After more than 25 years as an estate planning attorney, Todd Rossman possesses a wealth of experience in providing a broad range of services to clients with estates small and large, standard and complex. Here is a link to our Estate Planning Information form for you to complete as best you can and bring with you when you come in for an appointment. If you are not certain how to respond to any of the information requests, just leave that section blank and we can talk about it when you come in.
Every adult should have a Will. Even clients with relatively small estates should have a Will in order to identify who will have the authority to administer their estate and how their estate will ultimately be divided and distributed following their death. Without a properly drafted Will, such decisions will be left up to rigid and limiting state law provisions or court discretion. Clients with minor or incapacitated children can appoint who will be their legal guardian(s) in the event of the client’s death in order to avoid potential family disputes over who will be appointed. Even clients with revocable living trust- based estate plans should have a Will in order to make sure that all assets that should pass to their heirs and beneficiaries under the terms of such trusts actually get into the trust.
Trusts can be used in estate planning to accomplish a wide range of purposes in the formulation of an effective estate plan:
– Avoiding Probate: Properly funded revocable living trusts can be used, where and when appropriate, to provide an effective management vehicle for your assets in the event of your incapacitation and to avoid probate at death, including ancillary probates of out-of-state property. We can provide you with an honest analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of such trusts and other alternatives to them that may be available in your situation.
– Second Marriage Planning: Irrevocable marital trusts can be helpful in the second marriage situation in making sure that your spouse is provided for in the event of your death while ensuring that the remainder of your estate not directed to or used by your spouse will ultimately pass to your heirs rather than a new spouse or your spouse’s heirs.
– Asset Protection for Beneficiaries: Assets can be held in trust for the benefit of young or financially irresponsible beneficiaries or beneficiaries with creditor problems.
– Asset Protection for Yourself: In certain situations, irrevocable trusts can be used to protect assets from the high costs of long term care or other potential future liabilities.
– Special Needs Planning: Special or Supplemental Needs Trusts can be useful for holding assets inherited by, gifted to, or otherwise directed to disabled individuals without affecting their eligibility to receive SSI and/or Medicaid benefits.
– Multi-Generational Planning: Holding assets in trust for the benefit of present and future generations of your descendants following your death can allow you to establish a family legacy benefiting future generations.
– Estate and Gift Tax Planning: A wide variety of trusts such as credit shelter, Q-tip trusts, irrevocable life insurance trusts, personal residence trusts, charitable remainder trusts, and grantor retained annuity trusts can be useful to reduce or eliminate potential estate and/or gift taxes on large estates.
– Charitable Planning: Charitable trusts or bequests can be used to help reduce or eliminate estate, gift and inheritance taxes and also to help you establish a charitable legacy benefitting charities of your selection or creation.
Durable General Powers of Attorney
When planning your estate, it is vital to not only plan for what happens after death, but also for potential incapacity during life. An appropriate General Durable Power of Attorney for financial affairs is an important aspect of incapacity planning. It allows you to designate a trustworthy agent and one or more backup agents to have the authority to help you with your financial affairs in the event that you are incapacitated or otherwise unable or unavailable to do so yourself. A properly drafted financial power of attorney can help to avoid potential family disputes over who has the authority to help you and costly and burdensome conservatorship court proceedings.
Durable Health Care Powers of Attorney and Living Wills
Another vital aspect of incapacity planning is a properly prepared health care directive including a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will. The Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint an agent and one or more backup agents to have the authority to make health care decisions for you and to access your medical records if you are unable to express your wishes to medical personnel. The Living Will allows you to make your wishes known now regarding the administration of artificial life sustaining measures in the event of certain end of life situations. In some situations, having a properly drafted Health Care Directive can help to avoid potentially costly guardianship or other court proceedings.
IRA & Retirement Benefit Planning
Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), 401(k)’s and other retirement plans and accounts are often a part of an individual’s asset portfolio. In the estate planning context, retirement plans and accounts (like life insurance) are sometimes referred to as “non-probate” assets. That means that, upon your death, they do not pass under the terms of your Will but, rather, they pass as you have directed on a beneficiary designation form that you have provided to the account custodian or plan administrator. Accordingly, it is vital that the beneficiary designations that you make with respect to these accounts and plans are correctly worded and tied in with the rest of your estate planning in order to ensure that these assets pass on to your designated heirs in the most efficient and tax beneficial manner possible. It is important to remember that, generally, the assets held in such accounts and plans constitute deferred income which has not yet been recognized by you. Therefore, withdrawals from these accounts by your heirs following your death will generally be taxable income to them. The flexibility that your heirs will have in determining the timing of their withdrawals from these accounts and their recognition of tax on these withdrawals can be greatly affected by how you have set up the death beneficiary designations on these accounts.
We can help you avoid the potential traps and pitfalls that can result from such retirement plan beneficiary designations and help get them correctly worded and tied in with your overall plan.
Special Needs Planning
Planning today and for the future can ensure the highest quality of life for your family member with special needs. At Todd Rossman Law, we use our knowledge of the many public benefits programs in developing special needs plans that will allow the family member to qualify for benefits and still have resources to provide quality of life and peace of mind.
Often, special needs trusts are a vital part of that planning. Such trusts fulfill three primary functions:
1. To manage funds for a beneficiary who may not be able to do so on their own due to a disability.
2. To preserve that beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits that they may be entitled to including SSI, and Medicaid benefits.
3. To provide a source of funds that can be used for quality of life expenditures for the benefit of that beneficiary that are not otherwise provided for by public benefits.
There can be a variety of sources of funds to be contributed to special needs trusts such as inheritances or gifts or from lawsuit recoveries. Great care must be taken in crafting the appropriate trust language to best fit the beneficiary’s specific situation in order to ensure that continued eligibility for public benefits is not jeopardized and the beneficiary’s quality of life can be maximized. At Todd Rossman Law, we possess that expertise.
We live in an increasingly litigious world. The potential liability that can arise from presently unforeseeable events can be catastrophic to your financial wellbeing. At Todd Rossman Law, we can assist with applying proven strategies for ethically preserving and protecting your wealth including, but not limited to, limited liability entities such as limited liability partnerships (LLPs), limited liability companies (LLCs), investing in lawsuit exempt assets, certain irrevocable trusts, and form of ownership and gifting strategies