Do I need an estate plan?
You already have an estate, whether you own a modest home and car, or a large and thriving business and multiple properties. The same question applies: Are you taking care of your estate?
Effective estate planning is vital.
With it, you strengthen you and your family’s financial outcomes (before and after your death), eliminate confusion and conflict about your property wishes, and reduce government direction and taxation of your assets.
At Caress Law, we listen carefully and discuss your needs before writing wills, trusts and other estate-planning documents. This ensures that you and your family have clear and compelling tools identifying your intentions and effectively provide care and protection for your loved ones.
Traditional estate planning tools we use and customize to make the most of your plan include:
- Wills: Many of us plan for the future we want, but few ask, “After I die, who will care for the people I care for? What will ensure that my pets have the fullest lives after I’m dead? Who will own and care for my treasured jewelry, home, and other property?”
To ensure that your children and other loved ones are cared for in the manner and by the people you designate, that your assets are distributed in the manner reflecting your goals, values, and vision, and to create or sustain family harmony — documenting your desires in a will is paramount, no matter how modest or grand your personal or business holdings.
- Trusts: Do you have dependents who need immediate access to funds upon death? Do you want to keep your last wishes private? Do you want to avoid probate? A trust is a tool used to avoid a court administration process upon death. Like a will, but sometimes more desirable, a revocable living trust is an instrument that specifies your last wishes and beneficiaries of your estate. A trust also provides access to funds promptly upon your death so your loved ones who are dependent upon you have access to the care and resources they require.
- Durable powers of attorney: If you (or your spouse, domestic partner, or other family member) are ever incapacitated, Powers of Attorney provide the individual(s) you designate with the authority and power to manage your financial affairs. Life-transforming health challenges seldom announce themselves, so every adult should complete this important document.
- Advance directives for health care: For individuals 18 years of age and older, advance directives provide directions to an individual that articulate the health care needs of our loved ones if or when they are unable to do so for themselves. At Caress Law, we work closely with you to prepare your advance directives, and assist you in making informed end-of-life choices and decisions by explaining and advising you about each element of these documents.
- Estate tax planning: Some estates are subject to estate taxes at death. Caress Law will design and implement a plan for individuals and couples that will consider non-tax planning needs while minimizing, (to the extent possible), the federal and state estate tax burden.
- Charitable Trusts: Is there a charity you care deeply about, one whose work means the world to you? Do you want to leave a legacy of which you and your family can be proud? Do you have a low-cost-basis asset that has appreciated and which would cause signification capital gains tax if sold? If so, consider a charitable trust. Caress Law can create a charitable trust that provides an income stream to you or a loved one, for either a specified number of years or a lifetime. After the end of the term, the balance of the trust will be distributed to your chosen charity. This type of trust offers numerous benefits: It reduces your tax liability by qualifying as a charitable deduction on your income taxes and removes the asset from your estate, thereby reducing your estate tax liability; and it provides a valuable gift to the charity of your choice. That’s a win-win-win.
- Supplemental needs trusts: Can you leave a portion of your estate for the care and protection of your child or grandchild with special needs, yet not disqualify her or him from receiving valuable government assistance? Yes. With foresight and thoroughness, Caress Law will structure a supplemental needs trust, sometimes referred to as a special needs trust, with the best financing strategy (e.g., an insurance policy or cash), then identify and work with an appropriate and responsible trustee, and then assemble the many trust elements to make sure your loved ones are cared for throughout their lifetimes without jeopardizing access to important government resources.
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts: An effective tool for resolving many estate-planning issues the irrevocable life insurance trust, known as an ILIT, can provide your family with resources to pay the tax burden or your other debts after your death. This valuable trust tool is not counted as an asset in your estate, so it will not be subject to estate taxation. It is important to work with an insurance broker who understands this estate planning tool and finding an appropriate trustee is paramount in the Trust’s success. Caress Law works with you, your trustee and insurance provider-broker from beginning to end to ensure the trust is set up and managed appropriately.
Putting a will or trust in place is a meaningful statement of love and respect for your loved ones and Caress Law is honored to contribute to that process.