Why Finding a Knowledgable & Trustworthy Estate Planning and Asset Protection Lawyer Gives You Peace of Mind
No doubt, that times right now, feel somewhat uncertain. Especially, when you turn on the news every day to hear over and over how not only is the entire world at risk, if you’re considered “middle-age” or a senior, have health conditions that make you more susceptible to illness, or have loved ones who fall into any of those categories, then the personal potential risk from the novel Coronavirus-19 is even greater.
Whether you’re reading this article and thinking about yourself, your elders, or considering how these prospective dangers could impact your or your partner’s personal health, if you’re not prepared for what could happen—the worst being “death”—it’s all going to be even more frightening.
An estate plan that is proactive and carefully crafted, helps ensure assets are protected and personal wishes are carried out in an end-of-life scenario.
An Estate Plan is Essentially Your, “Goodbye Plan.”
Unfortunately, ignoring the idea of death through illness or accident, isn’t going to make it go away—or even less likely. Frankly, death can come at ANY time. If you don’t consider the potentiality (or even, the inevitability) in advance, then not only will your loved ones have to manage their emotions about your passing, you may also leave them in a precarious financial position as well.
The chief benefit of an estate plan is that it helps you prepare for how you will protect those you love, even after you’re gone.
Why You Need An Estate Planning Attorney
Sure, you can use Legal Zoom or something similar to create a Last Will and Testament, make a Living Will, or even craft Powers of Attorney, and more.
Sometimes people think only the rich or wealthy need an estate plan. However, one of the most common reasons to prepare an estate plan is to avoid probate. Even if you have a Will, upon your passing, the Will must pass through the courts. This is called, “Probate.”
Probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament if the deceased made one and it can cost big.
The process of probate includes locating and determining the value of the decedent’s assets, paying his final bills and taxes, then distributing the remainder of the estate to his rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
The court fees that are incurred during the probate process are taken from the estate and can reach upwards of ten percent of the total estate. I am sure you can think of better places this money could be spent! If you hire an estate planning attorney, you may be able to avoid a lot of this time (and money!).
Furthermore, an estate attorney can help you create an estate plan that will most wisely manage estate and inheritance taxes.
Through the most basic estate planning, it’s possible to significantly reduce or eliminate estate taxes. In addition there are advanced estate planning techniques that can make estate or inheritance tax bills either less burdensome or go away completely.
Special Considerations for Estate Planning
It’s vitally important that estate planning be done correctly if you have children with special needs.
If you have a loved one with a disability or who has special needs, you’ll want to be sure your estate plan provides for their continued care after your passing. Using the correct language and documents for discussing care for special needs children in an estate plan are critical.
One reason this is so important is because there are different levels of functioning among the disabled. The level of function for your special needs child will help determine whether he or she can work in conjunction with the estate planner.
It’s also important that the estate plan be developed in such a way so that it doesn’t prevent your loved one from gaining access to Social Security or Medicaid after you’re gone. Additionally, while trusts can be an important part of any estate plan, there are specific types of trusts that should be used if children are special needs in order for the trust to provide the intended benefits.
What about same-sex estate planning? Will your estate planning needs be different?
Despite concerns when President Trump took office, it appears unlikely that he or the Supreme Court will be taking moves to undermine same-sex marriage. This is important since it would mean that estate planning for same-sex married partners would be similar to that of opposite sex married partners, if the laws regarding same-sex marriage be kept intact and unchanged.
- Besides the unlimited marital deduction, a surviving spouse in a same sex marriage is entitled to the portability provision under federal estate and gift tax law.
- This means a surviving spouse may preserve, and thereafter use, any portion of the deceased spouse’s unused applicable exclusion amount.
- Portability allows the surviving spouse to make tax-free gifts in order to reduce the estate tax owed upon his or her death.
- Each individual has the right to make gifts on a tax-free basis for federal gift and generation skipping transfer tax. At present, the annual exclusion amount is $14,000. Now same sex couples can enjoy the benefits of gift splitting, whereby one spouse can gift from his or her own assets, with the consent of the other spouse, in order to use both of their annual exclusion amounts (currently $28,000 maximum to any individual), resulting in the gifting spouse’s applicable lifetime gift tax exemption amount remaining intact.
- A deceased same sex spouse’s retirement account assets can now be rolled over into the surviving spouse’s account without the requirement of a mandatory minimum distribution or lump sum distribution.
Estate planning for expanding lifespans must also be carefully considered.
With the expanding human lifespan, estate and asset planning and protection becomes even more important since it becomes probably, even likely, that some will outlive their assets if proper planning isn’t done.
If you have a financial plan in place and a plan to preserve and protect your assets — using all legal avenues and options available — then you reduce the odds of that probability. Thus, being able to provide for your own standard of living and care, while also still having something left to leave your heirs.
What if you need an estate plan but can’t leave the house?
This is something that our firm does —and can do — for you and your loved ones. We specialize in meeting the needs of senior citizens and part of that means meeting you where you are and where you can be.
Even better, we can serve all the legal needs of senior citizens such as:
At our Decatur and Atlanta area elder law firm, it’s our utmost honor and privilege to support your asset protection and estate planning needs, while also supporting our clients in creation of a long-term care plan for preserving assets, maximizing independence, and enhancing overall quality of life.
Whatever you decide, don’t be put off by attorneys who will only take interest in handling your legal needs IF you can meet them in their offices. Every person’s circumstances are unique. We respect that and understand there are times when making a house call can be a life-saving gesture.
Regardless of whether your circumstances are “standard” or “special”—even “unusual” or “uncommon”—in this day and age, getting an asset protection and estate management plan in place, created by a lawyer you can depend on and trust to have your best interest in mind, can give you a much-needed peace of mind too.
And of course, we all know that today, peace of mind in and of itself, can go a long way toward peace itself.