How can we Help?

You can browse the questions and answers below to help find what you are looking for.

What is an estate plan?

An estate plan is a set of legal documents that manages your care and finances during your lifetime and distributes your assets after your death. In your estate plan, you designated how and by whom your financial and medical decisions will be made upon your incapacity or death. If you have minor children, your estate plan designates their guardian. A comprehensive estate plan protects your hard-earned assets and legacy by allowing the bypass of probate, an expensive judicial process.

Who needs an estate plan?

It is a common misconception that only wealthy individuals need estate plans. Anyone that has children, real estate, owns a business, or has assets worth over $30,000 (in New York) or $166,250 (in California) should have a comprehensive estate plan.

Why do you need a customized estate plan?

An estate plan is all about your family. Every family is unique and complex in its own way. Your estate plan should accurately reflect you family’s unique dynamics and needs.

In addition, there are many different types of trusts and various ways to set up a trust. While an irrevocable trust may work for your best friend, it may not be the best trust for you and your family. I get to know you and your family. We discuss family dynamics as well as financial positions. This enables me to create a unique estate plan which takes into consideration tax implications and to preserve assets for your family, friends, and/or charities that find important.

What is included in an estate plan?

Your estate plan will include a trust, a pour-over will, powers of attorney, a health care directive, a HIPPA release, a living will, guardianship appointment, and other important documents. In addition, I will be in direct contact with your financial advisor or accountant, if required.

What happens if you pass away without a properly executed estate plan?

If you do not have an estate plan and pass away with over $30,000 in assets, in New York, or $150,000 in assets, in California, all of your assets go through a judicial process called probate.

In addition, a family member or relative may be appointed guardian of your young child/children. This may be a person you do not want to raise your child/children.

How much is an estate plan going to cost?

I believe in ultimate transparency. Estate planning should not be cost-prohibitive. I provide most estate planning services on a flat-fee basis. Those matters that must be handled hourly are billed at competitive rates. The cost of an estate plan varies depending on the size and complexity of the estate. I offer the ability to apply your consultation fee into the first bill, should you decided to retain my service. My 1-hour consultation fee is $400.00.

What is a trust?

A trust is a document that allows a third party, your trustee, to make decisions with respect to your assets if you are incapacitated or are no longer living. The trust allows you to detail who makes the decisions on your behalf an how they are made. Also, a trust allows you to avoid probate. I like to think of the trust as a large suitcase in which you put your belongings. Everything that is properly placed in our trust is not subject to probate. In addition, the trust will protect the assets from any creditors of your beneficiary’s and could preserve the assets in the case of a divorce.

Probate is not only expensive, but it’s time-consuming and public. A well-drafted trust keeps your affairs private without judicial involvement and saves your family both time and money.

What is a pour-over will?

A Pour-Over Will is a document that serves as one primary purpose: to transfer any assets that were not held in your trust, to “pour-over” into the trust an allow of distribution or management according to the terms of the trust. While these assets would need to go through probate, the assets would be distributed in accordance with the terms of your trust.

A Pour-Over Will essentially serve as a “plan B” and guarantees that your trust will dictate how that asset is handled. I like to refer to Pour-Over Wills as “safety-nets.”

What is power of attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a document that appoints someone to make your financial decisions, manage your financial affairs and pay bills that are not handled by the trust (e.g., retirement assets) if you are unable to do so for yourself.

If you have a question about your estate planning, please contact us.

Southard Estate Planning

Southard Estate Planning Copyright © 2024

Designed & Developed by Bennington Brookstone