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July 22, 2013
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August 12, 2013

Things you should consider in setting up your basic estate plan

A variety of avenues exist for the transferring of property, including Last Will & Testament, trusts, Transfer on Death instruments, Payable on Death accounts, and others.  Some of these have the ability to avoid probate court.  Others reap certain tax benefits.  If it appears that tax liability may be a concern, it is a good practice to contact both an attorney and a tax professional to evaluate your case.  Financial advisors also may become involved.  The best estate planning is accomplished with a combined effort of all of your professional advisors.  

This list of items to consider is not a substitute for sitting down with an attorney to discuss how to accomplish your estate planning goals.  If you are interested in setting up a consultation, please contact the office at 317-738-2525, or by submitting an online request.

imagesLast Will & Testament and trusts, planning the estate, generally:

  1. How do you want your property divided?  Are there general bequests you would like to make?  Are there specific bequests you would like to make?  Who do you want to receive these bequests?  Is there the possibility that there are going to be additional beneficiaries in the near future (expecting children, grandchildren, etc. or planning to adopt)?
  2. If the people listed in your answers are unable to inherit (have passed away, decide they don’t want to inherit, etc.), how then do you wish your property to be divided?  Have you considered second alternates, especially if you are only planning on leaving gifts to immediate family (often known as the “airplane crash” scenario)?
  3. Are any of these beneficiaries minors?  Do you wish to control how and when they receive the distributions via a testamentary trust?  Who would like to appoint trustee, co-trustees, and alternates?  Have you discussed your wishes with them?
  4. If you have minor children, do you have a plan or proposal for who will take care of the children?  Alternates?  Have you discussed your wishes with them?
  5. Do you own real property?  Do you have any stocks or bonds?  What about significant bank accounts, retirement accounts, 401ks, IRAs, annuities, or structured legal settlements?  Do you own interests in any businesses?  Do you or anyone else have life insurance on you?
  6. Do you have tax concerns?  This is often something that is more adequately discussed with an attorney or tax professional in person, especially in light of the ever changing tax realm.
  7. Who will be effectuating the instructions left in your estate planning documents?  Alternates?  Do you have a preference of legal counsel to assist in handling your estate?  Do you wish for your legal counsel to be appointed as a co-executor or co-trustee?  What conflicts of interest will these people have with regard to this position?
  8. Who will be keeping your original documents?
  9. If you are interested in setting up a trust, what are the conditions upon which the beneficiaries will receive their distributions?
  10. Who will be responsible for the payment of expenses and taxes from your estate?  How will attorney fees be paid?  Are there any statutory provisions that need to be addressed, such as survivor’s allowances, etc?
  11. How much are you willing to spend in establishing your estate plan?

Living documents:

  1. Do you desire for someone to be able to make legal, financial, and contractual decisions on your behalf?  Is this immediate or is this conditional upon you being unavailable to make decisions on your own behalf?  Who would you elect to hold this position?  Alternates?  If a guardian had to be appointed over your person, who would you elect to hold such position?  Would you require them to post a bond?  Whether a guardian or an attorney-in-fact, would you agree to compensate them or are they holding these positions at no benefit to themselves?  Is there any possibility that this person will have a conflict of interest?
  2. Do you desire for someone to be able to make medical decisions for you if you are otherwise unable to make them yourself?  Is there an alternate person?
  3. If you are in a medical situation where you are only being kept alive by the artificial providing of food, hydration, and air, do you have any directions that you would like to give to your doctors with regard to what support to provide to you?  Do you wish to leave this decision to a family member or a health care representative?
  4. Are you interested in a living trust?  Revocable or irrevocable?  Who will be the trustee?  Are there any tax advantages that you would like to address now as opposed to when you estate is handled?  Do you have a tax professional?  Note:  This delves deep into your financial status and often requires close coordination between attorney, accountant, and financial planner.

Family and Closely-held Businesses:

  1. What is your business structure?  What are the ownership interests?  Do you have a corporate minute book?  Do you have bylaws, operating agreements, or partnership agreements?  Do you follow them?
  2. Is it the business owners’ desire to keep the business closely-held or within the family?
  3. Have you considered buy-sell agreements?
  4. Does your business have legal counsel who can explain these issues to you?