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Preparing you and your family for the inevitable transitions that you collectively will experience involves many facets of planning.

Medical Emergency Preparedness:

None of us expect that something bad will occur to us.  However, life can change quickly if a car accident or heart attack or something else happens that causes us to be hospitalized. 

  • First,  you want to be sure that people you love know that something has happened to you.  Having those emergency contacts information on hand and having your key documents readily available allows medical professionals to act quickly. 
  • Having a release to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows people you authorize to get information about your medical condition. 
     
  • Having a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place allows for a person of your choice to make medical and mental healthcare decisions on your behalf when you can no longer make those decisions yourself. 
     
  • Having a Living Will in place ensures that, if you prefer to have extreme measures taken to preserve your life, that will occur.  Alternatively,  it authorizes your agents to have medical professionals provide you only with comfort care while allowing you to die in dignity.
  • Your plan must address the circumstances when the emergency situation becomes a permanent condition of your life.  That is where disability and incapacity planning are crucial.  There are many considerations.  A Revocable Living Trust is particularly useful.
     

Estate Planning: The WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY and HOWs.

  • What are your concerns and goals? 
  • What are your assets?
  • What tools will help preserve your assets?
  • Who are the people you want to help you during any periods of disability AND after you have died? 
  • Who are the people you want to benefit from your planning and your assets?
  • When they will benefit? In what way they will benefit?

     FOUNDATIONAL ESTATE PLAN usually includes one of each of the following: 
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Will with Personal Property Memorandum
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Durable General Power of Attorney 
  • Funeral, Burial and Memorial Instructions

Ahead of the Curve Annual Maintenance: Estate planning is a process. Your plan should ebb and flow with changes in your life. Your plan must reflect the most recent changes in the law. The most effective way to stay "ahead of the curve" is to meet annually with your attorney to make sure that the choices you have made in your plan remain good choices each year. Having a strong relationship with your attorney is really important in order to not have your plan become out dated for your life. Making annuals reviews part of your routine offers you a kind of insurance that your estate planning is keeping you "ahead of the curve."

Asset Protections Strategies: No one wants the wrong person to take their assets--the government, a creditor, an ex-spouse, the new spouse of the love of your life before you died! No one wants to see their assets wasted by spendthrift beneficiaries. Being pro-active to protect your assets is important. Distributing your money through a trust structure can make it last longer and allow beneficiaries to reap far greater rewards. Irrevocable trusts are one tool to remove certain assets from your taxable estate. QTIP and Creditor Shelter or Bypass Trusts allow a spouse to use money, but to preserve it for your chosen beneficiaries when your spouse dies. Stretch IRA trusts can allow your hard earned money to continue to grow and increase your beneficiaries income over a longer time.

Everyone has different goals and needs and careful choices will help you take care of those goals and needs. Plans must fit the individual.

Non-U.S. Citizen Planning: Our lives are global. U.S. citizens often marry people who are citizens from other countries and not citizens from the U.S. That requires special planning to protect assets from tax and to ensure that the surviving spouse maintains full use of the couples assets. It requires practical consideration when selecting agents and fiduciaries. Care must be taken when the laws of multiple countries may apply to an estate.


Trust Funding:  A commom problem with trust-centered estate plans is that there is a trust, but no one bothered to put any assets into it, i.e. the trust was not funded!  If your trust is not funded, you cannot take advantage of all the benefits of your careful and thoughtful planning.  Making sure that appropriate real estate holdings, bank accounts, stock accounts, personal property, and titled vehicles are in the trust will make it easier for others to manage them when the time comes for their help. 

NOT all assets can or should be in a revocable living trust, so  it is important to get the right ones into the trust.


Family MeetingsWhen money is at stake, people act differently.  One of the best ways to keep harmony in the family is to share the plans you have put in place with the people affected by those plans.  Every family has different dynamics.  Each person has a behavioral style. There may be lots of roles for the many people who are involved.  That means there needs to be lots of communication.  Effective communication.  Having those key people listening to the plan and asking questions and getting answers to them during the same conversation goes a long way to keeping things clear.  Family meetings can eliminate jealousy and suspicion and misinformation.

Probate and Trust Administration:  When someone dies, the estate will need to be administered. The first key task is to determine what assets are actually in the estate.  Then, your estate plan will come into full effect.  If your plan is trust-centered, there will be some trust administration.  If your plan is will-centered, there will be either a formal or informal probate.  Both adminstrative processes require understanding of the applicable law.  Both require understanding what is  in the decedent's estate, what liabilities may apply, what taxes may apply, and a clear understanding about what assets are to be distributed, when they are to be distributed, to whom they are to be distributed, and in what form they are to be distributed.

Regarding trust administration, we work with your trusted advisors to allocate your assets into subtrusts per the terms of your revocable living trust. We can help your trustee(s) understand their legal duties and seek expert advice when it is warranted. While we will work with a trustee, our office does NOT take over administering a trust or serve as trustee.

Support  Services:  We offer support services for families:

Transition Counseling:  As important as good estate planning is,  equally important is healthy relationships between the people involved in these significant life transitions.  Having the assistance of a professional counselor can help the person aging to adjust to changes in his or her life.  Counseling can help a person, thrust into the role of caregiver, to adjust to that role. Team counseling offers an opportunity for loved ones to learn to understand each other and appreciate that each of them is experience dramatic change.  Counseling can help control the anxiety and stress that goes hand in hard with these transitions.