Estate Planning Tools

Tools In the Tool Box

Designing the right estate plan for a particular client is like constructing the perfect home: both the attorney and the client must know exactly which tools to use to reach the desired result. Once we have carefully heard and understood what our clients wish to accomplish, we carefully craft the right plan to help them achieve those personal goals. Building an estate plan involves the consideration of many types of estate planning “tools.” Not every tool is right for every situation, but here are a few estate planning tools we may use to create your plan:

  1. Trusts. A trust is like an empty bucket, a receptacle for assets. Each trust has a “trustmaker,” a “beneficiary,” and a “trustee.” Usually, clients serve in all three roles while they are alive and well. At creation of the trust, clients can appoint someone else who could serve as trustee in case they ever become disabled. Thus, upon disability, clients have already appointed someone else to manage their property and financial affairs. Clients also get to name beneficiaries who inherit upon the clients’ passing, and those assets inside the trust will avoid probate and go directly to those beneficiaries. Keep in mind there are literally dozens of different types of trusts. Each type is designed to accomplish a certain purpose. Your attorney will take the time to understand your situation and will then advise you regarding whether you need a trust and, if so, what type of trust you need.
  2. Last Will and Testament.Most people think that having a “will” is what defines having an estate plan. The truth is you really never want your will to be used because using the will means an asset of yours had to go through probate. A lot of people think a “will” helps your assets avoid probate; but instead, all a will does is inform the probate court how you want to leave your property. One important use of a will, whether or not your assets go through probate, is nominating a guardian for your minor (those under the age of 18) children.
  3. Powers of Attorney.A power of attorney is like giving someone else a spare set of keys to your car, allowing them to drive the car for you if you are temporarily or permanently unable to drive. Powers of attorney appoint others to handle a variety of decisions (from financial to health care) if you are disabled or, in some case, if you decide you would like assistance, even though you are still able to manage finances yourself.
  4. Living Wills.A living will is a document expressing your desires for what you want to happen if you are unable to communicate and not expected to ever improve or recover from your illness. The living will empowers your Healthcare agents to make end of life decisions. Once you have these documents in place, discussing these matters with your family is important. They need to know how to use the authority you gave them if/when they need to make such decisions.
  5. Beneficiary Deeds.A beneficiary deed is one of many estate planning tools that allows an asset to avoid probate and go directly to the designated beneficiary(ies) upon the creator’s death. If avoiding probate is the only concern and we want to make sure a piece of real estate passes to your beneficiary quickly after your death, the beneficiary deed accomplishes this purpose. Other tools in this category of probate avoidance provide a way for your cash, investments, life insurance, retirement plans, and personal property to pass to whomever you want without the interference of probate.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer with Questions

If you have additional questions about estate planning tools, contact an attorney at Parks & Jones Attorneys at Law today!