Estate Planning


A will is the legal instrument that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his or her estate will be managed and distributed after his death. Property called a “testament,” whereas a will disposed of real property. The distinction of a will, sometimes called a “last will and testament,” disposes of both real and personal property.

If a person does not leave a will, or the will is declared invalid, the person will  have died intestate, resulting in the distribution of the estate according to the laws of Decent and Distribution of state in which the person resided. The importance of a will cannot be stressed enough.  If you need help with a will please contact our office and one of our financial professionals will assist you.


Trusts are created by settlors (an individual along with his or her lawyer) who decide how to transfer parts or all of their assets to trustees. These trustees hold on to the assets for the beneficiaries of the trust. The rules of a trust depend on the terms on which it was built. In some areas, it is possible for older beneficiaries to become trustees. For example, in some jurisdictions, the grantor can be a lifetime beneficiary and a trustee at the same time.

A trust can be used to determine how a person’s money should be managed and distributed while that person is alive, or after their death. A trust helps avoid taxes and probate. It can protect assets from creditors, and it can dictate the terms of an inheritance for beneficiaries.  A trust can help ensure that your wishes are granted even after your passing.  They are commonly used for special needs children.

Estate Tax

An estate tax is a levy on estates whose value exceeds an exclusion limit set by law. Only the amount that exceeds that minimum threshold is subject to tax. Assessed by the federal government and about a dozen state governments, these levies are calculated based on the estate’s fair market value, rather than what the deceased originally paid for its assets. The tax is levied by the state in which the deceased person was living at the time of their death.

Estate taxes can have a major impact on heirs.  In some cases life insurance can offset the cost of taxes.  For help with estate tax planning contact us.

Passing Assets

When it comes to passing assets you have several options.  Do you pass your assets to children while you are still living?  How does your spouse receive your IRA and other qualified accounts?  Should you choose to utilize a will or trust?

If you are considering passing assets while you are still living consider your living expenses and the rising cost of healthcare.  You may also face a large tax burden.  Passing assets to your spouse is the most common method but what if your spouse pre-deceases you?  Setting up a trust could be the answer but we would need to know more about your individual situation to help give the correct advice.  If you have questions register for our website and let us help.

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document giving one person the power to act for another person (the principal). The agent can have broad legal authority or limited authority to make legal decisions about the principal’s property, finances or medical care. The power of attorney is frequently used in the event of a principal’s illness or disability, or when the principal can’t be present to sign necessary legal documents for financial transactions.

Anyone who wants to permit another person to perform certain legal acts on his or her behalf needs a POA. A POA document can allow another person to handle financial matters, make health care decisions, or care for your children.


Probate is the term for a legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic. Probate also refers to the general administering of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will.

After an asset-holder dies, the court appoints either an executor named in the will or an administrator (if there is no will) to administer the process of probate. This involves collecting the assets of a deceased person to pay any liabilities remaining on the person’s estate, and to distribute the assets of the estate to beneficiaries.

In some cases the process can last years and face legal battles among family and other benefactors.  If you do not have a will or a trust contact us and we will help you with the process.

Understanding Estate Planning

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