An “Estate Plan” (Personal) is not a single document, rather it is a comprehensive strategy set out by several legal documents which provide for the management of ones personal or business interests both during and after their lifetime.
Comprehensive estate plans typically involve careful coordination of Attorneys, Accountants and Life Insurance Professionals and can dramatically improve the value and manner of distribution of one’s estate.
Who needs an “Estate Plan”?
Estate Plans are complex planning documents for individuals to convey and control assets both during and after their lifetime. Ever-changing tax laws make estate planning important as a tool to provide a degree of control and certainty over a long-period of time with respect to an individuals assets and estate. A well-sorted Estate Plan can assist an individual in:
Creating a degree of certainty as to your estate;
Providing income stability during lifetime;
Minimizing taxes payable by your estate and beneficiaries upon death;
Protecting your family / investments / assets; and
Contributing to causes/charities that matter to you -- legacy planning.
Who needs a “Succession Plan”?
Succession Plans differ from Estate Plans in that their goal is not the distribution of assets or wealth to beneficiaries but, rather, the continuance or transfer or control or power over a business entity upon the passing of one or several of its owners or key stakeholders. Expertly developed Succession Plans will provide for the smooth transition and assist in the long-term viability of a company providing not only for who successor stakeholders will be but what their powers will be before, during, and after the transition of power following a stakeholder’s passing.
More than just “Death Planning”.
Not all estate planning issues are connected with death. Estate plans can fund your retirement and can ensure that your medical needs - and intentions - are respected in the event of illness.
In the event of a disabling illness or injury a person may not be able to act on his or her own behalf. If the legal capacity is serious or permanent, then a probate court proceeding to obtain the appointment of a guardian is the traditional solution. A guardianship petition is notorious for being time consuming, expensive and overly protective of the property of the disabled person. Having an alternative requires planning in advance. A person with substantial financial or real estate investments might use a living trust.
At a minimum a standby “general power of attorney” is a necessary precaution for every adult. A catastrophic illness or injury can result in an even more dramatic need for a “durable power of attorney for health care”. A person does not have the authority to make major medical decisions for a disabled spouse simply because of their status as spouse. The law requires something more which statute typically refers to as a “durable power of attorney for healthcare”.