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Estate Planning-The Law Offices of Barton P Levine

Estate Planning 

 Basic And Advnced Estate Planning

If you have a well-drafted estate plan in place, you’ll insure that your estate passes to whom you want, when you want, and is carried out in the manner you’ve chosen.

If you elect to establish a trust, you can rest assured that your family won’t have to endure the public process and costly manner of probate. Also, with proper estate planning, the government won’t be able to take what you’ve spent a lifetime building. You need to be aware of the many options that exist in estate planning – and you must choose your attorney wisely.

That is why the Law Offices of Barton P. Levine offers this wealth of free information and free estate planning seminars. We want you to feel confident about the choices you make – let us be your guide on the path toward preserving your family’s future.

Through the use of Wills, Living Trusts (simple and complex), Irrevocable Trusts, Family Limited Liability Companies, Family Limited Partnerships, Charitable Gifting Strategies, Durable General Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, HIPPA forms and Living Wills, we help families preserve their wealth for future generations, minimize estate taxes and avoid expensive and lengthy probate proceedings. 

Our estate planning services include a wide range of practice areas. These include the following: 

Family-Owned Businesses 

Our law firm offers estate planning assistance for the unique needs of Family Businesses. We help clients preserve this important part of their legacy for future generations. 

Estate Planning for LGBT Community

We offer guidance and assistance to members of the LGBT Community on their unique estate planning needs. This includes assistance in setting up Living Trusts and Health Care Directives.

Our firm has a long history of helping LGBT individuals to overcome shortcomings in the law in order to protect their future. While there have been significant advances in anti- discrimination legislation and gay couples can now choose to marry, issues still remain in incapacity planning, retirement planning, and estate planning. Our firm can help you deal with those issues and make the best use of legal tools to protect your future. 

Special Needs Planning 

We offer assistance to clients who have special needs family members by creating Special Needs Estate Plans. These tailored plans help them preserve government benefits while having their loved one cared for in all areas of their life: financial, educational and medical, and most importantly, their emotional and personal needs in the future. See our Section on Special Needs Planning. 

Blended Families 

 These days, many families include children, stepchildren, former spouses and in-laws. The number of remarriages has been steadily rising. So, advanced wealth planning with clear goals is advised.

You want to take care of your spouse and your children, but letting them work it out after you’re gone is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, estate planning takes into account your unique family situation and can alleviate most of your concerns.

Good communication is key. Have an honest conversation with your new spouse about your existing finances, goals for the future and how you expect your assets to be distributed. Such discussions are difficult and can be emotionally charged but will reap rewards in the long run. If your children are adults, you may want to include them in these talks so everyone knows what to expect.

Ensure that each spouse’s share of the estate ultimately ends up with his or her desired beneficiary. In this way, inheritances are protected for each spouse’s children from another relationship, no matter which parent is the first spouse to die. Traditional estate planning distributes an estate first to the spouse and then the children. But after the first spouse dies, the surviving spouse can amend the documents to disinherit whomever he or she wishes – including the deceased spouse’s heirs.

One way to deal with this is to prepare a separate property trust before you get married to ensure your assets end up with your chosen beneficiaries. You may make your current spouse the beneficiary of the trust until his or her death and then name your children, or you may have your separate property distributed directly to your children.

You also should establish a joint trust with your spouse with protection for the children. This places half of your assets into an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the surviving spouse, who is able to live on the income generated and yet preserve the principal for the children.

Other documents to think about: 

Power of attorney for financial affairs — This gives you the opportunity to name a trusted individual, most likely your spouse or one of your children, to manage your financial affairs and legal decisions during your life if you are not able to. 

Advance health care directive — You name someone you trust to make decisions about your health care when you are no longer capable of doing it yourself. It’s helpful to medical professionals if there’s an emergency, plus it gives you an opportunity to discuss your feelings about end-of-life care, organ donation and burial arrangements with your new spouse. 

Beneficiary forms — If you have some of your wealth in life insurance policies and retirement accounts, the beneficiary designations, not your will or trust, will control to whom these monies are distributed. One way to avoid a potential problem is to name each beneficiary as primary and designate the percentage of the asset each will receive.

And other things to consider:

  1. You may want to provide a death benefit through a life insurance plan for your spouse, while allowing the rest of your estate to pass to your children. You want your children to benefit from your assets without court intervention.
  2. Now is the time to look over all your financial assets — including that little-used account at a credit union or old 401(k) plan from a job you left long ago. Make changes, transferring accounts to your new spouse and/or children.
  3. A will is still needed to ensure that assets not titled in a trust are transferred according to your wishes. 

Every blended family is different, and each presents its own set of challenges. Designing a plan that keeps all  parties satisfied is key, and agreeing on a course of action is bliss. Communication is probably the secret weapon for maintaining harmony — especially in blended families.

Estate & Gift Tax Figures 

 Whatever amount is used during your lifetime is no longer available for use to pass assets at death. The Estate and Gift Tax Applicable Exclusion is currently $11.18 million.

The amount that can be given to each person you want without using any Applicable Exclusion: The Annual Gift Tax Exclusion is currently $15,000.

The Generation-Skipping Tax Exemption: allows for giving to people who are grandchildren or other “skip persons.” It may also be used as a sophisticated way of avoiding federal estate tax at the death of a child. Each person currently has $11.18 million of Generation- Skipping Tax Exemption. 

In addition to the federal Estate tax, many states have an estate or inheritance Tax. State estate and inheritance tax es may apply at a much lower level than the federal tax. It may apply when a person dies when residing in or owning property in any of the many states with such a tax.  

We invite you to call us toll-free at (800) 363-3416, email us at info@bartonlevine.com or contact us online to arrange for a free consultation 

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