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

  • Inheritance Rights for Legitimate and Illegitimate Children
    An important question in inheritance law is whether a child has the right to inherit from his or her parent. A parent can decide in most states whether or not his or her adult children will receive any inheritance from him or her by making a will with these instructions. However, if the person dies without a will, state law dictates whether the children receive an inheritance. The legitimacy of a child can be part of this determination.
  • Disabled Childís SSI Benefits Affected By Inheritance
    Disabled children may qualify for SSI benefits. These benefits can be particularly helpful in families that do not have much income. Sometimes a child who receives these benefits may have a loved one who cares about him or her and wants to leave much-needed funds behind to an individual in this situation. However, if it is not structured properly, an inheritance can cause a person on SSI to lose their benefits.
  • Preparing for Uncomfortable Questions When Making an Estate Plan
    Studies show that many people do not have a will or other estate planning documents in place even though they need them. Part of this dynamic may be that it is difficult to confront our own mortality.
  • How Financial Aid Is Affected by Gifts and Inheritance
    The vast majority of college and university students depend on financial aid to help them fund their education. When a college student receives a gift or inheritance, he or she may be ecstatic about the prospect of having more financial resources at their disposal, especially if funds are generally limited. However, receiving a gift or inheritance can have an impact on a studentís financial aid.
  • Protecting a Childís SSI Benefits When They Receive an Inheritance
    Disabled children may qualify for SSI benefits. These benefits can be particularly helpful in families that do not have much income. Sometimes a child who receives these benefits may have a loved one who cares about him or her and wants to leave much-needed funds behind to an individual in this situation. However, if it is not structured properly, an inheritance can cause a person on SSI to lose their benefits.
  • Tax Implications of Wills with non-U.S. Beneficiaries
    The implications of an heir that inherits through a United States estate may cause problems when the person lives in another country, and these could complicate the inheritance with taxation and other regulations. It is important to contact a lawyer that has experience with the country where the heir lives to account for any foreign tax issues that may exist.
  • Partition of an Inherited Home after Probate
    Once the property from an estate transfers to the heir, it could then face partitioning from siblings or other possible dependents of the estate. The processes that happen after probate could complicate the property use and lead to disputes that end in the sale of an entire lot of land so that everyone involved has a share.
  • Foreign Inheritance Blocked by U.S. Tax Laws
    When inheriting a foreign estate, the individual needs to understand what laws pertain to the process so his or her inheritance does not face complications with the United States Internal Revenue Service agencies. It is recommended to contact a lawyer before attempting to import the foreign estate funds, assets or property.
  • Passing a Timeshare to Heirs
    Timeshares hold an interest in a property that is thoroughly divided among the numerous owners that then hold a partial real estate property contractual agreement. In certain cases, the individual that owns the interest in the building may pass on the timeshare to his or her heirs, but he or she may need to consider the state laws where he or she resides as well as the property.
  • Adding Beneficiaries to a Charitable Remainder Unitrust
    Creating a charitable remainder unitrust is not an easy task for an estate owner and determining whether or not to add beneficiaries is something the individual may need to assess. In so doing, he or she may need to fully understand the requirements and how these may affect the future of the trust or other important parties.
  • 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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