If you die without a Will, you would be considered to have died “intestate”. Your assets would then pass to those persons specified in your state statute of intestate succession. Typically, those persons would include your spouse, (if you are married), and/or, if applicable, children or other descendants. However, the manner in which these beneficiaries would inherit your property may not be consistent with how much you would want them to receive or the timing of when you would want them to receive their inheritance.
By doing your estate planning, you can create a Will and/or Trust Agreement which would govern the distribution of your assets at death, as well as designate who would be your Executor (person to administer your estate). You can determine who is to inherit your property, how much they are to receive, when they are to receive it, and how they are to receive it (outright or in a trust). Your Will also enables you to address special or difficult issues such as the disposition of a business interest, or how to handle the inheritance for a disabled child. It also enables you to anticipate tax and administration issues that may arise. You can also coordinate the payment of life insurance and retirement plan benefits on your death with the disposition of the assets passing under your Will, and in particular if a trust is to be created. All of this would be with a watchful eye on the inheritance tax, estate tax, generation-skipping transfer tax, and gift tax consequences of the plan you are seeking to implement so as to reduce the death or wealth transfer taxes that might otherwise be imposed.
When doing estate planning, the discussion will typically center around the following:
1. Wills and Trusts;
2. Health Care Directives;
3. Durable General Powers of Attorney;
4. Long Term Care Planning;
5. Charitable Planning;
6. Business Succession Planning;
7. Funeral and burial or cremation arrangements;
8. Disposition of real estate and other special or difficult assets which you may own;
9. Beneficiaries of life insurance and/or retirement plans;
10. Federal estate taxes, Federal Gift Taxes, and Federal Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes; and
11. State Inheritance or Estate Taxes.
Please contact us to schedule an initial meeting to discuss your estate planning, regardless of the size of your estate. An asset information questionnaire may be printed from the Forms tab. Day, evening and weekend appointments are available.