Over fifty (50) and ready to protect your heirs?
This short article will help to clarify your thinking, the issues, and save you time, money, and energy.
As you reach your fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond, your focus often shifts from creating and building a professional practice, business, or investment portfolio and toward protecting assets, planning for retirement, enjoying the fruits of your labor, and carefully optimizing and protecting the legacy you'll leave behind.
Typically, by this point in your life, a “simple will” may still sound enticing but will rarely, if ever, work to achieve your goals or even your basic needs which often require protecting heirs, and carefully selecting agents under a power of attorney for financial and medical decision making in the event of your incapacity.
Sometimes trusts created under your will or during your lifetime will also be required to achieve your desires and/or to minimize federal or other estate taxes.
In short, a well-crafted estate plan is by this time in your life, often essential to protect your wishes, your hard-earned assets and to ensure that your heirs are shielded from divorce, lawsuits, excessive taxes or even an unfortunate business failure or bankruptcy. A “simple will” will not and cannot achieve any of these goals.
But the process need not be long and/or painful.
An experienced attorney with years of solving these issues and who has drafted AND administered the estates of affluent families can help you to get exactly what you need in a reasonable period of time.
It’s not always uncomplicated or easy, but it can be easier than you ever thought.
How? Well, experienced attorneys know the major and most effective strategies for each type of estate and tax planning scenario. They know how to help you find exactly what is important and how to achieve those goals in a well drafted plan. Better yet, experienced attorneys that also have a well-developed process and great skills at listening to what you want, explaining your options (in plain English) and then converting your goals into documents that achieve those goals are really the gold standard of achieving your estate planning objectives and can actually make it easy (and often way less painful than you thought).
This article highlights the benefits of enhanced and sophisticated estate planning for individuals in this age group, how to find and to hire the right type of attorneys and underscores the importance of taking action to truly and effectively safeguard your legacy (both during your lifetime and beyond).
The Growing Importance of Estate Planning: As you age, the need for a more comprehensive and customized estate plan becomes increasingly vital.
You may have amassed significant invested wealth, a valuable business, and/or property, making it essential to protect those assets both during your lifetime (for your own use and to protect your spouse) and to secure those assets for your heirs (or in some cases for charitable uses).
Moreover, your family dynamics may have evolved over the years, with adult children, grandchildren, and possibly even great-grandchildren (and their needs) to consider in your planning.
Many of our affluent clients with assets and estates from $2,000,000 and beyond have initially told us that they “…only need a simple will” but later learn that they can do much more than they thought possible.
Those clients seem to often value:
Protection from Divorce – Even When Your Heirs Don’t Have A Pre- Nuptial Agreement:
Divorce can have a significant impact on your family's financial well-being. By establishing trusts or utilizing other estate planning tools, you can ensure that your assets remain with your intended heirs rather than being subject to division in a divorce settlement. This protection not only safeguards your children's or grandchildren's inheritance but also provides peace of mind knowing that your legacy will remain intact.
Shielding Heirs from Lawsuits and Business (or even personal) Bankruptcy:
Unexpected lawsuits against your surviving spouse, children, and even grandchildren can put your assets and the financial future of your loved ones at risk.
And litigation is a rising risk and can result from something as simple as a tragic car accident, business failure, or many other unexpected sources.
However, and unknown to many people who have only ever done simple will planning, enhanced and comprehensive estate planning (using trusts and/or other entities) to be funded either during lifetime or only at death, can help protect your heirs from such potential legal claims by placing assets in well-structured trusts or other legal entities that you have created for them.
By doing so, you limit the exposure of your wealth to creditors and litigants, preserving your family's financial stability.
The complexity and/or protective power of these estate planning techniques and strategies can vary depending on the level of risk and can be made flexible so that if the risk profile changes, the strategies can adapt too.
For example, if one of your children or heirs is a physician in Pennsylvania and subject to malpractice lawsuits, you might build a trust for that child that has a higher level of protection. However, life isn’t static (nor is the tax code) so building flexibility into planning through the use of trustees, flexible trusts, and trust protectors can save your heirs time, resources, and money/taxes.
Minimizing Estate Tax and Income Tax Burdens:
A well-crafted estate plan can minimize the tax burden on your heirs by maximizing available tax exemptions and employing flexible and strategic tax planning techniques.
By working with experienced estate planning professionals, you can develop and implement a plan that reduces or eliminates estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation-skipping transfer taxes, allowing your heirs to inherit more of your wealth and to grow that wealth in income tax advantaged ways.
These strategies can include optimized gifting (either outright or in trusts), lending, and helping heirs to create investment plans and businesses that are never even included in your estate.
For more resources related to gifting, uses of trusts, and enhanced estate planning generally, click these links:
2023 Gifting and Estate Planning Tips
How Trust Planning Can Benefit Your Family
Making Sure That The Plan Works, Survives A Challenge, and That It’s Understood:
An estate plan that gets overturned by a court challenge can undermine all that you’ve worked to achieve. For that reason, you want planning (by experienced estate planning lawyers that understand the risks of a challenge and who know how to protect against and to minimize those risks.
In addition, you want to feel like the plan (even if it contains technical tax language) is carefully designed to achieve your goals. You want to understand it. Making sure that you have counsel that really listen to you, and are capable not only of creating an accurate and adaptable plan, but who can also explain it to you is essential.
Many of our clients also realize that the documents used to protect their spouse and heirs to efficiently pass their assets, and to achieve tax advantages, often look (on their face) somewhat complicated.
But, in the event of your death or even incapacity, you want your spouse and heirs to understand why they were created, what they do, and how to benefit from them.
For that reason, we often host or facilitate “Family Meetings” designed to give the important and appropriate family members a higher level of understanding and access to the team who might help them in the event of your death or incapacity.
These meetings can go as deeply into the planning as you like or can stay focused on the basics without much disclosure of the assets. However, over the sixty years of our collective practice, we’ve found that families who prepare their heirs end up achieving better results and fewer disputes over time.
Keeping The Plan Up To Date And Effective:
Sophisticated clients know that as their own wealth grows (or changes), and as the tax laws are updated and often become more restrictive (or less advantageous), that they must have a plan and a process in place to keep the planning updated and responsive not just to those changes, but also adapting to the needs and personal circumstances of their heirs.
But most of our clients are busy building and growing their businesses, portfolios, and wealth generally. For that reason, they truly value our ongoing notices of legal changes, and our process for helping them to update when needed.
Once you reach a certain age (typically over fifty) and level of wealth (typically over Two million dollars of net worth and life insurance) Enhanced Estate Planning (as opposed to “simple will” or “simple trust” planning) becomes a crucial aspect of securing your legacy and protecting your loved ones from the potential financial pitfalls of divorce, lawsuits, and taxes.
Therefore, as you enter your 50s, 60s, and 70s, take action and prepare to create and to implement a comprehensive and flexible plan that reflects your values and priorities. Find a firm, like ours that is staffed with a team of experienced lawyers, paralegals, and client service representatives who know what you need and how to provide it through systems and a well-designed process that takes you from thinking, to preparing, to executing the plan and then helping to keep it up to date and effective.
By doing so, you not only provide for your family's financial future but also leave a lasting, positive impact on the people who matter most in your life.
You may be doing this for others but protecting your legacy and all that you worked to create and to achieve is also a gift to you.
We look forward to being your partner and guide (or Sherpa*) through this process and to making your goals clear, achievable, and understandable. We understand that you created this legacy on your own terms and, ultimately you should protect it in the ways that matter most to you.
Hire Your Estate Planning “Sherpas” To Help You Climb The Estate Planning “Mount Everest”
*Some clients have said that they were afraid that creating their estate plan would be like “climbing Mount Everest.” It seemed impossible. And as a result, they put it off until the pain was so great that they had to act.
But remember, that what seems insurmountable to you is a regular Tuesday for us. We “climb the Mt. Everest of sophisticated estate planning every day.” And we’ve helped thousands and thousands of affluent families to do it as well.
In fact, when clients book their first strategy session (to start the planning process) they’re often surprised by how clear and relatively easy our process is, how far they get at that first meeting, and how quickly they get to their goal of reviewing, understanding and then implementing the “finalized” plan.
But that’s why we’re here.
We’re really good at our jobs. The only “downside” is that, at the moment, there’s more demand for us than we have to go around. So, you might have a short wait to get that first appointment. However, our process is so good that even complicated plans are often completed within six to eight weeks and with only two or three appointments (your needs and mileage may vary).
What to do if you want a more “sophisticated” plan and not just a “simple will” to pass on and to protect your legacy…
Option 1 - I know I’m Ready:
So, if you’re over fifty (and single or married with children and grandchildren), have built some wealth you want to protect, and you’re already sure that you’d like us to guide you, then call our office at 610-933-8069 and speak to one of our Client Relations Managers.
And we will walk you through our process and how to get the most out of it.
Option 2 - I’m not quite ready yet:
If you’re not yet sure, then feel free to access our many videos, reports and resources.
Click here to find out what you need to know about hiring an estate planning attorney.
Click here to get our Enhanced Estate Plannning Report.
Call 610-933-8069 when you’re ready. Appointments are sometimes booked out 4-6 weeks.