What Is Estate Planning and Why Do I Need It

What Is Estate Planning?

Everyone has an estate, no matter how modest. Your estate includes your home, car, checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, investments accounts, life insurance, other real estate, and personal property items. While an estate plan has traditionally been only known as a mechanism to pass down property to your loved ones, an estate plan can also be used to protect your assets while providing financial security for your loved ones in the event of your death or incapacity.

Having the right estate plan can be an effective way to pass down a legacy while obtaining favorable tax treatment, enhancing charitable gifting, and mitigating future disputes through the use of one or more estate planning tools. Depending on each individual’s goals, desires, and life status, estate planning can mean different things to different individuals. At Crosswhite Law our attorneys understand that estate planning is not a one-size-fits-all approach and cookie-cutter documents are not the solution for unique situations. We know that each individual has different needs, goals, and desires and must have a plan that accommodates those specific needs and goals.

Our comprehensive planning services work to preserve wealth and create a secure financial future for your family. For some situations, simple plans with the basic estate planning documents that include a will, durable power of attorney, and health care power of attorney are sufficient. Other situations, however, may require more complex plans that can include revocable or irrevocable trusts and other protective measures.

Whether you need a new estate plan or need an existing plan reviewed and amended that fits your current situation, our estate planning attorneys can help you create a tailored plan. At Crosswhite Law, our experienced attorneys can help you customize estate planning documents to protect you and your assets in the event of your incapacity or death, some of the common documents include:

  • Wills
  • Revocable Living Trusts
  • Irrevocable Trusts
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Health Care Powers of Attorney and Designations
  • Advance Directives
  • Guardianships

Why You Need an Estate Plan

No matter what life stage you’re in it is important to have some type of estate plan in place in the event of your death or incapacity. The estate plan that you have will determine how your property will be handled and passed down after your death. Some estates will have to go through the court’s probate process. Having a will with clear directives can help the probate process go smoothly and reduce the frustration that often accompanies it. For other estates, especially those with more complex plans, the court probate process may be avoided entirely, keeping your estate private and further reducing any unnecessary expense and frustration for your loved ones.

When creating a plan, our attorneys work with you to ensure all scenarios are considered, including your family situation, long-term goals, asset structure, tax status, business holdings, and insurance coverage. Some of the common goals that estate planning can accomplish include:

  • Ensuring that a trusted individual has access to not only your finances but someone who is also able to make critical medical decisions if an unfortunate accident occurs. Without this, your loved ones would need to petition the court for guardianship over you and your finances to obtain this authority.
  • Legally ensuring your minor children’s physical and financial care is clearly stated and provided for as you desire. Without specific instructions, your minor children’s care will be left up to the hands of the court to determine what is in their best interest.
  • Ensuring that any pets are cared for in the event of your incapacity or death.
  • Specifying how your assets are to be passed down after your death, which can include preservation and management of assets for your spouse, children, or special needs beneficiaries unable to handle their affairs.
  • For those with mixed families, it is more critical than ever to ensure you have an estate plan in place to provide for your assets to go to your beneficiaries as you desire and not how state intestate law dictates.
  • Consideration of your entire asset structure and ensuring that all assets are coordinated in your estate plan. For example, some beneficiary-directed accounts such as IRAs and other retirement plans are often left out of estate plans.
  • Understanding how these assets will pass upon your death and the tax implications they will have on beneficiaries can be a complex analysis that should always be thoughtfully considered.
  • Reducing conflicts that can occur among family and friends in the event of your incapacity or death. Leaving clear wishes and instructions can go a long way in helping to mitigate disputes and confusion that often arise in these situations.
  • Protection and preservation of your assets if you or your spouse require nursing home care or other long-term care needs.
  • Instructions for leaving a legacy to a foundation or other charitable organization that is important to you.
  • Protection for your business and other assets in the event of a divorce or lawsuit.
  • Creation of business succession plans for the seamless transition of your business for its continued success in the event of your incapacity or death.
  • In addition, estate plans can also be structured in a way that reduces and sometimes eliminates estate taxes, gift taxes, and income taxes.

At Crosswhite Law, our estate planning attorneys have worked closely with individuals in and around Iredell, Rowan, Davie, Catawba, and Alexander counties in all aspects of estate planning. Our attorneys are skilled problem solvers who understand the common pitfalls associated with estate planning. From simple estates to complex estate planning and administration our attorneys can help you make informed decisions about the right plan for your needs. To schedule a confidential consultation with one of our Statesville estate planning attorneys call us at (704) 445-3085 or complete our online form.

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