Helen Rives Pruitt, Lawyer
I help individuals make informed choices benefiting themselves and their families’ welfare.
Estate planning encompasses four primary areas that need to be addressed. These topics can be confusing. In an area that will affect all of us at some point, I see my role as that of lawyer, counselor and support person and have chosen this area of practice because it fits my values.
We all need to plan for taking care of our families and passing on our assets, whether the results of our planning take effect next week or many years from now. Clients are often challenged by their individual needs and concerns as well as not knowing about federal and state tax laws that may impact their estates. Once clients have the information about the possibilities, they can determine the best plan for their situation.
Upon completion of the plan, clients gain the peace of mind from knowing that they have a plan that is specifically tailored to their individual needs, covering the possibility of incapacity as well as death.
2. Keeping Current
The best of plans need to be updated and adjusted as family situations change and new tax laws are enacted. Clients need information from time to time about changes in the law that may affect them.
Regular review reassures the client that the plan will meet his or her family’s changing needs.
3. Dealing with Incapacity
If a person becomes incapacitated, families are overwhelmed with so many concerns that they need assistance to determine how to handle the person’s finances and make decisions about their daily care. Families need to know the legal options for taking care of an incapacitated person’s affairs.
Is the appointment of a guardian and/or conservator appropriate? What are their powers and responsibilities toward the incapacitated person? Is the court required to be involved in the process? If the incapacitated person has a trust in place, the successor trustee will need to learn to manage the trust for the benefit of the incapacitated person and meet trust accounting and record keeping requirements on an ongoing basis. Creating these safeguards assures the client that, if he or she becomes incapacitated, they will be protected and receive appropriate care.
4. Administering Estates
A person’s death triggers many concerns for their family. A decedent’s estate may be administered through a court process, probate of the decedent’s will, or the administration of the decedent’s revocable trust. Clients need to understand the steps that must be completed and plan for the work to be done. The personal representative or trustee needs assistance throughout the process to resolve questions and problems as they arise.
At the conclusion of the process, the personal representative or trustee will have the confidence that he or she has resolved all of the issues, distributed the assets to the beneficiaries and completed the job.
Over the past 27 years, I have worked with individuals and families to meet their estate planning needs. I begin by asking clients to complete a confidential questionnaire which provides information about the types of issues that are of concern to them. Visiting with the client helps me develop a personalized plan, one that meets their family’s specific needs and concerns.
Providing clients with the necessary information about tax laws and options for planning as well as suggesting a variety of solutions for handling their planning concerns is important to me. After a thorough discussion about what options best suit their situation, the clients can make informed choices. Once choices have been made, I prepare the appropriate documents and include a detailed explanation, in letter form, which outlines how the client’s decisions are implemented in the documents.
Following up with clients is critical to me, to fine tune the documents, to make certain that the the client’s expectations have been met and that all of the documents are signed with the requisite legal formalities.
I ensure that clients are equipped with information about when they need to review their plans as well as other relevant information. It is my practice to periodically contact clients to discuss life events and other changes that may affect their planning.
Handling an estate or trust administration can be an emotional process for a client. An initial meeting with the personal representative or trustee to discuss the overall process along with a letter confirming the necessary steps orients the client and gives them an ongoing reference for the work that needs to be done.
Because of the approachable nature of my personal style, clients have the opportunity to share their concerns about dealing with certain assets or potential conflicts. Proceeding through the administration, I like to maintain close communication with the client, so we can anticipate and solve problems that may arise. I also believe strongly in educating the beneficiaries about the process so they have reasonable expectations about the distribution of the estate or trust.
My goal is to support the personal representative or trustee in the administration process and complete distribution of the estate timely and efficiently. Clients feel satisfaction and relief at having completed the administration process.
If any of these areas are of concern to you, I would be happy to schedule a phone conference with you to discuss them in more depth. You can call me at 503-228-8448.