Holland Law Group
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Estate Planning

- Making Sense Out of Chaos

No one can predict the future; however, we can all take steps to protect our accumulated assets during our lifetime and ensure proper passing of that wealth to our loved ones at death. At Holland Law Group, PLLC, we can help you accomplish your asset protection and

estate planning

goals. Life is full of uncertainty, and as it unfolds, positive (and sometimes negative) events will impact our lives. It is important, therefore, to approach asset protection and estate planning with a view of a multitude of possibilities. Taking this approach, we help our clients create and implement proven strategies for protecting themselves, their assets, and their loved ones.

We help clients with large and small asset protection and estate planning needs. In either case, we help our clients tailor an individualized plan to meet their needs and their budget. At Holland Law Group, PLLC, we walk you step-by-step through the options and strategies available to you to implement an effective asset protection and estate plan. Proper planning can ensure that you are protected throughout your life and your heirs will not face unnecessary intrusion from the Court or government when settling your estate. With offices located in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ, let us help create an estate plan that protects your assets and you.

Probate and Estate Litigation

- Ensuring Wishes are Fulfilled

One rarely dreams that family disagreements or high emotions stemming from the loss of loved ones will erupt into lawsuits. Unfortunately, all too often families find themselves standing in a courtroom seeking judicial intervention in the administration of an estate. Some cases involve an executor, personal representative, trustee or other fiduciary who is not properly administering the estate. Other cases include an heir, devisee or beneficiary who wants more than provided in the estate plan. In any case, proper legal representation requires in depth understanding of probate laws and procedure as well as seasoned and successful courtroom experience.

When you hire our probate litigators you can rest assured that you are hiring experienced and highly qualified professionals. We will not only navigate you through you’re the litigation process, including the strengths and weaknesses of your case, we will sit down with you and provide you with a thorough understanding of your testamentary documents. Litigation can be stressful and cause unnecessary anxiety. Our attorneys, located in Northern Arizona, will set your mind at ease and work with you to obtain the best possible result. Give us a call today.

Estate Administration/Fiduciary Representation

At Holland Law Group with offices located in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ, we do our best to make the administration of an estate as stress-free as possible during what is undoubtedly a very difficult time. If you have been named as the executor, personal representative, administrator of an estate, or trustee, we can help you understand the complex trust and probate laws and assist you with your fiduciary duties. We will walk you step by step through the process of properly handling the estate and help avoid contentious litigation.

The term "Probate" describes the process whereby title to property is transferred from the estate of the deceased to the beneficiaries. If a person dies and has a Will, the process is called "testate" succession. The probate Court will determine if the will is valid, address any objection to the will, order payments to creditors, and supervises the disposition of the remaining estate property. When a person dies without a will (this is referred to as being "intestate") the Court will appoint a person to receive and review all claims against the estate, pay any creditors, and then dispose of remaining property in accordance with the applicable intestate succession laws.

Probating an estate can be costly. The cost can approach 7% of the estate value. To minimize costs, we work closely with you throughout the administration of the estate or trust with an eye toward cost-effective resolution of issues, while keeping in mind the family dynamics that are always present. Before opening a probate, we always attempt to determine whether assets may be transferred by alternate means outside of probate. Simplified court proceedings for small estates or petitions to the court may be available to reduce costs. If a probate is required, we work with the you to ensure the most efficient and cost-effective transfer of the property to the heirs, devisees or beneficiaries.

We advise and counsel clients in various matters including:

  1. Formal probate of a will
  2. Estate business matters, including appraisals, creditor claims, and inventories
  3. Liquidating estate assets
  4. Asset transfers
  5. Income and estate tax return
  6. Trust administration, including dividing the trust into sub-trusts or assisting the trustee with interpretation of duties
  7. Providing necessary assistance to trustees and other administrators 

Estate Tax Returns

If you are a personal representative (or trustee) you will need counsel on estate tax issues. The estate of a person who has passed must file a federal Estate Tax Return no later than 9 months after death. In certain cases, the estate may be exempt from this requirement. Returns that need to be filed usually include:

  1. Arizona income tax
  2. Federal estate tax
  3. Out-of-state returns
  4. Federal income tax for fiduciaries
  5. Federal gift tax
  6. Taxes where the testator owned property

With offices in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ, Holland Law Group works with trust officers, certified public accountants (CPA’s), financial advisors and other professionals when addressing complex tax-planning that must be done after the passing of a loved one.

The tax laws are constantly changing. We strive to stay current on these issues as they relate to estate or trust administration. We counsel clients on a variety of estate tax matters, including:

  1. Marital deductions
  2. Gift tax law
  3. Annual Exclusion Gifting
  4. Bypass trust for the protection of tax exemptions
  5. Life insurance and maximizing the tax free benefit
  6. Avoidance of capital gains tax
  7. Retirement benefit planning

With proper planning, you can minimize tax impacts and maximize the value of your estate left to your loved ones.

Trust Administration

A Trustee is a person appointed to act as a fiduciary, and is responsible for the administration of a Trust. Because of this fiduciary relationship, the Trustee has certain legal obligations to the beneficiaries of the Trust. The duties and obligations of a Trustee may differ from those of other fiduciaries. The primary duties of a Trustee include not only protection of trust assets, but also management of the Trust assets and the distribution of income in accordance with the terms of the Trust document.

A Trustee primarily derives his duties and powers from the Trust Agreement. As a result, it is important that the Trustee reads and understands, the Trust Agreement. Often Trust Agreement provisions are numerous and complex. The Trustee is obligated to manage the Trust in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and in the event there are multiple beneficiaries, to treat them impartially. If the Trustee exceeds his or her powers or fails to properly exercise his or he powers, liability for any loss or damage may result.

Trust duties are the responsibility of the Trustee. These duties cannot be delegated. A Trustee is allowed, however, to hire and consult with professional advisors, including attorneys, accountants, investment advisers and tax professionals. These professional advisors can be paid from the Trust. We can assist and advise you in your duties as a fiduciary. We can also assist you in your fiduciary duties as Trustee, and provide guidance concerning the administration of the Trust.

With offices located in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ, we are central to where you are to help serve you better. We can help you with:

  1. Interpretation and understanding of the Trust Agreement itself
  2. Post-death estate planning, such as the use of disclaimers
  3. Preparation and filing of necessary accountings or inventories
  4. Asset transfers
  5. Assisting in the preparation of trust and estate tax returns
  6. Transfer of business interests to the next generation
  7. Filing documents in the Probate Court, where necessary
  8. Investment of trust assets
  9. Closing the Trust and estate

Will Contests

Normally an heir or loved one would never think of contesting a Will. However, in some circumstances, a Will Contest is necessary. Certainly, people need to understand that it is very difficult, in most cases, to have the Probate Court throw out a Will or invalidate a gift in a Will. However, there are cases wherein the Testator was unduly influenced or lacked the legal capacity to execute a testamentary instrument. In those cases, our law firm would represent an heir in contesting a Will.

Wills

Every good estate plan includes a will, or as it is sometimes referred to, a "Last Will and Testament". A will is a document that states how you want your estate to be handled after your passing. The will is filed with the Court after a person passes. In the most basic form, a will includes the following: The individual's name, the city and state they live in, a provision appointing a personal representative (also called the executor), a guardian for minor children (if necessary), a list of specific bequests, a statement indicating who is to receive the remainder of the property, controls over any bequests to minors, instructions for the personal representative, the dated signature of the person executing the will, and a declaration of two witnesses stating that the testator was of sound mind, and that they witnessed the execution of the will. This portion is notarized as well.

As with many legal issues, if you do not make decisions concerning certain issues, the Court will decide who will be the guardian of any minor children, among other things. A well-drafted will allows you to retain control over these decisions as opposed to allowing someone else to make them for you.

Depending on your circumstance, a well drafted will may be all you need. Many people believe that the any property they own at death passes to those individuals identified in the will. In many cases, however, this is incorrect. A will may properly dispose of some assets, but not others. Depending upon your individual situation, additional estate planning tools may be necessary, or beneficial, in helping you accomplish your goals. We understand the need for, and limitations of, a proper will. Please contact us at either of our Flagstaff, AZ or Snowflake, AZ offices for a free consultation to discuss drafting your will.

Living Wills

A living will is a document which details your wishes concerning what type of medical treatment you would like to receive in the event of a medical emergency that renders you unable to make decisions concerning your own treatment.

We will review with you all of your available medical care options. A living will provides the person you appoint with clear instructions concerning your wishes in the event they are required to make decisions for you.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the collection of steps you take to ensure that your heirs (or others of your choosing) are provided for. This includes planning during your lifetime along with the distribution of assets after your passing. There are a variety of tools used to accomplish these goals including wills, trusts, life insurance policies and other instruments. They can be complex if you have a number of assets. Each plan begins in the same place: identification of whom or what you wish to protect. No one likes to consider their death. However, estate planning is an important responsibility and we take our role as counselors in the process very seriously.

It is never too early, or for that matter, too late to formulate an effective plan for the protection and transfer of your assets. We believe that a proper estate plan includes more than just a will or properly-drafted trust. We provide the tools you need to preserve assets and maximize tax benefits for you and your family. A good estate plan focuses on preservation during life and transfer after death. We will work with you and your financial advisors and accountants where necessary, to prepare an estate plan tailored to your situation.

Everyone hopes that their family and other loved ones will work together to ensure their last wishes are complied with. However, if your last wishes are not properly explained in an estate plan, they may be misinterpreted or even ignored. These disagreements can lead to hard feelings and even litigation among family members. A proper estate plan anticipates and strives to avoid potential future conflict. Clear and explicit instructions can remove ambiguity and avoid future challenges to an estate plan.

Although many plans have similarities, no two are identical. At Holland Law Group, we believe there is no typical client or ordinary set of circumstances when considering the appropriate estate plan. Many clients have blended families, adult children, grandchildren, children with special needs, and a myriad of other circumstances that can impact an estate plan. We create plans to address these issues and many others. The best estate plans address as many future contingencies as possible.

An important early step is to meet with you to gain an understanding of your wishes and concerns. Only then can we provide you the best overview of your estate planning options. We will then design an estate plan that best addresses your individual concerns and helps to accomplish your goals, while at the same time addressing the myriad of potential issues likely to arise.

Estate planning is often impacted by other areas of the law, or your business or personal circumstances. Business entity formation, purchase agreements, closely held entities, and deferred compensation programs can all impact your estate plan.

Please contact us at either of our Flagstaff, AZ or Snowflake, AZ offices for a free consultation to discuss an estate plan that works best for you.

Advanced Estate Planning

Where individuals have accumulated large amounts of wealth, more complex estate planning techniques may be necessary. In many cases, the primary objective of such plans is to minimize estate and gift tax liability that can arise upon the transfer of assets from one generation to another. At Holland Law Group, now located in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ, we use many advanced estate planning tools to minimize the gift and estate tax associated with wealth transfer, while maximizing the assets transferred. It is important for high net worth individuals to consider and evaluate all of their estate planning options. We take the necessary time to fully discuss the possible options with each client.

Complex estate plans should also be reviewed often. Advanced strategies are unique to the individual client, and reevaluation is often necessary based upon changed circumstances, whether it be with the individuals themselves or changes in the legislature that could greatly affect the stability of their estate plan.

Trusts

A Trust is a legal entity that controls assets that are placed into it. A Trustor or Settlor is the person who creates a trust. The Trustor decides who is entitled to receive income and/or principal payments from the trust. These individuals are the Beneficiaries. The individual chosen to administer the trust is called the Trustee. Trust Terms are the rules that set forth how the trust is to operate, and often these rules provide for how long a trust will continue, who receives distributions, and a number of other issues. Property transferred to the trust is sometimes referred to as the corpus of the trust or the res. The Trust Agreement is the document that defines all the details of the trust. Trusts are powerful estate planning tools when used appropriately.

A trust may be a good idea where an individual is concerned about the ability of their children to effectively manage an inheritance. In certain cases, a child might have a demonstrated lack of financial skill. Substance abuse is often a serious concern when parents are considering creating a trust for the child. In these cases, an inheritance given to the child may do more harm than good, or may end up in the wrong hands. In these situations, and others, a trust can protect the child by placing the assets under the care of a fiduciary. Trusts have a variety of names. Some common types are:

  1. Discretionary trusts
  2. Asset protection trusts
  3. Life insurance trusts
  4. Spendthrift trusts
  5. Beach-bum trust provisions

  6. Holland Law Group located in Flagstaff, AZ and Snowflake, AZ and can help you understand these and other trust tools.

Living Trusts

Living Trusts are those that are created while you are alive. Such trusts can provide certain protections for your assets and reduce your taxable estate upon death.

Reduction of Taxable Estate

The transfer of wealth at death can be severely taxed in some cases. Living trusts can reduce your taxable estate.
We can also help you understand the advantages of a living will.

Testamentary Trusts

Testamentary trusts are crafted to come into existence only after an individual dies. They may be used to provide for the management of funds that would pass to minors after a parents’ death. Such trusts can avoid the necessity of probate and eliminate the need for a court-appointed conservator.

Specialized Trusts

Special trusts can be used to meet the issues raised in blended-family situations, or to avoid estate tax. They can be living or testamentary trusts. Common special trusts include:

  1. Special Needs Trusts
  2. Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) Trust
  3. Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)
  4. Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRAT or CRUT)
  5. Pet Trusts

Power of Attorney

An Arizona Durable General Power of Attorney allows you to designate an individual to handle your financial affairs while you are unable to do so, without court approval or court proceedings. Our attorneys work closely with you to ensure that the power granted to your agent is as broad or narrow as you wish.

Although a Power of Attorney does not avoid the Probate process, it is often combined with other estate planning documents to provide for complete financial management during incapacity as well as the avoidance of Probate at death. A Power of Attorney can avoid subjecting your loved ones to lawyers, courts and judges when they are grief-stricken.

Health Care Power of Attorney

A Health Care Power of Attorney, like an Arizona Durable General Power of Attorney, allows you to bestow authority upon a specified individual during time of incapacity. However, a Health Care Power of Attorney specifically gives the person(s) you select the power to make health care decisions for you if you cannot do it for yourself. This will keep your family from hiring lawyers and going to the courthouse if problems arise.