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Wills, Estates & Trusts

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Family Law - Wills, Trusts, and Estates

Lawyers advise clients with respect to estate planning opportunities as they apply within the context of the particular family situation. The drafting projects are typically quite sophisticated due to the complexity of the estates of many clients, and include preparation of Wills, establishment of various trusts, formation of family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, execution of powers of attorney and anticipation of long-term health decisions using advance health care directives.

Will, Trusts and Estate practices include the following general areas:

  • Estate planning and drafting wills, trusts and other estate documents
  • Estate planning with closely held businesses and significant investment assets
  • Administration of estates and trusts
  • Representation of charitable, non-profit and other tax-exempt entities
  • Representation in tax controversies
  • Representation in will contests and other related court disputes

Administration of Estates and Trusts

Trusts and estates lawyers advise corporate and individual fiduciaries regarding the administration of estates and trusts, including post-mortem trust funding and asset transfers, post-mortem tax planning, and estate tax, gift tax, and trust income tax return preparation.

A will is an official document stating what you want to have done with your belongings and estate when you die. It is usually advisable to have an attorney write your will to be sure that all your estate is accounted for and that all the necessary instructions are given.

A will allows you to make decisions, rather than forcing state law or a judge to make the decisions for you after your death.  You can direct certain items of value or accounts to go to designated persons, including your church or favorite mission society or charity.  The government cannot do this without your specific instructions in a properly executed will.  You can designate your executor rather than leaving that choice to your heirs and the surrogate court judge.  You can minimize fees and taxes with proper estate planning. 

Though most Americans are aware that they need a will, the majority -- about 70% of us -- don't have one. People procrastinate for many reasons, but it's important to know that writing a will doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. And once it's done, you can rest a little easier, knowing that your wishes will be followed after your death.

Probate and Executors
When a person dies, someone must step in to wind up the deceased person's affairs. Bills must be paid, property must be accounted for, and items must be passed on to the people chosen by the deceased person. If state law requires that all this be handled through probate court proceedings, the process can take many months. If, however, before his or her death the deceased person took steps to avoid probate, the whole process will be quicker and easier. But even if there wasn't any probate-avoidance planning, the surviving family may still be able to use simplified court procedures if not too much money and other property is involved.

Living Trusts
Whether or not you should set up a living trust to avoid probate depends on exactly what you want to accomplish and how much paperwork you're willing to put up with. Living trusts work wonderfully for many people, but not everyone needs one.

Should I have an estate plan?
You should have an estate plan if: you are the parent of minor children you have property that you care about you care about your health care treatment. If you do not have minor children, do not care about your property, and have no concerns about your health care treatment, then you do not need an estate plan. But if you meet any of these categories above, you should have an estate plan.

Business and Estate Planning

Business planning arranges a business with certain purposes in mind. Business planning includes selecting from various techniques that are suited to the owner of the business. Beginning with the selection of the business entity, whether it be corporate, partnership, trust or another type of entity, or the information, organization, or operation of the entity, certain techniques using stock, employment or employee incentives to take advantage of special tax breaks or provide other benefit. Whatever the state of the business's development from formation to liquidation, and everything in between, your business success may be enhanced by competent professionals, skilled and knowledgeable in corporate business and tax law, and proficient in the techniques for accomplishing the business owner's objectives. The objectives by which you plan your business and your estate go hand in hand, and are often considered together.

By working with a lawyer, you can plan a will that will guarantee the benefits of you estate to those you leave behind, and minimize the confusion of your wishes.


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