Estate planning is not just for the wealthy, as it applies to just about everyone. In short, estate planning essentially covers two main topics. First, who will take care of your dependent children in the event of your premature death? Second, what happens to your assets upon your death?
Typically, a will can accomplish answering both of those questions. In addition to the will, individuals should also seek a power of attorney (someone who can handle financial affairs if they are incompetent), a medical power of attorney (to make medical decisions in the event of incapacity), and a living will (essentially tells the caretakers to “pull the plug”). All four documents are typically prepared by the estate attorney at the same time.
Estate planning can often be more complex, particularly when divorce and/or a second marriage is involved. Further, when children may be young, irresponsible, or disabled, then there may be the need for establishing trusts to further enhance the ability to control the distribution of assets well after the owner’s death. This is where estate planning really benefits the client, but doesn’t require a tremendous amount of complexity, if handled by a qualified estate attorney and accompanied by a qualified financial advisor.
M&A is very familiar with estate planning techniques, and we have even taught seminars on the topic to the public, as well as classes at Temple University, as part of their financial planning degree program. While M&A does not actually prepare the wills or trust documents, we have relationships with attorneys and law firms that do prepare these documents. Our role is to understand the client’s goals and objectives, offer guidance to help them achieve these goals, and inform the clients of the various solutions available to them. In some cases, M&A attends the meeting with the clients and the estate attorneys.