We are here to help you with your Wills Trusts Gifting Programs Asset Protection Charitable Planning Powers of Attorney Healthcare Directives HIPAA Authorizations Family Limited Partnerships Business Succession
We specialize in professional, thoughtful and deliberate estate planning for our clients, no matter the size of their estates.
In its simplest form, estate planning is the process of planning for what will happen to your property after your death. It is much more than having a simple will, however. Estate planning is complex, with many specialized tools available to facilitate the transfer of assets and protect your family and property.
Determining Who Inherits. An effective estate plan determines who inherits, when they inherit, and how they inherit. Without proper planning, intestacy laws could determine who inherits your money or property. Intestacy laws are the state’s plan, not yours. For example, without a plan, a spouse and children generally inherit equal shares of an estate even if the estate is not large enough to support the surviving spouse. The lack of planning often leads to confusion and bitter disputes among family members.
For many assets, such as a 401(k) or IRA, you can name a beneficiary when you set up the account. For accounts of this kind, the property will pass to your chosen beneficiaries automatically upon death. For most assets, however, including real estate, investment accounts, bank accounts and personal property you own, you must use a will or another estate planning tool to specify who inherits or the law will decide for you.
SEE ARTICLE: Death & Taxes
Avoiding Probate. Without planning, your assets will have to pass through probate. The probate process is a court-administered process to transfer assets. There are some major disadvantages to probate. First, probate laws are generally designed to protect creditors of your estate over your beneficiaries. The probate process also means the transfer of your assets and the other matters involved in settling your estate become court record, resulting in a major loss of privacy. It takes months to complete and can be very expensive. You can avoid the probate process with a well drafted estate plan.
Structured Inheritance. Preparing an effective estate plan will also ensure inheritances left to your loved ones are structured the right way. Without thoughtful and deliberate planning, many things can go wrong. For example, if you’ve left money to a minor but not used an appropriate estate planning tool to ensure that a trusted person is vested with responsibility to manage the funds, the court may need to appoint a conservator. The conservator may not be someone you trust to manage the money. Additionally, inheritances not properly left to your spouse can be exposed to divorce if your spouse remarries, and assets not properly left to your children may not be protected from bankruptcy, lawsuits, or divorce.
SEE ARTICLES: The Best Laid Plans…Pitfalls Of Making Gifts to Your Children
Planning for the Brady Bunch: The “Blended” Family And The QTIP Trust
Protecting Minor Children. An effective plan names a guardian for minor children if you and your spouse are unable to care for them. If you haven’t properly designated a guardian, a court could be forced to decide who gets custody of your children. This could put your children in the middle of a custody battle and they could wind up being raised by the last persons you wanted.
Avoiding Taxes. Proper planning can ensure you avoid estate taxes to the greatest extent possible. Without a plan, your heirs could lose money and property due to high estate tax costs, depending on the size of your estate. While the estate tax threshold is currently high (you won’t owe estate taxes unless your estate exceeds $11.4 million in 2019) that amount is always subject to change and reverts to much lower levels in 2025. A proper estate plan provides flexibility in the plan to account for changes in estate tax laws to ensure you are taking full advantage of legal tax shelters and other tax savings techniques. There are many sophisticated techniques available and we are experienced in all of them.
SEE ARTICLE: What’s The Deal With Estate Taxes
Maintaining Your Autonomy. It’s devastating to become incapacitated by a serious illness or to suffer a medical emergency. But if you’ve taken steps in advance to determine where you’ll live, who will take care of you, what kind of medical care you’ll receive, and who will make decisions on your behalf, you’ll be much better off than if there is no plan in place. If there is no plan in place, the court may have to appoint a guardian and conservator who may not know your wishes or who you may not have wanted to be in charge of making decisions for you.
SEE: Elder Law and Disability Planning
SEE ARTICLES: Preventative Medicine: Taking Care of Yourself, Legally Speaking
You’ve Got The Power…. Now What? Understanding Financial Powers of Attorney
Estate planning is not something that should be taken lightly. We are experienced and very skilled at putting the right tools in place for you.
Here are just some of the estate planning services we provide:
- Annual Gift Exclusion
- Asset Protection
- Business Succession Planning
- Charitable Planning
- Family Limited Partnerships and LLCs
- Generation Skipping Transfer Tax
- Gift Tax
- Gifting Programs
- Health Care Directives
- HIPAA Authorizations
- Life Insurance Planning
- Powers of Attorney
- Retirement Planning
- Tax Planning
- Trusts, including Revocable Living Trusts, Dynasty Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Life Insurance Trusts, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts, Retirement Plan Trusts, Minor’s Trusts, Generation-Skipping Trusts, Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts, Charitable Lead and Charitable Remainder Trusts, Private Foundation, Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts, Pet Trusts and more
If you already have an estate plan, we can review it and, chances are, put our experience to work on your behalf to make it better.
ATHENS AREA: 1671 Meriweather Drive, Suite 103, Watkinsville, GA 30677
PHONE: 706 389-9104