Elevate Your Business, Enrich Your Legacy

The word "Estate Planning" written on paper, surrounded by related terms and a pen nearby - The Lawler GroupAs we age, we realize what is truly important is knowing what we cannot control and making sure we do not neglect what we can. What we can control, however, includes what happens to our wealth, businesses, family, and children when we die. As this article explains, that is done with careful, deliberate, and flexible estate planning. Keep reading to learn more about:

What Is The Point Of Planning My Estate?

It is not unusual for people to wonder why they should bother planning their estate at all. The truth is, by planning your estate, you will be doing the very best anyone can to control your legacy and determine how it will impact your family, business, and loved ones.

With that in mind, it is important to distinguish between what estate planning for the short term looks like compared to the kind of control you can get with long-term estate planning.

What Are The Goals Of Short-Term Estate Planning?

Clients often walk in, overwhelmed by all the different estate planning objectives and tools at their disposal, looking for guidance. If you are feeling lost, listless, or overwhelmed by estate planning, focus on one simple question: what do you want to happen if you pass away today?

It can feel impossible to answer every question and plan for eventuality, and trying to focus on it all at once is a recipe for feeling powerless and doing nothing. Trying to nail down who will handle specific business assets, medical decisions, and financial decisions is tough, and trying to identify who you can trust, with a trust, over even just ten years is overwhelming.

Instead, in the short run, estate planning focuses on providing clarity and structure for the very worst-case scenario. For some, such as an aging couple with one adult child, that might be straightforward; for others, divorced and remarried couples whose families include both adult and minor children, that will be more complicated.

In any case, it’s only by ensuring that the fundamentals are covered today that you can make sure there won’t be any surprises tomorrow. Then, you can turn to the more complex long-term questions.

What Are The Goals Of Long-Term Estate Planning?

In the long term, the ideal estate plan is one that remains flexible. This is how you know you have stepped beyond a basic transactional view of estate planning. You do not want to fork over a bunch of money and end up with a will or trust that, in two years, won’t even make any sense.

For that, you need a proper estate planning attorney who cares not just about retaining you as a client in the long term – but someone who truly shares the same goals and objectives you do. Such attorneys have in-depth client care programs that will review and update your estate plan as needed year to year, staying in touch and making adjustments to keep it optimized from year to year.

For example, this year, 2024, was a leap year. This provides an easy reference point to think about what has happened in the last four years. Four years ago, we were just going into Covid – and so much has changed since then. But many of those changes didn’t happen all at once; they happened gradually. That is why a strong long-term estate plan is built to accommodate changes and involves careful reflection and adjustment as the changes arise.

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When Is The Best Time To Start Planning? Is It Ever Too Early? Is It Ever Too Late?

It really is never too early to begin planning your estate, especially those short-term goals. Nevertheless, until you pass away or become incapacitated, it is not too late either. Unfortunately, given that you never know when you will become incapacitated or be taken away, the only way to maintain control over that aspect of your life and death is by starting now while you still can.

Take a hypothetical couple as an example. They are middle-aged and still extremely healthy; one runs a business, the other has a career, and their kids have just turned 18 and are heading off to college. Do they need an estate plan? They may not need a fully fleshed-out long-term plan, but both the kids and their parents would benefit tremendously from several crucial documents.

For example, what happens if one of the children is in an accident at their out-of-state college? Parents might not have access to their doctors, bank accounts, or even their medical records. With just a few estate planning documents in place, if something were to happen and parents needed to manage the care of an injured child over a long distance, they would be able to do so.

Furthermore, significant events in life can be excellent catalysts to take the time to visit an attorney and get started with your estate plan. Getting married, starting a family, and buying a house are all excellent times to start making sure you retain control over your legacy – no matter what tomorrow brings.

Can Estate Planning Help Minimize Inheritance Tax Payments?

One of the many ways an estate can be siphoned away is through taxation. Of all the taxes that can chip away at your hard-earned wealth, the federal estate tax has the potential to be one of the most onerous.

Fortunately, however, the federal estate tax exemption per person is quite high at nearly $13 million. If you were to pass away with an estate of $12.9 million in the next two years, it could be distributed without a drop lost to federal estate taxes – and that amount is doubled to $26 million for couples. (In addition to this, each state has its own estate tax rules.)

Unfortunately, the federal exemption threshold is going away in just two years. But while the government has not yet decided or announced the new one, chances are it will still be a healthy amount of about $6 million per person.

Of course, most Arizonans or Californians will not find their overall estate to fall above that threshold, but for those whose estates total north of $6 million, there are legal techniques you can use to avoid and minimize taxation losses. What’s more, these techniques, such as the use of trusts and gifts, are also excellent for avoiding probate, another frequent source of loss to estates in Arizona and California.

Is Estate Planning A One-Size-Fits-All-Practice, Or Does Everyone Require Something Different?

Even the most basic of estate planning documents will not be identical from family to family. Everyone’s situation is different and will inevitably require some customization – and some will require more than others.

A single mom with four kids might need something very different from a married businessman without children. Both might pale in complexity compared to a single dad with adult kids from one marriage and minor kids from another.

Even individuals in seemingly identical circumstances might need their estate planning set up differently based on their preferences and how they feel about their benefactors. If one couple does not trust their children’s money management skills, for example, they might need additional protections in the form of a trust to make sure their money and their children are protected from waste, loss, or harmful use.

Such customization is what advanced estate planning is all about. Alone, you might never be able to handle the complexities required to keep control over your assets, wealth, wishes, and legacy – but with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, that becomes a very achievable reality.

For more information on the Ultimate Goal Of Proper Estate Planning, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (480) 339-0181 today.

Attorney W. Scott Lawler is a detail-oriented estate planning lawyer based in Arizona and California who has helped families across both states put together complex and elaborate estate plans. Too often, he sees the wealth, families, and legacies of wealthy business clients go unprotected, and he wants to make sure everyone has access to the tools they need to preserve all three.

Does your estate plan fit both the short and long-term goals he has outlined? Need guidance creating a customized plan? Contact The Lawler Group today to schedule an initial consultation.

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