ESTATE PLANNING

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WILLS

A will is the most basic form of an estate plan and is useful for almost anybody.  Wills are useful for their relative simplicity to prepare, manage and modify during your lifetime.

The main components of a will are to name the persons or charities to whom you would like your assets to go to upon your death and to nominate the person you would like to be responsible to administer your estate.

If needed, wills can also be more complex and include terms that nominate a guardian to care for your minor children, create a trust to go into effect upon your death to manage the distribution of funds to your beneficiaries, and provide direction regarding your wishes for your funeral, burial and/or cremation.

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TRUSTS

A Trust is a more complex estate planning tool that can be used to achieve a variety of purposes. Having a Trust is a bit like owning a business.  It requires more up-front investment and more management than having a Will, however, the benefits are such that having a Trust can help save you time and money in the long run.

During your lifetime, having a Trust can allow you to name a person to act as your successor trustee who can take over management of your assets and day-to-day finances without any court involvement.  Upon your death, a Trust can help to avoid or limit estate taxes, keep your estate out of probate and set terms regarding distributions to minors or other beneficiaries who have trouble handling money.

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POWER OF ATTORNEY/ADVANCE DIRECTIVE

A Power of Attorney is a standard and incredibly useful estate planning document that allows you to appoint a trustworthy person to assist you with handling of your property and finances if you are unable to do so yourself.  Many times, this comes in the form of incapacity – either you are not physically or mentally able to handle your affairs – but it can also be handy if you reach a place where you are just too tired and would like to hand over the reins to your trusted agent.  It is important for your Power of Attorney to be properly prepared as part of your estate plan, well in advance of any capacity issues. Having a Power of Attorney in place can be the difference between having a trusted person step in to help you seamlessly or having to go to court to have that same person appointed as your Conservator – an expensive and time-consuming proposition.  Simply having a Power of Attorney can save the people helping you many hours and thousands of dollars.

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PUBLICATIONS

ESTATE ADMINISTRATION

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PROBATE ESTATES

Probate is the process through which a court distributes the assets of a deceased person.  Depending on the type of assets left to you,  you may be required to go through probate.  The probate process can be complicated, lengthy and time consuming.  It typically involves filings with the court, public notices, petitions, judgments and more.  We specialize in navigating this process and can help remove some of the stress from the executor.  Let us help you complete your probate efficiently and close the matter as quickly as possible.

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TRUST ADMINISTRATION

While typically simpler than Probate, trust administration can still be complex.  It can be especially complex if it involved on-going administration because the trust included a business or large estate that is not immediately disbursed.  One different aspect about trust administration is that it is completed without the involvement of the court.  Depending on how you look at it, this can be either an advantage or a disadvantage.  If there are many beneficiaries, involving a lawyer may help to reduce disputes and make the process move faster.

Piggy Bank in hands of a family.

SMALL ESTATE ADMINISTRATION

Probate is not always necessary or the right course of action.  In some cases, such as small estates (estates under $275k with less than $75k in personal property) a small estate affidavit can be filed.  This allows the circumvention of the probate process reducing the complexity and cost of administering the estate.  We can help you navigate the process and put together the affidavit to close the matter quickly.  edit button to change this text.

NON-PROBATE ESTATES

Non-probate estates are typically the result of great planning by the decedent. Assets fall into two categories, probate and non-probate assets.  Probate assets include things such as real property, personal property, business equity and some other types of property.  Non-probate assets include property in trusts, retirement accounts, Bank accounts with a POD or TOD provision and some other types of property.  Non-probate estates are typically simpler and quicker to take care of and remove a great deal of complexity from the process.

GUARDIANSHIPS

When a person can becomes physically incapacitated, he or she might place them self or others at risk due to an inability to evaluate or communicate decisions. If serious physical injury or illness is likely to occur, a guardianship for that person can be sought in probate court.  Guardianship permits the court appointed guardian to make personal decisions involving the incapacitated person like where he or she will live, or how their medical or dental needs might be attended to.  They can be quite complex to navigate and require an extensive amount of paperwork.  Our experienced team can help you get through this process quickly so you can help your loved one.  edit button to change this text.

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CONSERVATORSHIPS

Conservatorships are ordered pursuant to petitions when adults can no longer effectively manage their money and finances due to physical or mental impairment. After a petition is filed to order a conservatorship, the allegedly impaired person must be served with copies of all appropriate documents so that he or she has the opportunity to object. Those documents must also be served on his or her closest relatives, and they must be given the opportunity to object too.  This process can be complex and time consuming but is absolutely necessary when a person loses the capacity to manage their money.  Let us help you navigate this process and keep your loved one financially stable.

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CONTRACTS

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BUSINESS START-UPS

Starting a business seems simple enough.  Make a product or service, hang a shingle and start selling.  In trust, yes, it is that simple. Doing just that would make you a sole proprietor.  Where it can get complex is limiting liability. Not all business entity type limit their owners liability.  Some, like a sole proprietorship, provide no protection to the owner at all. This means that if your business is sued, there is no differentiation between your business and its assets and you personally and your assets.  A person suing your business could take all of your life savings and retirement funds. This is why it is important to have a business attorney help with entity selection and set up.  We can help you determine the right entity type to protect you and your assets.

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BUSINESS COUNSEL

The owner of a small business needs small business counsel that he or she can call, visit and actually talk to. That’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.  Especially in business, complex legal situations arise. Knowing how to navigate them is imperative to the health of your business and to avoiding common mis-steps. As businesses grow their needs change as well.  Having a trusted attorney advise you on the best path forward in these situations is paramount as some of these decisions have substantive consequences.

contract and a pen

CONTRACTS AND LEASES

Both business and real estate require a substantial amount of complex documentation.  Unfortunately, more often than not, that documentation requires a professional to translate it.  Contracts by their nature are meant to help make business predictable.  Unfortunately, many people exploit the complexity of contracts to slip in clauses for their benefit or to create an effect that is not in the interest of fair dealing.  That is why it is so important to make sure that you read and understand your contracts.  If you don’t understand it or even if it is just really long, please come see us. Sometimes provisions in long contracts compound and create unexpected tertiary effects.  Knowing what a contract does before you sign it could be the difference between a good business relationship and signing away your business unknowingly.

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PERSONAL INJURY

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MOTOR VEHICLE COLLISIONS

Motor vehicle accidents are incredibly disruptive to daily life.  They are made worse by the insurance companies calling all the time, having to make recorded statements, signing forms and somewhere in between it all finding time to get treated for your injuries. We can help with this.  Once you have been in an accident, you are at odds with the interests of the insurance company, sometimes even your own. An attorney represents you by taking the phone calls on your behalf, gathering all of the bills and the documentation that you need for the settlement and making sure that you don’t sign requests that may limit your ability to get care or a settlement.  It is not uncommon for an insurance company to play dirty rotten tricks like asking you to release your life history of medical files so they can try and say that your injuries were pre-existing. When you retain a lawyer to represent you as the not-at-fault party in a motor vehicle accident, we can handle most of these details for you.  We will gather all of the necessary documentation and bills as well as review all information requests to make sure they aren’t trying to pull a fast one.  We also walk you through any recorded statements that you may need to make and if necessary, we will represent you in court to make sure that you are fairly compensated for your loss. We will fight hard to get your car repaired or replaced, your medical expenses paid for, your lost wages reimbursed and your pain and suffering compensated.

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PREMISES LIABILITY

We all know that slips and falls happen, but when you are injured because of an accident caused by either unsafe conditions or negligence on the part of the business or property owner, you shouldn’t have to pay the medical bill.

Premises liability is the liability insurance that most businesses and property owners carry in case something like this happens.  Some common examples of premises liability cases include:

  • Slip and falls and trip and falls
  • Falling merchandise in stores
  • Elevator and escalator accidents
  • Fires
  • Swimming pool and amusement park accidents
  • Attacks by third parties

In the event that the liable party refuses to take responsibility for the negligent or dangerous conditions, an attorney can represent you and help recover your medical expenses and some compensation for your pain and suffering.