Estate Planning Resources - enjoy these free resources to help you better understand the Estate Planning process.
Do you really need a complete Estate Plan? Even Establishing a Power of Attorney?
Is it really necessary to have an estate plan and power of attorney to protect your assets? 100% absolutely, at least, for the vast majority of Americans.
What are the benefits of preparing estate planning documents for you and your family? Why is it necessary for you to hire a legal expert who specializes in Estate Planning?
Keep reading to discover the answers.
Defining “Estate Plan”
What is an estate plan and how does it work exactly?
An Estate Plan is a set of official documents that provides legal protection for a person’s assets and clearly describes how the assets are to be distributed after they’re gone.
The Principal Documents of the Estate Plan
Who needs an Estate Plan?
American law applies to every American. You either fulfill the legal requirements in exchange for full protection, or you leave yourself exposed.
Are you an American who wants to know the benefits of creating an estate plan?
Generally speaking, an estate plan is for everyone. However, there are circumstances where getting an estate plan may not be high on your list of priorities.
A person may not be ready for an estate plan if he or she currently:
Why should I get an Estate Plan?
Ever had a fun experience at the DMV? Imagine putting your family through something similar, only worse, as your estate is being handled.
Most people employ the services of an estate planning attorney simply to avoid the nightmares of probate. You don’t need to understand what probate means to know that you don’t want your estate to end up there.
The bottom line, going through probate means a judge decides how to distribute your estate, and that a huge chunk of your estate disappears in costs, taxes, and fees. It also means your loved ones may have to wait months, even years to receive their inheritance.
Nobody likes losing money, which is why you make changes to stop the leakage when you find out you’re losing money.
There are great tax benefits to be enjoyed when your estate plan is in order and lots of estate planning techniques that can be employed to reduce income and estate taxes.
Most people hire estate planning attorneys after witnessing the resultant mess occasioned by a relative passing on without a proper estate plan. By taking care of your estate, you automatically shield your loved ones from experiencing similar pain.
To Protect your Beneficiaries
People create estate plans for their beneficiaries for two major reasons: (a) to protect their children, and/or (b) to prevent young adult beneficiaries from making bad decisions, experiencing creditor problems, detrimental influences, and messy divorces. Each state in the United States has its own laws for the protection of minors.
Without your Estate Plan in order, if something happens to you and your significant other, custody of your children will be decided by a judge interpreting the laws of your state.
Do you really want to leave the decision on the raising of your precious children to a stranger interpreting laws that were set in stone decades ago?
Assigning a trustee and guardian to your minor beneficiaries is part of your estate planning process. It will prevent costly (emotionally and financially) legal battles, family disagreements, and a myriad of other nightmares.
Are your adult children having difficulties with life and money? Can you entrust them with your assets? If you don’t fully trust your adult children to handle their inheritance appropriately, you can make stipulations and guidelines in your estate to protect them. They will receive their inheritance under your continued guidance as your legacy endures.
To Protect your Assets
People are now hiring estate planning attorneys for asset planning protection, even those with existing estate plans. There are immense tax benefits and liability protections that you can enjoy when the proper entities are set up to hold your assets.
It might be too late to organize a plan to safeguard your assets if you’re already the subject of a pending lawsuit. This is why you need to start by creating a good financial plan which can be added to an all-inclusive estate plan to protect your assets during your lifetime and after your death on behalf of your beneficiaries.
Breaking Down Your Estate Plan
Centuries ago, people only used wills to pass on their estate to their heirs. Today, a will is only one piece of the puzzle. A revocable living trust is the next estate planning mechanism which can be combined with a will to give you full legal protection.
A living trust is not just a way of avoiding probate, it offers special before and after death benefits.
What is a Will?
In its simplest terms, a will, or last will and testament, is a document that allows a person to assign his assets for inheritance after his death. A testator has the power to choose his heirs and determine what they receive.
A will can also be used to name executors that will distribute the testator’s assets in the manner he or she deems fit. In addition, you may use a will to appoint a guardian for your child if the child is a minor.
What is a Revocable Living Trust?
A revocable living trust is a written agreement used to appoint a manager for your property. The fact that it is created in the lifetime of the creator is what makes it a living trust. The revocability gives you the power to dissolve or change it during your lifetime for whatever reason you decide. However, a living trust automatically becomes irrevocable upon the death of the creator.
There are three parties to a trust: the creator, the trustee, and the beneficiaries.
Generally, people appoint themselves as trustees to retain complete control of their assets during their lifetime. Being a trustee gives you the power to deal with your assets as you see fit- invest, sell, and do whatever you wish with your assets.
How does living trust works and its difference from a will?
The two legal instruments are used to pass on inheritance by giving instructions on how you wish your assets to be shared.
A will can be used to declare that all your assets belong to your living trust and must be shared with probate.
Your living trust is a private document that bypasses probate.
In your living trust, you declare exactly how you want your assets are to be distributed.
What happens if I don’t have a will or a living trust?
Without either, you leave no valid and legally binding instructions for your estate. That means a probate judge will interpret your state’s laws to divide up your assets.
Worst case scenario, the probate court gives your assets and estate to your state. Everything you have accumulated over your lifetime would be forfeit to the government.
What are the benefits of a revocable living trust?
Having a living trust means you can relax knowing that your loved ones will be fully protected when you’re gone. It also means your estate will be promptly distributed to your heirs.
You can draft your trust in a way that transfers your assets to your beneficiaries upon your passing, or you can assign them to be portioned over a designated period of time in specific amounts. You can also eliminate or reduce certain federal and state taxes by including certain tax saving clauses in your draft.
Who can be appointed a trustee?
Any adult considered mentally competent can be named a trustee. Most people prefer to name themselves and their spouse as trustees. This allows you to remain in full control of your assets while you're alive. Your successor or co-trustee will take over if you become incapacitated and unable to manage the property.
Most people name their children as their successor trustees. However, if you're not confident about the ability of your children to distribute the assets according to your instructions, you should consider naming a professional fiduciary as your successor trustee.
This could be the trust department of a bank, a professional trust company or a private fiduciary.
Will there be a need for additional cost or work when investments or property are added or deleted?
No, there is no need to contact a lawyer for every change you make to your bequest or assets.
Is it necessary for a living trust to be prepared by an attorney?
Yes, to ensure that you get the protection you need.
If your arm gets mangled, do you stitch yourself up and hope for the best? You could. Or you could see a medical professional.
It’s the same when it comes to doing your own legal work. Don’t become another statistic horror story. Consult a professional for professional matters.
Don’t fall for the temptation of using those generic or online kits that are often passed off as customized documents prepared by attorneys.
Understanding Your Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) can be described as a legal document used to authorize another person to make legal, financial and business decisions on behalf of the maker of the instrument.
The person appointed will help manage your affairs in the event that you’re unable to do so. In fact, your appointed person can pay bills on your behalf, help sell your car, renovate your home, make business decisions for you and lots more. However, if you fail to create a power of attorney, a court will have to determine your mental competence and appoint a guardian.
A power of attorney gives you the power to decide who you want to manage your affairs. It also avoids unnecessary delays that come with the court process. All the states have their different forms for creating power of attorney. However, to be considered valid in most states, the document must be notarized and signed.
Categories of POA
Although powers of attorney are generally designed to give someone else the authority to make decisions on your behalf, they however come in different categories. Durable powers of attorney are those POAs that are applicable from their execution date. This means the recipient of the power of attorney can start managing your business once it is executed. Your competency or otherwise will not matter in this instance.
While a springing power of attorney on the other hand, is one that does not go into effect after execution until the occurrence of certain events. A good example of this, is the incapacitation of the creator. The recipient of the power of attorney will not have access to your affairs until such a time when the donor becomes too incapacitated to do so. In practice, a document or letter from a physician must be obtained to kick start this particular power of attorney.
You can also decide on the extent of the authority contained in the power of attorney. In some states, boxes are provided for you to check the particular type of authority you intend to give. For example, a financial power of attorney might give the recipient power to only manage financial transactions like payment of bills, and exempt them from transactions like selling your real estate.
Hand In Hand
The best thing to do is to create a will, living trust, and power of attorney. The living trust and will shall provide protection for your heirs and assigns after you’re gone while the power of attorney will provide protection in your lifetime. Combined, the three documents will provide all the protection you need for your assets.
With a power of attorney, a last will and a living trust, you can rest easy knowing that your family is well-protected. Do it now! Why wait? Why risk it?
Unlike other types of wills, a living will is not used to assign property at death. A living will (also known as an advance directive or directive to physicians) is a document used by the maker to state his or her wishes for end-of-life medical care just in case they’re unable to make their decisions known. Its power ends with the death of the testator.
A living will is usually included in your estate planning. It can provide valuable healthcare guidance for the family in the event that the testator is no longer able to pass his or her wishes across. It prevents a situation where family and healthcare professionals are forced to guess the preferred treatment options of the sick person. This could result in serious disputes which might even involve a court process.
The form and execution of a living will
Most states provide their own advance directives forms, through which residents can state their health care wishes in detail. For instance, you can state that you want palliative care, which includes the measures taken to decrease the pain and suffering of an invalid, while reiterating that you don’t want your healthcare givers to administer extraordinary measures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in certain situations.
Living wills can be revoked at the instance of the testator. The document automatically takes effect from the moment it is signed or when it is confirmed that the testator is no longer able to communicate his or her healthcare wishes. However, doctors will rather rely on personal communication for as long as they can, regardless of whether or not the living will has taken effect.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Most living wills are combined with a document known as durable power of attorney (DPOA) to handle healthcare. There are states that combine the two documents as one. A DPOA is used to appoint a person to enforce the end-of-life treatment wishes contained in a medical directive or living will. The person named therein is called the “healthcare proxy”, “attorney-in-fact” or “agent” of the maker of the DPOA.
Living Wills Post Death
The authority contained in a living will is automatically terminated the moment the testator dies. But there is one exception and it involves a situation where the power of attorney or living will provides directions to healthcare agents on what to do about autopsy or organ donation. However, this post death authority is only for a short while since these are decisions that must be made immediately after death.
This is also different from the provisions of other types of will which does not take effect or become legally binding until the testator dies.
What is the investment for setting up an estate plan?
The price varies depending on where you live, the size of your estate, and its complexity. Trust Attorney Nicholas Costaras with a great quote customized to your specific situation.
The real question is, if it were free, would you set up your estate plan?
If yes, then you know you need to get your estate plan set up right now.
You know that nothing is free, and you know that you do deserve the highest quality of service at a fair price.
Getting an Estate Plan
Why don’t you give yourself and your family peace of mind by making sure your estate is in good hands? Don’t put it off. Now is the time to invest in an estate plan for you and your family!
Curious to explore additional resources? Educate yourself and get clear on exactly what you need for your family's estate plan.
Book a Free Consultation
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Why not schedule one right now?
Contact me, Estate Planning Attorney Nick Costaras, for your free consultation now. Let’s get your Estate Plan taken care of!