According to reported national surveys, the majority of Americans have not made a Will or done any other formal estate planning. The opportunities they miss by failing to act are many.
Through the use of a Will, a person can specify to whom and how his/her estate will be distributed on his/her death and, if he/she has any minor children, who he/she wishes to have appointed their guardian in the event that both parents are deceased. But estate planning should not stop at making a Will.
With additional planning, a person can put in place the mechanisms to address unavoidable lifetime challenges and achieve many post-death objectives. Here are a few examples:
- Through the use of a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial and Property Matters, an individual may designate another person to act in his/her place in financial, property, legal, and other non-medical matters, if he/she wishes or needs to have such assistance.
- Through the use of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, an individual may designate another person to make health care decisions for him/her during any period(s) of time when he/she is not able to do so.
- Through the use of a Living Will Declaration, an individual may authorize his/her physicians to terminate active medical treatment and provide only “comfort care” if he/she is in the last stage of a terminal illness or an irreversible coma.
- Through Probate avoidance planning (which may involve estate planning techniques ranging from simple to complex), an individual may avoid or minimize the Probate administration of his or her estate.
- Through the use of a “living trust” (which is a trust created by a trust agreement or declaration of trust) a person may achieve a wide array of post-death objectives such as providing for the financial well-being of his/her surviving spouse, the upbringing of his/her children, benefits for his/her grandchildren, and/or the care of his/her pets.
- Through tax planning (which may involve estate planning techniques ranging from simple to complex), an individual may: eliminate or minimize the federal estate tax liability (applicable to estates in excess of $5,450,000.00); reduce or eliminate future capital gains tax consequences to him/her or his/her beneficiaries; and/or achieve other tax savings.
- Through asset protection planning (which may involve estate planning techniques ranging from simple to complex), an individual may protect and preserve his/her assets from the claims of creditors.
- Through Medicaid planning (the use of legally-permissible asset allocations, exclusions, and exemptions), an individual may receive Medicaid benefits while preserving assets for his/her spouse and/or heirs.
- Through the use of a special needs or wholly discretionary trust, an individual may make supplemental expenditures on behalf of a physically and/or mentally challenged beneficiary to improve his/her quality of life without disqualifying the beneficiary from receiving government benefits.
With more than thirty years of experience, Mr. Bergmann is able to provide his clients with those estate planning services and documents which are necessary to meet their estate planning objectives.
Many of the above-described services, such as the preparation of Wills, Powers of Attorney, and other estate planning documents, may be provided for a flat fee. Other services which ordinarily involve an uncertain amount of time (such as asset protection, special needs, Medicaid, and tax planning) are offered on an hourly fee basis.
Estate planning services in addition to the ones described above may be offered by the firm. If you do not see a particular legal service which you need, please contact us to inquire whether that service is available.