What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is the process of developing a scheme in advance that dictates your wishes regarding what you want to happen to you and your belongings at your death or in the event you become incapacitated during life. The primary goal is to protect, preserve and manage your estate in these two instances. The largest benefit of estate planning in regards to your death is that you save your loved ones enormous emotional and financial expense of dealing with your legal and financial affairs after your death. In regards to planning in event of your incapacity, you are putting a plan in place that protects you even during your lifetime.
Traditionally, estate planning has been thought of as a legal service for the very wealthy. Although this can be true due to the fact that it can include:
- tax planning for estates of certain sizes,
- lifetime gifting strategies,
- pre-marital and post-marital planning of assets in event of death or divorce,
- business succession planning,
- charitable bequests at death and during life;
- asset protection strategies,
- trust planning for tax reasons, to remove considerable amounts of wealth out of your estate (including, but not limited to life insurance, business assets, residences) and sometimes providing a continued income stream, intra-family sales, avoidance of probate reasons, family dispute reasons, asset protection reasons, managing assets for those unable to handle money, long-term control of family wealth, planning for elderly and special needs persons so as not to disqualify them from receiving certain governmental benefits,
estate planning can also encompass legal planning needs for "average", everyday people. This is due to the fact that estate planning can encompass not only the preparation of "simple" (e.g., non-tax planned) Wills, powers of attorney documents, medical directives, burial documents, planning for an untraditional family, etc., but most importantly the sound legal advice and analysis needed to develop a pre-arranged, comprehensive plan that protects your assets and your family.
The top two concerns of the majority of my clients is: 1) protection of minor children in event parent(s) decease; and 2) decreasing or eliminating emotional, financial, and administrative hassles for their loved ones at their death or incapacity. As you can see, you don't have to be "wealthy" to want to take advantage of these two very important reasons to plan ahead.