Estate planning is one of those areas of the law that the average person knows very little about because estate planning issues are not the types of legal issues that come up on a day to day basis. Or are they? The truth is that “estate planning” actually encompasses much more than most people realize. Although the distribution of your assets when you are gone may be a primary goal of your estate plan, a comprehensive estate plan can also help grow your assets while you are here as well as protect you and your loved ones in the event of incapacity and provide for those loved ones when you are no longer here to do so yourself. Consequently, you might be surprised to learn the various ways in which a Grand Forks estate planning lawyer can help you.
The Need for Comprehensive Estate Planning
Like many people, you probably think of executing a Last Will and Testament when someone mentions estate planning. Your Will may, indeed, be the foundation of your estate plan; however, a truly successful estate plan will include a wide range of additional tools and strategies that all work together to accomplish all of your estate planning goals. These inter-related goals help you create a comprehensive estate plan.
What Is Included in a Comprehensive Estate Plan?
Estate planning is a highly personal and individualistic endeavor. As such, no two estate plans are likely to be exactly the same; however, there are some common components found in a comprehensive estate plan, including:
- Incapacity planning – incapacity is not limited to the elderly. In fact, you stand a one in five chance of suffering a period of incapacity that lasts at least five months prior to reaching retirement age. If you were to become incapacitated tomorrow as a result of a tragic accident or a debilitating illness, who would make healthcare decisions for you? Who would take over control of your assets and finances? Unless you want a court to provide the answers, you need an incapacity plan.
- Probate avoidance – probate is the legal process required after your death. The primary goals of probate are to identify and eventually distribute your estate assets, allow creditors to file claims against your estate, and ensure that all taxes owed are paid. Probate can be costly, both in terms of time and money. Assets required to go through formal probate are also unavailable to the intended beneficiary until the end of probate. By including probate avoidance strategies in your estate plan you can save your estate money and save your loved ones from having to wait through the lengtht process of formal probate.
- Medicaid planning – your odds of needing long-term care later on in life increase with each passing year once you enter retirement. Unless you can afford to pay the high cost of that care out of pocket you need to plan ahead to ensure that you will qualify for Medicaid without putting your hard-earned assets at risk.
- Tax avoidance – federal gift and estate taxes are paid at the rate of 40 percent if owed by your estate. Failing to plan ahead for the possibility that your estate will owe taxes can, therefore, significantly diminish the value of the estate you pass down to loved ones.
- Retirement planning – if you wish to live comfortably during your retirement years you need to start planning and saving early in your life. The idea is to have enough assets available for you to be comfortable during your “Golden Years” and still have a nice estate left to pass down to loved ones. Clearly, your estate plan and your retirement plans are inter-related.
How Can a Grand Forks Estate Planning Lawyer Help Me?
The good news is that a Grand Forks estate planning lawyer can help you with all of these additions to your comprehensive estate plan. In fact, your estate planning lawyer can help you decide which of these components you need in your plan and possibly suggest additional components based on your unique set of facts and circumstances and the estate planning goals and needs you have.
If you have additional question or concerns regarding estate planning, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.