Estate Planning & Taxation

The estate planning process does not have to be difficult or confusing. It’s a process that, when guided by an experienced attorney, can be an enjoyable experience that provides a great sense of calm and security regardless of age, income level, or station in life.

Starting Out

family with kids Many of our clients are just starting out on their life journey. These clients are often relatively young married couples or parents of minor and young adult children. (We recognize that some parents of young children are middle-aged or older - John’s parents were in their mid-40s when he was born - and that the parents’ chronological age is not what drives their planning needs.)

These clients are an important part of our practice. We believe they are often underserved, and do not receive the full range of advice they need. Many probably believe that they are too young for estate planning, or that they need only “basic” planning because of their age. In fact, because of the need to protect their families in the event of tragedy, it is not uncommon for their estate plans to be more complicated than their parents’ plans.

Still, it is important for people in this category to recognize that they have planning needs. Couples with minor children are generally concerned about planning for the care of one another, but are especially concerned about what happens to their children.

We can help them think through their planning needs and create a plan that provides them the protection they need. We understand that these clients are busy, and have many financial obligations. We strive to be respectful of their time and to keep the planning costs reasonable.

What issues should people in this category think about:

  • Who will care for their minor children in the event both parents pass away?
  • What is the best way to protect their children’s inheritance in the event of tragedy? Who will manage their children’s financial inheritance?
  • Who will make financial and medical decisions for them in the event they are unable to do so?
  • Who will handle the affairs of their estate?

We can help clients think through these issues and put a plan in place that provides important protections.

 

Looking Forward

family with kids Many of our clients are looking forward to their post-retirement lives, and are eager to devote time to active lifestyles, travel, children and grandchildren, and their communities. As their children age and they near retirement, their planning needs change. Some fall into the ‘sandwich generation’ of caring for both children and aging parents.

In some cases, their needs are simpler than they were earlier in life. Their children may be mature enough to handle an inheritance, and the need for a testamentary trust has diminished. In some cases, their needs are more complex, because they are considering planning for grandchildren, advanced estate, gift, and generation-transfer tax planning, and sophisticated charitable gifts.

If they own all or part of a business, they may be thinking about the retirement, and the transition of the business to a buyer, employees, or their children.

What issues should people in this category think about:

  • Who will make financial and medical decisions for them in the event they are alive but unable to do so?
  • How does their financial plan integrate with their estate plan?
  • What is the best way to structure their children’s inheritance? Does it make sense to consider making lifetime gifts to children or grandchildren? Are their children capable of managing their inheritance, or are trusts or other vehicles necessary?
  • What commitments do they want to make to charity - either of time or financially?
  • Who will handle the affairs of their estate?

We can help these clients review and revise goals and priorities, consider their options when it comes to implementing their plans, and coordinate financial, charitable, and estate planning.

Case Study: Emma’s Family »

 

Second Half

senior family Some of our clients are currently enjoying retirement. They know how much money they have and care very much about who gets it when they are gone. They are thinking about the legacy they want to leave for their family and community.

These clients may be considering the impact of estate and gift taxes on their overall plans, and thinking about making lifetime gifts to their children, grandchildren, and charity. Disability planning may take on increased importance.

We can help these clients plan and implement lifetime gifting strategies; consider the use of estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer taxes exemptions and exclusions; consider their needs in the event of disability; think about charitable gifts, including gifts that pay them an income; create plans that provide protections for the surviving spouse and family in the event of a death.

 

On Your Own

on your own Estate planning is especially important for single and divorced individuals and unmarried couples, no matter their age or financial status.

State and federal law provides important protections and benefits for legally married spouses (and in some cases registered domestic partners). Single and divorced clients, and unmarried couples, are often unable to take advantage of these protections, and need to carefully consider the impact of their death or disability on those they care about.

These clients may need to carefully consider how their assets will be distributed after their death, who will serve as trustee of any trusts under a will, or as personal representative of the estate or the guardian for minor children, etc.

In fact, single parents often have a greater need for trusts or other more complex planning tools to protect their children’s inheritance.

We can help these clients understand the legal and practical implications of their marital status, and help them craft a plan that meets their needs.

 

Pet Owners

pet lover For many people, pets are cherished members of the family. It’s not surprising that many of our clients are pet owners who want to ensure that their pets’ safety and well-being are addressed in their planning.

We can help these clients make appropriate plans for their pets in the event of the companion’s death, including, where necessary, pet trusts, appointment of pet guardians, or other protections.