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Estate Planning & Probate Administration

An Overview of Estate Planning

Estate Planning allows an individual to provide for the disposition of his or her personal assets at death, including an ongoing protection of these assets in the case where the recipients are minors or have special needs, as well as to allow an individual to meet his or her lifetime objectives through advance planning. The documents required to accomplish these goals may include Wills, Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney and Health Care Proxies. The estate planning process is impacted by frequently changing federal and state laws, particularly in the areas of estate tax and inheritance laws. Accordingly, it is generally recommended that one seek out an attorney with a good solid background in estate and tax planning to create a plan that fits each client's specific needs and complies with the federal and state laws rather than a "cookie cutter", one plan fits all approach. Your attorney is a vital part in assuring that your estate planning goals and objectives are properly set up and carried out.

Basic Documents used in Estate Planning

It is recommended that everyone have an estate plan, even if your estate is small. With proper planning, you can make sure to whom your assets will go (not where state statutes dictate in the absent of estate planning documents), when your beneficiaries will receive them (i.e. delay receipt of substantial assets to persons who have recently reached the legal age of majority – 18 years in most states), and appointment of those you want to be in charge and have legal authority to carry out your wishes (not personas appointed by a court). Using an experienced estate planning attorney could result in a significant reduction of court costs, probate attorney fees and tax liabilities as well as result in a streamlined process of administration at the time of death. With a planned and well-organized estate, there will be less stress on surviving family members, as most decisions will have already been made by the individual.

At a minimum, estate plans should include a Will, Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. A Will sets forth a disposition plan of assets upon a person's death as well as designates a personal representative (usually with alternates) to carry out a person's wishes. If the individual has minor children, the Will should also designate guardians for any such children. A Durable Power of Attorney allows the principal to authorize a person (usually with alternates) to handle his or her financial affairs during the principal's lifetime, especially in the event that the principal is not able to handle financial affairs in the event of a mental or physical incapacity. Finally, a Health Care Proxy permits one to name a person (usually with alternates) to make medical decisions, including the withholding of extraordinary medical treatments in certain circumstances if so desired, if the treating physician determines the individual is incapable of making his or her own medical decisions.

Depending on the client's circumstances, an experienced estate planning attorney may recommend more complex estate planning techniques, such as revocable and irrevocable trusts, charitable remainder trusts, family limited partnerships (FLP's), irrevocable life insurance trusts (ILIT), to name a few.


The components of a good estate planning starts with a fully thought out plan with a qualified experienced estate planning attorney, followed by the timely preparation and execution of the proper documents to implement the plan, which may include a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Trusts and other estate planning devices, and finally, periodic review of the estate plan to take into account any changes in a client's circumstances or future changes to federal and state laws. If you do have any estate planning questions, please feel free to contact our firm today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced estate planning attorneys.