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Top 10 Reasons for Estate Planning

There are countless reasons that you should have an estate plan, and everyone has different motivating factors that lead them to seek out estate planning professionals.  Residents of Vienna, Fairfax and the surrounding areas of Northern Virginia are in as much need, and in many cases more need, for estate planning as anyone else.

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Below are just a few of the innumerable reasons individuals and couples need to have estate plans in place.

In no particular order:

10. Disinheritance 5. Protect Yourself In Case of Incapacity
9. IRA and Retirement Account Planning 4. Blended and Complex Family Situations
8. Estate Tax Planning 3. Plan for the Future of Your Minor Children
7. Probate Avoidance 2. Children and Loved Ones with Special Needs
6. Decide Who Gets What, When and How 1. An Act of Love: Show Your Family You Care Enough to Plan


10. Disinheritance:

  • Without an estate plan individuals who you do not want to receive your assets, or who may not need your assets as much as another potential beneficiary, may receive an inheritance from your estate as a legal heir (those people entitled to receive a portion of your estate under state law if you do not properly direct otherwise)

9. IRA and retirement account planning:

  • Some estimates suggest as many as 87% of all inherited IRAs are cashed within one year by the designated beneficiaries.  This, often thoughtless, action can lead to lost wealth by your chosen beneficiaries.  With proper planning you can ensure that your designated beneficiaries take full advantage of the (usually) available “stretch” which allows your IRA to continue on for the lifetime of your designated beneficiaries, continuing growth in a tax deferred environment and providing more wealth than it otherwise could.

8. Estate tax planning:

  • Although estate tax exemption amounts are currently at a highpoint, these exemption amounts are set to be drastically reduced next year (2013), and there is no telling what the legislature may do about that (without a crystal ball anyway).  You can ensure that you and your spouse take full advantage of any available estate tax exemption amount, if you plan ahead.  This could mean passing a significantly higher portion of your assets and wealth to your chosen beneficiaries and reducing the amount of estate taxes payable at your death.

7. Probate avoidance:

  • If you utilize a properly drafted and funding trust as part of your estate plan you can avoid probate.  We have all heard about the “evils of probate” and avoiding those issues can save money, save time, reduce the stress of handling your estate for your family and loved ones, and avoid unnecessary court processes and interference.

6. Decide who gets what, when and how:

  • Without proper planning, default rules set by the state will determine who your heirs (the people the state says inherit your stuff) are and what share they receive.
  • If you plan properly, you can decide who your beneficiaries (the people you determine should receive your stuff) are and what each beneficiary receives when.

5. Protect yourself in case of incapacity:

  • Proper planning can avoid many of the problems individuals and families face when a loved one becomes incapacitated, either as the result of an accident, old age, illness, or due to any number of other causes.
  • A durable power of attorney allows you to name the individual you want making important financial and personal decisions on your behalf.
  • A health care power of attorney will let you name the person you want making important medical decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to do so.
  • The right professionals will always consider and/or discuss with you the possibility of incorporating long-term care, disability, and other forms of insurance and investments that may be able to preserve your estate in the event of incapacity.  Care for an incapacitated adult can be extremely time consuming and extremely expensive, which can exhaust a life savings with remarkable speed.  But, those disastrous results can be avoided.

4. Blended and complex family situations:

  • If you or your spouse have a child (or children) from a previous relationship a proper estate plan can ensure that all children involved, whether from your current marriage or a previous relationship, as well as your current spouse are treated the way you want and receive the assets and benefits you desire.
  • If your spouse gets remarried after you pass away, you can plan now to ensure that your assets still benefit your loved ones (including your spouse) without ending up in the hands of your spouse’s future husband or wife.

3. Plan for the future of your minor children:

  • Proper planning allows you to nominate the individual(s) you believe should be guardian(s) of your minor children in the event of your death or incapacity.  This can help save time, save money, provide what you believe is the best environment and guardian for your child, and avoid family infighting which may preserve the family relationships and harmony.
  • You can also arrange for your minor children’s inheritance to be held for their benefit until adulthood or another age or event which you have chosen.  This can avoid the necessity for a court appointed guardian for the minor’s estate (which can save a lot of time, money, and energy), help preserve your assets for your child’s benefit for a longer or later period of time, and help ensure that your values are passed onto your children (i.e. distribution standards can be customized, incentive trusts may require certain life goals to be met for distributions to be made, etc., etc.)

2. Children and loved ones with special needs:

  • Without proper planning you risk disqualifying any heir who has special needs from being eligible to receive the government benefits and assistance they rely on.  Even with planning (although not done properly) people often, with good intentions, hurt their loved ones with special needs more than they help by leaving them a gift or bequest.
  • If planned for appropriately, you can help provide for your loved ones with special needs and help preserve their eligibility for the government benefits and assistance they need.

1. An act of love:

  • Show your family you care enough to plan.  All of us have had to deal with the death of a loved one at some point in our lives, and we all know how hard that can be to deal with.  Those of us who have had to deal with our loved one’s estates after they die know how much more difficult poor planning can make the estate administration process and how much harder that can make the grieving process.
  • A well planned estate can avoid unexpected disasters, unnecessary costs and expenses, and problems while your family and loved ones grieve.  You may not only save your estate and family money, but you may save your family unit altogether.  Infighting and legal squabbles are all too common in the estate administration and probate world, even in families who got along well before the death of their loved one.  So, plan ahead and maybe you can help strengthen the family bond instead of contributing to its demise.
  • A brief list of ways you can protect your family and loved ones:

i.      At death: avoid costs, save time, avoid fighting, help the grieving process;

ii.      At incapacity: make clear choices in advance, leave instructions for your care and wishes, decide who you want to care for you and make your important decisions, and avoid the time, expense and fighting that often accompanies court involvement;

iii.      Protect them from having to make the toughest decisions: make your own end of life decisions in advance and save your family from having to make those for you.  This can spare them additional heartache, turmoil, guilt, and infighting;

iv.      Protect your loved ones from themselves: those beneficiaries who are “spendthrift” risks and will blow through their inheritance too fast can be protected from their own bad decisions, if you plan for them;

v.      Protect your loved ones from their creditors: proper planning can keep your assets from being used to satisfy your beneficiaries’ debts, legal judgments against them, divorce obligations, and in some cases even their government payment obligations.

As stated above, there are countless other reasons to plan.  Not the least of which is your personal peace of mind as well as that of your family.  Once you have a comprehensive estate plan in place you can rest easier knowing that you have done what you can to make the process easier and cheaper for you family, to preserve your estate and family unit, and to ensure that your estate planning goals are accomplished.

If you don’t have an estate plan, or haven’t reviewed your estate plan in more than two to three years, The Law Office of Richard W. Hartman III, Attorney & Counselor at Law, PLLC can help.  Contact the firm today to schedule your initial consultation or review appointment.

Richard W. Hartman III, Esquire

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