It is never too early to establish a plan for the future. Whether you are a parent planning for the needs of your children, or a business owner planning for the future of your company through a business succession plan, now is a great time to get started. Estate Planning allows you to pre-arrange the way your property, money and assets are distributed to family and loved ones after you have passed on. It also creates a plan for yourself if you are ever unable to care for yourself and make sound decisions.
At Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, we offer a wide range of estate planning services, including:
- Simple and complex wills
- Revocable and irrevocable trusts
- Living wills
- Financial/Medical powers of attorney
- Special needs trusts and asset protection planning
Last Will and Testament
Also known as a will, this basic estate planning tool establishes how the estate assets will be managed and distributed to beneficiaries and names a personal representative, or executor, to carry out these duties. It is important to note that a will is the only way for a person to name guardians for minor children. By failing to create a will, the probate court will intervene and appoint someone to make these decisions.
We often recommend that clients create a revocable living trust in addition to a will. In short, a properly designed living trust takes title to a person’s property while allowing the trustmaker (or grantor) to continue managing it during his or her lifetime. A successor trustee is named to manage the assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries upon the grantor’s death. Moreover, a trust can also establish a plan to manage the property in the event the grantor becomes incapacitated. Most importantly, a living trust does not go through the probate process, which saves time and money and preserves the privacy of the grantor and beneficiaries.
Additionally, there are a number of irrevocable trusts that can be created to achieve objectives such as providing for a special needs child, creating a charitable giving plan, planning for long-term care, minimizing estate taxes, and protecting estate assets from creditors.
Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney enables a trusted person, either a spouse, relative or close friend, to handle personal and financial affairs such as paying bills, managing property, bank accounts and investments in the event that a person becomes physically or mentally incapacitated. Similarly, an advance directive for healthcare, or healthcare proxy, names another person to make decisions about the type of medical care that should be provided when a person cannot speak for him or herself.
This is another type of advance medical directive that specifies the treatment that should be provided to or withheld from a person who becomes terminally ill or incapacitated and cannot communicate his or her decisions about end-of-life care.
Although a trust does not go through a probate proceeding, it still must be administered according to state law. The person who has been designated as the trustee is responsible for administering the trust and is deemed to be a fiduciary. This means that the trustee is in a position of trust with the beneficiaries, and can be held liable for mistakes or misdeeds that negatively impact the value of the trust assets. At Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig, we advise trustees on how to fulfill their obligations and also represent beneficiaries to ensure their interests are protected.