Estate planning

We work closely with our clients to advise them regarding the best way to own and manage their property while alive and, at death, leave property to their intended beneficiaries – spouses, children, family members and charities.

At our initial consultation, we perform a complete inventory of your estate and analyze your current estate plan. Depending upon the size of your estate* and your goals for leaving your assets to your heirs or charities, we will help you prepare your estate plan.  *(The net worth of your estate – the total value of your real property holdings, investments, retirement accounts, bank accounts, insurance policies and other assets, after debts and taxes.)

We provide a full range of estate and tax planning, asset protection, administration and probate services and most of the services are offered at a fixed fee, not hourly.  For those with larger estates, we also offer advanced estate planning services, and for retirees we offer elder law services.

An estate plan often consists of the following legal documents to manage your health and property while you are alive, and to distribute your property according to your wishes when you die:

Last Will and Testament – A document, effective only at death, in which you designate who inherits your probate property, nominate an executor to distribute such property, and nominate who should care for your minor children.

Trust – A trust is often confused with a will.  A trust is a separate entity that can hold property for the benefit of one or more persons.  It is used to avoid probate; provide for the long-term management of property held for minor children and disabled children; efficiently plan for taxes, more specifically to ensure married couples fully utilize federal and state tax exemption amounts; and for asset protection planning for elders and higher risk professionals.  A trust is also a useful device to avoid the need for a guardianship.

Durable Power of Attorney – This document allows you to appoint a person or persons to handle your financial affairs ranging from bank accounts to real estate.  While it expires upon death, sometimes the person you nominate only has the power to manage your financial affairs when you are incapacitated.  When a durable power of attorney only becomes effective upon incapacity, it is often referred to as springing power of attorney.  A durable power of attorney will help avoid the need for a guardianship and court permission to do certain financial transactions for a loved one.  The powers given to the person you appoint may be limited to the powers specifically authorized in the document, so it is important that the document be tailored to your needs.

Health Care Proxy / Power of Attorney – A document that designates who will make medical decisions for you in the event you are unconscious or mentally impaired, either temporarily or for an extended period of time.  Our Health Care Proxy allows your appointed Health Care Representative to make medical decisions, hire and fire physicians and access your protected health information.  A properly drafted health care proxy will help avoid the need for a guardianship in the future

 Living Will / Medical Directive – This is a written expression of your preferences as to how you want to be treated in certain medical conditions.

Health Information Privacy Release – This form is needed to enable a spouse, adult descendants or other designees to access your personal medical information in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).