Jonathan is a genius in this area. We are going to start with the basics just estate planning 101, trust, wills, and the differences of all those things. The thought for the day – make sure your plan is up to date. Listen through this, get a quick a quick refresher while Jonathan breaks down the basics and makes sure you understand. The action you can take on the end is to make sure your holes are plugged. 50% of people don’t have anything in place. And at the end of the day, you’re working hard to create a lot of wealth but this is the foundation. If you’ve got this in place, things are going to go where you want them too and you’re actually going to make sure it goes in the most tax efficient way possible. If you’ve got nothing in place, it’s going to take longer and it is likely the government is going to end up with a larger portion than you want.
We welcome Jonathan Gopman, a trust and estates lawyer who represents high net-worth individuals.
Estate planning is a well thought-out approach to transferring and structuring your assets to maximize the value that you have for your family. It also is a way of holding your assets to reduce your current tax liability as you’re accumulating wealth. Holding your assets in the most prude way possible, to protect them from the claims of potential creditors.
When to Start
There never is an ideal time. Every client is different. It’s how you feel as an individual when that time is right. Ideally, the right time is where they start accumulating wealth, but everyone’s definition of when to start is different. The sooner we can start, the quicker we can start saving you and your family taxes.
With state and gift tax there’s a little bit more control over the timing of what taxes can, where, or when those taxes are going to be incurred. Those taxes are often thought of in the case of a death tax or estate tax, something that’s going to happen in the future.
Time and Cost
At a beginning level, it can be done inside of a few days. We’re not here to make your life difficult. We’re here to facilitate what you’re trying to accomplish. For many people, that means a minimum amount of contact. A lot of things can be done by email. A lot of things could be done over the phone, and it can be a very minimalized process if that’s what you want. For wealthy clients who typically tend to be our clients for many decades, the process is a bit more detailed. It is up to the client; so, unfortunately, if they don’t want us to be hands-on, the process can certainly be minimized for many of our clients because of the benefits that we can bring to the table.
We generally tell the family to reconsider their estate plans once every five years unless there are changes in the tax law right now. We’ve seen a lot of changes in tax law over the last several years, that may dictate whether or not we recommend revisiting your estate plan more often.
The benefits that our planning produces make us be more of an integral part of our client’s life for a variety of reasons, but that does come with a cost both in terms of time and in integrating and dealing with us. It also comes with a cost of an additional fee. We consider this process for many of our clients to be more of an investment than a payment of a fee, because if we can reduce your tax liability by 10, 20, 30% on an annual basis, that should be thought of as more of an investment than a fee.
Where to Start
Have the information that we need available to us, in a correlated format. Who your family is, who you want to benefit, whether it’s your spouse, descendants, grandkids etc. An idea of how much in your mind you would like to give to them. Whether it’s charity, a mistress, or a girlfriend, we simply need that information, and for you to give it to us up front. It’s our job to tell you the best way to accomplish the objective of gifting or passing on that wealth: we’re transferring it. There are going to be several issues that you haven’t thought of that we thought of because we’ve seen these situations time and time again. To that extent, as long as you have that information in your head or you have it written down, you have a general idea of what you want to do. That’s going to make the process move much faster. Also, if you have existing documents, make copies of those documents and send them to us; that’s going to be very helpful as well. If you have information on your businesses, a financial statement or multiple, some document that shows us in detail your assets and how they’re owned, that will be very helpful to us in advising you. It’s going to minimize the amount of time you have to spend interacting with us.
Advice on Drafting Legal Documents
With limited experience in this area, it is recommended that if you want to accomplish your objectives through a company like LegalZoom, we’re probably not going to be a good fit for you. What you think and what happens may be something very different. Some clients over the years that have come in with documents that they drafted on LegalZoom, who are typically individuals or ultra-high net worth clients, in each of those situations, those documents did not accomplish the client’s objectives, it did not even come close to accomplishing the client’s objectives. Through a computer program a result may be produced that is inaccurate or something that you might not like will be produced, this is because there’s not enough information being exchanged. Typically the documents are simplistic. Whenever documents are drafted without the assistance of a competent lawyer, it usually produces more legal work in the end. Legal work in the form of not accomplishing your objectives and leading with serious issues to begin with, can also produce a significant amount of litigation. Sometimes it’s jurisdiction-specific because how we do things in Florida, may be very different in the ways in other states. Engaging in with counsel that’s recommended on those websites in a limited manner, the individuals that are typically associated with those websites are part of those networks are not as competent or experienced in the area. Competency as in the experience level that those individuals have is just not up to what we would typically recommend for someone that has an ultra-high net worth, oftentimes they make a critical difference creating a substantial problem. You have to take these into account in drafting documents and formulating an estate plan.
If you could look at the state statute, by not having a plan, your property will pass by intestacy. This is a state form of a will that the state legislature and the governor, who signed that law, has provided for you. This will run into the same issues that we discussed on LegalZoom, by not asking the right questions. Oftentimes, the law that would be provided for you, instead of you having a will drafted and you directing your own trust, you’re typically not going to have a result that would be beneficial to the people mentioned in those documents under state law. Oftentimes, it might be the same people that you intend to benefit, but not in the same proportions, and probably not in the way that you would have wanted them to take your estate for a variety of reasons that would come up in the estate planning process.