What is Estate Planning?
Estate Planning is a broad phrase referring to the simple concept of planning for the disposition of one’s assets upon death, though this often extends into arrangements that are implemented during a person’s lifetime. Our role at FishmanKlain is to learn about your assets, your loved ones, and your desires, and to coordinate them with state and federal laws, including tax considerations. We consider your current needs, make contingent arrangements for what should be done if you become incapacitated, and plan for the ultimate disposition of your assets.
Some of our clients have very modest means, while others’ assets are more extensive; we take painstaking care to ensure that all our clients leave our offices with a plan they understand and that reflects their goals.
Who Needs Estate Planning?
Some people mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for the very rich or the very old. However, FishmanKlain’s services are relevant across your life span, regardless of your financial situation. We develop plans for college students and the elderly, for those on fixed incomes and for millionaires, and for everyone in between. For example:
Minor Children: If you have children under the age of 18, you need a will to name the person who will care for your children in the event you die before they become adults. You also need to make arrangements to manage the assets they inherit from you until they are at least 18, and often until an older age when you feel they could independently manage significant sums of money.
Blended Families: If you have children of any age and are married to someone who is not your children’s other parent, you need to think about how to divide your assets between your children and your spouse, and under what terms. For example, you can make a trust that provides for your spouse during your spouse’s lifetime, with the remainder going to your children upon your spouse’s death (rather to your spouse’s heirs). Also, if you have stepchildren whom you have not adopted but whom you would like to inherit from you when you die, you need to make specific provisions for this.
Long-Term Partnership: If you are in a close relationship but are not legally married to your partner, you may be surprised to know that your partner does not have any rights to your property upon your death – or even to make medical decisions for you when you are ill, or to pay your bills for you – unless you make proper arrangements.
Young Adults: Once a child has turned 18, his or her parents are no longer entitled to information from medical providers. If a student is away at college and needs medical care, the medical staff may not share information with the student’s parents unless the student has designated them as his or her representative with a HIPAA Authorization. If an adult child is sick or in the hospital and is unable make decisions for himself or herself, an Advance Medical Directive can name a parent or another trusted person to make decisions on the young adult’s behalf. College students who live away from home or who are studying abroad may need someone to deposit checks for them, pay their bills, or file their tax returns.
If you die without a will, state law determines who inherits your property – not you. Some of the most distressing cases we have seen in our practice have involved someone’s dying unexpectedly without a will, resulting in their property going to people they would not have chosen, or under terms that were far from ideal. In addition, administering an estate with a will is usually much simpler and less expensive than one without a will.