The first and most critical part of the planning process is exploring what you really want to achieve in your estate plan so we can design it to your exact specifications. Here are a few critical points you should be aware of:
- This could be thought of in general terms like “Keeping control over my wealth while I am alive and well” and “avoiding probate” or “Leaving my wealth to my children.” But we always go a step deeper. Keeping control means being trustee of you own trust. But do you want to be the only trustee? Would it be convenient for you to share control with a spouse or other family member? Leaving your assets to your children is fine but what if a child inherits from you, then dies? Do you want it going to the child’s spouse? The child’s children (your grandchildren) which is the far more common choice.
- Who do you want to have control when you can no longer be in control due to death or disability? We guide you through this discussion. It may involve family members or professionals. Will the beneficiaries be trustees of their own shares? What happens if a child becomes disabled, etc. All possibilities need to be addressed so you plan will work without court involvement.
The documents we create will depend on the goals that are developed in Step One. They usually include the Living Trust, Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property, a “Pour-Over Will” that names your trust as beneficiary just in case an asset is found outside your trust, etc. There are approximately 12 documents in an “essential” estate planning portfolio.
Depending on your goals there may be other entity planning such as a Retirement Plan Trust and a Limited Liability Company for protection against lawsuits.
Signed documents do not an estate plan make. If you create a living trust and leave an asset in joint tenancy then the asset will pass by right of survivorship, not under the terms of your trust. The trust protections will have been lost.
Funding is a critical step. Without it, you can die with a living trust and still end up in probate court.