Estate Planning & Probate Law

Posts by Estate Planning & Probate

The #1 Legal Document Every Adult Needs to Have Right Now

The coronavirus continues to disrupt daily…

NH Supreme Court Holds that a Guardian has Authority to Withdraw Life Support

Attorney Doreen Connor, representing Concord…

I Am an Executor/Administrator of an Estate—Now What?

I often receive calls from individuals and…

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Our firm provides estate planning services to clients at all levels of wealth. Our lawyers work with clients to understand family dynamics to identify their particular objectives before recommending tailored and comprehensive estate plans. We regularly work with family advisers, such as financial advisers, insurance professionals, CPAs, and corporate counsel, to provide an integrated and efficient approach to planning.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an estate plan?

Estate planning is the process of preparing for one's inevitable and sometimes unexpected, incapacity, or death. Your assets, values, and family dynamics will help determine the appropriate estate plan for you. Estate Plans should be reviewed every 3-5 years or in the event of a change in family circumstances such as divorce, the birth of a child, or a change in the value of your estate.

Why have an estate plan?

If you have not prepared documents determining the division of your assets upon your death, the State will decide who receives your assets. This can result in a distribution of your assets that does not align with your wishes. Taking the time to prepare your estate plan saves your family time and money during what is likely to be an incredibly emotional time in their lives. Think of it as a gift to you and your loved ones. 

If you want to do any of the following, you need an individualized estate plan:

  • Control your property while you are alive.
  • Take care of yourself and your loved ones if you become disabled. 
  • Give what you want to whom you want, the way you want, and when you want.
  • Gift your assets to your loved ones without unnecessary administration and professional expenses.
Do I need a revocable trust or will?

While a will-based plan can accomplish many of the same post-death goals that a trust-based plan can, the provisions of a will do not take effect until you die, and the provisions of a will are public and accessible to anyone. A revocable trust is typically more expensive than a will, but an effective revocable trust provides value far beyond the cost to set up and maintain it. Benefits of a trust include:

  • Asset management privileges to your co-trustee or successor trustee if you become disabled or experience a catastrophic illness. This can also avoid the appointment of a guardian by the court in the event of your incapacity. 
  • Protection of your beneficiary’s inheritance from their creditors. 
  • Asset preservation for minor children or beneficiaries with special needs. 
  • Avoid the publicity associated with probate. If assets are inherited through the court-supervised probate process, your beneficiaries and the assets will be public information. This creates an opportunity for predators to take advantage of your loved ones.
  • Avoid the expense of paying for probate, executor fees, and attorney fees, possibly in multiple states.
When do I need to will?

While we often draft an estate plan to avoid probate, a will is still an essential part of an estate plan. Even in a trust-based estate plan, a will is a necessary and integral part of the entire plan.

A will is necessary to dispose of any probate assets owned individually at the time of your death and for naming a guardian for any minor children.

What other documents should my estate plan include?

Your estate plan should include documents that ensure your loved ones can take care of you if you become incapacitated. If you have not completed these preparations and are unable to manage your assets or make personal decisions, your loved ones may have to petition the court to seek the appointment of a guardian. Your estate plan should include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney - allows you to name one or more persons to make financial decisions for you.
  • Advance Health Care Directive - enables you to appoint a person to make all health care decisions on your behalf.
  • Living Will - enables you to provide written instructions as to the use of life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or suffering from an illness or injury with no chance of recovery.

Services Provided

Click on each of the buttons below to learn more about that service area.

  1. Estate and Trust Administration
  2. Estate Administration
  3. Trust Administration
  4. Business Succession Planning
  5. Tax Planning
  6. Charitable Trusts & Foundations
  7. Trust and Probate Litigation

Professionals

Senior Counsel
Burlington VT
(802)864-0880
Shareholder
Burlington VT
(802) 864-0880
Senior Counsel
Manchester NH
(603) 626-3311
Shareholder
Littleton NH
(603) 444 4008
  1. Estate and Trust Administration

    Our attorneys can address every aspect of your probate or trust matters, paying careful attention to all aspects of the estate and working to minimize your estate taxes. Our expertise in probate administration includes:

    • Guiding an executor regarding his or her responsibilities and duties
    • Marshalling and distributing assets
    • Preparing and filing all probate documents
    • Preparing and filing all tax returns, including federal and state estate and gift tax returns
    • Communicating and negotiating among family members
    • Property valuation

    Lawyers in our practice who specialize in this service area include:

  2. Estate Administration

    Probate is a court-supervised legal process by which the assets of a deceased person are distributed. Probate has two purposes–Paying of any debts, bills or taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

    The Value of an Experienced Probate Attorney in the Administration Process

    As your attorney we can provide complete support throughout the probate and estate administration process. We will advise and support you in navigating the process and will be by your side to enable you to achieve a successful and efficient probate process by:

    • Filing the will in probate court
    • Obtaining your appointment as executor
    • Inventorying the assets and liabilities of the deceased
    • Valuing and distributing assets to the beneficiaries or heirs
    • Collecting all rights to income, dividends, etc.
    • Assisting in liquidating property
    • Settling disputes

    Help With the Distribution of Assets and Resolution of Tax Concerns

    Lawyers in our practice who specialize in this service area include:

  3. Trust Administration

    Trust Administration (sometimes referred to as Trust Settlement) is different from the probate process. A trust is a legal contract between the maker (or grantor) of the trust and the beneficiaries. Trustees have the responsibility to make sure the trust is implemented correctly. The process of implementing the trust — making payments to beneficiaries and filing necessary accountings and tax returns — is what is known as Trust Administration or Trust Settlement. This process usually ensures that the beneficiaries will receive the assets as outlined in the trust. Sometimes this means a one-time, lump sum payment; sometimes, payment is over time. Sometimes payment may be of the income only. It all depends on what the trust document says. Trustees or family members should consult with an attorney to understand their obligations.

    Lawyers in our practice who specialize in this service area include:

  4. Business Succession Planning

    Just as individuals need estate planning documents, so does your small business. Even if a substantial portion of an individual or a family's wealth may be held in a small business, many small business owners fail to plan for the future and take steps to preserve the assets of the small business if the founder dies or becomes disabled. Too many small businesses "hope for the best" rather than "hope for the best and prepare for the worst." Complicated family dynamics and the emotional connection that leaders and family members feel toward their companies can make it difficult to formulate a succession plan. Succession, however, is arguably the most critical issue a small business or a family business will face. 

    The best succession plans are prepared when family and other stakeholders can discuss the plan without the emotional stress of an unexpected death, disability, or personal issues. Besides starting early, several things need to be addressed while formulating a business succession plan. 

    • Successors:  Successors could be an employee, family member, competitor, or a third party that might want a jumpstart to a successful business.
    • Value of your Business: There are several ways to measure the valuation of a business based on its assets, its projected income, or on the market value of similar businesses, and an experienced accountant can help you put the right value on your business.
    • Market Research: Can your business easily be sold to a third party? Or is the value wrapped up in and dependent on a single owner? Do some research to determine if there is a market for your business after you're gone?
    • Balance: It can be hard to let go of something you created, find the balance between retiring from the business and the need for control.
    • Key Personnel & Confidential Information: Develop documentation to ensure retention of key personnel and protect confidential information or proprietary business data
    • Training: A successful transition depends on adequate knowledge being shared about operations. Take the time to train the next generation thoughtfully.
    • Estate Plan: If it is a family business that will be passed on to a single child, making sure that there is an estate plan in place that adequately protects the surviving spouse and fairly allocates estate assets to other heirs.

    Lawyers in our practice who specialize in this service area include:

  5. Tax Planning

    Ignoring the tax aspects of your estate plan can be an extremely costly mistake. Our tax attorneys work in conjunction with our estate planning team to ensure our clients accomplish positive tax results.

    Lawyers in our practice who specialize in this service area include:

  6. Charitable Trusts & Foundations

    There are many different strategies for reaching your charitable giving goals. Our attorneys will assist you in charitable gift planning to accomplish your charitable wishes while reducing income, gift, and estate taxes.

  7. Trust and Probate Litigation

    Our litigation attorneys understand the emotional and legally complex issues that often arise among family members and work closely with our estate planning practice on a wide range of trust and probate disputes, including the following:

    • Will contests
    • Contested guardianships and conservatorships
    • Removal of trustees or personal representatives
    • Breach of fiduciary duty actions
    • Trust administration disputes
    • Termination or reformation of trusts
    • Elder exploitation issues and constructive trust claims
    • Partition actions