Estate Planning

What is an Estate?  An Estate is all the money and property owned by a person.

What is Estate Planning?  Estate Planning is the process of anticipating and arranging, during a person’s life, for the management and disposal of that person’s estate during the person’s life and after death, while eliminating uncertainties over the administration of a probate and maximizing the value of the estate by reducing taxes and other expenses.

A good estate plan includes the following documents:

  • Revocable Living Trust or Irrevocable Living Trust
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Durable Financial Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Trust transfer documents
  • Instructions for Executors of a Will and Trust Settlers and Trustees

A common misconception about estate planning is that it is only important for the wealthy.  At Dean Powell, we believe that everyone needs and deserves an Estate Plan.  If you want to preserve the value of your assets, plan for your future and protect your loved ones, you should begin the Estate Planning process as soon as possible.  Procrastination jeopardizes the value of your estate, creates uncertainty as to whether your wishes will be carried out and may lead to unnecessary hardship for your loved ones.  Remember, if you don’t plan for what happens to you, your assets and your loved ones in the event of your incapacitation or death, the government will do it for you.  At Dean Powell, we have the legal knowledge and experience to ensure that you, not the government, decides how you and your family are cared for and how your estate is managed and distributed.

The Tools of Our Trade

Trusts – Trusts are the most comprehensive of all estate planning options.  The benefits of a properly prepared trust are numerable and include:

  • Avoid probate. A trust allows your assets to be managed by the trust and to be distributed outside of the courts.
  • Avoid estate taxes. Because trusts are distributed outside of the probate process, the tax burden associated with your estate may be reduced.
  • Protect your surviving spouse. A trust allows your surviving spouse to carry on her life without the financial interruptions and psychological burdens of probating your estate.
  • Protecting your children. Should your spouse remarry, a trust can ensure that your children receive that portion of your estate you’ve planned for them.
  • Providing for minor children and grandchildren. Trusts provide an avenue for safeguarding a minor’s inheritance until they reach a suitable age and maturity level to allow them to properly manage their inheritance.
  • Avoids nursing home poverty. The costs of nursing home care can exceed $80,000.00 per year.  A trust can protect your assets from being depleted by nursing home costs.

Dean Powell utilizes various types of Trusts tailored to the needs of our clients, including:

  • Revocable Living Trusts: A Revocable Living Trust is the most popular tool used by our clients.  With a Revocable Living Trust you can modify the trust to account for changes in your assets and desired distribution.  As the Trustee, you can continue to buy, sell, spend or give away your assets just as you could prior to creating the trust.  Additionally, if circumstances dramatically change, you have the option of terminating the Trust in its entirety.  In short, a Revocable Living Trust provides you with the flexibility to change your trust as your circumstances change.
  • Irrevocable Living Trust: An Irrevocable Living Trust provides the same protections as a Revocable Living Trust, but it is UNCHANGEABLE once executed.  Irrevocable Living Trusts reduce the taxable value of your estate for tax purposes and provides protections from creditors and lawsuits.  The most common reasons our clients choose an Irrevocable Living Trust are to protect assets from the cost of nursing homes and long-term care and to ensure Medicaid eligibility.
  • Supplemental Needs Trust: A supplemental needs trust is often referred to as a Special Needs Trust.  A Supplemental Needs Trust is created for those situations where a beneficiary is unable to manage funds due to a mental or physical incapacitation, and/or where a beneficiary requires assistance from need-based governmental programs.  Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid are both need-based programs and most Supplemental Needs Trusts are created to ensure eligibility for one or both programs.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT – A last will and testament is a legal document that communicates a person’s final wishes pertaining to the distribution of assets and protection of and guardianship for dependents.  This is an effective tool and is included in our Estate Planning Package, however, there are some limitations and disadvantages to a reliance on a Last Will and Testament without other tools.  Unlike a Trust, a Last Will and Testament must be probated in court.  Probate is a costly and time-consuming process which can delay the distribution of your assets ad protections for your loved ones.  The cost to probate a will can exceed $10,000 and may take as long as a year to complete.  Therefore, in most cases, when Dean Powell prepares a Last Will and Testament for a client, we advise they also create a trust in order to minimize costs, decrease the time taken to distribute assets, and reduce unnecessary stress and hardship for their loved ones.

LIVING WILL (MEDICAL DIRECTIVE) – A living will, also known as a Medical Directive, provides guidance to your doctors and medical agent regarding the type of medical support you desire should you be diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition.

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY – A Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document signed by a competent adult appointing an agent, a trusted person, to make day-to-day financial and property related decisions for him or her.

MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY – A Medical Power of Attorney is a legal document signed by a competent adult giving an agent, a trusted person, the authority to make health care and medical decisions when the person is no longer able to make them.

DECLARATION OF GUARDIAN IN ADVANCE – A Declaration of Guardian in Advance is a legal document wherein a person names a guardian should that person become incapacitated.

HIPPA RELEASE – A HIPPA Release is a legal document which allows your healthcare provider to share your healthcare history with a person or persons you designate as an agent or agents.

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