Estate Planning: Take the Time Now
LexisNexis, a leading legal research corporation, reports that more than 55 percent of American adults do not have an estate plan or even a simple will. An estate plan is the umbrella containing all relevant documents that fall within the scope of the plan – a will or a trust, along with all advanced care directives. There are differences among the documents that could be prepared. One difference between a will and a living revocable trust, for instance, is that a will must go through probate, while a living revocable trust does not. Choosing the most beneficial course depends on estate planning, a process that is more comprehensive than a simple list of who receives assets and other belongings. It can also include legal documents for advanced directives and tax planning – not only upon death – but also if the individual becomes incapacitated.
“Part of estate planning isn’t just what happens when you die; it needs to protect the client during every potential stage in life. If you don’t have these advanced directives, like a healthcare power of attorney or a living will, your wishes may not be followed,” explained attorney, Sabrina Winters, who recommends that these documents should be created at a time when there is not an urgent need to do so. Further, Winters points out how much additional stress family members suffer when trying to sort through difficult issues and make decisions without knowing a loved one’s wishes and preferences. “Often times, people don’t make the best decisions when it’s an emergency situation,” she said.
Based in Charlotte, NC, the firm of Sabrina Winters, Attorney at Law, PLLC, opened in 2005. Today, the majority of their clients are high net worth C-Suite executives and physicians, as well as people retiring or just starting their families.
“We really hold our clients’ hands from the moment they call our office for the first time, to the day when they pick up their final documents. It’s all about understanding the client, and it’s making sure they know that we care about them as individuals,” said Winters. She added that everyone at her firm ensures clients are informed at every step of the estate planning process. “It’s not just about the documents; it’s about getting the client’s wishes on paper and really understanding what they want – and then drafting the document so that their plan will ultimately work,” she said.
Another critical aspect of estate planning is naming legal guardians of young children in the event of parental death. Her firm has also gained significant experience pertaining to special needs children. “Kids need a voice,” said Winters. “If something happens to one or both of the parents, that child needs to be taken by the hand immediately. If a parent with a special needs child doesn’t have a written plan in place, it could really set that child back. Estate planning is not something you do for yourself; it is one of the most loving things you can do for your family and loved ones.”
In addition to general estate planning services, Winters also assists clients with Medicaid planning, veterans pension assistance, probate and tax issues in implementing dynasty trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts and IRA trusts.