Your Estate Plan: Value-Based Versus Cost-Based Estate Planning
The time to put together an estate plan is now.
With the start of a new year, many people who may have put off asset protection have made it a resolution to get their estate plan done this year.
For those people, I say, “congratulations!” This is an important decision and one that deserves careful consideration when selecting an attorney to make it happen.
For starters, there are several different types of estate planning, some of which do not include asset protection. And there are many different types of attorneys. Some attorneys will merely help you with the filling out and filing of documents. Others will spend the time to get to know you and your values and desires. This latter type of attorney is going to cost more initially but will be well worth it when you or your loved ones are not met with surprises down the line.
Four Types Of Estate Planning
For those who are just beginning to explore the world of estate and asset protection planning, there are actually four different types. I’ll explain briefly here. (For a more in-depth discussion you might want to listen to my podcast at https://www.elderlawgeorgia.com/podcasts/four-types-of-estate-planning/)
Will-Based Estate Plan
This is the most common type of estate plan that a majority of people use. Unfortunately most people who use this plan think that is all they need and simply hire an attorney to create a will. This is the least expensive method of estate planning however it does not offer any form of asset protection. In our office we refer to this as the “I’m going to go through probate plan.”
In the will-base plan, you will get a will, you’ll designate a financial Power of Attorney and create a health care Advanced Directive. None of these legal documents will protect any assets that you might have. If you have multiple beneficiaries, things can get very complicated upon your death.
The will-based plan is the least expensive type of estate plan, however it provides the least amount (read none) of protection.
Revocable Living Trust Plan
This is the plan for you if your objective is to make it as simple as possible for your loved ones upon your death or if you should become incapacitated cognitively or physically. In this plan assets are retitled into the name of the trust. Your loved ones will avoid probate and you will still be in charge and able to make changes as long as you are cognitively able.
Government Benefits Planning
This type of planning protects assets while also providing access to certain VA benefits for wartime Veterans and also Medicaid Benefits for people who need nursing home level of care. Regarding VA benefits, a tax-free income benefits is available to those members of the military who were in active duty during wartime and for widows/widowers of those who have served during wartime. Many programs exist to provide for long-term care for our Veterans that many attorneys who do not specialize in VA benefits or are not accredited by the VA are not aware of. As a Veteran, a Certified Elder Law Attorney, author, and the nation’s leader at teaching other attorneys nationwide on VA benefits, I have a depth of experience with VA benefits. The in-depth nature of this type of plan is deserving of the greater cost. When it comes to your long-term care and/or that of your surviving spouse, the initial cost may be greater, but so will the value.
Asset Protection Planning
This type of plan is for anyone who has greater assets in terms of actual money and/or a business that provides for the family and loved ones. It is the most comprehensive plan and includes estate tax planning as well as creditor protection.
Whatever type of plan you ultimately end up with, it’s important that the attorney you choose to work with spend time with you getting to know your values and objectives. You do not want someone who simply provides documents. This type of planning is designed to protect what you have worked for. A well-wrought estate and asset protection plan will provide protection for you, your loved ones, your children and the organizations you value. This is not the place to skimp. The old adage is true in this area: you get what you pay for.