Creating a comprehensive estate plan will likely be one of the most important endeavors you undertake over the course of your lifetime. When properly drafted and executed, an estate plan will protect you and your loved ones while you are alive, help protect and grow your assets, and provide for your family when you are gone. Estate planning is also a highly personal process that must take the needs of you and your loved ones into account. The St. Louis estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC offer guidance on creating an estate plan that takes your family’s needs into account.
Estate Planning Basics
Although your finished estate plan should be unique, there are some basic estate planning tools and strategies that apply to most estate plans. As such, it is usually wise to start with some of those tools and strategies. Your Last Will and Testament can serve as your primary tool for distributing your estate plan; however, many people choose to use a trust because of the additional benefits a trust offers. Your Will allows you to make general and specific gifts, appoint someone to oversee the administration for your estate, and nominate a Guardian for your minor children if one is ever needed. A trust, however, allows your estate to limit, if not avoid entirely, exposure to the probate process. A trust also lets you stagger the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and can be modified easily throughout the course of your lifetime. If you are the parents of minor children, one of the best reasons to use a trust is the simple fact that your minor children cannot inherit directly from your estate. Instead, someone must manage the inheritance you leave for them until they reach the age of majority. By placing those assets in a trust, you choose who will manage them and the terms under which they are ultimately distributed.
Advanced Estate Planning – Tailoring Your Plan to Your Family
Once you have decided on a basic tool for distributing your estate assets, you will need to consider expanding and growing your estate plan to meet the unique needs of your family. To do that, think about the following questions:
- Is your estate likely to be large enough that you need to worry about gift and estate taxes?
- Do you have a child with special needs that you need to consider?
- Are you a business owner?
- Are there any specific threats to your assets that you are worried about?
- Who do you want in fiduciary positions within your estate plan?
- Who do you want to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself?
- Who do you want to control your assets if you cannot manage them yourself?
- Do you have long-term care insurance?
- Do you have strong beliefs and/or wishes with regard to end of life medical care?
- How do you want your body handled after your death?
You will likely have additional questions you need to answer, but these will get you started tailoring an advanced estate plan to your family’s needs. For example, if estate taxes will be an issue, you need to get started early on with tax avoidance strategies in your plan. Special needs planning, business succession planning, and Medicaid planning components may need to be added to your estate plan if any, or all, are warranted. To ensure that your wishes are honored, you may need to execute an advance directive and/or include funeral planning in your estate plan. Finally, incapacity planning and asset protection strategies are commonly included in an advanced estate plan to ensure that your assets are protected and that there are no surprises in the event of your incapacity at any point during your lifetime. To ensure that your estate plan reflects the needs of your family, be sure to work closely with an experienced estate planning attorney when you create your plan as well as any time you need to revise your plan.
Contact St. Louis Estate Planning Attorneys
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced St. Louis estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.