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An Overview about Estate Planning: an Interview with Roy Weddleton of Granite Law

By Roy Weddleton

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I began practicing law after a number of years as an entrepreneur in the tennis, automotive and land development business. I was just hoping to use a law background to help me in my business and personal life. However, in 1989, I began to practice law with two good friends who were in a partnership and we continued until just a few years ago. I am now a sole practitioner.

Can you briefly state for our readers a generalized definition of estate planning?

Simply put an estate plan allows you to have some control over what happens to your assets after your die or with a trust while you are alive but incapacitated.

At what age should you start planning your estate details?

Everyone should have a will (no matter the age) even if they have no assets just to make clear your wishes to your survivors. You can avoid or at least minimize family squabbles.

What can be expected from a basic estate plan?

With a basic will you can name your executor, the person you want to settle your estate. You can name guardians of your minor children and even name trustees for a testamentary trust to handle any inheritance your minor children may receive. You can specify what things you want to give to certain people or what you might like to leave to a charity. Remember the will applies after your death.

When doing a Will you should also have a Durable Power of Attorney For Financial affairs which allows your agent to handle your financial affairs while you are alive but not competent. Without such a document, your spouse or someone else may have to go to court and get a guardianship over you to handle those affairs.

Finally, everyone should have Advance Medical Directives in which you designate a person to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to do so.

It is my practice to provide all these documents as part of a simple estate plan.

How is estate planning different from the creation of a will?

A living trust can provide both lifetime and after-death property management. Court involvement is not required. That can be good or bad. I happen to like Probate because it means a Judge makes sure that your estate wishes are carried out to the last penny. A trust means you must trust your trustee implicitly.

Livings trusts can also are used to manage property so if you own property in another State you will not have to open a separate Probate in that State. If a person is disabled or otherwise incapable of handling their affairs, a successor trustee can manage the trust property.

However, a trust is more expensive to set up than a typical will. Most importantly, however, a living trust is useless unless it is funded. I find that this happens all the time. A living trust only can control those assets that have been placed into it. If your assets have not been transferred or if you die without funding the trust, the trust will be of no benefit. Your estate will still be subject to probate and there may be significant estate tax issues.

Are there different types of estate planning lawyers?

I am not an estate planning attorney. I do basic wills, Powers of Attorney and Advance Medical Directives. Trusts are very complicated and the law changes all the time. It is my experience that 90-95 % only need a basic Will for their estate needs. When a trust is called for, and there are good reasons, I always refer clients to estate planning specialists who do nothing else.

Can a trust save on taxes?

The simple answer is no unless you have an estate that exceeds that current Federal threshold of 5.2 million dollars. That number changes regularly at the whim of Congress.

What is the best way for people to reach you and or your company?

I have a website I like to do most of my communication through e-mail roy@granite and I can be reached at 603-228-1360. The office is 24 Montgomery Street, Concord, New Hampshire 03301.

I work closely with a number of companies and organizations to provide legal services to their employees. Companies love it because their employees know immediately they can call an attorney the know and receive guidance on an issue at no charge. It gives the employer and employee peace of mind.

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