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

  • Can I Put a Trust in My Will?
    Many people choose to have either a trust or a will. However, others may actually include a trust within a will. This is often referred to as a testamentary trust. This type of trust does not go into effect until the testatorís death. Other trusts are set up during the lifetime of the person making it. There are important things to understand about a trust of this nature.
  • Your Special Needs Child and Estate Planning
    When there are children with special needs that may inherit or are dependent on the estate owner, certain provisions are necessary in the estate plan. This could include healthcare, long-term care, planning for the unexpected and hiring an agent to ensure business matters are taken care of while the child adjusts to his or her new role.
  • Three Types of Trusts: Differences and Similarities
    Trusts are created usually to assist heirs with managing or acquiring assets that may bypass probate or other legal concerns such as dependents that attempt to challenge a will. Other benefits of trusts may include evading certain taxes, lawyer expenses and keeping the income within the family or with a beneficiary that has been chosen by the estate owner.
  • Effect of Failing to Account for Unborn Children in an Estate Plan
    When building an estate plan, it is crucial to account for unborn children when their conception is known. Without planning for these children, the owner of the estate may have challenges to his or her will, last testament or other legal documents to pass down his or her assets to dependents.
  • What New Parents Need to Know about Wills
    Every parent should have an understanding of how will work and why one is necessary. Unfortunately, over half of all United States citizens have no will or any preparation for the next generation of heirs, and this could leave state processes passing on assets.
  • Small Estate Administration Considerations
    Smaller estates usually have less administration complications than their larger counterparts. However, administration considerations should be researched and understood by the owner so that he or she is able to leave enough to beneficiaries or heirs with probate processes known or similar situations mapped out.
  • What to Do when a Disability Disrupts Your Estate Plan
    Disabilities may occur at any time in the life of an individual. Because of this, it is important to plan properly and adjust the estate plan when an unforeseen disability disrupts the life of the owner of an estate.
  • When Irrevocable Trusts can be Modified
    Based on the circumstances, it may be possible to modify irrevocable trusts even though they are generally unchangeable. There are five different times when these trusts may be altered to fit the needs of the creator that owns an estate.
  • Explanations of Irrevocable Trusts
    An irrevocable trust is one that may not be modified once it has been created, so it cannot be revoked, amended, changed or altered in any way. Money, property and holdings placed into irrevocable trusts cannot be removed at a later date, so it is important the owner is aware that this is a permanent action.
  • What Is Business Succession Planning?
    When someone has a company, small business or an organization that accrues revenue, he or she may be able to transfer the ownership of the entity to a family member when he or she reaches retirement or upon his or her death. This act is business succession planning, and it is important for those with a company that is still thriving rather than sell the business.
  • 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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