Why you should engage your clients to do estate planning

By Julius Giarmarco

Giarmarco, Mullins & Horton, P.C.

Estate planning is more than just about saving estate taxes. In fact, the vast majority of Americans do not even have taxable estates.

Estate planning is a process that involves planning for the distribution of one's assets upon death so that they go to the people and charities that the decedent desires as effectively as possible. The process involves planning for incapacity; deciding who will raise minor children; and determining who will handle the distribution of assets upon the decedent's death.

Estate planning is also about avoiding the costs, delays and publicity associated with probate, and how to protect one's heirs from their inability, their disability, their creditors and their predators (including ex-spouses). Bottom line: It is in your clients' (and your clients' families') best interests to have a comprehensive estate plan.

The basic estate planning tools that lawyers use to accomplish all of these objectives are wills, revocable living trusts, general powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and irrevocable trusts. Depending upon the client's particular facts and circumstances, the estate planning team will include the client's accountant, an estate planning attorney, a financial planner/life underwriter and a bank trust officer.