Estate Planning at Studholme Law Firm, P. C.

Estate Planning is the process of distributing a person's assets during life and after death. Many people avoid estate planning because it seems confusing or unnecessary. On the contrary, making certain your legal and financial matters are taken care of is not only responsible, it is essential. If you have young children, these issues are all the more important. We take the confusion out of estate planning and ensure your wishes are clearly communicated.

The foundation of all estate planning includes the following:

  • A proper Will, providing instructions for the disposition of your estate, including the distribution of your assets, the payment of taxes and expenses, and naming your personal representative and guardian for your children;
  • A comprehensive Durable General Power of Attorney, giving another person the ability to manage your financial affairs;
  • A Medical Power of Attorney and HIPAA Authorization for Release, giving someone the power to make health care decisions on your behalf and naming a guardian for yourself should you become unable to take care of your affairs;
  • A Living Will to ensure your health care and end-of-life wishes are followed should you be unable to communicate them yourself.

The issues addressed by these documents are relevant to everyone. Should you have questions about your specific circumstances, please feel free to contact us.

Planning ahead

There are several topics you should consider prior to meeting with an attorney to draft your estate planning documents.

  • Guardians for Minor Children - A Guardian is the person who will take care of your children's physical and mental needs until they reach 18 years of age.
    • Who is best able to cope with the raising or your minor children? Factors to consider include the ages of your proposed guardian, their children and your children; the health and financial means of the proposed guardian; and any special needs-physical, mental or financial- of your children.
    • Who will be your alternate guardian in the event your first choice is unable or unwilling to be guardian?
    • Have you asked these persons if they are willing to accept this responsibility?
  • Personal Representative - All or part of your estate will pass through probate, so it is important to name a person or company competent to handle the administration of your estate. This person will pay debts, estate taxes (if applicable), and distribute assets to your beneficiaries.
    • o Factors to consider include the health, education and willingness of the person designated to handle your affairs.
  • A Power of Attorney is a document that enables a person to handle your affairs during your lifetime. " Designate a person you trust to handle your financial, health care and real estate decisions now and in the event you become incapacitated.
  • A Trust is an instrument that enables the person appointed as Trustee to handle assets placed in the trust both during life and after death. Some people consider a Trust as a more efficient method of handling one's assets or estate. Trusts are not for everyone, but should be considered.
    • Factors to be considered are the size of your estate; ease of management of assets; and desire to avoid probate.

Answering these questions will make your visit to your attorney more efficient and cost-effective.

Estate Planning Process

In preparation for meeting with your attorney to discuss your estate plan, it may be useful for you to bring certain documents with you to the first meeting. These include:

  • A copy of any previous Wills, powers of attorney, Trust agreements or other estate planning documents.
  • A legal description of any real estate you own.
  • A completed estate planning questionnaire, if provided by your attorney ahead of time.
  • A list of major assets and their estimated value, such as stocks, IRA's, mutual funds, or other investments.

At the first meeting, we will ask you about your family, health, and general goals and ideas about estate planning. We will also ask for a summary of assets, including bank accounts, IRA's, life insurance policies and other property interests. Certain assets, such as life insurance and retirement benefits, may require different treatment than other assets during the estate planning process. It is important to be thorough in sharing this information as well as truthful when disclosing the approximate worth of these assets. Be assured that this information is held in the strictest confidence and is covered by the rules of attorney-client confidentiality.

Once we have the information we need, we will work with you to devise a plan that makes sense for your circumstances and needs. We will then draft documents and send them to you for review. When reviewing these documents, it is essential to check the names of beneficiaries, personal representatives, trustees and agents. Also, be sure the documents accurately state your wishes.

After we receive your feedback and make changes, we will make final drafts of the documents, call you to set up an appointment, and then execute the documents. At no time should you hesitate to contact us with questions or concerns.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is NOT a substitute for legal advice and no representations are made as to the accuracy of this information. Individuals seeking individual advice about estate planning and probate are STRONGLY encouraged to obtain legal advice. Many of the terms used herein have a specific legal meaning which may be different from the common usage of these terms.

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