Estate Planning

For many people, a will is the only form of estate planning that is needed. In a simple case your will is admitted in a proceeding called 'probate' where the Court will supervise the administration of your estate. Your chosen executor will gather your property, identify your heirs, settle debts, and distribute assets according to your wishes. In most cases your probate estate must remain open for six months to allow for any potential creditors to contact your executor. After this period, your executor will file paperwork to close the estate and be relieved of their duties.

A will can be short and simple, or may include any number of provisions should you desire to control the distribution of property more definitively after passing. For example, many people desire to care for several children, but are cautious to grant much property to those who may not have the wherewithal to handle funds. A trust is an option when it is desired that the ultimate control of property is delayed, but that the property or money should be available in case of emergency or if otherwise necessary. Many options are available with the only practical limitation being the cost associated with creation and administration of an intricate will.

With larger estates, there are more options for the grantor and, at some point, the 'simple will' becomes 'estate planning.' Planning for the descent continuity of family businesses, making multiple family and generational gifts, minimizing potential federal and state tax liability through the use of qualified trusts, these are items that make estate planning one of the most compelling areas for the vibrant and creative attorney.

While the great majority of estates will not require complicated tax planning, it is important to evaluate your assets carefully and to know what options are available. If approached early there are very simple things that you can do while alive to avoid potential estate administration problems. A good estate plan will provide for your income needs, minimize liabilities and obligations, will direct your assets as you wish, and resolve problem areas well in advance of your passing.