For the last two months, we have been singularly focused on helping people get their end of the year planning in place and moving our office to a new location.  The year end for 2012 was more busy than usual because of all of the uncertainty surrounding the tax environment, and especially the prospect of estate and gift tax changes that could have created significant increases in those two taxes beginning January 1 of this year. So December was quite hectic.

Then, we packed up our office (after more than 15 years), and moved to a new location.  One of the most disruptive activities any small business can experience.

We now have concluded all of the end of the year transactions, Congress has gotten past the fiscal cliff (at least the first part), and we have gotten settled into our new office.  Time to focus on the needs of our clients for estate planning, asset protection, Medicaid long term care planning and providing support for them during the emotional process of administering probate and trust estates after the death of a loved one.

This past weekend, one of the Wall Street Journal authors provided us with some fresh insight about the value we provide to many of our clients, and the continuing need for our expertise and experienced counsel when planning one’s estate.

The article is entitled “What a Tangled Web We Leave.” It details the travails of a relatively young widow whose husband died of a heart attack at age 57, as she went through the process of gathering and gaining access to the couple’s and the husband’s assets, locating important documents, making decisions about rolling over or liquidating retirement accounts, confirming life insurance coverage, beneficiary designations, obtaining the death benefits, and probating her husband’s modest estate.

Most all of the issues raised in the article are things that we assist our clients with every day.  We help our clients decide on the most advantageous alternatives for titling assets to avoid the problems that are identified in the WSJ article. We provide guidance and direction regarding the most appropriate – practical, legal, tax and emotional – options for dealing with retirement accounts.  We provide our clients with a method and a process to collect relevant and pertinent information in one easily accessible location, so that the information that will be needed by the surviving spouse is readily available when its needed.  We help our clients ensure that they have access to all of the deceased spouse’s assets immediately upon death, and without much of the anguish experienced by the author of the article.

Perhaps most importantly, through the planning that we provide for our clients, we help them reach their goals and objectives, deal with their concerns, and allow the client to stay in total control of their assets, even after the death of a spouse, while minimizing taxes and other costs, including professional fees.

Reading “What a Tangled Web We Leave” encourages me, and our firm, to expend even greater efforts to help our clients avoid the difficulties encountered by this widow.  Dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of a spouse creates more than enough emotional trauma that no one should experience.  Compounding it with the lack of or improper planning can and should be avoided.  

Through proper estate planning with experienced counsel, you can take appropriate actions during your lifetime to eliminate the tangled web for your surviving spouse or other family members. You can allow them time to grieve for their loss, rather than spend time and needed emotional energy dealing with financial institutions and others who seemingly try to make life more difficult than it should be.  

Do yourself, your spouse, and your loved ones a genuine favor by engaging experienced counsel to assist you with a comprehensive estate plan that will allow you to deal with all of your concerns.

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