Estate planning can be as straightforward as a simple will that names guardians for the minor children of a young couple with modest assets, or a far more complex undertaking that involves intricate documents to achieve tax planning goals.
Our primary focus in estate planning is to listen, assist clients in identifying their goals, and develop strategies to accomplish those goals. The process of developing an estate plan varies, as no two circumstances are the same and every plan we draft is tailored to the needs of the situation.
We help clients plan for the risk of incapacity during lifetime by creating powers of attorney and health care directives. We prepare wills and, when necessary, trusts (revocable and, where appropriate, irrevocable) that arrange the disposition of our clients’ assets to accomplish their goals and appoint fiduciaries (that is, the Personal Representatives, guardians of minor children, and trustees of trusts) who will be responsible for implementing the plan in conjunction with other professional advisors. We often will review beneficiary designations for life insurance, annuities, and retirement plans to confirm that they dovetail with the plans.
Some of the documents we prepare are very simple and achieve straightforward goals, and others are much more complex and are often part of a comprehensive plan to achieve long-term tax and estate planning goals. These more complex documents might achieve generation skipping planning, charitable goals, complicated gift plans that rely on leveraged techniques, or planning for the disposition of special assets.
Estate planning usually starts with an estate-planning questionnaire that we ask new clients to complete and send to us prior to our meeting so we will have the information we need to discuss the appropriate kind of plan to achieve the client’s goals. In many situations we need only a single meeting before we draft documents. The process can be more involved for families with substantial assets or special needs to address, and may require more meetings and additional documents. We will provide necessary tax planning advice for those who require it, as an overlay to the basic goals for an estate plan. It is useful to think of estate planning as a process that might evolve as a family’s circumstances (and the pertinent tax rules) develop and change.