Estate planning is not only for the rich or the elite. If you have assets and own property, you have an estate and therefore you need to have a plan! Your estate is what you leave after you pass away. You want to control how it is done, who gets your property, and when.

People who do estate planning want to make sure that their assets are passed on to their loved ones without problems, without high legal fees, and without time delays. Sometimes, people do estate planning to make sure that a particular person, such as a spouse or a child, is protected. Often, someone does planning to make sure that they have enough assets to live on for the rest of their life. An estate planning attorney, at a firm like ours, is your best resource to make this all happen.

A Basic Estate Plan

Basic estate planning includes the use of a will, a comprehensive durable power of attorney, and health care directives, such as POA & Wills. These directives help you avoid the kind of medical treatments that you don’t want, if you are unable to communicate your wishes. Without these decisions, your loved ones will not be able to make decisions on your behalf. As your estate planning attorney, we will work with you to create an estate plan. You do not want to be the next Terry Schiavo.

In modern times, pre-and post nuptial agreements have become an important estate planning tool. It is important to take steps to protect what you have when entering into marriage. Unfortunately, the divorce rate is quite high.

Trusts, both irrevocable and revocable, are another tool that an estate planning attorney can use to help you accomplish the goals and wishes that you have for your money, your property, and most importantly, your family.

How to Reduce Estate Taxes, Increasing Your Family’s Inheritance: Estate Tax Planning

An estate tax planning attorney at our law firm will advise you of the many estate planning techniques that can help you minimize estate taxes. Annual gifting programs to family members and Unified Credit Shelter Trusts are two examples.

Depending on your personal situation and goals, more sophisticated techniques may make sense. These could include leveraged gifting (discounted gifts), family limited partnerships, and private foundations. This is an area where you want to rely on an experienced estate tax planning attorney to guide you through the many planning techniques that are available today.

You may have also heard that trusts are a popular method of accomplishing estate tax reduction. These include irrevocable life insurance trusts, credit shelter trusts, marital trusts, charitable trusts, GRATS, QPRTS, wealth replacement trust (inheritor’s trust and SAFE w). It’s our job, as your estate planning attorney, to evaluate your choices and make the best recommendation for you and your family. See our Probate, Trusts, and Estate Administration page.

Business Entities and Business Succession Planning

If you are a business owner, it’s very important to pay attention to the type of entity you have selected. Are you protected from personal liability? What type of corporate entity have you chosen, and is it your best choice? If you are starting a business, you should consider whether to be a Subchapter S Corporation or a limited liability company. We can help advise you as to the best business structure for you.

A legally valid buy-sell agreement can be critical to successful estate planning and ongoing tax planning. Even a family business should have a buy-sell agreement. You do not want the IRS deciding on the value of your business if you pass away. Often, life insurance is used as a tool to fund a buy out if one of the partners pass away.

Business Succession Planning

A legally valid buy-sell agreement can be critical to successful estate planning and ongoing tax planning. Even a family business should have a buy-sell agreement. You do not want the IRS deciding on the value of your business if you pass away. Often, life insurance is used as a tool to fund a buy out if one of the partners pass away.

Who Should Have a Living Trust?

Most people who set up living trusts do so in order to avoid probate. Is that the right decision for you? In our experience, there are five common situations when it makes sense to have a living trust:

  1. You own property in multiple states and want to avoid multiple probates which entail additional court costs and legal fees.
  2. You are thinking of appointing someone to handle your assets after you die, and you want to see how they’ll do, while you are still alive and can make changes to your final plans.
  3. You are planning on disinheriting a child and you are worried that the child may contest your will. A living trust makes it much more difficult for the child to successfully challenge your expressed desires set forth in the trust.
  4. You would like to make it easy for your children to settle your estate. Perhaps they live far away or they are very busy with jobs and their own families. Your estate will be settled quicker, probate will be avoided, and assets won’t have to be collected before they can pass out of the trust.
  5. You want to leave assets to family who are not closely related to you and/or friends. In such a situation, the probate process will typically take longer and cost more. The living trust can make it easier for everyone involved.

If your situation sounds like one of the five above, a living trust may be a very smart move. Talk with an experienced estate planning lawyer on our legal team about your estate plan. We will listen to you and stand ready to provide you with peace of mind. Read much more about this topic at our Probate, Trusts, and Estate Administration page.

Click here for information on Estate Planning for Second Marriages.


If you have questions or concerns about Estate Planning issues, please don’t hesitate to contact the Estate Planning Attorneys with Russo Law Group, P.C.