1) Estate Planning
Nothing gives people peace of mind like a well-crafted estate plan. Estate planning is not just for the rich. Everyone should consider the advantages estate planning offers. One of our estate planning attorneys will fully explain all of your estate planning options, while advising you regarding which options will make the most sense for your specific situation.
Estate Plan Benefits
Estate planning is more than just drafting a will. It includes the documents that will ensure that your wishes about your own health care are respected even if you are unable to voice them yourself. Estate plans also include documents that will allow the assets you worked so hard to earn or acquire are passed on in the way you wish.
An estate plan allows you to name guardians for your children, remember favorite charities, care for family members with special needs, and preserve your assets as much as possible.
What We Can Do For You?
Our law firm's founding attorney Dennis C. Jackson has an in-depth background representing thousands of clients with complex estate planning needs. He tailors his approach based on clients' unique goals in an effort to protect their assets and future. Consistently, he makes the legal process as seamless as possible by clearing explaining to clients their options, regarding:
These documents let the probate judge and others know your wishes regarding transferring ownership of your assets after death. A will also names guardians for your minor children. If you don't take the time to make these decisions, the government will do it for you—at a significantly higher cost.
Wills are perhaps the most widely known component of an estate plan. In essence, a will is a letter to the probate judge. It identifies who is in charge of the estate of a deceased person and how the deceased person wants his or her assets distributed.
Everyone should have a will. If you don't, the government has one for you. It's called the probate code. If you die without a will (intestate), the government decides what happens to your assets. The probate process can be long and expensive. A significant portion of your estate may be eaten away by the cost of probate. Wills give people an opportunity to make important decisions about their assets and their heirs themselves. Wills do not allow you to avoid probate, but they can make the process faster and less expensive.
If you have minor children, your will contains the name of those who will become legal guardians of your children in the event of your death.
A will names an executor—the person responsible for seeing that your wishes are carried out.
Wills contain a listing of your assets, including the account numbers of your investments and bank accounts. It may describe where important documents are kept, including titles to real estate holdings, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees. Wills also describe how you would like your assets distributed and to whom.
If your estate plan includes a trust, it is important to have a pour over will. This type of will ensures that any assets that you purchased outside the trust should go into the trust upon your death.
A revocable living trust is simply a different way to hold title to your assets. Assets are titled in the name of the trust rather than in your name. It is called a living trust because the transfer of assets to the trust occurs during your lifetime. It is revocable because it can be eliminated or changed at any time by the trustee. A trustee (most often you) is appointed to manage the property. Detailed instructions are included in the declaration of trust regarding:
- How the trust will be managed
- How assets will be distributed upon your death or
- Who will become the trustee if you become incapacitated or when you die
One of the main advantages of a revocable living trust is that your estate will not go through probate after your death.
The probate process is expensive. Fees are based on a percentage of the estate's total assets. A revocable living trust will ensure that your estate does not go through probate court.
A trust not only saves your heirs the time and money associated with the probate process, it also keeps the contents of your estate private. When an estate is probated, the inventory of estate assets, their valuation, and distribution are all a matter of public record. Only the trustees and those involved in trust administration know the contents of a revocable living trust.
In addition, a revocable living trust can help your heirs avoid certain inheritance taxes. And it protects the assets from lawsuits and divorce actions because they do not own the assets held in trust.
Sometimes children need someone other than their parents to care for them, manage their affairs, and look after their best interests. Today, many grandparents raise their grandchildren, for example. But grandparents' rights to make decisions on behalf of a grandchild are limited unless they are named the child's legal guardian.
At the firm of Dennis C. Jackson, LPA , our guardianship attorney can file the legal documents necessary for a person other than a parent to become a legal guardian of a minor child. Guardianship is designed to provide for the needs of children and to protect them from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
If a child's parents have died, have become incapacitated, or are otherwise unable to care for their children, a guardian must be appointed to care for the child. Often the guardian is a grandparent, aunt or uncle, or another person interested in the child's well being.
Guardianship gives the guardian the right to make important decisions on the child's behalf including those related to education and medical care. Guardianship also allows the guardian to manage the child's assets. One person can be appointed guardian of the child while another is named guardian of the child's estate. In most cases, one person serves in both capacities.
If you have an adult child with special needs, our attorney can arrange for a legal guardian to be named to care for your child when you are no longer able to do so.
In addition, it is possible that you may also need a guardian — this can be prearranged as well.
5) Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney gives someone you trust the ability to manage your assets should you become unable to do so yourself. An important estate planning document, the durable power of attorney gives the person you designate the ability to stand in your shoes and administer your affairs if you become physically or mentally unable to do so.
People often name their spouse, child, sibling, or attorney as their agent in a durable power of attorney. A power of attorney is different from an advanced health care directive, which gives another person the ability to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Even if the person you designate is the same, you should have both documents prepared. The power of attorney is for your assets and the advance healthcare directive is for your medical care.
At the firm of Dennis C. Jackson LPA, our attorneys will draft a power of attorney as part of an overall estate plan or as a stand alone document. We understand that circumstances may require you to obtain a power of attorney quickly. We work diligently to ensure that you can obtain the documents you need as promptly as possible. Clients appreciate our responsiveness to their needs and our affordable fees.
6) Living Wills
You are injured in a car accident and rushed to the hospital unconscious. After emergency treatment, the doctors determine they can keep you alive on a ventilator, but you may never regain consciousness. They know there is some brain damage, but they can't say for sure how much.
Would you want to be kept alive on a ventilator under those circumstances? If not, how would the doctors know?
An advance health care directive, also called a living will or health care power of attorney, allows you to have control over decisions about your own health care when you are physically or mentally unable to make them yourself.
The Advance Health Care Directive can do more than a living will because it can be used if any condition prevents you from making decisions yourself, not just in cases when you are in a coma or are terminally ill.
Our estate planning attorney will suggest issues to think about before we create a health care directive for you, including:
- What types of end of life care do or don't you want?
- What are your preferences regarding diagnostic testing, surgery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and organ donation?
- If you are unable to make health care decisions yourself, who will you designate as your agent?
- Who would authorities contact first if you were in an emergency?
After we reflect your wishes in the advanced health care directive, it is important to inform others, including the agent you designate, your doctor, the hospital you are most likely to use, and anyone who might be contacted if you suffered a medical emergency.
7) Asset Protection
What happens to the assets you worked so hard to earn after you are deceased? In most cases, they are distributed to your heirs who then decide for themselves what to do with them. They can spend the money on a vacation or gamble it away. Even if they plan to use the money responsibly, it may disappear if your heir loses a lawsuit, goes bankrupt, or in some cases, becomes divorced.
A revocable living trust allows for the protection of assets after they have been passed on to your children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries. While you cannot protect the assets held in trust from your own creditors, you can do so for your heirs. Creditors cannot be paid from the trust because your heir doesn't own the assets in it, the trust does.
You can decide whether or how much access to the funds in the trust you want your heirs to have. Many trusts allow the trustees (the people you designate) to use the assets for their health, support, maintenance, or education. These categories allow nearly any expense, from a new car to a trip to Hawaii, to qualify as a valid use of trust funds.
You may also decide you want to limit the use of the trust funds by your children, for example, so that it can be passed down to your grandchildren.
At The Firm of Dennis C. Jackson, we aid personal representatives and families who have lost a loved one through the process of probate.
Probate is the court process in which the assets of the deceased are distributed according to their wills or by law. In the case of a person who dies with a will, estate distribution is normally done according to their wishes unless the will is invalidated for some reason. If the person dies without a will, they have died "intestate," and the laws of probate will govern how their estate is distributed.
When someone passes away, the title to their assets must be formally transferred to a survivor. Unless your assets are held in a Trust the assets of the deceased must go through probate.
During probate, the court will validate the will or determine whether the deceased died without a will. The probate court will also appoint an estate executor or administrator if one is not named in the will. The executor is responsible for:
- Paying any debts or taxes owed by the estate
- Inventorying and evaluating the estate assets
- Monitoring contractual agreements
- Responding to claims against the estate
- Distributing personal property or real estate
Attorney fees for probating an estate are by statute as a percentage of the gross value of the estate.
Probate is a lengthy process that takes from nine months at a minimum. The average length of probate is two years, although probate for contested estates can drag on for decades.
9) Trust Administration
When someone whose assets are owned by a trust passes away, the estate does not go through probate. But many of the same tasks must be accomplished through the trust administration process. Managing a trust can be a difficult, time consuming, and complicated process, particularly if you are grieving the loss of a loved one.
At the firm of Dennis C. Jackson, LPA our trust administration attorney can relieve you of the burden of managing all the details and requirements of a trust. We provide skillful assistance in trust administration, including help with tasks such as:
- Marshaling assets
- Preparing an inventory and valuation of assets
- Paying taxes and debts
- Responding to claims against the estate
- Retitling assets
- Distributing property as directed in the trust
Because the trust administration process is much faster than the probate process, asset distribution generally happens relatively quickly. In addition, the fees for trust administration are substantially less than for probate.
Our trust administration attorney personally handles all aspects of the process so you can rest assured that all requirements, obligations, and deadlines are being met. A trust has many advantages and the ease of transferring assets after death is a substantial one for many people who choose to put their assets in a trust.