Comprehensive Estate Planning Services
Estate planning is a subject which every responsible adult thinks about but which many avoid. It is true that proper estate planning requires us to plan for unhappy possibilities, but there is relief and satisfaction in having done the responsible thing.
A good estate plan is typically not costly. A couple whose taxable assets are under $2 million can usually achieve essential estate planning for under $2,000. Conversely, the financial and emotional cost of there being no planning in place when death or medical disaster strikes can be very great.
The documents necessary to create a basic estate plan are a last will and testament and one or more advance directives, which are writings that address medical matters such as the continuation of the use of life support systems when death is imminent, the designation of a health care representative, the designation of a conservator if one becomes incapacitated, and possible organ donation. Also to be considered is the appointment of an attorney-in-fact by means of a durable power of attorney. Depending upon a person’s family situation and wishes, one or more trusts may be necessary. Attention to the beneficiary clauses and ownership of life insurance policies and the transfer on death provisions of financial accounts is also important.
While you may already have done some estate planning, it is important to review your estate plan periodically. Whenever there is a major change in your life or family situation, your estate plan should be reviewed. Major changes that should lead to a review of your estate plan include the death of a spouse or other family member, divorce, the birth of children, change of job or retirement, disability or illness, receipt of a financial windfall such as an inheritance, and a move to a new state.
The Last Will And Testament
A will, or last will and testament, is the centerpiece of a basic estate plan. It is a written document formally executed and witnessed by which the state allows you to direct the use and distribution of your property and assets. It is particularly important for the parents of young children who must make provision for the physical and financial care of those children if both parents were to pass away. It allows you to designate the guardians of your minor children and appoint an executor to manage your estate. It is also important to create, review and modify your will when major life events change your plans and expectations. A will may contain a testamentary trust which will direct that the property of a beneficiary be held by a trustee for investment and ultimate distribution of that property for the benefit of a beneficiary subject to your specific intentions and instructions.
A trust separates ownership of property from control of that property. Trusts are often included within wills so that a beneficiary can be supported and assisted by the property placed into trust without having authority to access that property directly. We also assist clients with drafting special needs trusts to address complex situations.
Advance directives are written instructions that identify the persons authorized to make medical care and treatment decisions if the injured or ill person cannot communicate. Separately, the directives designate which life support systems are and are not to be utilized in a case of permanent unconsciousness or unconsciousness coupled with imminent death regardless of what measures may forestall it temporarily. Without such writings, the family’s grief may be compounded by confusion regarding what person has authority and what the stricken person’s wishes and intentions would be if he or she could express them.
There are other documents to consider in preparation for an injury or illness which damages the mind. One may designate a person to serve as court-appointed conservator, if appointment of one or more conservators is medically appropriate. There are two types of conservator: of the person, or a conservator of physical welfare, and of the estate, or a conservator of property. It may be preferable to grant a trusted and capable person a durable power of attorney, so that if necessary he or she may privately conduct business as an agent without the probate court oversight of a conservatorship. Some people particularly wish to make written instructions regarding the disposal of their body in the event of death, so that their wishes regarding such subjects as organ donation, cremation, burial and memorial services are less likely to be forgotten, misunderstood or overlooked.
Start Planning For The Future, Today
Walter A. Twachtman, Jr. can help you, no matter the nature of your situation or your needs. Contact our office by calling 860-659-5657 or by using the online contact form. We assist clients in Glastonbury and nearby Connecticut.