We know our clients work hard. We consider it a true privilege to help our clients and their businesses to grow and continue their legacy. We provide counsel on individual, family and business planning.
- Providing Estate Planning Counsel to Individuals, Families and Business Owners
- Wills & Trusts
- Business Succession Planning
- Asset Protection Planning
- Special Needs Planning
Estate Planning – Life Planning
Many people believe that estate planning is only for people who are particularly wealthy, have elaborate plans in mind for passing their money to their heirs, or for people who are acutely ill and contemplating their death. This could not be farther from the truth.
Estate planning is for every husband, wife, mother, father, grandparent, business owner, professional, or anyone else who has someone they care about, are concerned about providing responsibly for their own well being and for the well being of those they love, and for anyone who seeks to make a difference in the lives of others after they’re gone. Estate planning is not ‘death planning’; it’s ‘life planning’, and an essential and rewarding process for individuals and families who engage in it.
When done properly, estate planning requires that a highly trained individual lead you through one or more in-depth meetings to uncover your hopes, fears, and expectations for yourself and for those who are most important to you. This process almost always requires the preparation of several sophisticated legal documents, but those documents themselves are not ‘estate planning.’ Planning is a process, represented by a complete strategy that is properly documented and maintained by a professional who has taken the time to get to know you, and who is committed to continuing to serve you.
Business Succession Planning
Have you been looking forward to the day you can retire, perhaps turn your business over to a son or daughter, or sell it? Even if you are not planning to stop working, you need to plan for the day you cannot run your business due to unforeseen illness or death. Most business owners do not take the time to plan for how they will leave their business. They are busy running the company, or they don’t know where to start. But if you continue to own a business until you die, it will be included in your estate and could be subject to substantial estate taxes. Your family could be forced to sell the business or its assets at ‘fire sale’ prices. Then you will have worked hard all these years so that the vultures and Uncle Sam, not your family, will reap the benefits.
Planning for how you will exit from your business should be an integral part of your estate and retirement planning. Proper planning now can provide you with retirement income, reduced income and estate taxes, and even let you benefit a charity if you so choose, regardless of whether you transfer your business to family members at discounted values, to employees, or to an outside buyer. In today’s market, the economy and trends are affecting the timing and value of business transfers.
Planning now to exit your company will result in you and your family receiving the best possible results, both now and after your retirement, disability or death. You can receive retirement income; you can transfer your business to your family, your employees or an outside buyer; you can make a difference for a charity or your community; and you can do all of this with reduced income, gift and estate taxes.
Planning with Revocable Living Trusts
A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST based estate plan provides instructions that will allow you to:
• Control your property while you are alive
• Take care of you and your loved ones in the event of disability
• Pass your property to your heirs when and how you want while maintaining privacy
• Ensure that you and your spouse have sufficient assets to maintain your standard of living now and in retirement.
• Maintain maximum control and flexibility during your lifetime.
• Provide for you in the event you become disabled.
• Simplify administration as much as possible upon your death or disability (avoiding probate & guardianship).
• Avoid having your private matters being made public unnecessarily.
• Ensure that the efforts you desire are used to save your life.
• Have your property continue to benefit the survivor after one of you dies.
• If married, protect your assets so that they cannot be lost as a result of remarriage after the death of one of you.
• Ensure that the persons you select in fact become the guardians of your minor children.
• Protect your children’s or grandchildren’s inheritance from mismanagement.
• Structure your children’s or grandchildren’s inheritance in such a way that it installs values and virtues.
• Educate your children and grandchildren.
• Reduce the risk of litigation from heirs who receive less than they think they are entitled to.
• Minimize income taxes to the extent possible.
• Avoid or minimize capital gain tax on the sale of assets.
• Eliminate as much estate tax as possible.
An Inheritor’s Trust is a trust established for the specific purpose of receiving an inheritance in a manner that is protected from your creditors and excluded from your estate for federal estate tax purposes. The laws of nearly every state, including ours, prohibit so-called ‘self-settled trusts’ – an irrevocable trust you establish yourself for your benefit, yet which purports to protect the trust assets from your creditors. Therefore, once you receive an inheritance, you cannot asset protect the inheritance yourself. However, if you are expecting an inheritance – for example, from a parent or grandparent – and that person is unable or unwilling to set up your inheritance in an asset-protected trust, you can protect these assets yourself by creating an Inheritor’s Trust to be the recipient of the inheritance. An Inheritor’s Trust legally protects the inherited assets from creditors and divorce yet allows you to access them as necessary. This trust also removes the assets from your estates so that these assets will not be subject to federal estate tax upon your death. You can even have the ability to appoint these assets at your death to a trust that will provide similar protections to your children and grandchildren, yet be exempt from federal estate and generation skipping transfer taxes for generations.
Asset Protection Planning
A revocable trust provides no asset protection for the trust maker during his or her life. Upon the death of the trust maker, however, or upon the death of the first spouse to die if it is a joint trust, the trust becomes irrevocable as to the deceased trust maker’s property and can provide asset protection for the beneficiaries, with two important caveats. First, the assets must remain in the trust to provide ongoing asset protection. In other words, once the trustee distributes the assets to a beneficiary, those assets are no longer protected and can be attached by that beneficiary’s creditors. If the beneficiary is married, the distributed assets may also be subject to the spouse’s creditor(s), or they may be available to the former spouse upon divorce.
Trusts for the lifetime of the beneficiaries provide prolonged asset protection for the trust assets. Lifetime trusts also permit your financial advisor to continue to invest the trust assets as you instruct, which can help ensure that trust returns are sufficient to meet your planning objectives. The second caveat follows logically from the first: the more rights the beneficiary has with respect to compelling trust distributions, the less asset protection the trust provides. Generally, a creditor ‘steps into the shoes’ of the debtor and can exercise any rights of the debtor. Thus, if a beneficiary has the right to compel a distribution from a trust, so too can a creditor compel a distribution from that trust.