Like everything else, estate planning evolves over time, and keeping up with the changes – in both the law and in the way people think about estate planning – is a big part of what we do at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates. We were very interested in the article written by California tax attorney Renard J. Kolasa on what he calls “New Trends in Estate Planning”.
Three particular trends Kolasa mentions include:
Planning to avoid probate court involvement during incapacity is on the rise.
“If an individual is incapacitated and does not have proper documentation, Probate Court supervision may be needed before the family can take medical or financial action for the incapacitated individual. Disputes may arise about who is entitled to supervise finances or to make medical decisions.”
At Geyer & Associates, documents we tailor to our clients’ needs are designed specifically to avoid such disputes and provide families the ability to make medical and financial decisions without court involvement. These documents include:
- Living trusts
- Living wills
- Health information authorizations
- Financial powers of attorney
- Medical powers of attorney
There is increasing concern over the wrong people gaining control of an individual’s assets.
Without properly designed documents and carefully chosen beneficiary designations, the wrong people may inherit or control an individual’s property. “An example of a potential problem would be joint ownership of land or an investment account with an adult child,” Kolasa explains, with unintended results including:
- Creditors trying to take the property
- Improper withdrawal of funds by the child to support drug or gambling habits, or marriage difficulties
At Geyer & Associates, we know that estate planning means thinking about all the “what ifs” which might occur, sparing loved ones expense, delay, frustration and conflict.
The amount gifted to charity is increasing steadily.
The vast majority of Americans, Kolasa points out, give something to charity annually during life, with a smaller percentage giving something to charity at the time of death. However, this amount is increasing.
The attorneys at Geyer & Associates are seeing this trend as well, with more and more of our estate planning clients providing for gifts to charitable organizations both during their lifetime and upon death. Not only does charitable planning add a “feel good” element to the estate planning process, it can also accomplish a number of goals:
- Provide a stream of income for life
- Earn a higher investment yield on assets
- Reduce capital gains
- Reduce estate tax
“Estate planning is a dynamic process,” Kolassa concludes. “The laws, our family circumstances, our wealth and our wishes change continually….Current trends can be an indication of what others are doing in similar circumstances.”