If you’re like me and many others, you might think that estate planning is only for the retired and the wealthy. Estate planning conjures up images of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis.You might say “What in the world does estate planning have to do with me? I don’t have an estate.”
Guess what? You do have an estate – nearly everyone does. Your estate is basically everything you own: bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, personal possessions, real estate. Your estate is all your stuff. And if you own a house (or as George Carlin would say, a cover for your stuff), that’s part of your estate too.
Like many people, you may want to decide what happens when something happens to you. Even if you don’t particularly care what happens to your stuff, you may want to save your family from conflict and having to go to court over this stuff. That’s the essence of estate planning.
What is Estate Planning?
Good estate planning is not just about who gets your stuff, but should also:
- Include instructions for your care and name a guardian if you become disabled.
- Ensure you can have a trusted family member or friend manage your affairs and pay your bills if you become disabled.
- Name guardians for your minor children, and provide for a local temporary guardian if the long-term guardians are out of the area.
- Provide for any special needs and supplemental income for family members without jeopardizing government benefits.
- Minimize taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.
- Ensure that your loved ones are not harmed by lump-sum inheritance if they may need help with learning to manage money responsibly, or might need protection from creditors or divorce.
- Include instructions for passing on your values, not just your valuables.
Planning for Everyone You Love and Everything You Have
Do you know what would happen legally- to you, your loved ones, your money and everything else you care about – if something unexpected happened to you? If you don’t have a plan, the State of Florida has one for you but you may not like it. And if you do have an estate plan and it’s out of date, it may not do what you thought it would.
If you don’t know exactly what would happen for everyone you love and everything you own, then the first step is to find out exactly what would happen, legally and financially, so that you can decide if the current state of your affairs is okay with you.
How Do We Help You With Estate Planning?
We conduct a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we spend time together and you’ll get informed. Before your Family Wealth Planning Session, you will complete a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment, which will help you to get clear about what you own and what you have to think about when it comes to planning for the well-being and care of your loved ones and your stuff. If you decide the current state of affairs is unacceptable, and if we both decide that it’s a fit to work together, then we can design an estate plan together that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust; you transfer your property into this trust for your benefit during your life. One of the benefits of a revocable living trust is that, when done correctly and maintained over time, your estate plan should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate. If you have a larger estate that might be subject to the federal government’s 40% estate tax, we can help you with that too. If like most people, you have questions about how best to pass on your retirement accounts, we can help.
Can I DIY My Estate Plan?
Many people try to create their own plans. They either use one of the numerous automated on-line forms or forms you can buy at an office-supply store. Most of the time, this is wasted effort. These services and generic forms don’t take into account your family relationships, your financial situation, tax circumstances, or other important factors. It’s too easy for a non-lawyer to unwittingly make mistakes with a do-it-yourself plan.
Many people are drawn to do-it-yourself planning because they may have been exposed to lowest-common-denominator cheap attorney-drafted plans. Like DIY plans, a too-cheap plan is dangerous. Unfortunately, most plans don’t work because much of what passes for estate planning is little more than word processing. You are asked a few questions and then the drafter decides which “plan” is right for you, and fits you into a template. This is not estate planning; it is little more than a“search and replace” of your family’s name and then spitting out form documents.
Professional Estate Planner
At a Family Wealth Planning Session with The Clements Firm pllc, Coral Gables estate planning attorney Noah Clements will educate you, take the time to get to know you, your family, your concerns, your goals and your issues and will gladly and patiently answer all your questions to produce an estate plan that is exactly right for you and will keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict.
If you are a family with young children, then your estate plan should begin with a foundation that ensures your children would always be taken care of, no matter what happens. At The Clements Firm pllc we always focus on protecting minor children.