Trusts & Estate Legacy Planning

Estate planning puts you in control of who will receive your assets in the event of your death,  and who will make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.

There are three basic legal documents at the core of a good estate plan— a will, a durable power of attorney, and a health care directive. A trust is optional, and the need to establish one depends on your objectives.

It’s important to view estate planning in the context of your total financial plan. You can view it as one piece of an overarching plan to make smart use of your assets and protect them. For example, you can dictate who will inherit your assets and when, as well as how that individual or organization can use them. If you grow physically or mentally incapable of managing your own affairs, the plan lets you choose someone to step in and make financial and medical decisions for you. This gives you an opportunity to pick a person you trust…someone who knows your personal wishes and will act in your best interest. An estate plan also enables you to advise doctors, healthcare workers, and loved ones of your wishes regarding end-of-life care and provides instructions for them to follow.   

Many people make the mistake of avoiding or postponing estate planning because they don’t believe they have enough assets to warrant it. We believe all our clients need basic estate planning documents to control and protect their assets regardless of income or net worth.

No one wants strangers, including their state government, making crucial decisions about the management and distribution of assets or medical matters that involve questions of life or death. That’s an outcome you can generally avoid by putting a mere handful of legal documents in place.   

How We Can Help You with Estate Planning

In discussing estate planning needs with clients, we focus first on your objectives and what it is you want to accomplish. It can be as simple as naming beneficiaries to avoid the delays of probate or leaving money to their church or favorite charity in the most tax-efficient manner. Sometimes the objective demands more complex planning, such as providing for a beneficiary with special needs, protecting assets from future nursing home costs, minimizing estate taxes, keeping prized or expensive heirlooms in the family, or distributing an inheritance in a timeframe that encourages responsible money management.

While our financial advisors are not estate planning attorneys, they are highly knowledgeable and work with estate planning professionals to assist you. Our firm is dedicated to helping you get sound legal advice. We’ll also be quick to point out ways to avoid unnecessary legal documents and fees. For example, we’ll explore whether modifying the ownership or beneficiary of investment accounts could eliminate the need for a costly trust.    

We’re Here to Provide Answers to These Common Estate Planning Questions:

  • What’s the purpose of estate planning?

  • Am I wealthy enough to need an estate plan?

  • What will an estate plan do for me?

  • Can a plan provide benefits during my lifetime or only after my death?

  • Can a plan help me distribute my estate equally among my children and stepchildren?

  • What legal documents are necessary?

  • What happens if I die without a will?

  • What’s a trust and do I need one?

  • How can I use estate planning to protect my assets against long-term care costs?

  • Can an estate plan help me save on taxes?

  • What law firms in my area specialize in estate planning?

  • Should I consider a revocable living trust?

Our Philosophy & Approach to Estate Planning

1. We believe an estate plan should be tailored to your objectives

We’ve said it before. No two clients have identical needs. That’s why we sit down and learn what your objectives are before we recommend ways to address your estate planning needs. We don’t recommend cookie-cutter solutions. Tell us what you want to accomplish, and we’ll let your goals be the guide.

2. We’ll help get you started with Estate Planning

In the case of estate planning, procrastination doesn’t pay. If you’ve put off the basics – such as writing a will – we’ll help you make it a priority. We are happy to assist you as you think through details that will power your estate plan within the context of your overarching financial strategies.

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