Estate planning is an important step to provide peace of mind. Estate planning requires you know the difference between a living trust and a simple will. This blog will give you the important steps before speaking with your elder law attorney.
by guest blogger: Ramsey A. Bahrawy, Esquire
What is the primary function of estate planning? Some would say it is the preparation of legal documents. Others say it has no function at all except for the ultra wealthy. In fact the primary function of estate planning is to provide peace of mind. Estate planning is about a process. It involves your family, other individuals, and in some cases charities of your choice. It also involves your assets, the form in which those assets are owned to achieve your future needs and goals. An estate plan addresses the accumulation, preservation and ultimate distribution of your assets. Peace of mind is achieved by developing an estate plan which acts as a roadmap to guide you and your family to achieving your goals and objectives. For example an estate plan can protect your assets from creditors, from the estate tax, from the foolish and irresponsible behavior of your relatives, from a divorce and from administration fees. In so doing it leaves a greater proportion of assets and property to loved ones.
Our society values safety. It values preparation and good performance, yet when it comes to preparing an estate plan these concepts are many times thrown to the wind allowing the pieces to fall randomly. Not wise behavior as tomorrow is not promised to us. Therefore, the key is to have contingency plans to address any storms or unexpected detours in our lives.
So where do I start?
Meet with a competent, experienced estate planning lawyer in order to be aware of the many options that exist in estate planning and elder law.
What you should to do to prepare for a meeting with an estate planning lawyer
• Make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance, and personal property.
• Decide exactly whom you want to inherit your property. Consider if conditions to an inheritance are appropriate.
• Choose a guardian for your minor children.
• Choose an alternate guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to do the job.
• Consider choosing a person other than your guardian to handle the assets you leave your children.
• Choose a personal representative or executor to carry out your wishes and handle the necessary paperwork after you die.
• Decide whether you want to include a letter stating how you’d like your children to be raised and educated, your funeral arrangements and distribution of certain small items of personal property such as jewelry.
Should you have a living trust instead of a will?
In recent years, revocable living trusts have become a popular instrument for probate avoidance. With a living trust, you transfer assets into the trust during your lifetime. Upon your death, those assets go directly and immediately to the beneficiaries you’ve specified. Unlike a Will, assets in a living trust don’t have to go through probate. A will is a public document; a trust, in contrast, is a private document and may therefore be more difficult to challenge. Another benefit of a trust is continuity of management. This allows your fiduciary (trustee) to continue managing the assets without the delays of probate and may provide liquidity to your estate.
So why does someone with a living Trust also need a Will? Combined with a revocable living trust, a pour-over will can ensure that any property that is not already titled in the name of the trust before death will be transferred into the trust at death. A Will can also provide for the intended disposition of assets intentionally held outside the trust – like your home, automobile furnishings and clothing.
There are other reasons to have both a Will and a living Trust. If you have minor children, you’ll generally need a Will to nominate a guardian and make financial provisions for them in the event of your death. In addition, many people don’t bother to put untitled personal property like furniture or antiques into their living Trusts. A will that spells out how you wish to distribute such assets might keep your heirs from battling over who should get Aunt Martha’s coin collection; Tiffany lamp, etc.
Writing your estate plan
Working with a competent estate planning attorney is probably the best way to cover all aspects of your estate plan, including your Will. For those with sizable estates, taking a team approach and employing the services of botha qualified CPA and an experienced attorney may prove to be worthwhile.
The prospect of meeting with an attorney can often be daunting, even intimidating. As such it is important to find an attorney with whom you will feel comfortable working. Ramsey Bahrawy has almost 34 years experience as estate planning and elder law attorney and has a track record of providing, compassionate, thorough legal services tailored to the clients’ specific needs.
To learn more talk with a competent and experienced estate planning and elder law attorney such as Attorney Ramsey Bahrawy in order to be aware of the many options that exist in estate planning and elder law. We offer a wealth of free estate planning/ elder law information including a local cable access TV show and on line video called Your Money Your Life hosted by Attorney Ramsey Bahrawy, a Massachusetts licensed attorney since 1979 and member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
©2013 All Rights Reserved by Ramsey A. Bahrawy
Ramsey A. Bahrawy, Esquire is an elder law attorney licensed to practice law in Massachusetts. He has 34 years legal experience with 17 of those years dedicated to elder law and estate planning. He is a member in good standing of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. His practice concentrates in estate planning and administration, elder law, real state, and personal injury litigation. He can be reached at BAHRAWY LAW OFFICES, 55 Main Street, North Andover, MA 01845 (978) 682-1141.
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