Traditionally, estate planning is thought of as the preparation of a Will. A Will is a document which must be executed in the form provided by law in which a Testator determines how his or her estate is to be distributed after death. Failing a proper Will, the estate of a deceased is distributed in accordance with the applicable Intestate Succession Laws, which are generally the laws applicable where the deceased resided or held real estate. With the advent of taxes, including income tax, capital gains tax, succession duties, and estate taxes, estate planning has taken on an extended meaning of planning in order to minimize taxes which may be payable on death. This type of planning may be quite complex when a deceased has property in two or more jurisdictions.
Estate planning also involves protecting a person’s assets against creditors while a person is alive and controlling a person’s assets for a certain period of time after death through Trusts.
Finally, in recent years, estate planning has taken on the meaning of the administration of a person’s assets through an Enduring Power of Attorney while a person is alive but lacks mental or legal capacity to look after his or her assets. It also involves the giving of directions through a Personal Directive (Living Will) when a person names an agent to make personal decisions (not involving assets) with respect to the life and health of a person when a person lacks the mental capacity to make such decision for himself or herself.
With respect to all of the above facets of Estate Planning, the services of a lawyer are indispensible.
Likewise, after a person has died, the services of a lawyer are often required in order to prove (“Probate”) and transfer the assets of the deceased in accordance with the terms of the Will or Intestate Succession Laws in the absence of a Will.
Please contact us today to discuss how we can help you.