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Protect Your Assests

The Keys to Effective Estate Planning

Article by Kenneth C. Russell, Esquire

Photography by Jayne Toohey

Originally published in Media City Lifestyle

Q:  What attracted you to the Wills, Trusts and Estates field of law?

I started working for a law firm helping very large companies conduct international transactions; I was essentially a lawyer to other lawyers.  No client connection.  Estate planning is unique. When a client walks into the office, they are an individual, a family and a story. 

They tell me their hopes and fear for their family, turning over the responsibility of caring for the people that they most treasure. 

As an attorney, you can get no higher responsibility.

Q:  What is the Biggest Mistake in Estate Planning?

A:  Failure to plan.  When someone passes away, the decedent’s planning and assets are captured in a “snapshot” that governs asset transfers and more.  With a proper plan, a person’s funeral, burial, transfer of assets, and post-death asset protections are executed consistent with their wishes.  Without proper pre-planning, everything is left to chance.  Who is hurt? Those closest to the decedent.  What can be lost? Assets that have been built over a lifetime.  A small investment of time and money protects those closest to you and your lifetime assets.

Q:  What is the biggest threat to someone’s assets when planning?

A:  There are two, paying for nursing home care and failure to consider asset protection strategies.  Nursing home care can run $8,000-$15,000 a month. Pre-planning is essential. When someone doesn’t pre-plan, it’s “crisis planning”, which means someone is already in the nursing home, making protecting assets more difficult.

Similarly, when a parent gives assets to a child, those assets are exposed to creditors, taxes, lawsuits, and more.  When an estate reaches a certain size, it's important to consider how to protect those assets, in your children’s hands and to preserve those assets through asset protection strategies. 

Q:  If someone makes critical estate planning mistakes, is all lost?

A:  No.  Even if you made any (or all) of the mistakes listed above, there is hope.  Children can cooperate with each other to work together, be transparent and discuss how best to take care of a parent.   We deal with a lot of families when we administer an estate for someone who passed away.  A loving legacy, one where children know the importance of family and watch out for each other, can fix estate planning mistakes.  When you ask whether $30,000 is worth it for you to not speak to your brother and sister again, some answer “yes”, and some answer “no”.  Leaving a good family legacy can surmount estate planning mistakes.

Without proper pre-planning, everything is left to chance.  Who is hurt? Those closest to the decedent.  What can be lost? Assets that have been built over a lifetime.  A small investment of time and money protects those closest to you and your lifetime assets.

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