Why Plan Your Estate
Estate and asset protection planning provides solutions to the following types of concerns:
- How will I avoid the cost and inconvenience of probate for my spouse and children?
For many clients, the best solution is a revocable trust, often referred to as a living trust.
- If I can’t make legal, financial, or healthcare decisions for myself, how can I be sure my wishes are carried out?
Again, a revocable trust may provide the answer. In addition, every client needs a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy appointing a trusted individual to make financial and health care decisions for you when you no longer can yourself.
- How can I make sure my wealth and possessions end up in the right hands when I’m gone?
Wills and trusts are vehicles for passing on your assets to those you choose. Many clients are concerned about funds they leave to their children being at risk of their children’s creditors, spouses upon divorce, or simply bad decisions their children may make. For them, a family protection trust can provide the protection they seek. In addition, proper planning will prevent the payment of unavoidable estate taxes upon your death.
- My spouse needs more care than I can give. Will we lose everything to pay for care, or are there options?
Not if you plan properly, the earlier, the better. There are a number of planning options available to spouses of nursing home residents to protect their financial well-being while qualifying their ill spouse for Nursing Home Medicaid coverage of nursing home fees.
- My child is disabled. How can I provide for her future?
We have helped many parents of children with special needs plan for their children through the creation of a special needs trust funded with life insurance.
- What legacy will I leave?
Your greatest legacy of course is the children and grandchildren you raise, if any, and the memories you leave with your family, friends, and work colleagues. However, support of charities and an estate plan that provides for your family and smoothly passes on what you leave behind will also contribute greatly to the legacy you leave and your family’s welfare for decades to come.
- What is a trust?
- A trust is a separate legal entity for holding and investing property. One or more persons (the “trustee”) holds property, usually real estate or investments, for the benefit of another or several other people (the “beneficiary”). The person who gives the property for the trust is known as the “donor” or “grantor”. The trustee holds legal title or interest and is responsible for managing, investing, and distributing the assets or property of the trust. The beneficiary holds an equitable or beneficial interest.
- What are the benefits of establishing a trust?
- Depending on your situation, there can be several advantages to establishing a trust. Most well known is the advantage of avoiding probate. That is, in a trust that terminates with the death of the donor, any property in the trust prior to the donor’s death passes immediately to the beneficiaries by the terms of the trust without requiring probate. This can save time and money for the beneficiaries. Certain trusts can also result in tax advantages both for the donor and beneficiary. Or they may be used to protect property from creditors, to help the grantor qualify for Medicaid, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the grantor and the named beneficiaries. Trusts are private documents and only those with a direct interest in the trust need know of the trust assets and distribution. If well drafted, another advantage of trusts is their continuing effectiveness even if the donor dies or becomes incapacitated.
- What kinds of trust are there?
- There are several types of trusts, some of the more common of which are discussed below:
- Revocable Trust
- A revocable trust is sometimes referred to as a “living” or “inter vivos” trust. Such a trust is created during the life of the donor rather than through a will. With a revocable trust, the donor maintains complete control over the trust and may amend, revoke, or terminate the trust at any time. So, the donor is able to reap the benefits of the trust arrangement while maintaining the ability to change the trust at any time prior to death. The disadvantage of a revocable trust is that the trust assets are countable to the donor for purposes of determining Medicaid eligibility.
- Irrevocable Trust
- An irrevocable trust is created during the life of the donor, who thereafter may not change or amend the trust. Any property placed into the trust may only be distributed by the trustee as provided for in the trust instrument itself. For instance, the donor can provide that he or she will receive income earned on the trust property. The irrevocable trust where the donor retains the right to income only is a popular tool for Medicaid planning.
- Testamentary Trust
- A testamentary trust is a trust created by a will. Such a trust has no power or effect until the will of the donor is probated upon his or her death. Although a testamentary trust will not avoid the need for probate and will become a public document as it is a part of the will, it can be useful in accomplishing other estate planning goals. For instance, the testamentary trust can be used to provide funds for the surviving spouse in a form that will not be considered available and not have to be spent down if he or she should seek Medicaid eligibility to pay for long-term care.
- Supplemental Needs Trust
- A supplemental needs trust can be created by the donor during life or be part of a will. Its purpose is to enable the donor to provide for the continuing care of a disabled spouse, child, relative or friend. The beneficiary of a well-drafted supplemental needs trust will have access to the trust assets for purposes other than those provided by public benefits programs. Thereby, the beneficiary will not lose eligibility for benefits such as Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and low-income housing.