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Conway Estate Planning Blog

Making business succession planning a part of estate planning

Business owners likely know that during the course of planning their estates, they might also look into succession planning for their businesses. Top notch estate planning in Arkansas is all-encompassing and leaves no stone unturned. A business, for most entrepreneurs, is akin to a child -- it's born, nurtured, raised and ultimately one day, let go of in some fashion.

Planning an exit strategy for a business is like writing a business plan. What is the five-year goal? Will the business be sold? Will it be passed down to family members and if so, are the people trained? There are many questions that need to be answered when it comes to this type of planning within a larger estate planning framework.

Creating a trust for your pets

Pets can be just as much a part of your family as anyone else. You love and care for your pet and they are a big part of your life. After you have passed on, you still want your pet taken care of and happy. Is there a way to do this?

In fact, there is. You can set up a trust for your furry friends. People create trusts for their loved ones, so why shouldn’t pets also be included in that group? However, you might not know how to go about creating a trust for a non-human being.

The duties involved in trust administration

Many in Arkansas have learned that setting up a trust can be a complicated process, but it is one way in which to provide security for one's heirs or for members of the family who have special circumstances. Trusts are ideal for complex assets, children with special needs or dependents who may be incapable of receiving a full inheritance at once. Perhaps even more complex than creating the trust is trust administration, and a great deal depends on the reliability of the successor trustee.

The person who sets up the trust is typically the primary trustee, but the document must also contain the name of someone who will take over the duties of trust administration after the trustee's death or incapacitation. The successor trustee will handle the trust according to the specifications in the documents. This may mean managing its funds or distributing them and closing the trust. If the trust lives on beyond the trustmaker's death, the successor trustee will have many responsibilities.

Should family homes be included in trusts in Arkansas?

There are many issues associated with estate planning. One of those concerns trusts and how they can work in an estate plan. When it comes to the family home in Arkansas, should it be included in a trust? There are both positives and negatives in this instance.

Although including a home in a living revocable trust may include paperwork and some money, it may also help to avoid probate, be easy on estate taxes and may even protect the home from possible creditors. Creating a trust must go hand-in-hand with a properly designed estate plan since the writer will wish the move to ensure tax breaks for his or her heirs. But if a trust is used for more than one property, they too should be transferred to the trust. 

Not trying to sidestep probate may be estate planning error

Probate can be a big pain -- not to mention costly -- so not trying to avoid it might be a mistake. Arkansas residents involved in estate planning may already know that assets that go to beneficiaries usually have to pass through the probate process. And to complicate matters, the estates of those who own properties in more than one state may have to go through the process in those states as well.

And when it comes to privacy, probate is a pretty transparent. The process is public, so anyone can obtain court records regarding probate proceedings. They would divulge things like estate worth, what was owned and how it was divided. There are some assets that do avoid probate by virtue of what they are: retirement accounts,  annuities, life insurance and property that's owned jointly.

Estate planning for same-sex couples in Arkansas

The definition of family has changed drastically. Same-sex couples can now marry legally in Arkansas as in all states and are able to access all the estate planning tools and advice that have been available to their heterosexual counterparts for years. But many have yet to take advantage of it.

Having a will is one of the most important aspects of an estate plan. If partners aren't married and one partner in a same-sex couple dies without a will -- or intestate -- the surviving partner will not automatically be recognized as the heir, so having a will is necessary. The more comprehensive an estate plan is when it comes to same-sex couples, the better. Writing down last wishes succinctly and legally according to the state may save a surviving partner much more grief than he or she is already going through.

Why you should set up a trust for your child

While it might be hard to think about a day when you are no longer around to provide for your child, there are ways you can ensure their future is secure.

You probably know about creating a will or estate plan. However, there is another way you can make sure your child is cared for. Setting up a trust for your child is an additional method you can use to provide for your child’s future.

Trusts: Making changes to a revocable living trust in Arkansas

Once it has been determined that a revocable living trust is an essential part of an estate plan, it's important to know how to make changes to it. Such trusts give Arkansas residents the flexibility to make appropriate changes to the document keeping in line with life situation changes. This type of trust is not carved in stone and can actually be revoked at any time. 

There are a couple ways changes can happen -- through signing a trust amendment that is valid in Arkansas, by a complete trust restatement valid under Arkansas law or by signing a complete revocation of the original trust. The latter would transfer assets held in a revoked trust back to the individual after which time a new revocable living trust would need to be created unless it was the intention to completely revoke the trust. Most people opt for an amendment or restatement since they're less costly and less time-consuming.

Arkansas estate planning: No plan means more grief for loved ones

Dying without an estate plan can leave already grieving loved ones with more woes down the line. When Arkansas residents take the time for estate planning, they are essentially giving their family members a gift. Dying without having anything in place, including a will -- or dying intestate -- means that the state will, in effect, create a will for the deceased person. So, not having proper documents in place is not conducive to having the true last wishes of the deceased carried out.

The 1990 Uniform Probate Code, which is mandated by each state individually, indicates that close, rather than distant relatives be given the opportunity to the assets first. To put things into perspective, that means surviving spouse first, followed by children and grandchildren, parents and then down the line like siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. Adopted children -- and all adopted descendants -- are treated like biological relatives.

Estate planning for blended families in Arkansas

Long gone are the days when most married couples stayed married, and 'til death do us part' doesn't seem to be the case in many instances. Divorce and remarriage is relatively common these days, and the individuals may become stepparents and hence -- the birth of the blended family. Arkansas residents who are considering estate planning and who are in a blended family may do well to consider a few important issues as they make the foray into getting their affairs in order.

If a couple is in a second marriage situation and did not create a prenuptial agreement, they might want to give thought to a postnuptial agreement. Issues like assets and a family business could be documented in such an agreement. Each partner should retain his or her own legal counsel when it comes to marital agreements. 

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