Estate Planning Services We Provide
Hodgkins Law, PLLC focuses on Estate and Elder Law, Business Planning, Living Trusts, Trust Administration, Long-Term Care & MaineCare Planning. We counsel clients on the unique legal issues relating to advancing age. Whenever possible, we prefer to help clients plan for the future, avoid probate, minimize taxes and solidify their legacy. We also help clients plan for possible incapacity and long-term care. We help our clients deal with issues of aging with independence and dignity.
What is an Estate Plan?
Whether they realize it or not, almost every adult has an estate. An estate is made up of everything that a person owns, including a home, any other real estate, a car, checking and savings accounts, life insurance, personal possessions, furniture and other investments. An estate plan is essentially instructions left for family members which state who the beneficiaries of the assets will be and how things will be handled after a death. A good estate plan may also include instructions for the individual’s care should he or she become disabled prior to death.
There are many things included in an estate plan, and the scope will depend on the level of assets and the complexity of those assets. The most comforting choice a person contemplating an estate plan can make is to speak to a caring, trustworthy Maine estate planning attorney who can guide them through the process. An experienced top estate planning attorney wants to ensure his or her clients are confident they have made the best decision regarding their estate plan so that they know their families are adequately protected.
What is Included in An Estate Plan?
As noted, there are a wide variety of documents which may be a part of an estate plan. In addition to passing along assets, many individuals choose to include instructions for passing their own values down to their children and grandchildren. These values may include ideas regarding education, work or religion. If there are minor children, an estate plan would most certainly include a named guardian for the minor children, and possibly an inheritance manager as well.
Special needs family members must be provided for, preferably in a manner which does not disrupt any government benefits. If there are family members who may have exhibited an irresponsibility related to money, or others who could potentially need future protection from an impending divorce or from creditors, then the estate plan would specifically address those issues. Life insurance could be a part of the estate plan, and possibly disability income insurance or long-term care insurance as well.
If there is a business involved, then the estate plan would clearly provide instructions for the transfer of the business upon the death or disability of the individual. The goal of a great estate plan is to minimize taxes paid from the estate, and to minimize the number of issues the beneficiaries are left to take care of.
What Estate Planning Documents are Necessary?
The following documents may be included in an estate plan, although not all of the documents will necessarily be included in every estate plan:
- Last Will and Testament—A will is the main component of every estate plan, even if there is a trust as well. Even if there is a revocable or irrevocable trust in the estate plan, those with minor children will also need a will in order to designate a guardian for the children.
- Durable Power of Attorney—A Durable Power of Attorney designates a person to act on the behalf of a person who becomes disabled. If there is no Power of Attorney, a Maine court could decide what will happen to any assets. A person with Power of Attorney can transact real estate deals, enter into financial transactions and make other legal decisions on behalf of the disabled person.
- Beneficiary Designations—Because some assets are able to pass to heirs without being listed in a will or trust, assets such as life insurance or a 401(k) plan require primary beneficiary designations as well as contingent beneficiaries.
- Letter of Intent—This document is left to the executor or beneficiary, defining what is to be done with specific assets; some letters of intent also include funeral details.
- Advance Health Care Directive—An Advance Health Care Directive designates another person—usually a family member or spouse—to make healthcare decisions for an individual in the event that individual becomes incapacitated.
- Guardianship designations—These documents will designate a guardian for minor children.
- Revocable or Irrevocable Trust—Trusts have many benefits over wills, however whether a trust is the best way to go for any individual will require the assistance of an experienced Maine estate planning attorney. A revocable trust can be changed by the person making the trust at any time for any reason. An irrevocable trust offers important tax and long term care cost benefits, but cannot be altered once made.
- Asset Protection Plan—An Asset Protection plan is essentially a “blueprint” which legally secures assets from creditors. This plan will include both long and short-term financial goals.
- Digital Asset Plan—Digital assets include such things as photos stored in the “cloud,” domain names owned, PayPal and eBay accounts, Facebook accounts, and so on. The Digital Asset Plan governs how these digital properties are handled following an individual’s death.
What Happens if There is No Estate Plan?
In the state of Maine, those who die without a will are said to be “intestate.” This means that Maine laws will determine how the assets will be distributed. The entire probate estate in Maine does not automatically pass to the surviving spouse, and distribution will depend on whether there are children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even surviving parents.
Description of Estate Planning Services
What do you want to happen to your property, your family, and your legacy? These are the questions at the heart of trusts and trust administration in southern Maine. Through the creation of a comprehensive estate plan, you and your attorney will develop tools that will allow you to rest assured that you know exactly what will happen to your property after you die, which can also include revocable living trusts. Your plan will also allow you a number of other benefits, but, most importantly, will give you peace of mind in knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family and your interests.
When you work hard to acquire assets, you must take steps to protect what you’ve earned, and business owners are especially vulnerable to litigation. An experienced attorney can assist you in choosing an appropriate structure for your organization, set up contracts to protect your personal investment in the business, and keep your personal assets safe. Don’t leave the future of your business—your personal future—to chance.
You have worked hard for your entire life to leave behind a legacy, but unfortunately, more than 70% of family businesses won’t survive a transition to the next generation. The probate process and fighting among heirs can both undermine business operations, but the one issue that most commonly plagues a business are estate taxes. By using strategic methods of transferring ownership, MaineCare planning, incorporation, trusts, and joint-ownership, we can help to prevent your loved ones having to face selling off what they inherited in order to pay taxes for it. We can help you to create a plan today that will protect your family legacy tomorrow.
It’s a common misconception that estate planning is something only the elderly need to consider, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, it is essential for families with young children to consider their options for caregivers and to have their financial affairs in order in the event they are unable to continue providing for their small children. Be prepared, come what may, and set your children up for success today with a solid estate plan.
If you are a pet owner living in southern Maine, the thought that you might die or become incapacitated and leave your pets uncared for is something you never want to seriously entertain. Unlike most of the people in your life, your pet will not be able to provide for his or her own care after you are gone, so now is the time to prepare with a pet trust. By creating a pet trust you can set aside some money that will be exclusively devoted to ensuring that your pet’s needs are cared for in the future, and only a local and experienced attorney can help you do it.
When someone you care about has a disability, planning for their future is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, providing for the needs of someone who has a disability can be complicated for many reasons. A qualified attorney can help you ensure the money is used appropriately for the benefit of the individual, ensure you are leaving enough money behind, and ensure the money and assets you leave to the loved one do not jeopardize government benefits. Make sure they are provided for tomorrow and start planning today. There are strict requirements and specific steps to take to create a special needs trust, so you should get in touch with a legal professional today who can help you to provide for a relative or loved one with a disability.
How Hodgkins Law Does Estate Planning Differently
Far too many people put off estate planning because they feel they are not old enough, do not own enough assets, have plenty of time or are simply confused about how and where to start. Those in Brunswick, Maine, Southern and Mid-Coast Maine have one of the very best choices around when it comes to estate planning. Hodgkins Law offers exceptional, customized planning solutions for those seeking a comprehensive estate plan. We offer a warm, welcoming climate, with support offered to individuals and families throughout the entire estate planning process.
Hodgkins Law only handles estate planning clients, which means their process is as streamlined as possible. Complex, long-term care cases are handled by our highly experienced estate planning attorney, and each estate plan is prepared in a manner that will reduce family conflict as much as possible. If you feel it is time to begin the process of creating an estate plan, be sure to contact Hodgkins Law with any of your questions.