Estate planning is not reserved for the elderly or wealthy. A well-designed estate plan will work to protect you and your loved ones throughout your lifetime, and every adult should have one. Our team offers basic and advanced estate planning services. The extent of planning required for your situation will depend on your specific financial circumstances.
Every estate plan should answer these questions:
- Who do I want to receive my assets (money, home(s), land, investments, business, tangible personal property, other)?
- Who do I trust to manage my assets and distribute them according to my wishes? (This person is referred to as an Executor/Personal Representative or Trustee.)
- Should my children receive their inheritance outright, at a specific age(s) or should it be managed for their benefit for their lifetimes? (Keeping assets in trust may provide asset protection from their creditors and minimize death taxes.)
- Is there a charity or another individual I would like to benefit? Are there any restrictions that I want to place on such gifts? Do I want to make a gift of tangible personal property (e.g., jewelry, artwork, antiques, collectibles, automobiles, boats, memorabilia, firearms, etc.) to one or more individuals or charities?
- If my spouse remarries, should my spouse continue to benefit from my estate? Or should the assets go to our children? If my spouse remarries, should someone other than my spouse serve as a co-trustee with my spouse over trust assets to ensure the assets are preserved for my children or other heirs?
- If none of my family members survive me, are there other more distant family members and/or friends or charities that I would like to receive my property?
- Who is the person I trust to make health care decisions for me if I am unable to do so (known as the Healthcare Agent)? What medical treatments do I want or not want?
- Do I want to remain in my residence or go to a nursing home or assisted living facility if I am unable to care for myself?
Estate planning includes creating a valid a will, appointing powers of attorney, establishing advanced medical directives, living wills, and creating one or more trusts to keep your family out of probate court which is costly and time consuming. Your estate plan outlines a roadmap for your heirs and beneficiaries not only for what should happen once you pass away but ALSO if you become incapacitated.
Advanced estate planning may be necessary if you have considerable lucrative assets and are considered a high-net-worth individual. These tools can help you minimize the impact of estate and inheritance taxes, achieve asset protection, and avoid unnecessary conflict among heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors.
Call an Estate Planning Attorney Near You
Our Reston estate planning attorneys can evaluate your situation and provide you with the guidance you need. Call 571-410-3500 today to for help creating your estate plan.
Estate planning is much more than taking steps to minimize estate and inheritance taxes. While reducing the impact of taxation can be an important component for high-net-worth individuals, estate planning also is about creating and protecting your legacy. Developing an effective plan involves defining how best to control your property while you are alive as well as planning for what will happen if you become incapacitated. Your estate plan should also consider what assets you have and to whom you wish to leave those assets once you pass away. A strong estate plan will allow you to decide how and when your assets will be distributed.
Our experienced team at Zell Law is familiar with a myriad of estate planning instruments and techniques. We will work closely with you to understand your goals before advising what steps you should take to achieve them.
Our Reston estate planning lawyers can assist you with:
- Revocable Trusts. A revocable trust is the most important of many estate plans. This type of trust is sometimes referred to as a “will substitute” in that it allows you to distribute assets once you are gone. Unlike a will, however, the contents of a revocable trust are private and avoid the costly and often messy probate process. We can help you create, fund, and manage your revocable trust.
- Wills. Your last will and testament will allow you to name a minor guardian for your minor children, beneficiaries for your assets, and an executor for your estate. Wills must be properly witnessed and validated. This document will serve as the foundation of your estate plan, but its contents are a matter of public record and subject to the notoriously protracted probate process.
- Choosing Guardians, Trustees, and Executors. Deciding who will be responsible for your minor children, assets, and estate can be a challenging task. You must be cautious and thoughtful when selecting fiduciaries, who will be responsible for protecting your assets, children, and legacy. We provide thorough guidance in this area, and our firm also offers trustee and fiduciary services. Our lawyers can assist you with estate and trust administration and serve as your personal representative and/or successor trustee.
- Medical Directives. Advance medical directives will outline your healthcare preferences in situations where you become incapacitated and unable to communicate. We typically recommend appointing a power of attorney that can advocate on your behalf in situations involving medical, therapeutic, or surgical procedures. If you live in Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia, you can also implement a “living will,” a document that allows you to preemptively decide what types of life-saving or life-prolonging care you wish to receive or not receive.
- Business Succession Planning. If you own a private business, you will need to consider what will happen to your company once you retire, pass away, or become incapacitated. A strong succession plan will identify qualified successors, establish a clear transition plan, and take steps to protect and provide for your surviving loved ones.
- Tax Planning. Even basic estate plans should consider potential tax consequences: Your executor or personal representative will be responsible for filing your final tax returns, and any outstanding tax liabilities may jeopardize planned inheritances. If you are a high-net-worth individual, you will need to consider the potential impacts of estate and inheritance taxes. Strategic lifetime gifts and equity sales can help you minimize the impact of taxation.
- Education Planning. As education costs continue to rise at an alarming rate, it is important to take proactive steps to help fund your loved ones’ educations. We can help you utilize 529 trusts and minor’s trusts as well as creative and emerging solutions.
- Charitable Planning. Philanthropic efforts allow you to give back to the community and important causes. They can also serve as an important piece of your estate plan, especially if you are a high-net-worth individual. We can assist you with non-profit organizations, private foundations, charitable remainder trusts, and donor advised funds.