Implications of Voluntary Assisted Dying in Estate Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday May 20th, 2024.

Currently, around ten states in the U.S. have legalized voluntary assisted dying (VAD). These include California, New Mexico, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Colorado. 

Nonetheless, physician-assisted dying still remains a complex issue, with lots of social, ethical, and legal considerations. VAD also has implications in estate planning that you should consider if you wish to pursue the procedure.

Family Dynamics

The decision to pursue voluntary assisted dying can be emotionally and psychologically taxing. Some family members may support the decision, while others may struggle to deal with the potential loss. The potential disagreements from the opposing parties may affect inheritance plans and possibly even lead to litigation. When planning for VAD, you need to have frank conversations with estate beneficiaries and trustees to ensure they remain on the same page.

Unforeseen Circumstances

Although VAD is usually scheduled, you may die before the selected date, particularly if you have a terminal illness. To prevent disputes, it is advisable to keep the estate documents up to date at all times. You may also want to let your beneficiaries know about the will and other documents in advance. This helps you sort out any issues before they blow up.

End-of-Life Planning

Patients set to undergo VAD typically need to draft additional documents like Advance Directives, Living Wills, and healthcare proxies. These documents allow you to outline your healthcare preferences and designate a power of attorney to act on your behalf if you become suddenly incapacitated. Drafting these documents is a whole other process and may require consultation with your lawyer.

Life Insurance Considerations

Some life insurance policies may not offer compensation if death results from voluntary assisted dying. Some insurance firms pay partial compensation, while others only issue a refund of the premiums paid. Before making the VAD request, you should first review your policy contract.  It also helps to talk to an estate planning attorney or your insurance provider to learn how you can protect your beneficiaries.

Get in Touch With Us

Estate planning can be an emotionally taxing process. At Wickersham and Bowers, we can take the load off your shoulders. Contact us today for assistance with estate and end-of-life planning.

Unique Assets in Estate Planning: Handling Art, Antiques, and Collectibles

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday March 19th, 2024.

Estate planning often involves more than just financial assets and real estate. For many, unique assets such as art, antiques, and collectibles hold not only monetary value but also sentimental importance. Understanding how to manage these items in your estate plan is crucial. This is where expertise in handling such distinctive assets becomes invaluable.

Valuation and Appraisal

The first step in estate planning for art, antiques, and collectibles is obtaining accurate valuations. These items might have appreciated significantly over time, and their current market value can be quite different from the original purchase price. Professional appraisals are essential for a fair and accurate assessment of these assets. This not only aids in equitable distribution but also ensures appropriate insurance coverage and tax calculations.

Legal Considerations

Once the value is determined, legal considerations come into play. This involves deciding how these assets will be distributed. Will they be bequeathed to family members, donated to museums, or perhaps sold? Each option has legal and tax implications. Detailed documentation and clear instructions in your will or trust are necessary to ensure your wishes are honored.

Preservation and Maintenance

Preserving the condition of these assets is another key aspect. Art and antiques require specific care and climate control to maintain their value and condition. Part of your estate plan should include instructions or funds allocated for the ongoing care and preservation of these items.

Succession Planning

For collectors, succession planning can also involve educating heirs about the value and care of these items. This ensures that your legacy is not only passed down but also preserved and appreciated by future generations.

Transforming Your Legacy Into a Masterpiece

At Wickersham and Bowers, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities that come with including art, antiques, and collectibles in your estate plan. Our experienced team provides tailored advice and solutions, ensuring your treasured assets are handled with the care and expertise they deserve. Let us help you secure your legacy and transform it into a lasting masterpiece. Contact us today to discuss your estate planning needs.

The Impact of Recent Tax Law Changes on Estate Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday February 19th, 2024.

Recent changes in tax laws have significantly impacted estate planning, necessitating a comprehensive and fresh look at various strategies and structures. The modifications, primarily focusing on exemptions and rates, present complex challenges and valuable opportunities for individuals actively planning their estates. Understanding these changes is absolutely crucial for effective and efficient estate management.

Altered Exemption Limits

One of the most notable changes is the adjustment in exemption limits. The amount that can be passed on tax-free has been altered, affecting how estates are structured. This change has implications for high-net-worth individuals, potentially leading to higher tax liabilities unless properly planned for. It’s essential for estate planners to reevaluate existing plans to ensure they align with the new limits.

Shifts in Tax Rates

The revision of tax rates is another critical aspect. Changes in these rates can influence decisions on asset distribution and timing. Understanding the interplay between various tax brackets and estate planning techniques is vital for minimizing tax liabilities. This requires a nuanced approach, considering both current and future tax implications.

Strategies for Adaptation

To adapt to these changes, several strategies can be considered. Gifting, trusts, and charitable contributions are avenues that can offer tax benefits while fulfilling estate planning objectives. Each approach has its considerations, and selecting the right mix depends on individual circumstances and goals.

Impact on Future Planning

The recent tax law changes underscore the importance of flexibility and foresight in estate planning. With tax landscapes continually evolving, plans need to be revisited and adjusted regularly. This ensures that estates are not only compliant with current laws but are also structured optimally for future changes.

Get In Touch With Us

At Wickersham and Bowers, we understand the complexities of estate planning in a changing tax environment. Our expertise can guide you through these recent changes, ensuring your estate plan is robust, tax-efficient, and aligned with your objectives. Contact us to reassess and restructure your estate plan in light of the new tax laws. Let’s navigate these changes together for your peace of mind and your family’s future security.

Understanding Wills and Trusts: Key Differences and Benefits

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Tuesday January 16th, 2024.

Estate planning is a crucial process that involves making plans for the transfer of your estate after death. Two standard tools in estate planning are wills and trusts. Understanding the differences and benefits of each can ensure that your assets are managed and distributed according to your wishes.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document that specifies how you want your possessions and assets to be distributed after your death. It can also appoint guardians for minor children. Wills are straightforward to create and can be modified throughout your life.

Benefits of a Will

  • Clarity and Control: Wills provide clear instructions on asset distribution, minimizing disputes among beneficiaries.
  • Flexibility: Easily amendable, wills can be updated to reflect changes in your life circumstances.
  • Guardianship: Wills allow you to designate guardians for minor children.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement where a third party, or representative, holds assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries. Trusts can be arranged in many ways and can specify exactly how and when the assets pass to the beneficiaries.

Benefits of a Trust

  • Avoid Probate: Unlike wills, trusts do not go through probate. This means quicker distribution of assets to beneficiaries and often lower legal costs.
  • Privacy: Trusts are not public record, ensuring privacy in estate distribution.
  • Control Over Distribution: Trusts offer more control over when and how your assets are distributed.

Key Differences

The main difference between wills and trusts is in their execution. Wills take effect only after death and must go through probate, while trusts take effect as soon as they are created and can provide for asset distribution before and after death. 

Which One is Right for You?

Choosing between a will and a trust depends on your personal circumstances, including the complexity of your estate, your privacy preferences, and how you wish to distribute your assets.

Final Thoughts

At Wickersham and Bowers, we are committed to safeguarding your future with personalized estate planning solutions. Our team of dedicated attorneys specializes in wills and trusts, ensuring your peace of mind through meticulous planning and expert legal advice. Whether you’re considering a new will, establishing a trust, or simply seeking informed guidance, we’re here to support every step of your journey. Secure your legacy and protect your loved ones’ future by contacting Wickersham and Bowers today.

Estate Taxes: How to Lessen Your Liability

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Wednesday December 13th, 2023.

Estate taxes, often termed “death taxes,” are levied on the property transferred from a deceased person to their beneficiaries. While not everyone’s estate is large enough to incur these taxes, it’s crucial to understand them, as they can significantly impact your estate’s value.

Strategies to Reduce Estate Tax Liability

1. Gifting Assets: One effective way to minimize estate taxes is through gifting. The IRS permits individuals to give a certain amount annually to any quantity of people without incurring gift tax. This not only reduces your taxable estate but also allows your beneficiaries to enjoy the assets during your lifetime.

2. Establishing Trusts: Trusts can be an excellent tool for estate planning. Certain types of trusts, like irrevocable life insurance trusts, can remove assets from your taxable estate, thus reducing the estate tax burden.

3. Charitable Donations: Donating to charity is not only altruistic but can also reduce your estate tax. Assets given to a charity are typically exempt from estate taxes, and this can significantly lower the total value of your taxable estate.

4. Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs): FLPs allow you to reduce estate taxes by transferring business interests to family members, often at a reduced tax cost.

5. Utilizing the Marital Deduction: For married couples, the unrestricted marital deduction is a potent estate planning tool. It allows you to pass an unrestricted amount of assets to your surviving spouse tax-free.

Professional Assistance is Key

Despite these strategies, estate tax planning can be complex, requiring professional guidance to navigate the legal and tax intricacies. This is where Wickersham and Bowers come into play.

Wickersham and Bowers: Your Estate Planning Partners

At Wickersham and Bowers, we specialize in providing tailored estate planning solutions that align with your unique needs. Our team of experts is well-versed in the latest tax laws and estate planning strategies. 

Take the First Step Toward Secure Estate Planning

Don’t let estate taxes diminish the value of your hard-earned assets. Contact Wickersham and Bowers today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward efficient and effective estate planning. Protect your legacy and ensure peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

The Role of Digital Assets in Modern Estate Planning

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday November 13th, 2023.

Our lives have merged with the online world in today’s digital age. Digital assets are now part of our everyday lives, from social media profiles to cryptocurrency portfolios. These assets, though intangible, hold significant value and must be considered in estate planning.

Why Digital Assets Matter in Estate Planning

In the past, estate planning has only concentrated on things that are visible, such as real estate, jewelry, and money. Nonetheless, while life has shifted to the virtual sphere, so has our wealth. These valuable assets comprise digital photographs, online bank accounts, and e-books, as well as domain names. The omission of these from an estate can be detrimental to inheritance value. 

Cryptocurrencies: The New Frontier

Cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin and Ethereum, has become a notable digital asset. As these digital currencies grow in popularity, many people have accumulated wealth they’re uncertain how to protect. Failure to adequately plan for such assets can make them inaccessible to heirs, and they can also be lost forever.

Securing Digital Legacies

In addition to financial aspects, our digital footprints encompass various elements such as emails, social media posts, and personal blogs. These components collectively contribute to the narrative we project. Ensuring access to these accounts after our demise preserves our digital legacy. This requires sharing access details securely and updating them regularly.

Incorporating Digital Assets into Your Estate Plan

To effectively include digital assets in your estate plan:

1. Inventory Your Assets: List all your digital assets, including accounts, passwords, and digital currency holdings.

2. Determine Their Value: Some assets, like cryptocurrencies, have a clear monetary value. Others, like personal emails, have sentimental value.

3. Provide Access: Use secure methods to share access details with trusted individuals or incorporate them into your will.

4. Update Regularly: As with all aspects of estate planning, review and update your digital asset plan regularly.

Embracing the Digital Age with Wickersham and Bowers

At Wickersham and Bowers, we understand the intricacies of digital assets and are committed to helping you navigate this new frontier. Secure your digital legacy with us today

Estate Planning: Top 5 Indispensable Documents

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Monday October 16th, 2023.

Estate planning, a pivotal yet often overlooked aspect of financial management, ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes upon your demise. Not only does it provide peace of mind, but it also circumvents potential legal hurdles for your heirs. Let’s delve into the top five essential documents that form the bedrock of a robust estate planning strategy.

1. Will: The Cornerstone of Your Estate Plan

A will, quintessential in the realm of estate planning, delineates your directives regarding asset distribution upon your death. It allows you to appoint heirs, allocate assets, and even specify guardians for minor children, ensuring that your wishes are honored and familial disputes are minimized.

2. Power of Attorney: Empowering Financial Management

A durable power of attorney (POA) is paramount in safeguarding your financial interests should you become incapacitated. By designating a trusted individual as your attorney-in-fact, you ensure that your financial affairs are managed prudently, even in your absence or inability.

3. Healthcare Proxy: Advocating Your Medical Preferences

A healthcare proxy, or medical power of attorney, allows you to nominate a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. This document is crucial to ensure that your medical and end-of-life preferences are respected, providing clarity during emotionally charged moments.

4. Living Will: Articulating Your Medical Desires

Distinct from a traditional will, a living will explicitly outlines your preferences for medical interventions in scenarios where you cannot communicate your wishes. From life support to pain management, this document provides a clear roadmap for healthcare providers and loved ones alike.

5. Beneficiary Designations: Ensuring Smooth Transitions

Beneficiary designations on financial accounts, insurance policies, and retirement plans ensure that these assets are transferred directly to the named individuals, bypassing the often tedious probate process. Regularly updating these designations is vital to reflect your current wishes accurately.

In conclusion, estate planning is not merely a task for the affluent—it’s a fundamental component of responsible financial stewardship for everyone. By securing these five pivotal documents, expertly crafted by Wickersham and Bowers, you safeguard your assets and wishes and facilitate a smoother transition for your loved ones in the future. With the trusted guidance of Wickersham and Bowers, you can embark on your estate planning journey today and carve a path of serenity and assurance for tomorrow.

Digital Estate Planning: Securing Your Online Legacy for Future Generations

On behalf of The Law Office of Wickersham and Bowers posted in Estate Planning on Wednesday September 13th, 2023.

In an era where our lives are increasingly intertwined with the digital realm, a new aspect of estate planning has emerged—digital estate planning. Just as we meticulously plan the distribution of our physical assets, considering our online presence and safeguarding our digital legacy has become paramount. Digital estate planning involves managing and preserving your online accounts and data, ensuring that your virtual footprint remains intact for the benefit of future generations.

As we accumulate a plethora of online accounts, social media profiles, and valuable digital assets, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of adequately managing these aspects in the event of our passing. Neglecting digital estate planning could lead to lost memories, inaccessible sentimental items, and potential security risks. Here is a comprehensive guide to securing your online legacy.

1. Take Inventory of Digital Assets

Compile a list of your digital accounts, including social media, email, financial platforms, and subscription services. Document any sentimental digital possessions like photos, videos, and documents stored in the cloud.

2. Appoint a Digital Personal Representative

Just as you would select a personal representative for your will, choose a trusted individual to oversee your digital assets. Ensure they have the necessary information to access and manage your online accounts according to your wishes.

3. Specify Your Wishes

Incorporate your digital asset management preferences into your will or a separate document. Consider your final wishes about your social media profiles and make the necessary preparations. Specify in detail how confidential material should be handled.

4. Use Secure Password Management

Implement solid and unique passwords for each account and consider using a password manager. Share access details with your digital personal representative, keeping security a top priority.

5. Understand Platform Policies

Familiarize yourself with different platforms’ terms of service and policies. Some venues have specific procedures for handling the accounts of deceased users.

By embracing digital estate planning, you’re ensuring that cherished memories and meaningful digital possessions endure while easing the burden on your loved ones during an emotionally challenging time. Your online legacy is an integral part of your overall heritage, and just as you’d leave a physical inheritance, securing your digital legacy guarantees that your impact transcends generations. Remember, preparing today ensures that your digital footprint remains a guiding light for those who come after you.

Adapting to Changing Laws in Estate Planning

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

In recent years, estate planning has undergone notable shifts due to changing legal landscapes. These changes often stem from alterations in tax codes, property laws, and regulations surrounding wills and trusts. Navigating these shifts requires vigilance and a willingness to adjust strategies to align with current laws. Let’s explore some key reasons why adapting to changing estate planning laws is crucial.

Tax Implications

Tax laws are notorious for their variability. Changes in estate tax laws can significantly impact the amount of wealth that is transferred to your heirs. Staying abreast of alterations in tax rates, exemptions, and deductions can help you optimize your estate plan to minimize tax liabilities and ensure your loved ones receive a larger portion of your assets.

Asset Protection

Legal changes can also influence how your assets are protected. Certain changes might affect the vulnerability of your assets to creditors or lawsuits. Adapting your estate plan to include trusts or other protective mechanisms can shield your assets from unforeseen circumstances.

Healthcare Directives

Estate planning isn’t just about the distribution of assets; it also encompasses your healthcare wishes. Changes in laws related to healthcare directives, powers of attorney, and living wills can impact how medical decisions are made on your behalf in case you’re unable to express your preferences. Ensuring your estate plan reflects your current healthcare wishes is essential.

Digital Assets

The rise of the digital age has introduced a new layer of complexity to estate planning. Laws governing digital assets, including online accounts, cryptocurrencies, and digital possessions, continue to evolve. Integrating provisions for the management and transfer of digital assets in your estate plan can prevent complications for your heirs.

Family Dynamics

Laws pertaining to family relationships, such as marriage, divorce, and adoption, can influence your estate plan. Changes in these areas might require adjustments to beneficiary designations, guardianship arrangements, or the distribution of assets among family members.

Regularly reviewing and updating your estate plan, perhaps every three to five years or whenever significant legal changes occur can help ensure that your legacy remains intact and your loved ones are well taken care of according to your wishes.