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Basic Estate Planning

It is a common misconception that trusts and other forms of estate planning are only for the wealthy.  Estate planning, however, is about a broad range of issues, including minimization of estate taxes, providing for our children, caring for elderly parents, having control of assets during one’s lifetime, even if incapacitated, and proactively preventing children from potential fights over money.  Consequently, these are issues that can affect all of us, not just those one might deem as “wealthy” or who fall in the tiny fraction of people who fall over the federal estate tax exemption.  There is also the “nontax” cost associated with transferring a decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries.  This “nontax” cost includes the monetary cost, time delay, lack of privacy and flexibility, and overall frustration associated with probate administration.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas P. Barnes prepare individually tailored estate planning documents designed to accomplish our client’s goals while minimizing or eliminating potential transfer taxes and simplifying the estate administration process.  Our areas of representation include:

Revocable Living Trusts: We prepare living trusts and assist our clients with proper trust funding, including preparation of deeds and the accompanying documents required to transfer our clients’ interests in real property into the name of their trust.  We also prepare detailed exhibits of trust assets and the powers of the trustee and provide specific instructions for funding the trust with assets other than real property.  We carefully coordinate beneficiary designations to assets such as retirement benefit plans and life insurance to ensure our clients’ intentions are fully carried out.  We also offer trust administration services following the death of a trustor.

Wills: We prepare simple wills for clients, as well as pour-over wills, which are wills designed to work in unison with a living trust. We also prepare wills with guardianship provisions for our clients’ minor children under the age of 18.

Durable Financial Powers of Attorney: We prepare durable financial powers of attorney designating a person or persons to manage the financial affairs of a client in the event they become incapacitated.

Advance Health Care Directives: We prepare advance health care directives allowing clients to designate a person or persons to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event they are unable to express their wishes with regard to health care, life support, and other important medical and end-of-life considerations.

Community Property Agreements: We prepare community property agreements, which provide certain tax advantages for our clients.  These agreements are designed to ensure that the maximum lifetime exemption amount of the first spouse to pass away is utilized to the fullest extent.  These agreements also provide for a step-up in basis for capital gains tax purposes.  We will assess your situation to determine if a community property agreement is appropriate and in your best interests.

Advanced Estate Planning: We utilize advanced estate and tax planning strategies to maximize our clients’ transfer tax savings.  For further information, see the Advanced Estate Planning page.

Amendments and Restatements

We advise our clients to periodically review their estate plan, and to promptly notify us if their family or financial circumstances have changed.  We assist our clients in preparing amendments and full restatements of their revocable living trusts and updating their other estate planning documents.

For experienced estate planning assistance, contact the Law Offices of Douglas P. Barnes.

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