Estate Planning Law Center

Fundamentals of Estate Planning, Will & Testaments, Advance Medical Directives, Probate




What is Estate Planning

Estate planning is planning for your estate while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after your death. It involves the management of your assets while you are still alive and the distribution of those assets after you die. This planning allows for the orderly administration and disbursement of your estate, and includes taking actions that will minimize taxes and distribute assets to the appropriate heirs.

Your estate consist of all your property, which includes your house and other real estate; tangible personal property; and intangible property, like insurance, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, pensions, etc.

The elements of an estate plan include a will; assignment of power of attorney; a living will or health-care proxy; and for some people, a trust.

When you are setting up an estate plan, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Whom do you want to inherit your assets?
  2. Whom do you want handling your financial affairs if you are ever incapacitated?
  3. Whom do you want making medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them yourself?
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Recent Articles Related to Estate Planning

  • What Are the Laws of Intestacy?
    The laws of intestacy are the default rules that are followed to dispose of a personís probate estate after he or she dies. These laws are based on state statute. In order to avoid these laws, a decedent can make a will or otherwise dispose of the assets before or at death, such as through a living revocable trust or a testamentary trust.
  • Digital Assets in Estate Planning
    Many individuals account for their real estate, securities and tangible property as part of their estate plan. However, much of peopleís lives are now online, potentially leaving a personís digital assets unclaimed or even susceptible to theft. A comprehensive estate plan should address the handling of digital assets.
  • Holographic Wills: Pros and Cons
    Having a will helps prevent a testatorís estate from passing through the laws of intestacy. However, if the will is not executed properly, these rules can apply if the will is considered invalid or does not completely dispose of all property under the will.
  • Does My Will Have to Be Witnessed?
    Wills allow individuals to avoid the stateís rules about who gets what portion of a decedentís estate. They also allow individuals to name their executors, name a guardian for their children and bequeath specific items to certain individuals. However, if a will is not properly executed, the will can be invalidated and the rules of intestacy (dying without a will) can apply.
  • How Do Inheritance Rights Vary Between Legitimate and Illegitimate Children?
    Once, expectant parents were quite concerned about marrying before a child was born in order to protect that child's claims to legitimacy. There was a time when legitimacy was a very important legal consideration, particularly when it came to inheritance rights. Today, the role of legitimacy in a child's birth rights is very different than it once was.
  • Contributing to Your Grandchildren's Future
    When estate planning, gifting assets to your grandchildren can do more than help your descendants get a good start in life; it can also reduce the size of your estate and the tax that will be due upon your death.
  • The Duties of a Trustee: How to Choose, How to Prepare
    It is not unusual for a family member to be named as trustee for a trust that benefits a number of other family members. However, just because you are related to someone does not necessarily make him or her a good trustee.
  • Setting up Your Wills and Trusts with an Estate Attorney
    If you or someone you love is planning their estate, it can be a difficult and complicated process trying to wade through all the legal rules and regulations that pertain to writing your will and related documents. Setting up wills and trusts can be especially difficult because the task is often mixed in with a variety of issues such as ill health, complicated family histories, and other emotional dilemmas, which are commonly faced toward the end of a lifetime.
  • 6 Circumstances where a Trust Will Serve You Better than a Will
    A will is the cornerstone of a complete Florida estate plan, and may be useful for anyone with assets that they wish to pass along to others, as well as parents of minor children who will need a will to name guardians for their children.
  • What Are the Requirements of a Valid Will?
    In order for a will to be valid, it must comply with certain legal formalities. There are dire consequences of a will not following these formalities, including the decedentís estate being distributed according to the rules of intestacy and the will being completely ignored. While the legal requirements vary by state, here are some guidelines that many states have regarding the creation of a valid will.
  • Divorce and Estate Planning

    If you are going through or even contemplating a divorce, the single most important step you can take to make sure that your desires are carried out is to execute a new will, power-of-attorney and health care proxy.

  • DIY Estate Plans

    Many people view estate planning as selling of commodity documents (like wills, trusts, etc.). And if that is all there is to it, then they are right to choose DIY options like the form sites that are available. This article discusses DIY estate planning.

  • Do-It-Yourself Wills Leave Families Unprotected

    As the economy crawls sluggishly toward recovery, individuals and families continue to make difficult financial choices. In an effort to save money, people are increasingly attempting to personally handle tasks that were once reserved for professionals.

  • Golden Years can be Tarnished by Lack of Planning

    Retirees often come to Arizona to enjoy their golden years in great weather and an affordable state with spectacular natural beauty. Things sometimes turn ugly and expensive for seniors in Arizona, however.

  • Is This a Good Time to Transfer Your Wealth to Your Children?

    Is this a good time to transfer your wealth to your children? With the interest rates at a really low rate, and with the economic fallout from the present economy, even people with money do not feel flush now and may decide that they do not want to make gifts to the next generation. Even though the economy has been in recession many times before and has come out of it to prosperity, sometimes it is hard to look beyond the present time to see that prosperity.

  • Making Estate Planning a Family Affair

    Very few people are excited about drawing up their estate plans.

  • Pet Trusts Are an Important Part of Estate Planning

    A pet trust should be included as part of any good estate plan, just as a will, POS, HCP, and LW are the minimums everyone should have. The Helmsley debacle outlined some problems in her Pet Trust and will. Good drafting goes a long way.

  • Repeal of Estate Tax Likely to be Short-Lived

    As December 31 came and went, so did the federal estate tax - or at least for the time being. The estate tax, or the "death tax" as it is more affectionately known, is a tax imposed on the property and assets (i.e. "the estate") that an individual leaves behind at death. Under 2009 rates, the first $3.5 million of the estate was exempt from the tax while any amount over this was taxed at 45 percent.

  • Seniors Ė Planning Ahead is Key to Financial Stability

    Recently, there was a case in the news of a Brooks Astor, a New York socialite, who is now 104 years old. Her grandson is in a heated battle to remove his dad as Mrs. Astor's caregiver. In court papers that were filed, the grandson accused his father of ignoring Mrs. Astor's health and personal needs and requested a friend of Mrs. Astor's be appointed as her guardian.

  • The Pitfalls of Improper Titling of your Assets

    Even if the terms of your estate plan meet your current goals, your estate plan could be defeated if your assets are not titled in accordance with your particular estate plan.

  • The Value of Gifts to Estate Planning

    Gifts offer an important tool for Estate Planners to avoid federal estate taxes. However if gifts do not take into account the special circumstances of the giver and recipient it may create more harm than help.

  • Three Ways to Ensure your Minor Children can Inherit without Costly Guardianship Proceedings

    While itís not a pleasant subject, sometimes parents pass away while their children are still under the age of 18. What happens then? In this article, we discuss the perils of guardianship and three ways to avoid it.

  • What is IRS Section 529?

    IRS section 529 or Qualified Tuition Programs (QTP's) are found under Title 26, Subtitle A, Chapter 1, Subchapter F, Part VIII, Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code or "IRC". It is considered the most complicated and hard to read section of the Code and a good treatment for insomnia. This section deals with special tax breaks for families, hence the "insomnia effect".

  • Why You Need an Estate Plan

    With the repeal of the estate tax (and generation skipping tax or "GST"), you may have put your estate plan on hold. This could be a serious mistake and put your family's (and business') financial future in jeopardy!


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