Our goal at Upton & Hatfield, LLP is to devise and implement an estate plan that meets your needs. An estate plan may involve a variety of considerations. We start by identifying your objectives, and we prepare the legal documents needed to achieve your goals such as a will, trust agreement, power of attorney, and advance health care directive, including a living will and health care power of attorney. These documents are described in more detail below. During this process, we will help you identify any other planning considerations that are appropriate to your circumstances, including tax planning considerations.
We will also discuss the importance of beneficiary designations governing life insurance, retirement assets such as IRA’s, 401-k and 403-b retirement plans, annuity survivor/death benefits, and other pay on death proceeds.
We believe in encouraging a collaborative approach to your estate planning needs. In furtherance of that approach, we are pleased to include your financial planner, tax accountant and other professional advisors in the process as you deem appropriate and beneficial.
Core Documents. Will, Durable General Power of Attorney, and Advance Directive for Healthcare
A will directs the disposition of your assets following your death, and nominates an executor responsible to administer your probate estate. In addition, you may nominate a guardian for your minor children, and include provisions for the well-being of disabled beneficiaries. The executor you choose to administer your estate will be responsible through the process of probate administration for paying your taxes and other financial obligations from your estate’s assets, collecting monies due your estate, and distributing the remaining estate assets in accordance with the instructions contained in your will.
Durable General Power of Attorney
A durable general power of attorney is a legal document appointing a person of your choosing to handle your financial affairs in your absence, or in the event of your incapacity, whether temporary or permanent.
At your passing, your agent will no longer have the power to act and either your executor or trustee will manage your assets and their disposition.
Advance Directive for Healthcare
An Advance Directive for Healthcare includes a healthcare power of attorney and living will. A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document appointing a person of your choosing as your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so due to incapacitation. A living will expresses your wishes concerning end of life care in the event that you are diagnosed as either terminally ill and near death, or as being permanently unconscious. Both a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will express your wishes regarding end-of-life medical care and whether you want continued life-sustaining treatment, hydration and nutrition, or want to limit end-of-life care to the provision of comfort care only.
The Benefits of Creating a Revocable Trust
Together with appropriate support and funding documents, a revocable trust avoids the cost and time delays associated with probate administration following your death.
The trust preserves privacy in the administration of the trust following your death.
In order to avoid probate, the trust must be funded during your lifetime by changing the title on most of your assets (bank and investment accounts, personal property, real estate) from your individual name to the name of your revocable trust.
Income, dividends, gains and losses will continue to be reported on your individual tax return while you are living.
It is important to transfer the title to real estate located in another state to your trust (or to a limited liability company or family limited partnership) in order to avoid probate being required in another state.
If you own a business, we will discuss whether you should transfer your business ownership to your trust.
If you are married, we will discuss whether you should have a joint trust with your spouse or whether you and your spouse should have separate trusts for estate tax planning, creditor protection, or other reasons such as protecting children from a prior marriage, or ensuring continuation of a family business.
A pour over will accompanying your revocable trust will transfer assets into your revocable trust that remain outside the trust at the time of your death (alternative to last will and testament above) but will require probate.
Where appropriate, our attorneys provide advice and assistance to clients regarding more complex and sophisticated planning techniques, utilizing plans that may involve certain types of irrevocable trusts, including:
- Special needs trusts to protect a disabled person’s eligibility for certain government benefits,
- Asset protection trusts,
- Grantor trusts for estate tax planning, and
- Charitable trusts to advance a client’s charitable wishes and provide tax planning benefits.
ELDER LAW, MEDICAID PLANNING, GUARDIANSHIPS AND SPECIAL NEEDS PLANNING:
We advise and assist elderly couples, individuals and their families navigate the sensitive and complex challenges related to aging and the possible need for long term care. We seek to educate our clients about the rules that apply to qualification for nursing home care, and we implement plans designed to preserve and protect client resources through the use of gifts, certain types of irrevocable trusts, wills and testamentary trusts, life estates, care-giver contracts, reverse mortgages, durable powers of attorney, advance directives for health care, and resource spend-down plans.
Our attorneys also have extensive experience helping clients file for guardianships and conservatorships when mental and/or physical disabilities prevent a person from being able to competently make decisions about their personal, health and/or financial affairs.
We frequently assist clients to address the needs of a child or other beneficiary with special needs taking into account how those special needs interrelate with the overall estate plan. A properly drafted “special needs trust” (whether it be a third party “supplemental needs trust,” a first party “D4A trust” or a “pooled trust” that is created by a nonprofit organization) may enable a disabled beneficiary to have access to trust funds for a wide variety of needs while still preserving eligibility for federal and state health care, as well as other benefits including Medicaid and SSI. Our attorneys are experienced in drafting special needs trusts either as part of the estate planning process, or to hold funds that a disabled person receives from the settlement of a lawsuit, an inheritance, or from a life insurance policy.
Probate and Trust Estate Administration
Our firm also provides legal services in connection with probate, estate settlement and trust administration in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts. The probate estate settlement process can appear to be confusing and time consuming due to its multiple components and waiting periods. We help clients by filing the necessary papers with the probate court to allow wills and appoint estate fiduciaries, filing the inventory of assets and the accounting of income and expenses, dealing with creditors, arranging for filing appropriate tax returns, and bringing estates to a close in a timely and cost-effective manner. Throughout the probate process, we educate our clients to understand what to expect and we maintain regular client contact to provide needed advice and address sensitive issues.
Similarly, we regularly assist clients in the trust administration process, and provide advice and client education with respect to compliance with the requirements of the trust instrument and the applicable uniform trust code.
Business Succession Planning
If you are a business owner, you want to ensure your company remains strong when transitioning to your family, or preparing for the transfer to a new owner. Business succession planning is essential for a smooth transition that provides the best opportunity for the continued success of the business you devoted your life toward building. We can help with:
- Creating shareholder agreements
- Structuring the sale of business interests or assets
- Utilizing valuation discounts
- Designing solutions to protect the business from costly interruptions
- Addressing management and equity issues among family and non-family members
We have significant experience with business succession planning and work diligently to prepare and implement an estate and business succession plan that meets your long-term planning objectives.
We’re Ready to Be Part of Your Team
When it comes to estate planning, we collaborate seamlessly with you, your tax accountant, and your financial advisor to build a strong plan for the future. We stand ready to help through all matters of wills, trusts, business succession planning, and more.
At Upton & Hatfield, LLP, we know how important it is to create a plan with your goals in mind. Our New Hampshire estate planning attorneys will review your particular situation and create a customized plan that fits your needs.
It is our goal to educate you throughout the estate planning process so you can focus on what is important, and your family will not have to worry about the complex legal matters in the future. We’re here for you every step of the way.
Call us today at (603) 716-9777 and discuss your needs with our team.