Laying the Groundwork for Understanding Your Estate
Your “estate” includes every asset that you own or have interest in, including real property, investments , business interests, insurance proceeds, and personal property and possessions. If you jointly own an asset with another party, your share is considered part of your estate. For example, married couples often hold titles to property as “Separate Property” or under “Joint Tenancy.” Understanding the difference before one person dies or becomes ill is essential for keeping your family protected when circumstances change.
- As Separate Property: In this case of ownership, one of the spouses owns the entire property, which was usually gained before the marriage or was inherited by that spouse during the course of the marriage.
- Under Joint Tenancy: In this case, ownership is shared, and when one owner dies the other owner(s) acquire that person’s interest in the property.
What exactly is an estate plan?
Your “estate plan” is a legally binding plan that defines how your wealth will be managed if you need to be cared for in sickness, plus how your wealth will be distributed after your death. The estate plan also serves to preserve the values that matter most to you, so that after your incapacitation or death your estate lives on in a manner that you, not the courts, decide.
Why it’s important to set up a Living Trust
Eliminate a Living Probate
A Living Trust will helps your family to avoid court expenses and time-consuming procedures if you become mentally or physically incapable of managing your estate. The successor trustee who has been chosen by you in advance will manage all of your affairs to your written specifications.
Protect assets if you’re disabled
Getting quality nursing home and rehabilitative care if you or your spouse become disabled or incapacitated can be extremely expensive. A Living Trust can plan so that it appears as if one spouse has no assets. In this scenario, caretakers and/or the government cannot deplete your estate and in fact may pay for your care, whether you choose nursing home or in-home care.
Avoid Death Probate
Without a Living Trust, your estate will have to go through the very long and expensive process of Death Probate in court, even if you have a last will and testament. When you have a Living Trust, you avoid those costs and your estate can be distributed quickly by performing a trust administration without court interference or public scrutiny.
Everyone from neighbors, relatives who feel slighted, or ambitious sales people and scam artists can view every detail of your estate when it enters probate court (including your assets, debts, beneficiaries, and more). This lack of confidentiality is completely avoided by a Living Trust because it is administered privately.
Avoid estate (death) taxes
The Federal government allows your beneficiaries to receive up to $5,340,000 (indexed for inflation) without paying death taxes. In Massachusetts, if you die with $1,000,000 or less, your family will usually be exempt from death tax (there are exceptions). But with a properly planned Living Trust, a married couple can give double those amounts to their heirs without paying death taxes.
Control your estate – even in death
With a Living Trust, long-term distributions can be made to your exact specifications, even after your death. For example, you can turn assets over to your children when they reach an age designated by you, so you can still support their education and future wellbeing. You can also set up your insurance policies to be paid directly to the trust so you can control how they are distributed, too.
Protect your children from their own creditors and ex-spouses
Your Living Trust can be written specifically so that your children’s inheritances will have a lower likelihood of be taken by their former spouses or current creditors. Ensuring that your children from earlier marriages are treated fairly after your death, the terms of your Living Trust can specify exactly how they will be protected.
Ensure your wishes are carried out after your death
If your Living Trust contains a “no contest clause,” disinherited heirs and beneficiaries and their lawyers cannot successfully get more than you intended for them to have from your estate.
Find true peace of mind
When you know that your estate is safe and will eventually be managed by someone that you know and trust, you and your family can enjoy life without worrying how it will be distributed after your death. A Living Trust is the best measure for securing peace of mind.
The Complete Estate Planning Portfolio
Your portfolio will include a great amount of important information that will help you and your family to easily manage your estate and affairs. What’s included:
|Revocable Living Trust.||With a Revocable Living Trust, your family will avoid living probate, death probate, and can reduce or completely avoid state and Federal estate taxes.|
|Divorce Protection Trust(s).||To ensure that the estate you spent a lifetime building passes to family in your bloodline, a Divorce Protection Trust is put in place in the event that your children and/or beneficiaries go through a divorce.|
|Trust Assets.||This is simply a list of all the assets owned by the Living Trust.|
|Pour Over Will.||A Pour Over Will ensures that upon your death any assets you still hold outside of the Living Trust are transferred into the trust so they can be subject to your wishes as specified in the trust.|
|Certificate of Trust.||This is a summary of the most important sections of the trust.|
|Funding Letters.||When you transfer assets into your Living Trust, related financial institutions must be informed in writing. Copies of these letters are included in the trust.|
|Durable Power of Attorney.||If you become unable to manage your affairs due to mental or physical disability, you can give “power of attorney” to someone you trust so they can manage your estate and make decisions on your behalf.|
|Health Care Power of Attorney||Your Living Trust can stipulate who is authorized to make health care decisions if you are incapacitated.|
|Living Will||If you have a terminal illness that you’re not expected to recover from, your Living Trust can stipulate that life support be terminated.
|HIPAA Authorization.||In order for your Health Care Proxy to make informed medical decisions, they must have access to your medical records. The HIPPA Authorization gives your approval for your records to be shared with them.|