Estate Planning simply means giving what you have, to who you want, when you want, the way you want, and doing so in a manner which you control. Good planning, whether your situation is simple, or more complex, preserves family harmony, protects assets, eases administrative hassles and can reduce taxes, fees and costs.
The attorneys in our Estate Planning Department work closely with clients to identify and achieve their goals, from conserving and transferring family wealth to preserving family businesses, real estate and other assets, all while minimizing administrative costs. Our clients include individuals, families, businesses and fiduciaries, and our lawyers are regularly involved in planning and administering estates of all sizes. We represent our clients in the administration of decedents’ (probate), conservatorships and guardianships, and regularly advise individual and corporate fiduciaries on their fiduciary duties.
Estate planning techniques vary with our clients’ estate plans always keeping their particular goals in mind, using:
- Revocable living trusts.
- Wills with testamentary trusts.
- Optional marital deduction planning.
- Personal residence trusts.
- Irrevocable life insurance trusts.
- Gift and charitable giving programs, including the use of charitable lead and remainder trusts and private foundations.
- Generation-skipping transfer tax planning techniques.
- Estate valuation freezing plans.
- Analysis of available discounts in valuing business assets.
- Family general and limited partnerships and limited liability companies.
- Non-commercial or private annuities, grantor-retained unitrusts and annuity trusts.
- Retirement funding.
- Durable Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives.
Who Benefits from Estate Planning?
Virtually all individuals and families need an estate plan, but some people have a heightened need for planning such as those:
- With a higher net worth
- In a high risk profession
- Who own a business
- Who live in a blended family
- Who own investment real estate
- Who have love ones with special needs
- Who have minor children
- Who have significant charitable intent
A comprehensive and thoughtful estate plan can address the issues individuals and families have whose lives include these complications.
What Should You Expect During the Planning Process?
Tamborelli Law Group Attorneys will have an initial meeting with you to gather information about your family, goals, and objectives so we know what is most important to you. In addition, we will make sure you understand exactly what would happen under your current plan (whether or not you already have wills and trusts) and whether your current plan meets your objectives. We will also discuss public benefits and community resources available for the person with a disability. Finally, we discuss fee ranges and present planning options with you so you can make a good decision for your family. You will know exactly what your planning fee will be before you decide to retain us as your attorneys.
Once you have decided what steps to take next, we will work with you to design your plan. There may be one or more meetings involved in the design phase of your planning. Once your plan is designed and drafted, we schedule time to review everything to make sure it is exactly how you want it to be.
What is Probate and Trust Administration?
When a loved one passes away, their Executor or Trustee must handle the process of transferring their assets to the intended beneficiaries. This process can be accomplished through the court process called probate or if the decedent’s assets were titled in a trust, by a trust administration.
Probate v. Trust Administration
Although people often confuse the probate process with trust administration, they are not the same thing. The probate process is about transferring a decedent’s assets to the correct beneficiaries with the involvement of the local probate court. Assets owned by a trust will typically be distributed to the beneficiaries of the trust without court involvement.
Regardless of whether a probate or trust administration is required, the estate settlement process generally involves seven separate phases: including 1) the inventory of documents and finances, 2) valuation of assets, 3) redemption of insurance, annuities, and retirement plans, 4) payment of expenses and claims, 5) tracking of income, 6) payment of taxes, and 7) distribution of assets to the beneficiaries or heirs.
The probate process is a court proceeding that allows the court-appointed Personal Represenative (Executor or Administrator) of the estate to retitle assets from the decedent’s name into the names of the decedent’s beneficiaries. The probate is administered by the local court.
Unlike probate, trust administration does not involve the courts–so long as the assets were properly titled in the name of the trust prior to death. Look to the trust document to understand your powers as a fiduciary. The principal sources of your Trustee powers are the trust itself. You will see that the trust contains two types of provisions: dispositive provisions that govern the distribution of property and administrative provisions that govern the power of the trustee, payment of taxes and expenses, rules for interpreting the trust instrument, and other procedural issues.
If there are assets titled in the name of a trust as well as assets titled individually in the name of the decedent, it may be necessary to conduct both a probate and a trust administration. In either case, when you serve as Trustee, you are personally responsible for the payment of taxes and creditors if the trust administration is handled improperly.
As the Executor or Administrator of a probate estate or the Trustee of a trust administration, you have significant responsibilities and liabilities. Obtaining proper counsel and advice is critical to ensuring you carry out your responsibilities in a manner that minimizes personal liability. If the estate administration is handled improperly, you may be subject to personal liability. Proper counsel ensures you handle the following situations properly:
- Inventorying and distributing assets
- Correct document interpretation of legal documents
- Dealing with difficult beneficiaries
- Addressing income and estate tax issues
- Avoiding personal liability as a fiduciary
- Properly completing and filing court documents if necessary