Will planning is an important topic for everyone.
Without a valid will, your assets will pass among your family members in the amounts as determined by the State. If you are married and have children, your spouse does not receive everything–a surviving spouse must share assets with children or parents and is entitled by State law to one-third of the estate. Additionally, if you do not have a will you do not have the chance to specify who should serve as the personal representative of your estate, and the person that becomes this representative may encounter greater difficulty than if they had been named in a valid will.
A will allows you to address all of these issues. Typically, a will establishes who you would like to serve as your personal representative, provides for bequests and/or trusts for family members, and appoints guardians for any minor children. Larger estates (under current law, those over $2 million in assets, including life insurance) may need to include estate tax planning in the will. Estate tax planning typically involves a proper division of assets among spouses, along with the establishment of a “credit shelter trust” upon the death of the first spouse to die. Other estate tax planning mechanisms that may be used are insurance trusts, charitable remainder trusts, grantor retained annuity trusts, and family limited partnerships (along with other techniques).
If avoiding probate is a concern, some clients may want to establish revocable trusts which are not included in the probate estate of the decedent.
Other documents that are typically prepared in connection with estate planning are a Living will, which is a statement of your intent with respect to health care decisions, and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, which appoints someone to act as your agent for making health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Additionally, a financial Power of Attorney is often prepared to appoint an agent to act on your behalf for financial matters. At Schneider and Dodsworth, we are experienced in handling a wide range of estate planning issues, from simple wills to complex wills and trusts for estate tax planning. We will be happy to talk with you if you have any questions about the estate planning process.
Contact us for more information.