Estate Planning, Probate, and Trust Administration
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Provide For Your Loved Ones
- You, not the Court, decide who will care for your minor children.
- You, not the State, direct how your assets will be distributed.
- Provide care for a disabled individual without robbing him/her of public assistance benefits.
Peace of Mind
- Give yourself peace of mind and know your affairs are in order and your loved ones are provided for and protected.
- Provide incentives for your beneficiaries which respect your values (e.g. trust distribution incentives if your children or grandchildren graduate from college; make sobriety a condition before trust funds are distributed; etc.).
- If you acquire Alzheimer’s or another disability where you can no longer make decisions for yourself, dictate who can make those decisions for you and how those decisions will be made.
Save Money and Maintain Privacy
- Establish a living trust to avoid probate and save your beneficiaries time, money, and stress.
- Keep your assets and debts private.
- Minimize taxes on your estate and/or beneficiaries.
- Protect assets from creditors, lawsuits, or divorce.
- Prevent your spouse from remarrying after your death and giving all of your assets to his/her new spouse or family.
- Minimize the possibility that your beneficiaries may abuse their inheritance (e.g. include a trust provision which distributes part of the assets at age 25, 30, 35, and 40).
Prevent Family Conflict & Minimize Stress
Effective estate plans are as diverse as each individual. Contrary to what many people think, estate planning is not a form-based practice. Adequate estate planning does not need to cost an arm and a leg. Keep it simple, but ensure you’re getting the proper value.
Types of Estate Planning
Last will and testament- A Will nominates an “executor” (the person or entity in charge of administering the Will), and sets forth where and how the decedent’s property should be distributed. A Will may also nominate a guardian and a conservator for a minor child or a dependent with special needs.
Trust– A trust is a legal agreement detailing who will hold property for the benefit of another and how those assets will be distributed. There are 3 parties to a Trust: the person making the trust (“grantor”); the person or entity responsible for administering the trust (“trustee”); and the person or entity who receives the Trust’s assets (“beneficiary”). A trust can be testamentary, which means it takes effect upon the grantor’s death, or a “living trust,” which takes effect during the grantor’s life. Living trusts are often established to avoid probate, the process by which an estate is administered, maintain privacy, minimize taxes, and/or protect assets from creditors.
For a trust to be valid, it must involve specific property, detail the grantor’s intent, and be produced for a lawful purpose. The Trustee may hold and manage the assets for the benefit of a minor until the child is an adult, has reached certain ages, or obtained certain achievements such as sobriety or a college degree.
Powers of attorney (POA) are relatively simple and inexpensive, but the use of an attorney is advised to ensure the document is properly executed and meets the requirements under Iowa law. All adults should have a power of attorney. Essentially, a POA is a legal document which takes effect during your life, but while you are incapacitated (e.g. in a coma, incoherent, Alzheimer’s, etc.). The POA allows you to nominate who will act on your behalf – financially and medically – rather than the State law dictating this very important power.
- General POA– A general power of attorney is a legal document wherein a person (the “principal”) names an agent to handle his/her financial affairs (sell real estate; invest funds; pay bills; make gifts; etc.). This power ends at the death of the principal, or at an earlier time if specified in the legal document. A POA can be durable, meaning it lasts throughout the person’s life so long as he/she is unable to act for him/herself, or limited for a certain period of time.
- Living Will – A living will allows the principal to direct medical personnel to withhold life sustaining treatment if a doctor declares the principal in a permanent unconscious state. This takes the burden of such a difficult decision off of family, and allows the principal to be in control of his/her medical care if put in this position.
Health Care POA – A health care power of attorney allows a person to designate an agent to make medical decisions on the principal’s behalf. A health care POA can also be durable or limited. The health care POA should be notarized or witnessed by two uninterested people, and a copy of the POA should be given to the principal’s general physician and to the hospital so that medical personnel know who to contact if and when the POA takes effect.
What is probate? Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person's property. Probate often requires a lot of paperwork (documents to open the probate, publication of the decedent’s probate, notice to creditors, heirs, and beneficiaries, tax documents, closing documents, and so on).
How long does probate take? Probate can take at least five months to a year to complete, even without any major hiccups or creditor claims. Click here for a detailed look at probate.
What can I do to make probate easier for my family? Talk to an attorney to create an estate plans which satisfies your needs and values. Leave a list where all the financial accounts, passwords, and property can be found. Also be sure to name a primary and alternate beneficiary on all life insurance policies and retirement accounts. No matter what level of planning you do, one thing is for certain – any plan is better than no plan.
- Trusts From A-Z: Legal Ethics and Grantor Trusts - National Business Institute, Sioux City, Iowa (2018)
- Probate For Farmers & Ranchers - Income & Gift Tax Planning & Medicaid Planning - National Business Institution, Sioux City, Iowa (2018)
- Will v. Trust, National Business Institute, National Teleconference (2018) National Teleconference Audience Feedback 2018
- The Probate Process From Start to Finish: Initial Filing in Probate Court and Estate Timeline; and Probate Property vs. Non-Probate Assets - National Business Institute, Sioux City, Iowa (2017)
- Protecting Assets While Qualifying for Medicaid: Pre-Need Asset Planning and Crisis Planning & Assistance - National Business Institute, Omaha, Nebraska (2017)
- Grantor Trusts; Revocable Living Trusts; Ethical Considerations– National Business Institute (2017)
- Elements of Effective Wills and Ethics – National Business Institute (2016)
- Ethical Considerations in Estate Planning – Nebraska State Bar Association (2016)
- Medicaid Planning – Income Eligibility – National Business Institute (2016)
- Optimal Basis Increase Trusts – National Business Institute (2016)
- Grantor Trusts and Ethical Considerations– National Business Institute (2015)