A proper estate plan begins with a consultation with an expert. That's why at Albrektson & Shumate LLP every client meets first with Kathleen or Christopher to assess needs on an individual basis. For many, the most appropriate estate-planning document would indeed be a living trust, but others have greatly differing needs. At some law offices specializing in estate planning the client never even meets with an attorney. Beware: if your contact is exclusively with paralegals you are probably dealing with a "trust mill." The consequences for you and your heirs could be significant. For most clients, however, a so-called "living" trust has many benefits:
Benefits of a Living Trust:
› You control your assets during your lifetime.
› If you own a business, a living trust can provide an excellent exit strategy.
› A well-drafted living trust directs how others will manage your assets in the event that you become incompetent.
› It can protect the assets you intend to leave to your loved ones from unscrupulous individuals and creditors.
› It should provide for the distribution of your assets in the event of your death.
› It keeps your affairs private--no public documents need ever be filed with the court. Many celebrities, including John Wayne, Princess Diana, and Elvis Presley, overlooked this issue, and the private details of their wills can be read by anyone who chooses to Google them.
› It provides for outstanding savings in post-death taxes and administrative costs.
If possible, we always send a questionnaire to new potential clients before the first meeting. This ensures that your appointment with Kathleen or Christopher is productive, as she/he will be able to do some prior analysis of your situation and be able to fine-tune your estate plan to meet your needs. This is not a "cookie-cutter" approach, but ensures that your estate plan is tailored to your own situation.
After the initial meeting, documents will be prepared for your review. Those should consist of, at least, a revocable living trust, a pour-over will, a certificate of trust, a durable power of attorney for asset management in the event of disability, a health care power of attorney, and a physician's directive.
Preparation of Documents
After your initial meeting, your estate planning documents will be prepared and delivered to you to ensure that it accurately represents your situation and intent. If necessary, our office will revise and correct until the documents are ready for signing.
The Signing Meeting
When the documents are all correct, you will once again meet with Kathleen or Christopher to go over the estate planning documents. Prior to the actual signing we will want you to watch an informative video that will orient you to the final phase of preparing your estate plan. At the signing, all documents will be signed, initialed, and notarized as necessary to ensure that they comply with all relevant requirements.
Funding the Living Trust
If you use a revocable living trust, which we recommend in most cases, the trust must be properly funded as soon as possible. That is, assets must be transferred into the trust. If this is not done, you will have wasted your money and your assets will either have to be probated through the "pour-over" will, or they will pass to your heirs outside of your plan. Our office will assist in this vital process, especially in transferring real-estate assets into the trust as this is the most complex and trouble-prone aspect of funding the trust.
Our office will remain available to answer questions, help you fund your trust, and assist you in any way after the documents are executed. In many cases, our clients return at the death of one spouse to ensure that the provisions of the trust are fulfilled. We are glad to assist in this as well.