Wills, Trusts & Estates
A Simple Will and Probate:
When initial cost and simplicity are a primary consideration, use of a basic Will is often the first step in planning for distribution of assets at death. The major concern is that an estate passing by Will often requires administration by probate. This court proceeding can be time consuming and expensive.
We make every effort to avoid or minimize the probate process. We can assist in the collection of proceeds from insurance and qualified plans with appropriate income tax planning. Often, multi-party accounts and joint-tenancy property can be transferred without probate. Title to most automobiles, trailers, mobile homes and undocumented vessels can be handled without probate. Other personal property may be eligible for transfer by a simple non-probate procedure.
Use of a Revocable Living Trust:
Most clients benefit by creating a revocable living trust, rather than relying upon use of a simple Will. This type of trust allows the grantors to retain control and ownership of assets during their life, with the ability to revoke the trust or the trustee. A revocable living trust is beneficial to most individuals or married couples who want control of assets and the ability to avoid probate.
Great care should be taken not to use pre-printed forms or do-it-yourself services offered by non-lawyers. We often see clients who have suffered considerable expense or great hardship by failing to use an experienced estate planning attorney, who will carefully draft and implement a trust instrument suited to their individual needs.
Rather than have a client fill in a questionnaire about their assets and financial objectives, we insist on meeting with you and having a face-to-face discussion of your particular circumstances and requirements. Only then can we craft a plan to meet your objectives. We are sensitive to keeping legal costs highly competitive and affordable, but will not sacrifice quality to cut corners.
Other Estate Planning Issues:
With larger estates, protection of assets and tax issues become major factors leading to use of life insurance trusts, family trusts, irrevocable trusts, and gifting strategies designed to preserve an estate for children or grandchildren. Special Needs Trusts can be utilized for those who do not wish to lose SSI or other benefits or who may require management of funds on their behalf.
We are experienced with formation of Qualified Domestic Trusts for those clients who are non-citizen residents of the United States and who may face harsh estate tax consequences without proper planning. Many are unaware that a typical revocable living trust could be a financial disaster for a non-citizen, surviving spouse.
While use of revocable living trusts will avoid the probate process, we are often retained to assist in the orderly transfer of an estate to designated beneficiaries. We act on behalf of the successor Trustee as personal representative of the trust estate to provide legal notice to heirs, assist in any immediate administrative issues, and organize documents related to the assets and liabilities of the decedent. Where necessary we will arrange for appraisal of assets and the preparation and filing of estate tax returns. We can prepare final income tax returns and advise the personal representative on income tax ramifications of IRA, pension fund, Keogh Plan or annuity distribution options. Finally, we can directly disburse funds to the beneficiaries and provide for an appropriate accounting.