Insight

Protecting Your Legacy With Estate Planning

You're careful with your finances; do you still need asset protection?

Protecting Your Legacy With Estate Planning

Tripp Wiles

July 25, 2019 02:43 PM

A key concern for many estate planning clients is how to preserve their wealth. Surely, no one wants to see a lifetime of hard work depleted by estate taxes, medical crises, and creditors’ claims. Regardless of how careful you are with your money, it is crucial to consider asset protection as part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy. This article is a brief overview of the tools estate planners can use to protect their assets, their loved ones, and their legacies.

Estate Planning Is for Everyone

A common misconception is that estate planning is only for wealthy individuals. At its most basic level, however, estate planning is the process for establishing how your assets and affairs will be managed when you die or if you become incapacitated. In other words, everyone needs an estate plan. Although many individuals associate estate planning with a last will and testament, nearly two-thirds of adults in the U.S. do not even have a will.

While a will can ensure that your last wishes are carried out, many individuals and businesses can achieve greater control through a trust-based estate plan. Moreover, a good estate plan would not only consider what you leave behind, but would also leave your affairs in order in the event of incapacity by naming trusted individuals to manage your affairs and coordinate your medical care if you are unable to do so yourself.

In short, a well-conceived estate plan considers risks to your assets and effectively safeguards those assets. This raises two fundamental questions for estate planners: what are the potential risks to my assets, and what measures can I take to preserve my wealth?

How to Manage Risks to Your Estate Assets

Protecting your assets starts with identifying threats that could erode your wealth, not only while you’re accumulating assets but also after you die. Of course, confronting your mortality can be overwhelming, but it is crucial to protect your assets from the expected and the unexpected; it’s also the responsible thing to do.

To protect your assets and ensure that your legacy will endure, you must be aware of a wide variety of risks, such as:

  • Lawsuits against you or your business
  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Personal or business bankruptcy
  • Creditor claims
  • Divorce agreements (e.g. property division, spousal support, child support)
  • State and federal estate taxes (present exemption amounts notwithstanding)
  • Loved ones with special needs
  • Irresponsible heirs

This is where an adept estate planning attorney comes in. By understanding your objectives and helping to assess all the potential risks to your assets, your trust and estate lawyer can help to safeguard your interests, your family, and your future.

Wealth Preservation 101

While everyone has unique circumstances and different estate planning objectives, we are all subject to the fickle hand of fate. Let’s face it: anyone can suffer a serious illness or be injured in an accident at any time. Your property is in a similar situation. Unexpected damages from a fire, flood, and other damaging events can harm your ability to ensure your legacy is financially secure. As such, your asset protection toolbox should include:

A common misconception is that estate planning is only for wealthy individuals. At its most basic level, however, estate planning is the process for establishing how your assets and affairs will be managed when you die or if you become incapacitated.

Adequate insurance coverage

Whether you have business interests or own a home, it is crucial to have the right amount of insurance coverage. While business owners should have, at a minimum, general liability insurance, individuals must have adequate automobile and homeowner’s insurance to protect their property against damages and/or civil lawsuits.

Trusts

While a will is the most basic estate planning tool for distributing your assets, and the only way to designate guardians for your minor children, many individuals can benefit from establishing trusts. A revocable living trust is one that takes ownership of your property but allows you to continue managing it during your lifetime. Unlike a will, a living trust is not required to go through probate; a trust also best allocates your assets to prevent avoidable tax liabilities. Additionally, a variety of irrevocable trusts can be established to provide for a loved one with special needs, protect a prodigal heir from creditors’ claims, leave a charitable legacy, and achieve other important objectives.

The proper legal structure for your business

Whether you run a family business or a professional practice, it is crucial to segregate your personal assets from your business assets and ensure that the former are protected from civil lawsuits and other claims against the business. Business structures such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), partnership, or an S or C Corporation provide varying degrees of asset protection. Beyond choosing the right business formation, it is also critically important to create a business succession plan as part of a comprehensive estate planning strategy.

Finally, it is worth noting that certain assets pass outside of your estate, some of which have built-in legal protections against bankruptcy and other risks. Certain retirement planning tools, for example, such as Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k)s, may be exempt from bankruptcy liquidation and other legal claims. Ultimately, leveraging all the wealth preservation tools at your disposal requires working with your financial advisors and estate planning attorney.

The Takeaway

No matter your financial status or the care you’ve exercised in handling your money, having a well-designed estate plan is the best way to protect your assets and your loved ones from assorted threats and risks. Whether you only require a simple will or can benefit from a trust-based estate plan, the best decision you can make to secure your future is to enlist the services of a trustworthy estate planning attorney.

-------------

Attorney Tripp Wiles is the founder of Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Tripp was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He graduated from The Citadel with a B.A. in Political Science and holds a M.A. from Hawaii Pacific University in Diplomacy and Military Studies. Tripp earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. Over the past decade Tripp has assisted hundreds of individuals in protecting their families and preserving their legacies through customized estate plans. Tripp enjoys spending time with his wife and their three children.

Related Articles

Most Americans Lack a Power of Attorney for Assets


by George M. Riter

Only 25 percent of American households have estate planning documents in place. A Power of Attorney for Assets will secure your financial affairs should you be unable to do so yourself.

Power of Attorney for Assets Documents

Do You Need a Lawyer To Make a Will?


by Best Lawyers

Do you need a lawyer to make a will? In many cases, an attorney is not strictly required to create a will. However, a lawyer can provide valuable guidance.

Last will and testament document with pen and glasses

The Benefits of Charitable Giving in New York Estate Planning


by Best Lawyers

In this article, Best Lawyers breaks down the advantages and disadvantages of factoring in charitable donations when estate planning in New York state.

Animated hand giving a gift with bow on top

Navigating the Process of Creating a Will


by Best Lawyers

The importance of creating a will cannot be overstated, as it serves as a vital legal document that outlines your wishes. Here's how to create a will.

Older couple reviewing document with young woman

What Is Probate Court: A Complete Guide


by Best Lawyers

This complete guide to probate court covers everything you need to know about the legal process of distributing a deceased person's assets.

Stacks of coins growing higher with trees standing on top

The New PPE


by Jennifer Stavros

How to plan your pandemic preparedness estate—all from the safety of home.

Planning Your Digital Estate Plan

Guidelines for Acquisitions of Infrastructure Assets


by Posse Herrera Ruiz

A Colombian firm gives merger and acquisition insights to assess risks in the purchase of potentially tainted assets.

Acquisitions of Infrastructure Assets

Is It Time for You to Have the Long-Term Care Planning Talk With Your Parents?


by Anthony J. Enea

How should you talk to your parents about long-term care options? Estate planning can make for a difficult conversation, but wills and trusts are necessary documents for anyone growing older.

Estate Planning for Parents Guide

Common Mistakes Made in a High Net Worth Divorce


by Stann W. Givens

If you are currently going through a high net worth divorce, you need to take care to not let your emotions get the best of you and push you to make a potentially terrible decision that seriously affects your future.

High Net Worth Divorce

Trending Articles

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Announcing the 2023 The Best Lawyers in America Honorees


by Best Lawyers

Only the top 5.3% of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 29th edition of The Best Lawyers in America®.

Gold strings and dots connecting to form US map

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue


by Best Lawyers

The 2021 Global Issue features top legal talent from the most recent editions of Best Lawyers and Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch worldwide.

2021 Best Lawyers: The Global Issue

The U.S. Best Lawyers Voting Season Is Open


by Best Lawyers

The voting season for the 31st edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and the 5th edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch® in America is officially underway, and we are offering some helpful advice to this year’s voters.

Golden figures of people standing on blue surface connected by white lines

How To Find A Pro Bono Lawyer


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers dives into the vital role pro bono lawyers play in ensuring access to justice for all and the transformative impact they have on communities.

Hands joined around a table with phone, paper, pen and glasses

The Best Lawyers in Australia™ 2024 Launch


by Best Lawyers

Best Lawyers is excited to announce The Best Lawyers in Australia™ for 2023, including the top lawyers and law firms from Australia.

Australian Parliament beside water at sunset

How Palworld Is Testing the Limits of Nintendo’s Legal Power


by Gregory Sirico

Many are calling the new game Palworld “Pokémon GO with guns,” noting the games striking similarities. Experts speculate how Nintendo could take legal action.

Animated figures with guns stand on top of creatures

Inflation Escalation


by Ashley S. Wagner

Inflation and rising costs are at the forefront of everyone’s mind as we enter 2023. The current volatile market makes it more important than ever to understand the rent escalation clauses in current and future commercial lease agreements.

Suited figure in front of rising market and inflated balloon

What the Courts Say About Recording in the Classroom


by Christina Henagen Peer and Peter Zawadski

Students and parents are increasingly asking to use audio devices to record what's being said in the classroom. But is it legal? A recent ruling offer gives the answer to a question confusing parents and administrators alike.

Is It Legal for Students to Record Teachers?

The Upcycle Conundrum


by Karen Kreider Gaunt

Laudable or litigious? What you need to know about potential copyright and trademark infringement when repurposing products.

Repurposed Products and Copyright Infringemen

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2023


by Best Lawyers

The third edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America™ highlights the legal talent of lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years.

Three arrows made of lines and dots on blue background

A Celebration of Excellence: The Best Lawyers in Canada 2024 Awards


by Best Lawyers

As we embark on the 18th edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™, we are excited to highlight excellence and top legal talent across the country.

Abstract image of red and white Canada flag in triangles

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

IN PARTNERSHIP

Bentley & More LLP: Beacon of Hope


by Bentley & More

With a unique blend of expertise in trial advocacy and workers’ compensation, Bentley & More LLP has established itself as a beacon of hope for injured workers.

Bentley & More LLP: Beacon of Hope for Injured Employees

8 Different Types of Criminal Defenses in Law


by Best Lawyers

Learn about the different types of criminal defenses available in law, including innocence, self-defense, insanity and more. Protect your rights today.

Silver handcuffs laying on finger printed papers