Trust & Estate Law
The experienced attorneys at Cottle Keen Lopiccolo & Heyde, LLP will help you develop an estate plan tailored to your needs so that you and your heirs can rest easy. Your estate plan may include one or more of the following:
The living trust is a powerful planning tool which can serve many purposes:
Probate is a court process occurring at an individual’s death, and involves the courts interpreting a person’s will, if there is one, or determining heirs at law if there is no will. Since probate is a court process, it can involve significant delay and expense. Indeed, a percentage of the value of the estate will be ordered paid for fees and costs. Instead of your heirs inheriting the full value of your estate, a significant portion may be used to pay these court-ordered expenses.
With a properly executed living trust, you can avoid the probate process, potentially saving significant costs, and providing a streamlined method for transferring assets to your heirs without court interference.
Ensuring You Choose Your Heirs
Many of our clients are surprised to learn that without a properly drafted trust, the court may determine who inherits your estate. These beneficiaries could include not only your spouse and children, but also may include the children or grandchildren of a predeceased spouse, or a spouse from whom you are separated. Our estate planning attorneys can help you identify those loved ones whom you wish to inherit your estate, and draft a trust benefiting only them.
Maximizing Tax Benefits
Your estate plan can have significant tax consequences, so early consultation with one of our experienced attorneys can help develop tax efficiency. For example, portability rules may allow you and a spouse to maximize individual estate tax exclusions to benefit your heirs while minimizing estate tax consequences. Similarly, you could choose a plan which benefits a charity of your choosing in addition to your family, while again fostering tax efficiency.
Ensuring Competent Management of Your Estate
An important benefit of your living trust is ensuring competent management of your estate. While clients may realize the need to appoint a trustworthy individual to marshal assets at the clients’ deaths for transfer to designated beneficiaries, what many clients forget is that their trustee may also serve during the client’s lifetime in the event of incapacity. As such, it is important to consider common issues such as the following:
- Do you have a business or specialty assets which need management expertise?
- Do your heirs lack financial management skills?
- Do they have substance abuse issues?
- Are your heirs in a shaky marriage?
- Do your heirs have specific medical needs or receive public benefits such as SSI?
Consultation with our estate planning attorneys can help you identify any of these issues as well as many others to ensure benefits to your heirs are maximized. For example, without properly drafted estate planning documents, leaving an estate to a child who is receiving state medical benefits could eliminate that child’s continued eligibility for those benefits.
Last Will and Testament
A will allows you to identify the heirs of your estate and to name the executor, who is the person who will administer your will upon your death. Sometimes clients will use a will as the main component of their estate plan, and while it is an effective means by which to identify beneficiaries, it has disadvantages. As discussed above, foregoing a living trust in favor of a simple will makes it likely that your estate will be subject to the court process, cost, and delay of a probate.
While clients utilizing a living trust are likely to use a specialized will called a pour-over will, if drafted and funded properly, the trust can bypass the probate process.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is an essential component of any estate plan. The document names an agent to manage estate assets in the event the principal is incapacitated. While the trustee of a trust has this power over all assets within the trust, the agent under power of attorney will have control and management of those assets outside of trust.
Advance Health Care Directives
Finally, a well-drafted estate plan should include advance health care directives naming individuals who can make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to. This document can empower your agent to communicate with your doctors and other health care providers who would otherwise be unable to release any information due to privacy concerns. This document can also allow you the ability to direct some of your own health care in advance, so that your wishes are observed even if you lack capacity at a later date.
We handle the following areas specific to Estate Planning:
- Power of Attorney
- Advance Health Care Directives