Trusts and Estates Blog

Retirement Account Beneficiary Forms

Estate Plan - WordleIf you’ve every filled out an IRA, Pension Plan, 401(k) plan, or other retirement plan form, you realize the complexity that is involved in the process. But don’t allow the complexity to distract you from one very important question that affects your estate planning in a major way.

One section of the form asks who you’d like to name as beneficiaries of your retirement plan should you not receive the benefits.

Such estate planning is handled via contract (the application form) and is not subject to probate should you die without a will. The retirement benefits do not enter probate because you are not technically the holder of the assets. The bank, pension fund, or other fund holds the assets and appropriates them to you when the time comes. Should you be unable to collect the benefits, the bank or fund will pay the named beneficiaries.

Many forms require that you state the beneficiaries name, address, social security number, relationship to you, and percent of benefits received. Whether you name one beneficiary or more, the total percent received should always equal 100%.

Most retirement forms will also require you to list primary beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries. The primary beneficiaries are people who will receive the benefits. The contingent beneficiaries are “back-ups” in case one of the primary beneficiaries are unable to receive the benefits.

Just as you would update your will or estate plan after a divorce, remarriage, spouse’s death, or other change in your family, so you should update your retirement beneficiary information. Updating is necessary so that upon your death, the benefits will pass to the person to which you intend.

If you would like more information concerning your estate planning options, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a California certified estate planning specialist will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

When Should You Update Your Will or Trust?

Happy family holding Christmas gift.While some people may not have taken time to create a will or trust (and we suggest you do so promptly), others have had a will or trust for many years. But how can you be sure your will or trust is current enough to cover any life changes that may have happened since its creation? Ask yourself the following questions to determine if your estate plan needs updating.

–Was the will or trust reviewed by your attorney within the past two years? If not, have your attorney review the document.

–Is your list of beneficiaries current? If you need to change one or more beneficiaries, have an attorney help update them.

–Was your will or trust written before 1982?
Many wills and trusts established before 1982 contains a limited marital deduction clause that can be removed upon updating. Consult your attorney.

–Have your properties owned changed? Buying or selling properties should be reflected in your estate plan.

–Has your spouse passed on, been divorced, or have you remarried? Has one of your beneficiaries changed marital statuses? Be sure your beneficiaries are current to the current marital statuses of your family.

–Has your family expanded through the adoption or birth of a child/grandchild? Be sure to include all family members you desire in your succession plan.

–Has your health deteriorated? Most estate plans contain provisions for your care when your health does not permit it. Be sure such sections of your plan are current to how you desire to be cared for.

–Have your assets appreciated since the initial writing of your documents? Keep up to date records of the worth of your assets including homes, properties, investments, and such.

–Have you changed life insurance companies, pension plans, or another retirement benefit program since establishing a will or trust? Current records of these changes will eliminate later hassle after you are gone.

–Have you moved to another state since writing your will or trust? Have your attorney review the estate plan and update any necessary tax information current to your present states’ tax laws.

Overall, having an attorney review your will or trustevery two years or so is a wise practice as tax laws, property values, and other factors can change with little notice. Keeping your estate plan current will help your family avoid court proceedings or other hassles after you’re gone.

If you would like more information concerning estate planning, contact Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) at 661-945-5868 or visit their websites at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com and www.Medi-CalHelp.com. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. www.Medi-CalHelp.com is a comprehensive online resource for long term nursing home care for the middle class. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

Estate Planning Before It’s Too Late

Family lying outdoors smiling (asian)As many people grow older, they seem to lose track of time when it comes to estate planning and creating a will. Too often, children are left trying to create a will for their parents after they’ve lost the ability to make legal decisions themselves. Aside from spending much money to establish conservatorship, nothing can legally be done to plan the estate of someone who’s lost their mental capacity.

Rather than putting off estate planning, why not settle that issue right away? Here are some basic legal facts you should know when going into the estate planning process.

Don’t make your family go through probate. If you don’t plan for the allocation of your assets, your children will have to endure a lengthy and costly probate process to inherit any of your estate. You may be reluctant to incur the fees of creating a will right now, but your children, spouse, or grandchildren will incur much more costs to settle your estate after you’re gone. Probate can be easily avoided by planning your estate now.

If you own property, you need an estate plan. Estate planning isn’t difficult. In fact, in its basic form, an estate plan is a written set of documents stating one’s wishes for the distribution of his/her property after death. Property includes everything you own—real estate, securities, monies, home(s), and any tangible items you possess. If you possess any property (even if it doesn’t seem much), you would benefit from having an estate plan.

What keeps people from estate planning? Procrastination, busyness, bad planning, lack of funds—all these issues can keep people from properly planning for the distribution of their estate. Many excuses seem like good reasons, yet when it comes to estate planning, no excuse will help when family is forced to endure legal battles to settle an unplanned estate. What’s your excuse for not planning your estate?

Don’t wait.
If you wait until dementia incapacitates you or a member of your family, you won’t legal be allowed to create a legal document such as a will or trust. Don’t wait until estate planning can’t happen. Begin now by speaking with an attorney or making a list of all your assets.

Be proactive. Think not only of yourself and your estate but of your family who will be forced to deal with your estate if you fail to legally plan for its distribution. Don’t put your family through that battle, but give them the gift of peace of mind, knowing your estate is already settled.

Antelope Valley estate planning law firm Thompson Von Tungeln (TVT) offers sophisticated estate planning and administration for the affluent, discriminating client. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, partners Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve these clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand. For more information, contact TVT at 661-945-5868 or visit their website at www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com.

Helping Veterans Pay for Long Term Care

veteran_with_doctor_bedsideThere are currently over 25 million veterans alive in the United States. There are over 9 million surviving spouses of veterans currently living in the United States. Many of these veterans and surviving spouses are receiving long term care or will need some type of long term care in the near future, and there are funds available from the Veterans Administration (”VA”) to help pay for that care. Unfortunately, many of those who are eligible have no idea that any type of benefits exist for them or that an attorney can help them become eligible.

Benefits Available

There are three types of benefits available that provide a monthly cash payment to veterans who have long term health care needs. This article discusses aid and attendance.

Pension with Aid and Attendance. The highest monthly benefit is available when a wartime veteran or surviving spouse requires the assistance of another person to perform activities of daily living, is blind or nearly so, or is a patient in a nursing home. This benefit, often referred to simply as “Aid and Attendance” is the most widely known and talked-about benefit as it offers the highest possible monthly payment. An unmarried veteran can receive up to $1644 per month, a married veteran can receive up to $1949 per month, and a surviving spouse can receive up to $1056 per month (with additional payments available if dependent children are present in the home).

Prerequisite to Benefits

Wartime Service. As noted above, a veteran must first meet certain service and discharge requirements before being considered for any type of pension benefit. A veteran must have served 90 days of active duty with at least one day beginning or ending during a period of war. After September 1, 1980, the active duty requirement increases to 180 days. In addition, the veteran must have been discharged under circumstances other than dishonorable.

Disability. To qualify for any type of pension benefit, a claimant must also be 65 or older or be permanently and totally disabled. A claimant is the individual filing for benefits – either a veteran or surviving spouse.

Permanent and total disability includes a claimant who is:
• In a nursing home;
• Determined disabled by the Social Security Administration;
• Unemployable and reasonably certain to continue so throughout life; or
• Suffering from a disability that makes it impossible for the average person to stay gainfully employed.

Asset and Income Requirements

The financial eligibility requirements of any pension benefit address a claimant’s net worth and income. A married veteran and spouse should have no more than $80,000 in countable assets (less for a single veteran or surviving spouse), which includes retirement assets but excludes a home and vehicle. However, the $80,000 limit is a guideline only – it is not a rule set by the VA. The VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, income and medical expenses to determine whether the veteran or surviving spouse is entitled to special monthly pension benefits.

A veteran or surviving spouse must have Income for VA Purposes (”IVAP”) that is less than the benefit for which he or she is applying. IVAP is calculated by taking a claimant’s gross income from all sources less countable medical expenses. Countable medical expenses are recurring out-of-pocket medical expenses that can be expected to continue throughout a claimant’s lifetime. If a claimant’s IVAP is equal to or greater than the annual benefit amount, the veteran or surviving spouse is not eligible for benefits.

Does the Claimant Require the Aid and Attendance of Another?

If a claimant can show, through medical evidence provided by a primary care physician or facility, that the claimant requires the aid and attendance of another person to perform activities of daily living, that veteran or surviving spouse may qualify for an additional special monthly pension commonly referred to as aid and attendance pension benefits.

The VA defines the need for aid and attendance as:
• Requiring the aid of another person to perform at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing or undressing;
• Being blind or nearly blind; or
• Being a patient in a nursing home.

Qualification

The VA looks at a claimant’s total net worth, life expectancy, and income and expenses to determine whether the claimant should qualify for special monthly pension benefits. Unlike Medi-Cal, there is no look-back period and no penalty for giving assets away. However, one must use caution when considering a gifting strategy to qualify a veteran or surviving spouse for special monthly pension benefits as this will cause a period of ineligibility for Medi-Cal which could be as long as five years. Other Medi-Cal planning strategies may apply when trying to qualify a veteran or surviving spouse for special pension with aid and attendance.

If you would like more information concerning Veterans Benefits, Medi-Cal, or estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for VA benefits, elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.

The Andrew Carnegie Example

Andrew Carnegie - Gospel of Wealth“The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth, that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship.” The opening line of Andrew Carnegie’s book The Gospel of Wealth paints an accurate picture of Carnegie’s life and gives us an example of how to treat our wealth.

Carnegie became one of the first millionaires in America when he built his Carnegie Steel Company into one of the richest companies in the late 1800s. His story isn’t steeped in wealth, though, as he originally immigrated to the United States from Scotland with his parents. He began his career as a factory worker and worked his way to business owner.

Despite the wealth Carnegie amassed from his profitable business, he is most well-remembered as one of the world’s most benevolent philanthropists. In 1901, he sold Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $225 million, thus entering retirement. But his life was only just beginning as he focused his efforts and monies on giving to others.

Andrew spent the next eighteen years of his life establishing libraries, universities, places of learning, and scientific endeavors across the United States, United Kingdom, and other English-speaking countries of the world. Although he freely donated his money, Carnegie didn’t believe in handouts. He specified that if a city or town wanted him to fund a library, they must be willing to match his gift. He wanted the libraries to be a joint endeavor.

Carnegie didn’t believe in passing wealth on to posterity as he cited the British aristocracy as a model of the spoiling of generations, “I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar.” By his death in 1919, Carnegie had given away roughly $350 million of his wealth in philanthropic endeavors, and the remaining $30 million was given to foundations and charities.

“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” Andrew Carnegie certainly lived out his philosophy and inspired many of his wealthy friends to follow his pattern of giving. His greatest legacy isn’t that he amassed such great wealth, but that he willingly gave away what he had.

When you sit down to plan your legacy and designate your monies in your will or trust, remember that philanthropic giving allows you to leave a legacy beyond your family. Whether you have much wealth or little, take time to look into giving to a local school, church, library, arts program, or university. Ask your attorney about foundations or charities to which you can designate a portion of your estate. Follow the Carnegie example, “I resolved to stop accumulating and begin the infinitely more serious and difficult task of wise distribution.”

When to create a Will – The Jimi Hendrix Legacy

Electric_GuitarThe landscape of American music was changing. Out with the swing, jazz, rhythm, and blues of the early 1900s, and in with the rock that captivated the nation’s young people. One man who was struck by the change, and some would say led the revolution was known for his retro dress, on-stage antics, and reckless lifestyle. To his mother he was known as Johnny Allen, but across the world he was known as Jimi Hendrix.

To understand the unexpected and sudden fame Jimi experienced, one must realize the poverty into which he was born. His mother, seventeen at the time of his birth, battled alcoholism her entire life and died when Jimi was sixteen years old. His father, a retired Army officer, did little to provide support for Jimi and his four siblings. Of the Hendrix children, Jimi was the only one to live in the care of a family member. His sisters Kathy and Pamela were given up for adoption early in life due to physical deformities. His brother Joseph also suffered physical deformities and was given to state care at age three. His other brother Leon was in and out of welfare care during his childhood.

Needless to say, Jimi faced many difficulties early in life. From run-ins with the law to a dishonorable discharge from the Army and difficulty selling himself as a bona-fide musician, some thought he’d never make it in show business. But despite the many setbacks he faced, Jimi struck gold when he took his music overseas to England.

Between 1966–1970, Jimi Hendrix became one of the leading rock guitarists in both England and America. But his sudden, overwhelming fame didn’t bode well for his personal life. Hendrix entertained many different girlfriends wherever he went, reportedly used elicit drugs, and even fathered a daughter.

In the midst of his fame, tragedy struck. Jimi Hendrix was found dead in a London apartment on September 18, 1970. Fans were crushed, the music industry shocked, and loved ones heart broken. But that wasn’t the end of their struggles, as it was soon discovered that Hendrix had left no will.

Hendrix’s estranged father, Al, took control of Jimi’s estate, and set Al’s adopted daughter from his second marriage in control of “Experience Hendrix”—Jimie’s estate. Al also cut out Jimi’s brother from the Hendrix legacy, sparking a court battle that lasted thirty years! Amidst the family struggle for Jimi’s estate, Jimi’s daughter, Tamika, came forward to claim her father’s estate. But since Tamika’s mother was a runaway teenager, the courts did not honor Tamika’s claim to the Hendrix estate, stating that no other US court had recognized her as his daughter.

In the end, the story of Jimi Hendrix’s legacy is marred by the continuous estate battles and fighting amongst his family, perhaps best displayed by his long-time unfinished tombstone in Washington. But all this turmoil could have been avoided had Hendrix taken time to create a will.

At the time of his success, Hendrix didn’t think twice about creating a will. His reckless living leads observers to believe his lack of planning was out of lack of concern about his future. But despite his youth, Hendrix should have planned for the care of his estate.

Here are three situations in which people should take time to create a personal estate plan:

1. After marriage. Marriage is a wonderful event that is preceded by many tasks. From planning the wedding to arranging a living situation and obtaining the wedding certificate, some minor details can get overlooked. One of those details is creating a will.

Once you and your new spouse are settled, take time to seek out an estate lawyer and plan for the care of your possessions should you pass unexpectedly. If you don’t create a will after marriage, definitely do so after having children.

2. After children. The birth of a child brings a couple into a completely different world of responsibility. Not only must they care for themselves, but their child is dependent upon their actions as well. What a wonderful yet overwhelming time!

Should the parents of a child under 18 years of age pass away, the care of their child is designated in their will. But if no will is present, the care of the child falls to the state who will place the child in foster care or other homes. The better transition for a child is if the parents designate a family member or close friend to care for their child.

3. After inheritance or success. Here is where Jimi Hendrix went wrong. Rather than recognizing the fame and monetary gain he was experiencing, he lived for the moment and failed to plan his estate. Of course he didn’t anticipate dying at a young age, but few people do so.

If you’ve come met financial success through your own efforts, come into a large amount of money or inherited possessions lately, take time to either create an estate plan or update your estate plan. The easiest way to assure a simple transition is to carefully plan for the care of your estate.

Posthumous court battles and family arguments can be avoided if you will take the time now to plan your estate. Learn from Jimi Hendrix’s mistake. Even though you might not think you possess much, take the time to create a will and allow an estate lawyer to help you plan for your future and the future of your family.

If you would like more information concerning your estate planning options, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a California certified estate planning specialist will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

What is Probate?

Within the estate planning process, legal terms can be confusing. One such term, probate, is a simple term, but plays an important role in planning for the future of your estate.

gavel Dictionary.com defines “probate” as the following:

“The legal process in which a Will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s Will or the estate of a deceased person without a Will. The court appoints either an executor named in the Will(or an administrator if there is no Will) to administer the process of collecting the assets of the deceased person, paying any liabilities remaining on the person’s estate and finally distributing the assets of the estate to beneficiaries named in the Will or determined as such by the executor.”

Probate is simply the proving of a person’s will for the distribution of assets, done by a probate court. Probate comes from the Latin word probatum meaning “a thing proved”.

The probate process contains a few simple concepts:

1. The deceased person’s Will is taken to probate court and proven valid;
2. The executor of the Will then will settle any outstanding debts the deceased person may have accrued;
3. Next, the executor of the Will distributes the deceased person’s assets to the beneficiaries; and
4. The probate court overseas the administration of the Will by the executor and protects the interest of the beneficiaries.

(It is this last point that drives people to want to avoid probate in California. The court process is so rigid, and has so many mind numbing procedural rules that it takes 12 to 18 months to complete the process at great expense.)

If a person passes away without designating an executor in a Will, one will be appointed to the estate in probate court. A few people purposefully decide not to appoint an executor and leave that process to the courts, but this is rarely the best method of estate planning.

One drawback of the probate process is that every detail of the Will and estate is public record. The value of the estate, lawyer and estate manager’s fees, and the overall condition of the estate is put on record in probate court. Due to mandatory fees, probate can become quite costly, especially compared to the cost of creating a trust to avoid probate.

The best way to prepare for the future is to establish a Will, or better yet, a trust. Such documents can provide an executor specific direction in how to distribute an estate. While it might be the choice of some people to opt out of a trust and allow the probate process to handle estate distribution, this decision should be taken only in rare circumstances. Creating a trust is always the preferred option for many reasons, not the least of which is avoiding the probate process.

Probate can be a time-consuming and confusing process for the person without a Will, but through careful planning and the creation of a good Will, you can remove some of the painstaking processes involved in probating an estate.

If you would like more information concerning probate or other estate planning options, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a California certified estate planning specialist will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

Estate Tax Deal Crumbles as Democrats Balk at Tax Decreases for Wealthy Payers

From the Daily Tax Report:

Estate Tax Deal Crumbles as Democrats Balk at Tax Decreases for Wealthy Payers

Senate negotiators said May 18 that a deal to cut estate taxes is on the verge of collapse after a majority of the Democratic caucus expressed concerns about voting for an expensive tax cut for wealthy families.

“There is no agreement on the estate tax in either substance or process. None whatsoever,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told reporters, countering news reports that a deal was imminent.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) had previously announced that talks with a bipartisan group of negotiators on the estate tax had brought them close to an agreement that would eliminate the chances of a retroactive estate tax increase and eventually cut the estate tax rate while raising the exemption levels. Lobbyists said they believed the deal would result in a top tax rate of 35 percent with a $5 million exemption level for individuals ($10 million for couples), with both figures indexed for inflation. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that the tax cut would cost the federal government $332 billion over the first 10 years, while extending the 45 percent tax rate and $3.5 million exemption level of 2009 would cost $253 billion. The pay-as-you-go budget law exempts an extension of the 2009 estate tax levels from a requirement that the tax cuts be paid for, but the Senate would need to find an additional $80 billion in offsets if it chooses to adopt the lower 35 percent tax rate and $5 million exemption level.

‘Animated’ Talks in Democratic Caucus

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) described a May 18 caucus discussion about the estate tax as “animated,” calling the group of 59 Democrats and independents “split” on how to move forward.

“I think it would be a big mistake when everybody is yelling about spending and deficits to have very wealthy people get off the hook,” Casey said. “We did a lot of that in the eight years prior to [2009]. A lot of wealthy people did really well and others paid the freight.”
Kyl said even though the agreement—reached with Baucus, Finance Committee member Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and ranking member Charles Grassley (R-Iowa)—would have garnered the support of more than 60 senators, he was told the estate tax deal would not proceed because it lacked enough support from Senate Democrats.

The requirement to get at least half of Democrats to sign on to a bill before it can proceed “is a standard we haven’t seen yet,” Kyl said, expressing disappointment.
“We had an agreement on the substance of the proposal, subject only to certain offset limitations; other than that, we were in agreement,” Kyl said before the Senate Republicans’ weekly luncheon. “I’m not sure that that agreement still exists.”

Asked May 18 about whether he prefers a retroactive proposal, or one with a choice for 2010, or an option to prepay, Kyl would only say that he believed there was an agreement one week ago and “that may not be the case anymore.”

Vehicle, Timing Up in the Air

Kyl also said a legislative vehicle and the timing for consideration are still up in the air and negotiations are continuing.

Casey said most of the Democratic caucus is concerned about what will happen with the estate tax and “there are some who would probably agree with Sen. Kyl, but I think it’s a small number.” While Casey said lawmakers are not yet at a point where they are “drawing lines” over the estate tax issue, he said he has a problem with providing a significant tax cut to the roughly 2,000 estates per year that pay the estate tax. “The idea that we’re going to give an incredible economic advantage to less than 1 percent of the population is really offensive to me, to understate it dramatically,” Casey said.

The Problems with Hiring a Jack of All Trades for your Estate Planning Needs

4 year old embracing her Mother's neckMany people mistakenly assume that any lawyer can handle any and all of their legal needs. In the same sense that you would not depend on your general practice physician to consult you on a neurological problem, or a autoimmune blood disorder, depending on a generalist attorney to handle your estate planning needs is risky. There are specialists in any field, and in the field of law, estate planning lawyers who are specialists know best how to help you determine the future of your assets and the care of your family in the event of your death.

While a generalist attorney may know how to cover the basics of your estate planning (such as creating a Will or a revocable trust), he or she will most likely not be well-versed in the complicated estate taxes and loopholes that are a large part of estate and tax law. Estate taxes can reduce your assets by as much as 45% or more, and what your lawyer doesn’t know could hurt both you and your family. On the contrary, a qualified estate planning attorney will know ways in which you can avoid hefty taxes, as well as loopholes you can navigate to keep more money in your estate.

Hiring a specialist in estate planning law versus a generalist has other benefits:

• An estate planning attorney has had experience in handling both large and small estates.

• An estate planning attorney can help you find the best exemptions available to you under Federal and state law.

• An estate planning attorney will know how to handle the estate planning process through multiple stages – from drawing up documents such as Wills and trusts to what actions to take after a death and litigation regarding estate planning documents.

• You can rest assured that the most recent estate laws and tax codes will be taken into consideration when your lawyer suggests your best options for the allocation and designation of your assets.

• In an increasingly unstable economy, an estate planning lawyer will know the most recent limits and statutes relating to your investment accounts, savings, and IRAs.

If you would like more information concerning your estate planning options, www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for personal wealth management solutions through wills and revocable trusts. Whether your estate planning goals are immediate or long-term, a qualified California estate planning attorney will be able to counsel you on the best options available to you to meet your individual needs.

Basic Estate Planning

Typically, there are numerous goals of estate planning. Three of those goals include:

(1) To reap the maximum benefit from the use and possession of property during the client’s lifetime, (2) to minimize transfer costs and to minimize income, gift, estate and inheritance tax costs during the client’s lifetime and at death; and (3) to ensure the transfer of that property upon death without fighting among beneficiaries while minimizing estate taxes, income taxes, and other transfer costs.

Estate planning cannot be reduced to a purely mechanical process if it is to be successful. In planning an estate, the client should define the results he or she is seeking to accomplish. Any plan developed should reflect the client’s values, philosophy, and attitude toward risk, and especially the needs of intended beneficiaries.

The development of a comprehensive estate plan is complex. Because of the diverse tax, investment, and conservation techniques involved, we cannot over emphasize the use of outside advisors. At a minimum, you need an estate planning lawyer because the implementation of a plan requires compliance with many complex and technical legal requirements and knowledge of the effects of state and federal law. In addition, the use of an accountant, life insurance agent, investment advisor, and a financial planner are virtually always beneficial. In no event should an individual, couple or family with a sizable estate undertake the estate planning process without the use of outside advisors.

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