Admittedly, no one enjoys contemplating their own death, but if you choose to delay or avoid planning for this event you run the very real risk of not ensuring that your loved ones and other intended beneficiaries receive what you hope to bestow upon them after your death. The costs of an estate being submitted to probate can quickly accumulate as a result of extensive administrative costs, and, unfortunately, the potential for increased litigation among disputing family members; as an estate planning lawyer, I have seen this first hand. Having a sound, thought-out estate plan is essential to avoiding this potentially complex and difficult situation. Planning along these lines, while possibly unpleasant, allows you, while living, to ensure that your property goes to those who you wish, how you wish and in the time and manner that you wish. Having such a plan allows your estate to be distributed without the heightened costs associated probate especially with regard to lawyer’s fees and court costs.
New Mexico Estate Planning: Decide on how you want your property to pass
The most basic estate plan typically includes two documents: a Durable Power of Attorney and a Will. The durable power of attorney allows an agent to manage the financial affairs and decisions of your life should you become unable to do so on your own, while you are still living. A will manages the organized distribution of your real and personal assets after your death. More complex estate plans deal with the finer details of people’s lives. An example of such specialized instruments would be the Advance Medical Directive. This is a legal instrument (or a collection of legal instruments possibly including a health care proxy, a durable power of attorney for healthcare purposes, a living will, and burial instructions) that can lay out your personal choices regarding potentially life and death decisions, as well as appoint the person you chose to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so.
Avoid New Mexico Probate – Create a Living Trust
The remaining common legal instrument for more complex estate planning is the trust. A trust is an arrangement whereby one person or institution serves as trustee and holds legal title to property on behalf of others, commonly called beneficiaries. The most often cited benefit of establishing a trust is its value in helping an estate avoid the earlier discussed costs and complexities of probate. This is because any property that is held in trust passes to the beneficiaries upon the death of the trust creator, and does not become part of the estate applicable to probate. There exist other types of trusts that assist in minimizing future tax liabilities to the estate or trust beneficiaries.
There are many types of trusts, all falling into two fundamental categories: Inter vivos and testamentary. An inter vivos trust starts during the life of the creator and it exists and operates during that same lifetime. A testamentary trust only springs into being once the creator dies. Trusts can like wise be revocable (living trusts) or irrevocable, with the main difference being that in a revocable trust the creator maintains complete control over the trust assets up until his or her death.
No matter how you decide to plan your estate, our experts can help. We can help you draft a will or help you form a New Mexico trust. For more information about estate planning, be sure to give one of our New Mexico Estate Planning Attorneys a call for a free consultation regarding your estate.