What is Legacy Wealth Planning?

Legacy Wealth Planning is the creation of a definitive plan for managing your total wealth while you’re alive, distributing your estate how you choose after your death, and a clear plan to pass on your legacy. Your estate includes all assets of any value that you own.  This includes non-financial assets as well as financial assets, including real property, business interests, investments, insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, and personal property. Your legacy incorporates important decisions ensuring your family core values, responsible behaviors and community involvement are passed on to future generations. Keep in mind, your legacy also includes personal effects, such as family heirlooms, stories, and accumulated wisdom and life lessons of your family.

What is “traditional” estate planning?

Traditional estate planning (wills and trusts) focuses on the accumulation, the preservation, and the distribution of only your financial assets and worldly possessions. It protects material wealth from probate and minimizes taxes.

What is the difference between “traditional” estate planning and Legacy Wealth Planning?

Traditional estate planning is focused on financial assets and is concerned with avoiding probate and estate taxes.  On the other hand, Legacy Wealth Planning is concerned with financial and non-financial assets of a family and creating a family’s personal legacy plan. Legacy Wealth Planning addresses how to capture and transfer family traditions and values, as well as protecting financial wealth for current and future generations.

How does a Family Wealth Trust differ from a Revocable Living Trust?

Most Revocable Living Trusts are primarily concerned with avoiding probate and estate taxes.  A Family Wealth Trust offers lifetime benefits, and protects wealth for current and future generations.

What steps can I take to preserve my legacy?

The best approach is to meet with an attorney who understands the Legacy Wealth Planning process.  This will ensure you address the financial and non-financial assets of your family. The right attorney will help you, first, set up a Family Wealth Trust to preserve your financial legacy. Then, you will be educated about completing the My Legacy workbook, to share in your own words about your life story, family history, memories, and life lessons.  Finally, writing a Legacy Planning Letter to distribute your cherished possessions with sentimental value.

What will happen to my property if I die without a will or trust?

If you die without a will or trust, the state determines who will be your ultimate heirs.  This distribution plan can be found in the intestacy statues of each state.  The applicable state can be either the location of your legal residence (personal property), or the state in which your assets are located (real property).

What is probate?

Probate is the court procedure used to change title to assets from the name of an individual who has passed away into the name of the living beneficiaries. It is also where all creditors of a decedent file claims to collect their debts and where interested parties who have a complaint regarding the deceased can file their complaint (a will contest). Even without a contest, probate can be costly and time-consuming. Probate is a public proceeding.

Can probate be avoided?

Probate can be avoided with careful planning. There are a number of different techniques for doing so which can be used alone or in combination.

Why is a Family Wealth Trust better than a Power of Attorney?

A Family Wealth Trust is often recommended to clients as the key document in their estate plan. One reason for this is that the Family Wealth Trust is normally the best method for managing assets during incapacity. A major advantage of the Family Wealth Trust over the Power of Attorney is that a trustee has actual title to the assets and therefore third parties must deal with the trustee as the owner. An agent does not have title and hence third parties may refuse to deal with the agent. This is particularly true if the Power of Attorney is more than a few years old.

Why should I have a Family Wealth Trust?

Not only does a Family Wealth Trust provide for the disposition of your property (like a will), but it also offers the following benefits:

  • Provides for the immediate transfer or trust management and distribution in the future of assets after death;
  • Allows for a smooth transition of management upon incapacity or death;
  • Avoids the expense and hassle of probate proceedings;
  • Minimizes estate taxes and defers payment of estate taxes for married couples;
  • Allows for continued control over assets after death or incapacity;
  • Provides security to you and your loved ones;
  • Protects your children’s inheritance from their own potential divorce;
  • Safeguards your estate for your kids if your surviving spouse remarries;
  • Offers flexibility

Will I still have control over my property if I establish a Family Wealth Trust?

Absolutely! While you are alive and mentally competent, you have complete control over your property. You can buy, sell, improve, spend, change investments, or give away property just as you would without a trust. The trust can be modified in any manner you desire or it can be completely revoked. Upon your death, the trust becomes irrevocable so that no one can change your testamentary wishes. Upon your incapacity, the successor trustee you’ve named will manage your assets for your benefit. For married couples, the other spouse still has total control over his or her share of property.

Who is the trustee of my Family Wealth Trust?

While you are alive, you may act as trustee. For married couples, either one or both spouses may act as trustee or co-trustees. The successor trustee is an individual or corporation fiduciary whom you designate to be in charge of your trust in the event of disability or upon death.

Is a Family Wealth Trust only for the rich?

No. A Family Wealth Trust can help anyone who wants to protect his or her family from unnecessary probate fees, attorney’s fees, court costs and federal estate taxes. In fact, the Family Wealth Trust offers substantial protection for your family, regardless of your total estate. In addition to savings at death, especially if your estate is over $100,000, the Family Wealth Trust also provides savings and peace of mind during life, because it avoids the expense and emotional nightmare of an incapacity or “living probate” proceeding.   Also, a Family Wealth Trust can protect spouses in the event of remarriage after one spouse dies and can afford greater protection for children.

Why do I need a Pour-Over Will if I have a Family Wealth Trust?

A Pour-Over Will is used first to name a guardian for minor children. Second, it protects against intestacy in the event any assets have not been transferred into the trust at the death of the trustor/owner. Its function is to “pour” any assets left out of the trust into it so they are ultimately distributed according to the terms of the trust.

What are the advantages to keeping assets in a trust for my beneficiaries, instead of distributing them outright? What about the disadvantages?

The advantages include potential protection from divorce, creditors, taxing authorities, bankruptcy, beneficiary indiscretion and mismanagement, as well as assuring the assets remain in the family. The disadvantages are that there may be some small administrative burdens, such as potentially needing to file an income tax return for the trust.

How long does it take to set up a trust?

In our firm, we like to complete the work within four weeks of our first client meeting.

Does your law firm handle probate?

Whatever your estate planning needs, from start to finish, we are here to help. We handle Trust Administrations and Probates. It is often in these circumstances, when a family comes to us distraught over the loss of a loved one, that they find our probate services so very important. We can help them through the difficult and often time-consuming process of probate.