What Are Some Goals That Estate Planning Documents Should Accomplish?
At the most basic level, a client’s estate planning documents include a Last Will and Testament and a Trust, if the client desires to create a Trust. These documents are designed to ensure the client’s assets are distributed to intended loved ones or other desired beneficiaries.
Do I Still Need An Estate Plan If I Don’t Have A Lot Of Assets?
If you believe your current asset level doesn’t necessitate creating an estate plan, I urge you to meet with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. It’s not at all unusual that a potential client believes that he/she has far less than he/she actually does. When tabulating our net worth and asset holdings, many of us fail to consider the big picture. We tend to zero in on the value of our bank and brokerage accounts, but frequently overlook other assets such as retirement accounts, real estate and expected inheritances. Of course, in some instances, even after considering all assets listed above, a potential client may be correct in his/her assessment that he/she does not have a large net worth; however, despite having few assets, a potential client often finds enormous value in other aspects of an effective estate plan, most notably, the ability to nominate guardians for minor children. Of course, estate planning isn’t always necessary or a good fit for every potential client, but it’s always a good idea to take the time to meet with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney and discuss your goals and desires because a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can almost always provide a high quality and cost-effective estate plan for any client, no matter what his/her situation is.
What Is The Best Time To Start Planning For My Assets?
The best time to start planning for your assets is now, no matter what your situation may be.
The youngest demographic estate planning attorneys tend to deal with are first-time parents, and this makes a lot of sense. The birth of a client’s first child not only brings great joy but forces the client to more carefully plan for his/her future and the future of the newborn child. In addition to meeting with their tax, investment and insurance professionals, first-time parents are well advised to meet with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. A well-considered estate plan for first-time parents should typically include not only a statement of where the parents’ assets will pass upon their demise, but will include provisions ensuring trusts are created for minor and disabled children and include the parents’ nomination of an appropriate guardian for their child or children should the parents pass away while their child or children are minors.
Another young demographic estate planning attorneys frequently serve is clients contemplating marriage. While not typically thought of as an estate planning matter, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney should be able to assist a client in creating an effective prenuptial agreement. If a prenuptial agreement is not appropriate or acceptable for a particular client, the creation of a marital trust may prove invaluable, especially for clients in a second or third marriage or who have blended families.
Of course, estate planning attorneys very frequently serve the middle-aged and elderly populations as well. Middle-aged clients tend to be at the peak of their careers and, if they have children, their children tend to be a bit older. For these clients, estate planning typically includes many of the aspects of a first-time parent’s estate plan: having an effective Last Will and Testament that ensures creation of a trust for minor/disabled children, nomination of a guardian should the parent pass away before the child turns 18, etc. Where the planning tends to differ, however, is most middle-aged clients have accumulated substantially more wealth that the first-time parent. As a client’s age and net worth increase, so too does the desirability of thinking of long-term-care and asset protection planning, which typically includes the creation of an appropriate Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. For the elderly population, the estate planning process is similar to planning for a middle-aged client; however, with a client who’s advanced in age, it’s always important to have a frank discussion with the client about the client’s health and tax/Medicaid ramifications of planning for and structing assets.
For most people, it’s never too early or too late to engage in estate planning. The only time it’s truly too early is if the potential client is under 18 years old – the law does not allow a minor to execute a Last Will and Testament or own property – and the only time it’s too late to engage in estate planning, and this is an extremely important point, is if the potential client no longer has the legal capacity to execute a Last Will and Testament, Trust, etc. The only potential planning that can be done for someone who lacks capacity is guardianship planning, which is discussed elsewhere on this website.
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