What is estate planning?


Estate planning is making a plan for who will receive your assets upon your death. Your assets include your property, money, investment accounts, personal items, life insurance, anything that you can claim as yours. The reason you want to plan ahead for what will happen to your estate is to avoid probate for your loved ones and so they have a clear plan as to what to do once you are gone. An estate attorney will be able to help you create the right estate plan for you and your family. Learn more here.

How does estate planning work?


How estate planning works is that once you pass away, the documents in your estate plan will lay out a clear guideline for how you wished your assets to be disbursed. Many times having the right estate plan will help to avoid certain taxes as well, which will keep more of your money in your family. Your plan should be tailored to your life and your situation specifically by an estate attorney. Make sure you are consulting with a professional estate attorney in your state who can guide you through the process. Laws can vary by state and your situation may call for a more extensive plan. Learn more here.

What estate planning documents do I need?


While every situation is different and you should consult a professional to create your estate plan, here are some common documents that everyone should have:

  • Will and/or Trust
  • Living Will
  • Power of Attorney

Learn more here.

Who needs estate planning?


No matter what stage of life you are in, it’s important to have your affairs in order, whatever they may be for your situation. Everyone over the age of 18 can benefit from an estate plan. If anything were to happen to you, having a plan will protect you and your loved ones from unnecessary stress and grief. Once someone turns 18, they may not have much in terms of assets, but they should make sure there are protections in place for medical information and decisions. Estate plans can build from there as you move through life. Once you start accumulating more wealth, get married, have kids, etc., your plan should be updated accordingly. Learn more here.

Do you need an estate plan or will?


You don’t NEED an estate plan or will, but the consequences of not having a plan far outweigh taking the time to put your plan in place. A will or estate plan will help your loved ones in either an emergency in which you become incapacitated, or in the event of your death, be prepared during a time of grief. They will know what your wishes are, what needs to be done, and most of all they will know that they are protected. Having an estate plan or will also keeps your loved ones from going through the probate process, where they would need to fight for your assets and potentially lose parts of your estate.

What is a will or trust?


A Will is a legal document that states your wishes for what you would like to happen to your assets after you pass away. A Trust is similar to a will, but offers further protections for your assets and your loved ones. Both documents will identify an executor to handle the responsibility of settling your affairs as well as who will be inheriting your assets or personal property. To learn more about the differences between wills and trusts, read our blog post here.

Why does everyone need an estate plan?


Everyone needs an estate plan regardless of wealth, age, or marital status. Anyone over the age of 18 can benefit from some sort of estate planning documents. Having an estate plan protects your assets, your healthcare decisions, and your loved ones. There is always something that can be protected with an estate plan.

What happens if I die without a will?


Without a will, your loved ones will need to go through the probate system to be granted the right to control your assets. This means that the decision of who will inherit or have access to your assets and personal property, will be made by your state government. It’s common that the court would appoint your spouse and children as beneficiaries of your estate, but cases may vary depending on your circumstances. Read more about what happens if you die without a will here.

Do you need an attorney for estate planning?


The simple answer is yes. You want someone who is a professional in estate planning who can make sure that all of your goals are met with your estate plan. Whether you have a modest amount of assets, or your personal situation is more complicated, it’s always best to consult with an estate planning attorney to make sure your estate plan will work when the time comes. DIY estate planning may leave your loved ones with issues you may not even be aware of after you’re gone. An estate planning attorney will make sure there will be a smooth transition of your assets and that your loved ones don’t have to deal with the probate process, which takes time and could cut into any assets you may be leaving them. 

What do estate planning attorneys look for?


Estate planning attorneys look for what is needed to best protect you and your loved ones in the case of incapacitation or death. Estate planning attorneys take into consideration your lifestyle and your situation to determine what the best plan would be for you. Estate planning attorneys also help guide you through the various stages of life. Maybe you are just starting out with a moderate amount of assets, your attorney will suggest your best plan options but then advise you on how to add to that as your life changes. If you are further along in life, there are probably other considerations that should be acknowledged in your estate planning. Tax considerations are also another factor that an estate planning attorney will look for when creating your estate plan. Overall an estate planning attorney should be looking out for how to keep your wealth in your family’s hands and keep you protected in the case of incapacitation, while also helping you leave behind the legacy that you want. 

What is the role of an estate attorney?


An estate planning attorney’s role is to help you craft binding legal documents to create a plan for what happens to your assets after your death, and also your wishes for your healthcare and assets if you were to become incapacitated. Estate planning attorneys should guide you throughout your life as you need to make changes to your estate plan as you move through the different chapters of life. An estate attorney should also be able to guide you through the probate process, in case you are finding yourself in that situation. Here are some other tasks an estate attorney may do that you may never even hear about:

  • Analyze the titling of your assets in your plan and work with you to move assets to your trust while properly naming beneficiaries. 
  • Raise concerns about your wishes if something may not work out how you want it to. 
  • Guide you on how to choose the right executors, beneficiaries, and other agents who you will be assigning responsibilities in your estate plan.  
  • Help you with naming guardians for your minor children and leave your wishes for how you want them raised if something were to happen to you. 
  • Advise you on healthcare and end of life decisions.
  • Review your best options to avoid major taxes on your wealth both in your lifetime and when your assets are disbursed after your death.
  • Update your plan and advise you on best options for your assets after divorce. 

 What does a probate attorney do for you?


When a person passes away and their assets are disbursed, there are laws and procedures to ensure that their belongings are distributed properly. The legal process of proving the validity of a deceased person’s will and the administering of that person’s estate is called probate. A probate attorney will help you through the probate process guiding you until the final transfers of assets take place. A probate attorney will help with all aspects of the probate process including preparing documents necessary for probate court, determining any taxes on the estate that are owed, facilitating the transfer of assets to the beneficiaries, and assisting with payment of debts owed by the deceased. 

How do you handle probate without a lawyer?


If you feel you are able to handle the estate without help from an attorney, there is no requirement that you have one throughout the probate process. But we can’t recommend enough having someone who is a professional that can guide you through the probate process. 

What should I ask a probate attorney?


If you are vetting attorneys to handle a probate case, here are some great questions to ask. 

  • What other areas of law do you practice?
  • What is your experience with cases similar to mine?
  • How long do you anticipate the case will take to complete?
  • Do you see any potential issues with the case?
  • How do we communicate throughout the case?
  • Can you give me an estimate of costs?

Do business owners need estate planning?


Yes, business owners need estate planning. There are different ways to include your business in your estate plan. Aside from a business succession plan, your estate plan is a great tool to protect all you’ve worked so hard for.

What is business succession planning?


Business succession planning is the process of preparing for a transfer of the business to another person (often a younger family member) or a business entity. The main objective of the business succession planning is to transfer the business to a third party in a way that maintains or even increases the valuation of the business, minimizes tax liability, and minimizes the disruption of the business operations.

How much does business succession planning cost?


The cost of business succession planning varies depending on the size of your business and the route you want to take in transferring ownership. The cost of having a business succession plan far outweighs the risks on your business if you don’t have one.

Why do businesses do succession planning?


Businesses have succession plans to prepare for a transfer of ownership of the business to another person when it becomes necessary. We all move on at some point, even business owners. Whether it’s retirement, a career change, an emergency, death, or whatever reason, it’s inevitable that at some point a business owner will leave the business. A succession plan ensures a smooth transfer of ownership that keeps operations running without any issues. Having a succession plan in place also helps mitigate tax liabilities and helps the valuation of the business.

What is succession planning explained with an example?


A business succession plan is the plan you have for transferring ownership of your company once you inevitably leave. This can be done in a variety of ways. Say you are the sole owner of your business. You can choose to either pass the business down to someone, sell the business to someone, or even close the business altogether. If you have partial ownership in a company, a succession plan dictates how your percentage of the company would be transferred upon your exit.

What is succession planning process?


There are many different strategies and options for succession planning. The following four general steps for developing a succession plan provide a good road map for the process:

Choose Your Business Successor – If you don’t have a family member who is able and willing to take the reins of your business.  You may start by looking within the business organization, examining current senior management who may have the right leadership skills.  In some circumstances, current employees of the business may be willing to buy-out the business from the owners.  Privately-held family businesses will benefit from the engagement of the third-party consultants, who can provide guidance during such emotional period. This process should begin at least 5-10 years prior to a planned retirement.

Develop a Formal Management Training Program – First, you need to identify some of the most critical functions of the company and have your successor(s) work in each of these areas. It’s not enough for your successors to understand the executive responsibilities, they need to be able to step-in and lead the organization when the time comes.

Establish a Reasonable Timetable – Determine how and when control of the company will be shifted to your successor.  It should be noted that the company’s ownership and management of the business may be transitioned to the successors at different times.

Execute the Succession Plan – If you have made the proper preparations, the execution of the business succession shall be relatively simply process. Businesses whose owners install their successors during their lifetime typically have a much smoother transition and the greater chances to preserve the success of the business for the future generations.

 How do you write a business succession plan?

To write a business succession plan, you need to start thinking about your main concerns for your business and what your goals are. With your succession plan you will want to list those clear goals and the structures you have in place to achieve them. Once you have the direction for your business, you’ll want to have a clear standard of operating procedures and how the business is run to stay successful. The main part of succession planning is determining who will take over the business after your departure and what those terms will be. Of course there are many considerations and other factors to consider. Having a professional help you with your succession planning will help to ensure a smooth transition. 

Why is succession planning important for small businesses?

Succession planning is important for small businesses because it’s harder for a small business to continue operating if something were to happen unexpectedly to the owner or if there’s no plan as they are nearing retirement or a leave of absence. By making arrangements early, it will be easier for the business to continue running smoothly. 

How does succession planning help an organization?

Succession planning helps an organization by keeping an organized plan for operating procedures, talent management, and overall continued success of the company if something were to happen to either the owner or any members of the leadership team. 

Have any other questions? Contact us.