A good estate plan will provide
You peace of mind

When you have a good estate plan, you will have peace of mind knowing that in the event of your disability or passing, the government will be minimally involved, your privacy will be maximized, tax credits will be fully utilized, tax deductions and tax deferral will be maximized.  In addition, you can ensure assets will stay in your blood family.  A good estate plan can accomplish all those things. 

If you direct that your assets will be left to a loved one (spouse, sibling, friend, child or grandchild) in a trust, you can do many positive things.  In other words, you can leave assets in a trust (a sort of receptacle or container) so the assets will be used to benefit your loved one and at the same time will not be exposed unnecessarily to estate taxes and lawsuits.  You can predetermine who will have decisional authority and who will benefit in what ways and under what circumstances.  The most typical structure is all to spouse in a trust (that will not later be taxed in their estate), and then to kids in trust (each to have their own asset protection trust).  Just doing that can do wonders to keep your wealth working for your family. 

Estate planning is not a simple endeavor.  That is why it is advisable to obtain counsel and prepare these papers with professional guidance.  One can easily believe their plan is up to date and will operate as planned, but more often than not, we have found that a close review reveals a number of matters that compel us to make substantial revisions.  Aside from the actual documents, every estate plan hinges on the appropriate and well through out beneficiary designations and titling of assets.  It is critical that all aspects of the plan will work. 

How assets are owned and then understanding the ramifications of “how they are owned” in conjunction with existing documents is essential in order to determine what changes are necessary.  The process is a sort of troubleshooting process. Questions we often ask are:

What mechanism is in place to shelter the credit for estate tax purposes?

Do the documents leave assets in trust?  If not, why not? 

If the documents were prepared in another state, what is the simplest way to update the place so it is in accord with South Carolina law?

We try to look at any and all potential negatives and then we attempt to avoid them.  One of the best things you can do to protect your assets, your family and obtain peace of mind is to put together a comprehensive estate plan that includes the basic foundational documents that will govern.  Usually, several meetings are all we need to create a sound plan that you understand and that will benefit your family – sometimes for generations. 

 

Contributed by

Mark F. Winn