Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Planning
- What is estate planning?
- What is the goal of estate planning?
- What is legacy planning?
- How does the Legacy Planning Process work?
What is estate planning?
The word “estate” refers to everything that you own including real estate, bank accounts, life insurance, retirement plans, automobiles, business interest, notes receivable, stocks, bonds, cash, mutual funds and personal property. While you are alive and well, you are in control of all of these “estate” assets. But if you pass away or become incapacitated, someone else needs to be given authority to control and distribute your estate assets to your family and loved ones. Estate planning is simply making arrangements for legal authority and control of your assets to pass to the right people, in the right way, at the right time with a minimum of expense and red tape.
What is the goal of estate planning?
If asked, most people would say that they want to accomplish the following goals with their estate planning: “I want to control my property while I am alive and well. I want to plan for myself and my loved ones if I become disabled. I want to give what I have to whom I want, the way I want, and when I want. I want to do all of this at the lowest overall cost and with the least amount of legal red tape.”
At Foley & Pearson, we believe there are also a number of other goals that are important to consider when preparing your estate plan including:
- Exploring and Identifying Your Personal and Family Goals
- Organizing and Identifying Your Assets
- Promoting Family Harmony
- Communicating Your Vision to Others
- Leaving a Legacy of More than Wealth
- Philanthropy and Charitable Giving
- Promoting Thrift and the Honest Accumulation of Wealth
- Protecting Assets for Loved Ones
- Demonstrating Your Own Fiscal Responsibility
- Setting a Good Example for Descendants and Others
- Building a Bridge for the Next Generation
What is legacy planning?
True legacy planning integrates the following core topics:
- Personal Values, Religion, Life Lessons
- Instructions and Wishes to be Fulfilled
- Personal Possessions of Emotional Value
- Financial Assets, Real Estate and Taxes
Most estate plans do not deal with all of these topics in a meaningful way. Yet most adults believe that ethics, morals, faith and religion are far more important than the financial aspects of inheritance. Foley & Pearson is committed to explore and implement your personal, moral and spiritual goals, as well as your financial desires.
We also believe in communication between generations, working toward family harmony. That is why we have developed a process that is devoted to exploring our client’s goals, their values, their faith, and their possessions. We guide our clients with clear and easy explanations about the law and estate planning tools. We also provide compassionate counseling related to sensitive family issues and concerns. Every client is special and unique. We make it a practice to serve the needs and goals of every client, regardless of their personal circumstances.
How does the Foley & Pearson Estate Process work?
Whether you are contemplating will planning, trust planning, business planning or a combination of planning strategies, there are five basic steps to our Planning Process:
- EducationWe encourage all of our clients and prospective clients to attend our basic estate planning workshop so that they can better understand the tools and issues that will require consideration. The workshop is free and there is no obligation to continue planning with us.
- Discovery and IntakeEach of our clients prepare a personal information form (PIF) and meet with a member of the Foley & Pearson planning team to assure that we have all of the important personal and financial information we need to implement your estate the plan. We are very thorough in the information gathering phase of the process. During this phase we will also begin to identify the client’s vision and goals. In more complex cases, education and discovery may also include one or more meetings with an attorney to assure that all of the important family information has been gathered and the visions and goals are clearly articulated.
- Plan DesignThe design phase of planning at Foley & Pearson is often a single appointment with one of our attorneys, which usually lasts about three hours. Tools and strategies are discussed and selected. After thoroughly discussing your particular concerns and desires, we will customize your estate plan. All of the attorneys at Foley & Pearson are experienced counselors who can help clients clarify their goals and work through difficult and sensitive family issues.
- Plan Implementation, Document Delivery, and FundingOnce a plan has been designed, the strategies and tools selected are implemented by Foley & Pearson with the assistance of the client. This phase includes document drafting, document review and execution, and the re-titling or “funding” of assets in a way that is consistent with the plan. Implementation usually involves two appointments: one with the attorney to review and sign the planning documents, and one with a staff member to re-title assets and make appropriate changes to beneficiary designations and life insurance policies and retirement plan accounts.
- Updating and MaintenanceThe only constant in life is change. Families change with births, adoptions, deaths, marriages and divorces. Goals change with time and experience. Laws change with the politics of the times. People change homes, invest in recreational property, acquire new assets, change investments, and start new businesses. These changes can cause the best estate plans to become obsolete over time. To assure that your estate plan is always current and will work the way that you intend, we recommend that our clients commit to regular updating and maintenance of their plan. Clients who have done their planning through Foley & Foley have the opportunity to participate in the Generations Maintenance program to help assure that their planning will always meet their needs.