“What are the Most Important Estate Planning Tools to Use?” by Attorney Nicole Livingston (Audio)
An estate planning attorney can assist you in identifying the estate planning tools that are most important for you to incorporate into your plan. There are lots of different tools that can help you to be prepared for the future. The right ones will depend upon your assets, your family situation, and your goals for your legacy.
Sinclair Prosser Gasior will help you to make smart choices regarding what documents and tools should be a part of your plan.
A last will and testament is a basic component of an estate plan. While many people will just make a last will and testament and do nothing else, this document should actually be only the beginning of your estate plan. Your last will and testament can allow you to opt out of intestacy law and specify who inherits, but you don’t have control beyond taking the steps to make the will.
Transferring assets through a will can be a problem if you wish to leave money to a minor because a minor can’t control an inheritance directly and because you may not want an inheritance to pass on as soon as the minor turns 18 without any conditions. There are other situations, such as when a loved one is disabled, that can create problems for leaving an inheritance through a last will and testament.
Trusts are a versatile estate planning tool. Depending upon the type of trust you create, you could accomplish many different estate planning goals. Your trust could help you to minimize estate tax or could make it possible for you to keep assets safe while qualifying for means-tested Medicaid benefits for nursing home care. Trusts can allow you to provide for spendthrift heirs or beneficiaries, to transfer assets quickly outside of the probate process, and to take care of your money and family in many other ways. You’ll need to talk with an experienced attorney about how to create the right kind of trust, as there are different trust types which provide different kinds of advantages to trust creators.
A payable-on-death account makes it possible for assets to transfer to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the primary account holder. You will need to make certain that you have specified who should inherit when you pass on and you should update your beneficiary as necessary if life changes.
Joint ownership with rights of survivorship can allow assets to transfer outside of the probate process. You can jointly own real property or other types of assets. If you own these assets with rights of survivorship, the co-owner will automatically inherit your share of the property upon your death – regardless of any other instructions for the distribution of assets that you provide in your will or other estate planning tools.
Advanced directives allow you to determine what kinds of medical care you’ll receive and what types of care you will decline. You may be unable to communicate your preferences or give consent for care in the event of a medical emergency. If you’ve made advanced directives in advance, your wishes on your care will be respected. If you did not have any advanced directives in place, your close family members have to make difficult decisions on your behalf. The court may need to appoint someone to make a decision for you, and there could be conflict over what you would have preferred.
A power of attorney allows you to control who makes decisions for you and who manages your money and property in the event of your incapacity. This is important because making an estate plan isn’t just about what occurs after you have passed on. You need to be proactive about preventing loss during your lifetime so you have assets available to leave your legacy.
An estate planning attorney at Sinclair Prosser Gasior will assist you in the creation of your personalized estate plan that uses these legal tools and other appropriate documents to secure your future. To find out more about all of the different tools that our legal team can help you to use, join us for a free seminar. You can also give us a call at 410-573-4818 or 301-970-8080 or contact us online to register for a seminar or request an estate planning consultation with one of our attorneys.
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