Planning for the future can be difficult and intimidating, but it is something that everyone should do regardless of their net worth. Estate planning is more than just ensuring that your financial assets are passed on to the rightful heirs when you die, it is also about making your wishes known and naming a trusted advocate to carry out your wishes should you ever become physically or mentally incapacitated. And if you have minor children, an estate plan can be used to designate the right person to become guardian of your children in the event of a worst-case scenario.
The attorneys at Davis, Bingham, Hudson & Buckner, P.C. provide individuals and families with knowledgeable and compassionate advice and assistance in determining the type of legal documents needed to ensure that your final wishes are carried out. We have been serving clients in Alabama for over 40 years, and we have in-depth knowledge of the complexities of this area of the law, and what is necessary to ensure that your estate is protected, and that your loved ones are taken care of.
Core Estate Planning
Estate planning begins with a few core documents that everyone should have whether they are married, single, divorced, working, retired, or have children.
- Wills and Trusts. When discussing estate planning, one of the first subjects that often comes up is making decisions about what will happen to your assets when you pass away. Two of the most common ways to protect your wealth and your final wishes are by preparing a will or a living trust.
- Powers of Attorney. If you are one day incapacitated, you can face this situation on your own terms if you have these important documents on hand. A health care power of attorney gives someone you trust the ability to make your health care decisions. A financial power of attorney allows your designated agent to handle your financial affairs, which can help you avoid a burdensome guardianship process.
- Living Wills. A living will spells out the healthcare decisions you want made on your behalf should you become incapacitated. This often refers to provisions for life-sustaining treatment.
Estate Planning for Families
If you are a parent of young children, there are additional estate planning tools that can help you protect the well-being and financial future of minors.
- Guardianship of Minor Children. Even if you have named a guardian for your children in a will, there is a gap between the time this person might need to step in and when the court reviews the will and takes action. This document can fill that gap.
- Planning for Blended Families. Relationships where one or both parents already have children are now commonplace. Careful estate planning might be needed in these cases to ensure that everyone receives their rightful inheritance.
- Planning for Divorce. Divorce is also a common occurrence, and your estate plan should reflect your changing circumstances and your wishes in the event that your marriage is dissolved.
Protecting Your Hard-Earned Assets
Asset protection may not always be as simple as creating a living trust. Perhaps your circumstances require something different. Fortunately, there are many different types of trusts to address numerous potential scenarios.
- Asset Protection. People in high-risk professions such as doctors and dentists may wish to consider having a trust for asset protection to safeguard their earnings from lawsuits.
- Special Needs Trust. Minors and adult children with special needs require a specific type of asset protection. This type of trust will hold assets for their benefit without jeopardizing eligibility for assistance programs.
- Medicaid Asset Protection. The costs of long-term care can quickly wipe out a nest egg that you have saved a lifetime to establish. With some careful planning and the right type of trust, you can maintain eligibility for these benefits and hold onto your assets.
Estate Planning for High-Value Assets
When you reach a certain amount of assets, you may be subject to estate taxes. Some ways to help reduce your tax burden when you die include:
- Estate Tax Planning. Even with the new tax law changes, Uncle Sam will still be one of the largest beneficiaries of many estates. If you wish to disinherit the IRS and leave your wealth to the people you care about, you can accomplish this with the right type of estate planning strategy.
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT). A little-known fact is that, although proceeds from a life insurance policy are income tax free, they may still be included in your estate for estate tax purposes. In other words, a large enough life insurance policy could put your estate over the threshold in which it is subject to taxes, thus putting some of your hard-earned assets at risk. An ILIT can help address this issue.
Estate Planning for Unique Assets
While many assets can be included in a general estate plan, others might require special attention. Our estate planning attorneys can also help with:
- Art and Collections. Maybe you collect art, coins, antiques, or something else of value. Your wishes regarding these items may be difficult to quantify and express without experienced legal guidance.
- Business Succession. Planning for the ownership and success of your business after you are gone can be far more complex than it sounds. In addition to just naming a successor, an effective business succession plan will position your company’s future leaders for a smooth transition.
Qualified Auburn Estate Planning Attorneys
Compassionate, responsive, and accessible, our experienced Alabama estate planning attorneys know how to ensure that your estate is fully protected, and we look forward to working with you and your loved ones. We understand that needs and situations differ, which is why we take a holistic approach with our clients by fully analyzing their needs and goals to select the best methods of retaining, administering, and transferring wealth and values.
Davis, Bingham, Hudson & Buckner, P.C. delivers comprehensive estate planning services, offering clients their experience in drafting wills, advance health care directives, power of attorney documents, trusts, and charitable and gift tax planning. Our firm also has extensive experience dealing with the probate process in Lee County, and we have developed a particular area of focus helping the owners of closely-held businesses create meaningful succession plans.
Contact our Auburn office now at 334-821-1908 or reach out to us online to schedule an initial consultation.