Es­tate Plan­ning: Take the Time Now

The Suit - - Cover Story -

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.

www.nces­tateplan­ning­info.com

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