By Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

WHAT IS 360-DEGREE ESTATE PLANNINGHello Friends & Colleagues!

So the 360 Degree Estate Planning approach is a concept that I created after years of representing clients in the practice areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, probate and trust administration, business and real estate.  The 360 Degree approach illustrates that all aspects of your life should be examined in order to properly identify your areas of legal vulnerability.  Only when your areas of vulnerability are thoroughly reviewed and identified, can documents be put in place for your final estate plan because these documents will consider all possible scenarios.

For example, many professionals recommend a Revocable Living Trust to protect families from the chaos that ensues due to unplanned disability or death.  However, it is often not communicated or understood that a complete estate plan includes a thorough discussion of matters such as durable powers of attorney, advance healthcare directives, guardianships, pour over and/or Medicaid wills, and business succession planning.  There are also important questions such as who the fiduciaries will be, and this brings up related issues such as how to prevent family conflicts and whether to utilize a corporate trustee or trust protector?  There are also issues of tax planning and whether to utilize other tools such an irrevocable trust?  Charitable planning and even income tax planning are common concerns.  All of that is just on the conventional estate planning side.

The 360 Degree approach goes beyond “conventional” to ask questions such as whether your business or real estate investments are protected with a properly formed and maintained business entity such as an LLC or Corporation. Another consideration is whether other assets such as CDs, stock accounts or other “non-qualified” assets should be covered with an additional “layer” of asset protection such as a irrevocable trust or LLC?  Even where entities such as LLCs have been established, we commonly find that people undermine their own protection by failing to observe the proper business formalities or not creating effective Operating Agreements.

Finally, the 360 Degree approach seeks to identify other concerns such as your business and real estate and whether they are risk avoidant?   An example of such agreements would be long-term notes payable, mortgages or other financing agreements that directly concern your estate.  There may also be issues such as your parents’ estates or siblings’ estates such as probate, trust administration and or tax planning issues to consider when preparing your estate plan.  Elder law and Medicaid issues are also very common considerations when looking at 360 Degrees of legal asset protection.

The bottom line is that legal documents are only as effective as the knowledge and wisdom utilized to create them and this is why, in my humble opinion, boilerplate forms are never a good idea for any sized estate.

So the “take away” is to make sure that you’re getting a complete estate plan and which includes asset protection and identifying other areas of legal risk.   You and your family deserve 360 Degrees of legal protection.

Until next time…

Steven J. Gibbs, Esq.

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