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Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts

Estate planning directs how your property will be managed and distributed when you die. It also provides safeguards in case you are incapacitated (e.g., in a coma). A frequently asked question is the difference between a will and a trust: a will simply distributes assets upon death; a trust, which can either arise out of a will or be created while you are alive, is like software that provides specific instructions your trustee is to apply to your assets into the future (sometime decades in the future). Other important instruments concerning incapacity are powers of attorney and advance medical directives.

Although each will and trust must be carefully tailored to the individual client, there are a few scenarios that arise frequently:

A. A family with children. Anyone with children under the age of 18 should at least have a will. If both husband and wife were killed, a will informs the court who they want to have as the guardian of their children under age 18. Further, parents should consider that, without a will, their children would likely get all of their inheritance outright at age 18. While a bonanza to local Porsche dealers, this may not be in the best interests of your children. I usually advise my clients to create a trust for their children that will direct the trustee to provide for their reasonable maintenance, education and health care, and then make distributions of the principal at set intervals (e.g., at ages 25, 30 and 35).

B. Senior couples. Estate planning issues concerning seniors often include concerns about incapacity. Also, seniors in second marriages often need to be certain that they provide for their spouses while also assuring that their own descendants are not forgotten.

C. Emergency estate planning. I sometimes have people call me after they have received bad news from a doctor. I have visited estate planning clients in hospitals and nursing homes. These are matters that often must be handled IMMEDIATELY; and that is what I do. Similarly, I sometimes have clients who are suddenly going overseas and need to get their estate plans organized quickly; again, I am happy to accomodate this type of problem.

Call Adam D. Elfenbein at 703-243-9223 to schedule your free initial consultation, or contact me online.