The term “Estate Planning” can be confusing. Estate Planning is not primarily concerned with the purchase of financial products, such as life insurance and annuities. Attorney Linda Ulinski does not sell financial products and declare that your estate has been “planned” as a result of simply making a few financial decisions or selling you a few annuities. Attorney Linda Ulinski will discuss your estate administration goals, your financial goals, as well as your healthcare and end of life wishes. Those goals are summarized by drafting and executing various legal documents including Wills, Trusts, Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills,and Guardianship Nominations. For clients who own or are integrally involved in business, Business Succession Planning documents are utilized to create an orderly, dignified disposition of your business through your estate and manage your business during any period of incapacity.
Your Will is a legal document with a detailed written set of instructions concerning who will receive your assets when you die and who will be in charge of managing your estate. Your Will may provide for Guardianship of your minor children.
Clients are sometimes under the mistaken impression that since they have a written Will, their estate will not go through Probate. However, your Will only takes effect when you die and as such is subject to the Probate Court’s jurisdiction and direction in its administration.
Your Will designates the beneficiaries you intend to receive your assets that are subject to Probate, and furthermore designates an Executor who will be responsible for payment of debts, signing and filing of tax returns, and expenses of administration.
Trusts may be created either during your lifetime or upon your death. Trusts are often used as Will substitutes. A Trust created and funded during your lifetime provides many advantages. A Trust may provide for your care during your lifetime, thus reducing the likelihood of a Probate court Guardianship in the event of your incapacity.
A Trust will provide for the disposition of your assets upon your death, in much the same manner as would a Will. Such a trust, often referred to as a “Living Trust” avoids probate and may be written to minimize federal and state estate taxes.
A Power of Attorney allows another person to manage your personal and/or business affairs. A Power of Attorney being “Durable” means the powers you have given to another person will continue even if you become incapacitated. A Power of Attorney is useful for management of your day-to-day affairs, such as paying bills, selling property, making gifts, etc., whenever you are unable or unavailable to do so yourself.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allows another person to make informed medical decisions for you any time you have lost the ability to make such decisions yourself. Naming someone, in writing, to make such decision allows them to work with your doctors to plan your care, consent to medical treatment, and, in the extreme case, inform medical professionals regarding your intentions concerning the use of life support systems.
A Living Will is a written declaration of your intention regarding life sustaining treatment, nutrition and hydration when you are in a permanently unconscious state. Absent your completion of a Living Will, the individual named to make medical decisions in your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care will make such decisions for you based upon what they believe your intentions would be. Obviously, your written intentions regarding end of life decisions are preferable.
Absent more comprehensive planning, in the event of your incapacity, you may find yourself in need of a Probate Court appointed legal Guardian to manage your personal, legal and business affairs. You may stipulate in advance, in writing, your nomination for Guardian.
Management of your small or family owned business when you no longer work there and transition of your business from yourself to subsequent owners should be planned in advance. Important decisions regarding transition of control, transfer of ownership, financing of a purchase, creating an even inheritance between family members who are involved in the business and those who are not should be thoughtfully planned in advance.
These issues along with critical estate tax and income tax matters, should be considered and addressed in conjunction with your personal estate planning. Clients frequently require a range of business planning tools including Buy-Sell Agreements, Voting Agreement, Contracts and Partnership Agreements. Business and personal estate planning should integrate the use of Wills, Trusts, and business planning documents to form a complete estate plan.