Estate Planning

Estate planning in Nevada involves the management, transference, and distribution of your real and personal property so that you may, to the greatest extent possible, avoid tax liabilities, probate court and related attorneys fees, and disputes upon your death or incapacity.  Proper planning with the assistance of Owen & LoBello Law Firm can provide for the caring and financial support of your children and others, as well as expressing your wishes regarding life-prolonging measures if you become incapacitated.

Creating a Will
A will is a set of instructions that you leave behind so that a probate court judge will know how you want your property to be distributed on your passing; it can be revoked or modified during your lifetime. If you die intestate, meaning without a will, the state of Nevada will appoint an administrator and distribute your assets according to the statutes on intestate succession.  These laws dictate who gets what, depending upon whether you have a spouse, children, or relatives upon your death, and the results of these laws may not be as you intended.  The indiscriminate application of these laws can often invite family disputes, and can and should be avoided with the preparation of a will.

A will should include the following:
Property distribution
Provisions for a spouse and/or children
Designations for an Executor, and an alternative, to administer the estate
Funeral arrangements
Simple trusts

Avoiding Probate
Probate is the legal process that determines the validity of a will, appoints an executor to administer the estate (the property identified in the will), and distributes the assets of the testator to his or her heirs after all taxes and creditor claims are paid.  Even with a will and other planning tools, probate may not be avoided completely, especially in large estates, but there are ways to dispose of assets during your lifetime to avoid probate, including:

Living Trusts
Also known as inter vivos trusts, these instruments transfer assets and title into a trust and allow you to name yourself as trustee without relinquishing control of your assets.  You also name a successor trustee to manage the estate in the event of your incapacity or death.  Trusts avoid probate, shield assets from creditors, are private, and may avoid heavy tax consequences.

Joint Ownership
Joint ownership of real or personal property with a right of survivorship allows title to automatically pass to the surviving joint owner on your death.  Joint bank accounts are another example.

Life Estates
Life estates enable a person to possess and occupy land for the duration of someone else’s life. When that person dies, full title reverts to the original owner or someone designated to take title.

Special Purpose Trusts
A Totten Trust is an informal trust with a bank, credit union or brokerage firm known as a transfer-on-death account with a named beneficiary.  A Special Needs Trust allows disabled persons to have assets set aside for them without affecting their receipt of public benefits.

Probate Exemptions
Nevada has a small estate exemption from formal probate for estates valued at $20,000 or less where the estate may be distributed by filing an affidavit showing a person’s right to the assets.  A simplified administration is also allowed for property valued up to $100,000.

Financial Power of Attorney
This is a legal document that delegates the handling of your affairs to an agent (a person of your choosing). Only a durable power of attorney takes effect immediately and continues in full force and effect if you become incapacitated.  It is revocable at any time if you are mentally capable and upon your death.

Living Will
Also known as a health care directive, this document sets forth your wishes regarding end-of-life health measures.

Power of Attorney for Health Care
A health care power of attorney appoints someone to make health care decisions for you once you are incapacitated.

Additional Planning Considerations
Most individuals should have some of these plans in place for distributing their estates, but there are also other considerations:

Estate taxes: Only very large estates (valued at $5.43 million for 2015) are subject to federal estate taxes.

Life insurance:  Life insurance can provide a valuable financial cushion if your children, spouse, or other dependents need support in the long term.  If you have other sources of benefits such as a pension, group life insurance, or large IRA, insurance may be an unneeded expense.

Business succession: Your business should have a prearranged method of distributing the business interests on your death or retirement like a buy-sell agreement or trust, or a family limited partnership structure.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney
State and federal estate laws are always changing. Consider talking to an attorney at Owen & LoBello Law Firm to ensure that your assets, personal medical issues, and financial affairs are properly managed.

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