Estate Planning is one of the most personal, most essential services an attorney can offer a client. In helping a client plan for the future we identify goals that drive any other legal services the client may need, including family law, real estate transactions, and legal services for a family business.

No one likes to dwell on the prospect of his or her own death. But if you postpone planning for your demise until it is too late, you run the risk that your intended beneficiaries — those you love the most — may not receive what you would want them to receive whether due to extra administration costs, unnecessary taxes or squabbling among your heirs.

This is why estate planning is so important, no matter the size of your estate. It allows you, while you are still living, to ensure that your property will go to the people you want, in the way you want, and when you want. It permits you to save as much as possible on taxes, court costs and attorneys’ fees; and it affords the comfort that your loved ones can mourn your loss without being simultaneously burdened with unnecessary red tape and financial confusion.

At Krupp & Krupp, LLP  we believe that estate planning is about providing solutions best suited to each client’s needs. We view estate planning as a process – started early and carried out over an extended period of time. There is more to estate planning than just preparing wills and trusts – the goal is to use the appropriate tools to achieve each client’s specific needs and wishes. In so doing, we guide our clients through long-range planning, applying our firm’s vast legal experience.

Many of our clients are concerned about how to effectively and legally reduce exposure to gift or estate taxes, or inheritance taxes. We provide advice on estate planning techniques which can be used not only upon death but during lifetime to enable wealth to pass to a client’s intended beneficiaries in the most tax efficient manner. These transactions can include the creation of generation-skipping trusts and partnerships, corporations or other entities which can be used to shift the growth in the value of assets out of a client’s estate. In developing the plan which is best suited for a client’s financial as well as family situation, we look closely at the type of assets involved – whether business interest, retirement assets, real estate or marketable securities.

There is also more to wealth management and estate planning than tax considerations. At least as important are the questions of how to best provide for one’s family, both during lifetime and at death, and who should control the assets after a client’s death. Making such decisions is difficult regardless of the age or capacity of a person’s children. We are able to provide perspectives from our varied experiences and offer alternatives based on a client’s description of his or her concerns and feelings about money.

Finally, we counsel clients about creating estate plans that can provide appropriate asset protection, both for the client during lifetime and for the client’s family after the client’s death.

Providing for Incapacity

If you become incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial  or medical affairs.  Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated.  The truth is that in order for others to be able to manage your finances or medical care, they must petition a court to declare you legally incompetent.  This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful.

A durable power of attorney for property is an essential estate planning document.  A durable power of attorney for property allows you (the “principal”) to appoint someone (your “attorney-in-fact” or “agent”) to act in your place for financial purposes.  In that case, the person you choose will be able to step in and take care of your financial affairs.

In addition to planning for the financial aspect of your affairs during incapacity, you should establish a plan for your medical care.  The law allows you to appoint someone you trust – for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.  You can do this by using a durable power of attorney for health care where you designate the person to make such decisions.

These power of attorney relationships are “durable” because, unlike common law power of attorney relationships, they survive the principal’s incapacity, and  terminate at the principal’s death.

Providing for Minor Children

It is important that your estate plan address issues regarding the upbringing of your children.  If your children are young, you may want to consider implementing a plan that will allow your surviving spouse to devote more attention to your children, without the burden of work obligations.  You may also want to provide for special counseling and resources for your spouse if you believe they lack the experience or ability to handle financial and legal matters.  You should also discuss with your attorney the possibility of both you and your spouse dying simultaneously, or within a short duration of time.  A contingency plan should provide for persons you’d like to manage your assets as well as the guardian you’d like to nominate for the upbringing of your children.  The person, or trustee in charge of the finances need not be the same person as the guardian.  In fact, in many situations, you may want to purposely designate different persons to maintain a system of checks and balances.  Otherwise, the decision as to who will manage your finances and raise your children will be left to a court of law.  Even if you are lucky enough to have the person or persons you would have wanted selected by the court, they may have undue burdens and restrictions placed on them by the court, such as having to provide annual accounting.

Other issues to consider in this respect is whether you’d like your beneficiaries to receive your assets directly, or whether you’d prefer to have the assets placed in trust and distributed based a number of factors which you designate, such as age, need and even incentives based on behavior and education.  All too often, children receive substantial assets before they are mature enough to handle them properly, with devastating results.

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