“Death” is a subject that most people try to avoid discussing, but is an event that will affect each one of us and should be addressed in order to protect your family and your business. Proper estate planning is critical to everyone. The need to plan exists for all individuals, whether or not a person owns a business, is an employee, owns property, is a renter, or is rich or not so rich.
In order to protect the family, property or a business, each person must have an estate plan, usually accomplished by a written Will or a Living Trust. The purpose of writing such documents provides a means for setting forth instructions as it relates to the transfer of property, the continuation of a business, avoiding excess estate taxes, and most important, instructions regarding guardianship and care of your minor children, which may include instructions as it relates to the child’s day to day care, education and training.
Periodically, there is a great push in the advertising of Living Trusts and the need to prepare such a document. Before deciding to write a Living Trust, consult with an attorney who you trust to decide if such a document is best for you. In deciding between a standard Will or a Living Trust, consider some important elements, age, size of the estate, willingness to follow formalities, and personal goals. In most cases, a Will with a Testamentary Trust is the appropriate document to be used for individuals who are under the age of 55 and who are in good health. Living Trusts can be cumbersome and may not be necessary to accomplish your goals.
Many people who are young and do not have any real assets feel that they do not need a Will. While there are other ways to plan an estate without the need of a Will (such as joint tenancy of property), if there are minor children, the worst thing that a parent can do is not provide for a guardian in the event of the death of the child’s parents. The last thing that a child needs to worry about, if they should learn that their parents have died, is with whom they will be living.
When preparing an estate plan, I ask a client what they would do if they were here to distribute their assets, and I use this information to draft the Will or Living Trust. Be cautious of generic documents. Make sure your attorney asks you what your goals are and that your Will or Living Trust is prepared to meet your needs.