Estate planning is more than preparing a Last Will and Testament to dispose of your assets at death. It is more than tax planning. Estate planning is a process that involes setting goals, determining priorities, and then developing an action plan designed to maintain your priorities and achieve your goals. Typically, family estate planning includes ensuring that wealth is passed to intended beneficiaries, while minimizing taxes and protecting assets. Often, it requires a frank discussion of family concerns and how family assets will be marshalled to address those concerns. Estate planning should also account for administration and protection of assets during your lifetime, especially if you have a disabling illness.  A comprehensive estate plan can be relatively simple or extremely complex, depending on the nature of your assets and family dynamics.  At a minimum, a complete estate plan usually includes a Will, a power of attorney for finances (general power of attorney), and an advance directive for health care.  It may also include several trusts or business entities.

Estate planning also encompasses end of life planning.  As such, estate planning is an opportunity to make your wishes known and determine who is responsible for carrying out your directives. You are able to state your preferences concerning the type of care you receive, what types of medical care you do, or do not, want to receive. You can authorize someone to act as your agent in carrying out your wishes. If you do not plan ahead, then there will be confusion concerning your wishes; there may be disputes among family members concerning who will serve as your decision-maker. If you fail to plan ahead, your wishes will not be known and someone else will determine what type of care you receive. 

In preparing an estate plan, it is essential that all of your assets are considered. You should do a complete inventory of all that you own before contacting your estate planner.  Your estate consists not only of your home, your car, and your bank accounts. You need to consider the value of life insurance policies, investments that you may own (including those held in joint tenancy with other persons), your IRA's and other retirement accounts, annuities, and any other assets over which you can exercise control.  It is extremely helpful for you to have a centralized and secured record of all of your financial accounts, insurance policies, credit cards, debit cards, loan accounts, safe deposit box, and account IDs and passwords. Our clients have access to a secure online "vault" where important documents can be stored.

If you do not leave a Last Will and Testament, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession in your state or based on some type of contract you signed (one that you may not even realize that you have). There are laws in each state governing the rights of creditors, surviving spouses, heirs, and next of kin in the absence of a Last Will and Testament.

In planning, it is important to consider who will act on your behalf during your lifetime and who will act for your estate after your death. You should consider not only who will receive your estate (your beneficiaries), but their circumstances and whether they require special protection.  For example, gifts to beneficiaries with creditor problems should be placed in a spendthrift trust.  Gifts to beneficiaries with a disability should be placed in a special needs trust.

Lovingood Law Firm, P.C. specializes in comprehensive estate and trust planning for high-net-worth individuals and families. We help those concerned with:

  • Estate taxes,
  • Giving the kids "too much" or at the "wrong time",
  • Losing assets in a divorce (yours or a child's), to drug dependency, law suits,
  • Missing out on "tax pre-paid" government benefits,
  • Charitable gifts,
  • Disability planning
  • Public benefits planning.
From estate and gift tax planning, to family business succession, to trusts of all flavors, we are well-versed in helping clients ensure that their hard-earned wealth goes (and stays) as intended.