Hope Leibsohn is an estate and tax planning attorney with Sherman & Howard. She has more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of estate planning involving wills, trusts, charitable techniques, estate freezes, and other sophisticated wealth transfer strategies. Az Business got Leibsohn’s views on estate planning.
Az Business: Who should have an estate plan?
Hope Leibsohn: Establishing an estate plan can be strategic for everyone who has attained the age of majority. Be it tax planning or inspirational legacy planning, your documents can explicitly set forth your unique goals. Also, estate planning documents can be helpful to all in providing guidance in the event you become incapacitated during your lifetime. Although the provisions of all estate planning documents are not identical, creating a well thought out plan can be a gift to all.
Az Business: What should be the goal of the estate plan?
Hope Leibsohn: Identifying to whom you wish to provide a benefit, determining who will be in charge as the fiduciary, and establishing clear guidelines regarding the timing and tax efficiencies of the distributions are core aspects of the overall estate plan. In essence, you are leaving a life enhancing possibility to people and/or organizations as your final message in this world.
Az Business: What elements should be included in the estate plan?
Hope Leibsohn: Planning for death as well as incapacity is critical. However, the appropriate documents are not one size fits all. One person’s goals may best be carried out through a multi-generational lifetime trust continuing for up to 500 years for current and future descendants. Another person’s plan may best be effectuated through simple transfer on death designations for financial accounts and retirement plan interests. A third person’s goal may best be implemented through a philanthropic plan. One element is clear and that is to focus on the individual’s distinct objectives and then craft the estate plan accordingly.
Az Business: What factors should be considered when establishing estate planning goals?
Hope Leibsohn: Minimizing gift and estate taxes, providing creditor protection to beneficiaries, preserving assets as separate property in the event of a divorce, maintaining privacy where desired, as well as clearly setting forth the governance rules are core factors in establishing estate planning objectives. An ideal estate plan is founded on a clear vision and well worded documents to solidify the plan. Discouraging costly and long-lasting disputes among beneficiaries with competing interests may be pivotal. Otherwise, the litigation efforts may result in the lawyers representing the beneficiaries in effect inheriting the estate.
Az Business: How often should a person revise or revisit her/his estate plan?
Hope Leibsohn: It is strategic to review the estate plan upon the occurrence of the following lifestyle changes: modifications in the applicable tax laws; revisions in the state laws for trust, wills, and powers of attorney; births, deaths, incapacities, and marriages within the family or beneficiary group; significant increase or decline in net worth; as well as relocation to a new state of residence. A scheduled periodic review of estate planning decisions (such as every two, three or five years) can also be beneficial in refreshing your recollection as to choices you made and whether they remain strategic in light of your current circumstances. Change is certain. Correspondingly, your documents can be designed to flexibly respond to the ebbs and flows of life.
Az Business: What advice would you give to someone who wants to establish her/his estate plan?
Hope Leibsohn: Start now, as you never know when your time will come. Be sure to also leave an intangible legacy. Who are you, what life lessons did you learn, and what made your life most meaningful can passionately be described in an ethical will. Also, a priceless gift can be set forth in final wishes letters to loved ones who have truly enhanced your life.