The Pollock Firm LLC utilizes a collaborative approach to the Estate Planning practice. Whether an estate is large and complex or more modest, we carefully listen to our clients and work with them to develop long-term personal and family goals. Our experience and creativity enable us to provide practical and sensible solutions to the tax and non-tax issues confronting our clients.
A complete estate plan often includes some or all of the following:
Tax planning is a vital part of estate planning. Any good estate planning attorney should try to minimize income taxes, capital gains taxes, state estate taxes, federal estate taxes and inheritance taxes, not just the popular “Death Taxes”.
Last Will and Testament and Codicils to a Will
No estate plan is complete unless you have prepared a Last Will and Testament to say where you want your money to go, who will be in charge of the assets, and who will take care of your minor children.
A Financial Power of Attorney authorizes a loved one to handle your finances in the event that you cannot do so yourself. If you have not prepared a financial power of attorney, in order for your loved ones to have legal authority to handle your finances, they might have to go through an expensive Guardianship procedure.
A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes a loved one to make medical decisions for you in the event that you cannot do so yourself. Moreover, if you want others to respect your wishes as to whether you want to be kept alive in the event you are terminally ill or in a vegetative state, you should advise your family of your wishes with an Advanced Health Care Directive. If you have not prepared a Medical Power of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directive, in order for your loved ones to have legal authority to make medical decisions for you, they might have to go through an expensive Guardianship procedure.
There are thousands of different types of trusts including Marital Trusts, Bypass Trusts, Age Restriction Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Education Trusts, Animal Trusts, Irrevocable Life Insurance Trusts (ILITs), “IRA Stretch Trusts”, Qualified Personal Residence Trusts (QPRTs), Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs), Dynasty Trusts, Charitable Lead Trusts and Charitable Remainder Trusts, among others. Generally, the purpose of any trust is to give money for the benefit of another while still maintaining some control over how and when the beneficiary receives the money.
A quintessential part of any good estate plan is making maximum use of the gift tax credits and the gift tax exemptions that the government allows you to use. We help you understand your exemptions so that you may maximize the amount of wealth that you can transfer.
In many jurisdictions it is highly advisable to avoid having your estate go through the probate process because it can be expensive, time consuming or both. Privacy may also be a consideration. There are numerous ways to avoid probate, and we can help you do that by setting up revocable living trusts and properly titling your assets.
Coordination of Assets
One of the most important reasons to hire a competent estate planning attorney is to help you coordinate your Wills and Trusts with Beneficiary Designations on your Retirement Plans, Annuities and Life Insurance Policies.
It is imperative that an estate planning lawyer knows how your assets are titled. We have seen incredibly well designed plans fall by the wayside because certain assets were not owned in a way that fit with the rest of the plan. For example, if you own everything with your sister as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, there is very little chance your children will receive your money. Accordingly, a major part of estate planning is often the retitling of assets to make sure they go where you want to go and also to maximize your tax exemptions.
Specific Advice for Your Personal Situation
Each individual has a unique estate planning need. However, some clients have additional planning needs. This may include:
Extraordinary care must be taken when giving money to individuals with special needs to ensure that they do not receive money outright or in a trust that allows too much access. If they do, they may lose government benefits.
Many businesses fail when being passed from one generation to the next when people do not prepare for it properly. The smooth passage of either the company that you have created or the value of that company to your next of kin requires significant planning.
Recent changes to the federal tax regime has made estate tax planning for same sex couples more similar to that of heterosexual couples. However, same sex couples occasionally still require special customized planning depending upon where they live.
Individuals who live together for a long time without creating a legal relationship and couples where at least one spouse has children from a previous relationship require unique planning to ensure both that the money goes where it is intended and to save taxes.
Many clients are interested in establishing charitable foundations and non-profit organizations, others simply just want to donate money to a favorite charity. Either way, we can help you give money to charity in the most tax efficient way possible.
Estate Planning for Permanent Resident Aliens (where at least one spouse is not a US Citizen)
Frequently a special trust, known as a Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT) must be created.