1. Creditor/Predator/Mismanagement Protection for spouse, children, etc.
2. Estate tax planning – flexibility for changes in the law and value of assets
3. Income tax planning – basis issues and retirement plans
4. Coordination of asset ownership and beneficiary designation with estate plan
5. Probate avoidance – Living Trusts, POD, TOD accounts
6. Incapacity planning – Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Trusts, Health Care Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Authorizations
7. End of life care – Advance Directives (Living Wills), DNR, MOST form
8. Long-term care planning – insurance, Medicaid issues
9. Insurance – life, long-term care, disability, umbrella liability
10. Asset Protection – use of LLCs for rental property, avoid joint accounts, etc.
As you can see, an estate plan is more than just a set of forms. It should be a comprehensive approach to dealing with certain or potential issues of death, disability, long-term care, tax liabilities, probate costs, and family disputes. Not exactly cheery subjects, but certainly important.
While many strategies are put into place with the hope that they will never be needed, an immediate benefit is the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have done all you can maintain your dignity, and protect your family, preserve your assets, and save taxes.