Estate planning arranges for the transfer of an individual's estate at the time of death. An estate consists of all property owned at death before it is distributed by will, trust, or intestacy laws. An estate may contain both real property (real estate, including houses and investment properties) and personal property (all other property, including bank accounts, securities, jewelry and automobiles). Typically, the process of estate planning involves extensive consultation with a number of professional advisors, including lawyers, financial counselors, accountants and life insurance representatives.

Estate planning benefits those with large estates, as well as those with modest assets. Creating an estate plan ensures that all property will be distributed according to the personal wishes of the deceased, and that those who are benefiting from the estate receive the largest distribution possible with a minimum amount of delay. Specifically, estate planning allows an individual to decide exactly who will benefit from their estate, and to what extent. Estate planning also ensures that the estate will not be destroyed by taxes imposed on the transfer of assets at death. In addition to providing financial security, estate planning encourages individuals to make important decisions, such as appointing a guardian for minor children, choosing healthcare preferences, and securing funeral arrangements.

During probate, a probate court will determine if an instrument offered as a will is valid. If the probate court deems the will to be valid, it will then supervise the distribution of property according to the terms of the will. Often, the deceased will have already named an executor in the will to oversee the administration of the assets during the probate process.

If a person dies intestate, or without a will, the decedent's estate will still undergo the probate process. The probate court may appoint an administrator to divide the decedent's property. The probate court will then approve the administrator's distribution of the decedent's assets. Both executors and administrators are also more generally known as personal representatives.

Property which passes through the probate process is subject to an estate tax and may also incur an inheritance tax. Estate taxes are the responsibility of the personal representative of the estate. Conversely, inheritance taxes only apply to the beneficiaries under applicable intestacy laws or a valid will.

We specialize in:

  • Estate administration
  • Wills and trusts
  • Living wills
  • Guardianship
  • Powers of attorney