Thrash Law Firm's Hierarchy of Estate Planning
Everyone has an estate plan -- even not having an estate plan is a plan. Just a very bad one. Above is a visual pyramid of the estate planning services offered at Thrash Law Firm. Estate Planning encompasses a very wide range of skills and work, so it is important to understand the various aspects and "building blocks" of an estate plan are. Depending on your circumstances, age, and stage in life, one or more of these building blocks may pertain to you, and it is critical to put them in place before your estate plan starts to crumble.
I. The Base of the Pyramid
Powers of Attorney and Declarations of Guardian
These documents form the basis of everyone's estate plan. Anyone one over the age of 18 should make sure they have named trusted individuals to step in and act for them if something happens.
Wills and Trusts
These documents make sure your assets and estate pass to the people you designated upon your death. There are advantages and disadvantages to a Will-based estate plan and a Trust-based estate plan. Talk to an attorney to find out what is right for you.
Beneficiary Designations and Life Insurance Planning
If you have life insurance policies or retirement accounts, it is crucial to check to make sure you have designated a primary and contingent beneficiary and that those beneficiaries are, in fact, you you still want to inherit that account. If you have had children or gotten married or divorced since initially naming your beneficiaries, it is past time to make these updates.
II. The Second Phase of Planning
Special Needs Planning
If you have a child or family member with special needs, special planning must take place to make sure you do not unintentionally disqualify them from benefits or leave them without someone to protect and care for them.
Trusts to protect Children and other family members
Using trusts in your estate planning can help protect your loved ones in the event you pass away. Trusts can also be used to protect assets and minimize estate taxes. Our attorneys can help you determine whether you need trusts for your children or surviving spouse or even trusts for your firearms.
III. The Third Phase of Planning
For clients with a more complex estate, it is important not to overlook the advanced planning matters.
Business Succession Plans
For clients with ongoing businesses, a clear business succession plan alleviates the burden of figuring out what to do with the business if you pass away unexpectedly. With a plan in place, you can help prevent a fire sale of the business interests or assets and protect your estate beneficiaries from litigation.
Life insurance is a tool you can use to protect your loved ones but also pay an impending estate tax bill or liabilities of your estate after you pass.
Whether you naturally have a charitable inclination or you would prefer to leave part of your estate to a charity of your choice rather than the government, charitable trusts are an excellent tool for estates of all sizes.
Marital Property Agreements
Though pre- and post- nuptial agreements have received a poor reputation through the years, these are actually incredibly useful vehicles spouses can use to protect themselves and each other.
IV. The Fourth Phase of Planning
Family foundations are a unique way of charitably gifting wealth. Whether a private foundation set up and run by the family to gift to a cause special to them or a foundation set up to gift to public charitable organizations, this is an incredible planning vehicle for families.
Asset Protection Planning
Many clients are engaged in professions or hobbies that frequently make them targets of litigation. Others are entrepreneurs who just need to limit the liability their new business may create so their family assets or other businesses are protected. Business entities, irrevocable trusts, gifting and other strategies may be necessary.
Some of the most advanced planning for clients involves ownership of their assets over seas. Our attorneys will work with you to minimize tax and liability consequences of ownership of a client's offshore assets.