Let's repeat: Everyone should have a good estate plan

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Mark F. Winn

If you plan ahead, you can avoid many problems and headaches that will emerge if you become incapacitated or pass on.

You made it. Now, protect it by avoiding problems.

The problems are: 1. unnecessary loss of privacy over your assets; 2. unnecessary treasurer fees based on the value of your probate assets; and 3. unnecessary legal fees complying with legal procedure.

These problems can easily be avoided by acquiring for yourself a set of keys (an estate plan) you will need at some time.

The set of keys I am talking about is a good estate plan (a set of keys you will need when the time emerges). If you become incapacitated, a good estate plan will provide the key to allow a loved one to immediately step in and handle your affairs and carry out your directions, without lawyers or the court being involved.

For this, you will need a HIPAA release, a health care power of attorney and a general power of attorney. With a pour-over will and a revocable trust agreement, you can specify who gets what and how (in trust or not) - and you can do this without the court becoming unduly involved. This makes administration much easier, less expensive, and keeps your affairs private.

Then, there are the unique family matters and objectives that need to be addressed in every case.

Let's say Fred and Lucy each have two children from a prior marriage. They are in a second marriage and they have no prenuptial agreement.

They want to make sure each one will be the other's primary beneficiary and be able to use all the assets to maintain them for their life.

They also want to make sure that when the survivor passes, what is left over will go 50% to Fred's children and 50% to Lucy's children in a manner so their children will not lose their inheritance if they have a bankruptcy or divorce, and in a manner that preserves privacy and minimizes costs and fees.

Fred and Lucy could easily accomplish all of the above with a good estate plan.

It is easy to get a good estate plan. The first meeting is complimentary and designed to assess client goals and determine the scope of the representation and the projected fee.

The second meeting is an in-person meeting to review the papers. Here, the attorney can review the papers and show the clients how they will actually operate with their assets.

The third meeting is usually via teleconference and is designed to address client concerns and questions, and to customize or modify the papers, if needed or desired.

The fourth meeting is to sign all the papers, including updated deeds and beneficiary designations (on retirement accounts annuities, and life insurance) if needed.

Using trust law to keep your property in your family through successive generations is a goal many clients have. You see, if trust law is used properly, you can also guarantee that your property will stay in your family bloodline and will not be lost to an in-law or, if assets become commingled, get lost in a divorce.

Mark F. Winn, J.D., Master of Laws (LL.M.) in estate planning, is a local asset protection, estate and elder law planning attorney. mwinnesq.com

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