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

  • Charitable Remainder Unitrust – What Are They
    Unitrusts are standard trusts with a trustee and monetary disbursements to the beneficiaries with an added difference once the trust term expires. Once the trust is no longer paid to the beneficiary, the assets that remain within the unitrust then go to the charity of whichever purposes the trust exist for by the person designating it.
  • What Is an Income Cap Trust?
    Income caps affect the elderly and other individuals seeking Medicaid for long-term assistance, and when the older person needs an income cap trust, this could affect the situation with children or other guardians. Those seeking to help an elderly individual in need of long-term care may need to satisfy the state conditions to do so for him or her.
  • Inherited HOA Property: What Are My Rights and Obligations?
    Inheriting a property that has an attachment to a homeowners’ association could come with various problems and issues if the heir does not ensure that the HOA is taken care of after the house is his or hers legally. There are certain duties and fees that those with these properties must satisfy before everything settles.
  • Who Inherits an Estate When There Is No Will?
    If a person does not have a will, state law determines who stands to inherit his or her property. These laws are referred to laws as intestate succession. Every state has a series of laws in place to deal with this often common situation. Individuals who do not like the way that the state distributes their property can use the information as a cautionary tale and as an incentive to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer to create a will.
  • Estate Planning Strategies for Grandchildren’s Needs
    Many individuals want to provide an inheritance to grandchildren. There may be a variety of situations in which grandchildren’s situations are considered in order to provide an effective estate plan. There are many strategies to provide for grandchildren, depending on the circumstances.
  • Probate of California Timeshares
    Inheriting a California timeshare through a will from the deceased estate owner is possible and occurs through the courts in this state by probate alternatives. While the timeshares may often go on overlooked in inheritances, these properties and the interests in them could provide several benefits to the heirs of the probate process.
  • What Is the Process of Contesting a Living Trust?
    A living trust (also called an “inter vivos” or “revocable” trust) is a document that allows a person to place his or her assets into a trust during life so that those assets can be distributed to designated beneficiaries by a chosen representative upon death.
  • Differences between Guardianships and Conservatorships
    Loved ones who are concerned about a loved one may decide to seek a formal appointment as the individual’s guardian or conservator. Which designation the person seeks will depend on the state where it is granted, the purpose of the appointment and factors specific to the person’s particular situation.
  • I Am My Father’s Only Living Relative. Can I Collect His Pension?
    When a person has worked for a company for a requisite number of years, he or she may be eligible for a pension. However, the employee may sometimes die before he or she receives the pension or before receiving the entire amount of the pension. This leaves open the question what happens to the pension when an employee dies. In some situations, an adult child may receive the remainder of the pension.
  • Problems Posed by Drafting Your Own Will
    Many people are influenced into drafting their own wills. They may want to save money by not hiring a lawyer. They may want to maintain privacy and think the best way to do it is to write their own will. They may pick up a do it yourself kit at an office supply store and feel they are competent to prepare a 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 – 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 it’s 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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