7 Mental Exercises for Estate Planning

I have previously written that the estate planning process is very much a joint effort between client and lawyer. Together we STRUCTURE your estate plan to fit your specific needs, now and into the foreseeable future;  we REVIEW the estate plan based on current law; and we ALTER/ADJUST the estate plan based on any changes in “external” conditions (for example, changes in state, federal, tax laws) or “internal” changes (for example, a marriage, birth, death, or divorce.)

Here are some thought-provoking mental exercises for the first part of structuring your estate plan. I have used a similar (but more detailed) model to begin the estate planning process with my clients.  Within the subject areas, consider how you would “rate” the item – how important is it to you, now or in the future; for example is “appointing an agent to make health care decisions” either:  very significant to you?  of average importance? not likely to be of any concern?

So…let’s begin,

Subject Area No. 1: In The Event of Permanent or Temporary Incapacity (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Appointing an agent to manage your financial affairs

Appointing an agent to make health care decisions

Providing use of personal assets to support partner/family

Continuing or starting lifetime gift program

Subject Area No.2: Specific and Cash Gifts (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing gifts of personal property to specific family members

Providing cash gifts (to family, friends, charities)

Providing gifts of real estate or other property; preserving family property rights

Providing for care of pet(s)

Developing a charitable gift plan e.g. supporting a university, a “cause”, an institution

Subject Area No. 3: Spouse/Partner (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing for spouse/partner

Providing a trust for spouse to manage assets/address remarriage/protect assets

Giving spouse the right to redirect trust assets as they determine at their death e.g. after your death, your spouse dies.              he/she had been given “right” to allocate/redirect remainder of trust assets to anyone they wish (in other words – they had not been prevented from “re-allocating” assets)

Subject Area No. 4: Children/Descendants (how would you rate the importance to you of the following items?)

Providing for children/grandchildren

Treating all children/grandchildren of your marriage equally

Planning for special needs of a family member

Providing for step-children as your own children

Providing for a trust for children in order to manage/protect assets

Giving children the right to redirect trust assets upon their death e.g. after your death, one of your children dies; they may allocate/redirect any remainder of trust assets to anyone they wish

Providing for transfer of assets (at your death) outright to grandchildren

Providing for a trust for grandchildren

Preventing transfer of assets to spouses of children/grandchildren (e.g. your son Joe is married to Mary. If Joe were to pre decease Mary, you do not wish Mary to inherit certain assets/property)

Providing for payout of benefits over life expectancy of beneficiary

Paying retirement plan benefits into a trust for a beneficiary

Subject Area No. 5:  Tax Planning   (how would you rate the following items?)

Minimizing federal/state taxes

Reducing federal/state income taxes

Subject Area No. 6: Medical (These are general questions that probably require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response).

Would you want food/water (nutrition/hydration) if death was imminent?

Do you wish to become an organ donor?

Do you have a medical power of attorney?

Do you have a current life-limiting medical condition?

Does spouse/child have special need?

Do you have temporary guardianship arrangements in place for minor children?

Subject Area No.7: General (Questions that require only a “yes or no” response)

Do you own your own business? Do you have a succession plan in place?

Do you have any beneficiaries other than spouse/partner/children/grandchildren?

Are you a citizen of the United States? Is your spouse a citizen of the United States?

Do any of your possible beneficiaries live outside the United States?

Do any family members/friends/business associations owe you money?

Do you have any deceased children? Was the child married?  Did they have children?

Have you/your spouse/partner previously completed any other estate planning documents?

Are you inquiring about a prenuptial agreement/post-nuptial agreement or an amendment to an existing marital agreement?

Do you plan to live/retire/work outside the United States?

 Final: The above are not the only considerations of an estate plan.  Having read through the major subject areas, you can begin to understand the process of estate planning.  It begins with the here and now and develops into a plan for the foreseeable future.  It develops from answers to very specific questions/answers and the legal consequences (interpretation) of those answers.  The individualized plan evolves into a legal document and a specific process to both allocate your assets as you wish and to preserve your assets into the future.

Please visit my website:  http://www.attorneybarbaradalvano.weebly.com  for more information and printable infographics.

Go to bottom of this page for my disclaimer and also for my column “How I Can Help You”

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About Attorney Barbara Ann Dalvano

Attorney in Denver, Colorado with extensive practice experience in the areas of Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Business Succession Planning, Probate, Contract Law.

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