WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?
Proper estate planning allows you to plan for your death or disability without giving up control of your affairs. We work to help families, business owners, and individuals control and preserve their wealth through comprehensive counseling and legal strategies. For starters, we consider:
- Trusts (all kinds)
- Powers of Attorney (“POAs”)
- Advance Directives (“Living Wills”)
- Healthcare proxies (Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care)
- Beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and insurance
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF ESTATE PLANNING?
- Preserve your estate
- Reduce estate taxes
- Provide for future care needs
- Plan for elderly parents, grandchildren, or children with disabilities
- Preserve privacy
- Plan for alternative lifestyle concerns
- Provide for your spouse after your death
- Protect your children from disinheritance if your spouse remarries
- Protect your children’s inheritance from creditors, lawsuits, and failed marriages
- Design a plan for children to use their inheritance wisely
- Plan for nursing home costs or the need for Medicaid
- Administer your estate upon disability or death
- Plan for fair continuation of a family business
Please also see our article Using trusts for non-tax reasons.
WHO NEEDS ESTATE PLANNING?
Everyone! Certainly, the older you get, the more you start thinking about how to transfer your assets to your grown children or others. But families with young children need to do estate planning. So do people who have children from a previous marriage, or those who are unmarried or in alternative lifestyle relationships. Single adults — young or old — need to plan as well. Estate planning is not just for “wealthy” people. The government has an estate plan for you if you don’t actively select one, but it may not coincide with what you would have wanted.
WHAT IS DISABILITY PLANNING?
No one hopes to be disabled or incapacitated, but it happens. Accidents, illnesses, and old age can take away your ability to earn money, care for your family, or manage your affairs. Things we might discuss:
- Delegation of “stand-by” guardians for minor children
- Nomination of successor guardians for disabled adults
- Powers of Attorney to avoid “Living Probate”
- Durable POA for financial and legal matters
- Durable POA for healthcare, personal care and custody
- Living Trusts (Revocable Trusts) for comprehensive management of assets and financial affairs.
- Legal arrangements to provide for the continuation and management of a family business or sole proprietorship
- Planning for care of your pets or livestock (including “pet trusts”)
For example, if you have minor children, have you completed the paperwork to name someone to act on your behalf in the event of incapacity? And if you have, is it getting updated annually? [A parent or guardian of a minor or incapacitated person, by a properly executed power of attorney, may delegate to another person, for a period not exceeding 12 months, any of that parent’s or guardian’s powers regarding care, custody or property of the minor child or ward, except the power to consent to marriage or adoption of a minor ward. (Maine Revised Statues, Title 18-A §5-104(a)).] We call this a Power of Attorney Delegating Parental Authority.
Please also see our article on Planning for a Disabled Child.
WHAT IS “ASSET PROTECTION”?
Hopefully, your money and other assets are available when you need them. You don’t want to pay taxes if you don’t have to, or pay outright for medical care when it can be avoided. You don’t want to leave money for a grandchild’s college and have it spent on home repairs. There are legal ways to structure your affairs — protect your assets — from some of this.
- Protecting assets during your life
- Keeping your wealth in the family
- Protecting assets for spouses, partners, children and other loved ones
- While you’re alive
- After your death
- protecting your spouse from predators
- protecting your children’s inheritance
- from controlling or divorcing spouses
- from creditors
WHAT IF WE ALREADY HAVE DOCUMENTS?
Like one’s life, estate planning is a work-in-progress. It is not just documents, drafted to give away assets at death, then hidden away in the safe deposit box for no further review. Estate planning includes careful disability planning so that if you should become disabled, your successor trustee and/or agent can continue the work on your plan to save estate taxes, or do disability planning to preserve your assets for your care and the legacy you wish to leave to others. However, your estate plan will not be worth the money spent on designing it, unless you are committed to a plan for its regular review and updating to match the financial or personal changes in your life or the lives of your loved ones, as well as the changes in the law. As well, to meet the goals and objectives of your estate plan, it is necessary to educate your successor trustees and/or agents, who will take over on your death, or earlier if you are disabled.
WHAT IF WE’RE NEW MAINE RESIDENTS?
We will take the time to review your old documents (if they exist) to determine if they’re still relevant. State laws often differ. We will advise about:
- Compliance with Maine law
- Possible changes to the estate plan
- Preparation of new estate planning documents
WHAT IF WE LIVE ELSEWHERE BUT HAVE PROPERTY IN MAINE?
We will advise about:
- Preserving the family vacation home in Maine for future generations
- Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRTs)
- Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)
- Family Real Estate Trusts
- Deeds and related services to convey Maine property to a trust or LLC
- Advice about the application of Maine tax and real estate law to real and personal property located in Maine
- Selecting a low-tax domicile for mariners and other individuals who do not have to work or live in the state of Maine
Please also read our article on Maine Estate Tax Planning for Nonresidents Owning Maine Property.
If you would like to explore your personal situation more, please contact us.