Estate Planning Primer

Note:
H/AREA provides the following information as service to its H-P Viewers.
Estate Planning is a subject that one that should consider undertaking since it Protects Your Family, Safeguards Your Assets and Minimizes Estate Taxes.
An Estate Plan has to be tailored to the individual needs. No one shoe Fits All.
This article is only a Micro-View of that Planning. It is suggested:

  1. The Viewer should seek Counsel on this Subject from Estate Planning Attorneys or from Elder Law Attorneys.
  2. Visit the Websites for Locating Attorneys and for Additional Information on Estate Planning Services.
    These are listed in the Reference Section.
  1. Estate Planning Deals with the Creation of a Specific Plan for:
    1. Managing Your Wealth while You are Live.
    2. Distributing the Wealth After Your Death to the People of Your choosing.
      This wealth distribution should be devised to avoid excessive attorney fees, court costs without time delay consequences.
    3. Minimization of State and Federal Death Taxes Under the applicable Rules and Deductions in Effect.

  2. An Estate consists of all Assets – of Any Value that You Own.
    These assets can be owned by You Separately or they can be Jointly Owned. Assets can be defined as:
    1. Real Property
    2. Business Interests
    3. Investments
    4. Insurance Proceeds
    5. Personal Property

  3. Estate Planning Options.
    1. Procrastinate and Do Nothing.
    2. Create a Will.
      A Will by definition is a written document which contains certain instructions for disposition of property at death.
      These instructions can only be enforced through a Probate Court.
        Probate
      • This is a legal process in which a Court validates your Will and supervises the administration of that Will thereafter.
      • The Court will approve or appoint an Executor (Who May or Maynot be your Choice) to handle your affairs. All Probate proceedings are open to the public.

    3. Establish a Testamentary Trust (TT).
      This is a Trust that is set up in a Will that ONLY takes effect after death.The TT does not hold title to property until its grantor dies.
      The assets must then go thru probate first before being placed in the Trust. Again, all Probate proceedings are open to the public.
    4. Establish a Revocable Living Trust (RLT).
      The RTL is a trust that can be altered, amended, or even terminated during the Grantor’s lifetime with all property being recovered by the Grantee.
      All major assets ( Stocks, Real Estate, etc.) are transferred from your name to the name of the RLT.
      You then name yourself as the trustee and the beneficiary. You maintain complete control of all your assets by doing this.
      The successor trustee that you have named now has control of these assets and can distribute them per your instructions contained in the RLT.

  4. Estate Planning Documents You Need.
    1. Health Care Matters.
      The Living Will, the Health Care Power of Attorney and HIPAA Power of Attorney are three (3) separate documents directed to medical decisions.

      1.1 A Living Will
      This is an instrument that expresses your personal and unique preferences with regard to the use of life-support systems should you be terminally ill with little hope for recovery.

      1.2 Health Care Power of Attorney
      This is an instrument that allows you to appoint another individual to make health care decisions for you on your behalf if you are incapable to do this due to illness, injury, or incapacitation.

      1.3 HIPAA Power of Attorney
      HIPAA is short for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
      It regulates how personal health information is shared.
      The Health Care Power Attorney appoints another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable.
      Health Care Providers are reluctant to share this information with your designee because of financial penalties that come from sharing that information.
      The HIPAA Power of Attorney gives the designee immediate access to your condition, your prognosis, and the type of treatment(s) available.
    2. Property Matters
      A Property Power of Attorney allows you to chose an individual who will act on your behalf in financial / business matters . It protects your property matters during a period of incapacity—without the need of court intervention.
    3. Pour Over Will (POW)
      A POW refers to the transfer of assets into a trust such as the RLT. There are assets – That for whatever reason – are left out of the RLT. A Pour Over Will will transfer those assets into the trust when You die.

References:

  1. Estate Planning Seminar, Power Law Firm LLP, November 2007.
  2. Estate Planning Made Easy; D.Phillips & B.Wolfkiel, Dearborn Fin. Publ.
  3. Suggested WebSites

    3.1 American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA)

    Click on:  Find an Attorney.

    3.2 Power Law Firm LLP

    Click on:  Estate Planning Services.  A Number of Topics are Available for Viewing.

    3.3 National Association of Financial & Estate Planning (NAFEP)

    Click on:  Estate Planning Basics.

    James Himich,Jr.Dte:03/05/08