Estate planning is often misunderstood. The process involves preparing a blueprint for the orderly management of your assets in the event that you are unable to manage them yourself. This process includes a holistic approach to the preservation and transition of family wealth.
The process starts with planning for living. It includes setting up provisions for disability, an event far more likely than death. The basic tools include health care proxies and durable powers of attorney.
Trusts may be used for various reasons. Assets in trust generally avoid probate. This device offers a level of privacy, and in some cases may significantly reduce the cost of probating an estate. However, trusts are more often used to manage money for individuals who are not capable of managing it themselves. These individuals may include children or those with special needs (or maybe even the person that originally funded the trust). Trusts are also frequently used to obtain significant tax advantages.
Many other devices avoid the probate process. (Probate is the legal process by which the Probate Court accepts a will as valid, determines the heirs, and monitors the administration of an estate.) These include contractual instruments such as life insurance, annuities and retirement plans. They also include various forms of joint ownership. Your attorney will review your individual situation with you, check the disposition of each of your assets in the event of death or disability, and customize a plan which meets your objectives.
Much of our practice involves the legal aspects of purchasing, selling or transitioning a business from one generation to another. A closely held family business often has sentimental and emotional significance that exceeds its raw economic value. We are experienced at working with the owner to balance the safe transition of the business to the next generation and with the desire to fairly recognize those family members who may not ultimately own or manage the business.