Estate Planning ensures that your plan will still work as originally designed. It also provided the opportunity to make any needed corrections based on current situations and estate tax planning goals.

My family and I engaged John to assist us in a State Medicaid application issue for our mother. Our only regret is we didn’t call him sooner. John’s knowledge of the process, law and his many years of experience saved our family a significant amount of money. We highly recommend John for elder estate planning or care issues. My family and I will not hesitate to use him again.

Randy C.

“Estate Planning” is not restricted to large estates with significant tax considerations. With today’s high federal estate tax exemption amounts, estate planning is about more than taxes. Fundamentally, estate planning is about providing for one’s loved ones, and it involves both planning for management of your assets during your life and for passing your property on to your children and other heirs after your death with as few taxes and costs as possible. With thoughtful estate planning, you can take care of yourself and your family in a way that will benefit them for decades to come.

Decades of doing this have taught us that proper estate planning typically addresses one or more of the following items:

Providing for Immediate Family

We work with you and your other advisors to ensure that you are providing enough money for the surviving spouse, assuring the education and support of children, and appointing guardians for minor children.

Transferring Property to Beneficiaries

Whether transferred through a will or by proper, advanced account structuring, we work with you to ensure that your assets are transferred to your intended recipients in the most efficient and expeditious manner.

Helping a Favorite Cause

Many clients are charitably inclined and helping to support religious, educational, civic and social causes are laudable goals which can be achieved through an estate plan.

Planning for Incapacity

Planning for mental or physical incapacity is a paramount objective of estate planning. Use of powers of attorney and advance directives can relieve tremendous stress on loved ones if you become incapacitated.

Reducing Estate Taxes and Minimize Expenses

A good estate plan will minimize the estate tax burden and increase the amount of property that you pass to your heirs. In addition, it will minimize the cost of transferring property.

Supplemental Needs Planning

Whether it be a spouse, a child, grandchild or parent, utilizing a supplemental needs trust as part of an estate plan can provide the extras that a loved one with special needs may require.

We firmly believe that every adult should have certain documents in place to protect themselves and their families. While many do not think that they have an “estate” that needs planning, having powers of attorney, advance directives and a will in place serve to ease the burden on family if and when a crises or even death occur.

No one likes to think about death, and the prospect of losing capacity to make decisions for oneself is not something that one wants to consider. However, having the right documents in place if and when the time comes can be a great benefit to your loved ones. We recommend that one have one or more of the following documents:

General Durable Power of Attorney

A General Durable Power of Attorney is important if you earn any income or own any property. This document will permit your appointed agent to act on your behalf and to do all of the things that you could have done should you become unable to act for yourself. From the mundane to the extraordinary, a General Durable Power of Attorney will allow someone to take charge of your financial decisions when you cannot act for yourself. A properly drafted power of attorney can even avoid the necessity of a conservatorship or, at the very least, nominate one’s preference to serve as conservator.

Healthcare Directives

Whether it is a healthcare power of attorney paired with a living will or a combination of the two, an advance care directive, having the right documents in place appointing a person that you trust to make healthcare decisions is absolutely critical. Those documents set forth your wishes for care and avoid any dispute as to who can act for you.

Wills

Despite the aura surrounding it and complexity often found within it, a will is simply a legal document that gives instructions on how to handle your property when you die. In order to be effective, a will has to be probated, meaning that there will be a court-supervised process to protect the rights of creditors and beneficiaries and to ensure the orderly and timely transfer of assets.

Trusts

Given the right circumstances, trusts can benefit all clients – not just the wealthy. In fact over the last few decades, people across all income brackets have used trusts to plan their estates and to avoid the costs and delays of probate. A trust is a separate legal entity that controls the assets you place into it. With a trust, the grantor transfers assets into a trust for his or her own benefit during life. Someone serves as trustee and is authorized to manage the trust. Depending on its terms, the trust may allow the grantor to retain a degree of control over the trust. A living trust is typically revocable which means that the grantor can amend it or even revoke it at any time. Moreover, if properly structured, the grantor typically pays income taxes on the trust to take advantage of the grantor’s more favorable tax rates. For most of our clients, a living trust can provide an “in-place” vehicle to manage one’s financial affairs in the event of incapacity.

Have questions? We’d love to talk to you.
Contact John Burns at (256) 822-2177 or info@alabamaelderlaw.com.

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