Protecting Your Legacy: The Importance of Estate Planning for High Net Worth Individuals

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday May 9th, 2023.

Estate planning is vitally important for high net worth individuals looking to secure their legacy and ensure their assets will be distributed according to their wishes after they pass. Here are some benefits of estate planning:

  1. Protecting Your Family’s Financial Future

Estate planning helps safeguard your family’s financial future by outlining how your assets should be distributed among beneficiaries and can reduce tax liability for them.

  1. Control Over Your Estate

An estate plan gives you full control of your estate. Without one, the courts would distribute assets according to state laws rather than according to your wishes – creating an estate plan helps ensure that assets are distributed as desired.

  1. Protection for Your Business

Estate planning for business owners is even more essential. A detailed estate plan will protect your venture by making sure it continues operating successfully after you pass away and can include instructions regarding transfer of ownership and control to specific individuals or groups of people.

  1. Privacy

Estate planning provides privacy. Without an estate plan in place, your assets and how they’re distributed become public record. By creating one instead, your financial affairs remain private as you provide peace of mind during an already difficult period for your loved ones.

To protect your legacy through estate planning, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Create a Will

Establishing a will is the first step of estate planning. Your will should detail your preferences regarding asset distribution and caretaking responsibilities after your death.

  1. Consider a Trust

Consider setting up a trust to safeguard your assets. A trust will enable you to transfer ownership while still having control of them.

  1. Review and Update Your Estate Plan Regularly

Review and update your estate plan regularly, especially after experiencing significant life changes such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child. Regular updates ensure that your estate plan accurately reflects your wishes while offering maximum protection to your assets.

Estate planning is essential for individuals with high net worth to secure their legacy and preserve assets after death, giving you peace of mind as well as providing peace for loved ones who depend on you.

The Role of a Professional Estate Planner: What to Look for and Why

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday April 11th, 2023.

Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for the management and distribution of one’s assets in case of death or incapacity. It is a complex undertaking that requires careful consideration of legal, financial, and tax matters. That is why working with an experienced estate planner is highly recommended – they provide expert guidance and advice.

Professional estate planners provide clients with personalized plans that address their individual needs and objectives. This involves assessing the client’s current financial situation, recognizing potential issues or obstacles, and devising strategies to minimize taxes while increasing estate value.

One of the major advantages of working with an estate planner is their specialized knowledge and expertise in this area. They are familiar with all relevant laws and regulations related to estate planning, providing valuable insights into complex tax and financial matters. Furthermore, they help clients navigate through often confusing and intricate world of estate planning, making the process as stress-free as possible.

Another essential role of a professional estate planner is to assist clients in creating an extensive estate plan that meets all their requirements and concerns. This may include identifying beneficiaries, setting trusts, creating wills, or living trusts, managing assets, and preparing for incapacity or disability through durable power of attorney documents or living wills.

When selecting a professional estate planner, it is essential to look for someone with the appropriate credentials and experience. Ideally, you want someone who is either a licensed attorney or certified public accountant with expertise in estate planning. Furthermore, look for someone whose clients have achieved success with their estate planning objectives.

In addition to qualifications and experience, there are other factors you should take into account when selecting a professional estate planner. These include their communication style and responsiveness. You want someone who is approachable and able to explain complex legal and financial concepts clearly and simply.

Finally, a professional estate planner’s role is to give clients peace of mind and assurance that their assets will be managed according to their wishes. By working with an experienced and qualified estate planner, you can guarantee your estate plan is comprehensive, efficient, and tailored specifically to your unique requirements and objectives.

At Wickersham and Bowers, we provide expert guidance and council.  

The Benefits of Lifetime Gifts in Estate Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Wednesday March 15th, 2023.

Estate planning is an essential aspect of financial planning that involves making arrangements to distribute your assets and property after your death. While many people think of estate planning as something that they need to do towards the end of their life, there are several benefits to starting the process earlier, including the use of lifetime gifts.

Lifetime gifts are a popular estate planning tool that allows you to transfer assets to your beneficiaries during your lifetime. These gifts can take many forms, from cash and real estate to stocks and bonds. Here are some of the benefits of lifetime gifts in estate planning.

Reduced Estate Taxes

One of the most significant benefits of lifetime gifts is that they can help reduce estate taxes. When you give gifts during your lifetime, they are not subject to estate tax. This means you can transfer more of your assets to your beneficiaries without worrying about a significant tax burden.

Avoiding Probate

Another advantage of lifetime gifts is that they help your beneficiaries avoid probate. Probate is the legal process after someone dies, where a court oversees the distribution of their assets. Probation can be a lengthy and expensive process, and it can also be emotionally draining for your loved ones. By making lifetime gifts, you can avoid probate and ensure your beneficiaries receive their inheritance more quickly and easily.

Asset Protection

Lifetime gifts can also be used to protect your assets from potential creditors. If you transfer assets to your beneficiaries during your lifetime, those assets are no longer considered part of your estate. This means that if you face financial difficulties or are sued by someone, those assets will be protected and cannot be seized by creditors.

Simplifying Your Estate

Finally, lifetime gifts can help simplify your estate planning. By making gifts during your lifetime, you can reduce the complexity of your estate and make it easier for your beneficiaries to manage your assets after your death. This can help distribute your assets according to your wishes and avoid conflicts among your loved ones.

What are the Issues that Can Invalidate a Will?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday February 21st, 2023.

Drafting a will is not an easy task. There are many mistakes that can invalidate your will. Since a will acts as your last message towards your family, it is essential to ensure that it is written carefully, leaving no room for confusion. Listed below are some common mistakes people may make while writing their will.

A Holographic Will

Some states consider a holographic will valid, but most do not. It is a handwritten will without any witnesses. You can create this will if it is acceptable in your state, but make sure to research first. Florida neither recognizes nor permits holographic wills.

Having Previous Wills

You may change your will multiple times during your life because of changing circumstances. But make sure that you destroy every copy of your previous will whenever you draft a new one. Having previous wills can cause many troubles for your family.

Insufficient Testamentary Capacity

Testamentary capacity means the mental capability of the testator to create a will. Most states have a competency test that must be passed to be eligible to write a will. It includes understanding your relatives, the property you own, your selected beneficiaries, and what the will says and means. 

Having mental impairments, e.g., dementia or any other disorder, can invalidate the will. If it is suggested that you do not have enough testamentary capacity, make sure that you and your attorney have proper proof of your mental health, including reports and tests.

Fraud or Undue Influence

If the will is created through undue influence or fraud, the court immediately invalidates it. Common fraud situations include getting a fake will signed by the testator without their knowledge or a nonfamily member forcing the testator to make them a part of the inheritance.

Not Following State Laws

Many states have different requirements and languages to create a will. You must abide by all the guidelines to make sure that it is not invalidated. Following the law is an essential part of writing your will. The mandatory information in a will usually includes a statement from the testator, a list of all the heirs, and the personal representative.

A Guide to Lawsuit-proofing your Estate Plan

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday January 17th, 2023.

Many people plan their estate for their heirs beforehand so that their assets are distributed equally. However, planning beforehand does not ensure that your estate plan will stay protected from lawsuits. With the help of a proper estate planning attorney, you must ensure that your estate plan is devised correctly and cannot be questioned based on any injustice or illegal activity.

How to Lawsuit-Proof Your Estate Plan

Some of the ways to lawsuit-proof your estate plan are listed below.

Treat Siblings Equally

You have to treat all the heirs equally when formulating your estate plan. You attract legal constraints when you cut off an heir or your sibling from the estate plan. Even if you have kids from second or third marriages, you must research and abide by all the laws regarding the distribution of your estate.

Keep Track of Loans and Advances

Loans and debts can lead to many complications if not appropriately stated. If you loan money to one of your heirs, you have to decide beforehand if you want it to be repaid or discharged at your death. Make sure to put your decision in writing or in contract form.

Transfer Business with a Contract

When deciding what to transfer to your siblings or children, you often decide that the businesses are distributed to different children accordingly. When handing over a business to someone, make sure it is in contract form. Carry out the process with written signatures and proof of the transfer.

Check Ownership of What you Leave

When you are leaving your children a part of your estate in your estate plan, make sure you have complete ownership of those assets. At times, due to jointly owned property, there can be confusion regarding the ownership and how the property or assets will be inherited.

Spell Out Disinheritance

If you are excluding any child of ours from the estate plan willingly, make sure you write it clearly in the estate plan. If you do not mention the disinheritance, you can face legal concerns regarding why the legal heir was not included in the will.

How to Recognize Fraud in Estate Planning?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Friday December 9th, 2022.

Frauds and scams are becoming common these days. Many fraud cases in estate planning are being reported, and unlike other scams, estate planning scams can cost you everything you have. Older adults are the most vulnerable group of people prone to these types of fraud.

It becomes very challenging to leave a will under such circumstances. Hence one should have backup plans and appropriate measures to track fraud and scams from agencies, family, or friends.

Measures to Track Down Fraud

There are a few measures one can take to track down any kind of fraud. Whether it is a changed will, misinterpretation, or unequal distribution, you must know the basics to identify fraud in these situations.

Removal from Will Without any Reason

The most apparent indicator of fraud in estate planning is if someone is unexpectedly removed from the will without any genuine or particular reason. It is best to keep checking on the lawyer if this happens.

Contrary Will

The best way to avoid fraud in estate planning is by discussing your will and future plans with family members or a trusting friend. Most people prefer to keep their will and inheritance plan between them and their estate planning lawyer. 

But, discussion with family members can serve as a good way to track fraud in the future. Family members being aware of the inheritance plans prevents any kind of fraud from happening in the first place.

Unequal Distribution

Another way to track fraud is if you notice that one heir is getting more from the will as compared to others. This most likely means that the heir is involved in fraud by coordinating with the estate planning lawyer because it is not usual for a person to favor one heir and discriminate against the others. 

Secretly Signed Will

We all know the importance of witnesses in law. Make sure that you sign your will in the presence of a trusting person. If the lawyer presents an unknown will that no one knows about, it is likely that the will was generated on false claims and is part of a scam.

How to Choose an Estate Administrator?

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday November 14, 2022.

When your loved one dies, you probably need assistance in settling his/her estate, loans, property, and other affairs. Whether you leave a will or not, some rules and regulations directed by the court need to be followed. Hence, it is essential to find the right person as an administrator that will handle your estate and property issues.

What is an Administrator?

An administrator is a person appointed for a deceased person in case he/she did not already have an executor to follow through with his will. The administrator is usually appointed by the court, or the family can select the person to deal with the will.

What to look for in an Administrator?

It can be very challenging for the family to select the right person that will be dealing with their family matters and the division of property. The following characteristics are considered important to be an administrator.


The person dealing with your family affairs and politics needs to be dynamic and logical. The person should be committed to putting your will into action and should be able to resist persuasion from certain family members.


Many people would not consider this a priority, but your estate administrator being close to you highly affects how the will is put into action. The administrator should be close to you in order to know the local laws and be there in case of any emergencies.


The administrator should have a flexible schedule and ample time to tend to your affairs. Do not go for an administrator that has a lot of cases on his hands and cannot give your case the time it needs.


Before choosing an administrator, make sure you ask them whether they are up for this duty or not. Make sure that they have time and will take full responsibility for your work. Ensuring this helps avoid any misunderstanding in the future.

Punctuality and Other Organizational Skills

The administrator should be there on time for your court meetings and other activities. They should also have promising emotional, communication, and interpersonal skills to deal with family members and the court.

What is Spousal Lifetime Assess Trust

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday October 18, 2022.

The Spousal Lifetime Assess Trust (SLAT) is a common strategy for tax savings that is used by married couples. The spousal lifetime access trust is an irreversible trust that is created by one spouse to benefit another spouse. The donor spouse makes a gift to the SLAT by using their gift tax exemption and then the spouse who will benefit is named as the beneficiary.

The SLAT offers married couples a way to take advantage of the federal lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion whilst keeping restricted access. It is possible for either one spouse to fund the SLAT for another spouse or each spouse may opt to fund the SLAT.

SLAT 101

It is vital to remember that the trust is irrevocable and this means that when contributing spouse transfers assets to the SLAT, they are forever parting with the use of those assets and any income from it.

However, the contributing spouse can only gain benefits from the funds and property given to the trust if the benefactor of the trust is still legally wedded to the donor. This is subject to the terms of the SLAT, the spouse who is to benefit from the SLAT could receive distributions of income from the SLAT, which allows the benefactor spouse together with the donor spouse indirectly, to access the assets if they needed to.

Advantages and disadvantages of SLAT

An advantage of SLAT is that it enables the contributing spouse to donate up to their available exemption amount without gift tax. If the contributing spouse dies, the value of the assets in SLAT will not be subjected to federal estate tax since it is excluded from the contributing spouse’s gross estate because the SLAT is funded with a gift made during the contributing spouse’s lifetime.

The downside to a SLAT is that if the benefactor of the trust dies, then that would mean that the donor of the trust will no longer have indirect access to the SLAT. The donor of the trust will have no choice but to terminate the trust. They can either choose to distribute it or continue it for the donor’s children or perhaps other family members.

Tax Strategies for Charitable Giving

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday September 13, 2022.

It takes much thought and planning to decide where to contribute your hard-earned money. A wise charitable giving plan takes into account your giving style, timing, and content. 

Your giving strategy and the timing of your donations can optimize their impact on your favorite charity while lowering your tax burden. The following two strategies can help reduce your tax burden. 

It’s Not Just Cash

Direct charitable giving may be more advantageous than selling non-cash assets like a mutual fund or stock shares and donating the after-tax proceeds. If you’ve had the assets for more than a year, you’ll receive two important advantages. In most cases, you’ll be able to deduct the full fair market value from your taxes — neither you nor the charity will owe any taxes on the gain. As a result, you will be able to donate up to 20% more to the charity than you would have given if you had sold the asset and donated the after-tax revenues.

You can also acquire more of the same stock after donating any that has dramatically increased in value, thereby “resetting” the cost basis to a more significant sum.

While stock awards can generate a sizable income, they can also have unanticipated tax repercussions after they are exercised or vested. As a clever strategy to lower your tax exposure, think about using vested shares from prior years or other long-term appreciated assets for charitable giving.

Consider a QCD

A qualified charitable distribution, or QCD, is another tactic that can lower your taxable income. These are contributions paid to your preferred charity straight from your IRA. The gift amount isn’t considered as a charitable deduction, but it doesn’t count as taxable income either. It essentially reduces your taxable income by the amount donated to charity, even if you weren’t otherwise itemizing deductions.

If your required minimum distribution (RMD) for the year has not yet been satisfied, QCDs can count toward it. Reducing your taxable income can also be beneficial when figuring out how much Medicare premiums will cost you. Make sure to speak with your accountant first because there are a few rigorous criteria you must follow in order to take advantage of this method.