Even in the closest families, conversations about money and death can be uncomfortable.
“In our society certain topics are deemed private, and it is considered rude to discuss or ask about them,” says Michelle Beneski, managing partner at Surprenant & Beneski. “Within families, children are hesitant to raise the issue of estate planning and money because the child fears the parent will think the child is after the parent’s money or trying to take control of the parent’s life.”
In an effort to protect each other’s feelings, she says, the topic remains undiscussed, but this is a real detriment to both the parent’s and the child’s future. “The saying that the only thing you can count on is death and taxes is true,” says Beneski. By having a plan in place, families and loved ones can avoid stress, legal hurdles, and financial burdens when faced with unexpected.
We spoke with Michelle Beneski, Daniel Surprenant, and Erin Nunes of Surprenant & Beneski, a family-run estate planning law firm serving southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, about tips on the positive impacts of estate planning when executed correctly.
Plan for Your Own Needs, Including the Unexpected
“Life throws us so many curve balls, and it’s important to be as prepared as possible,” says Erin Nunes, an attorney at Surprenant & Beneski. Families and loved ones who haven’t done any advanced planning are sent to the probate court, where a judge will decide who in the family will handle issues, such as medical decisions or care for minor children. “That court process can be both time-consuming and expensive, and the result may not be in line with what you would have chosen for yourself,” says Nunes.
Minimize Transfer Taxes
“For clients with an estate above $1 million, we help them save tens of thousands of dollars in estate tax,” says Daniel Surprenant, managing partner at Surprenant & Beneski. Take, for example, a married couple with an estate of $2 million, which includes their home, retirement plans, and life insurance. If the couple works with estate planners, says Surprenant. “They will typically save $100,000 in tax by use of revocable trust planning.”
Protect Your Wealth
Planning ahead can ensure a client’s legacy and intent for generations. “A trust can make sure that the inheritance will be properly invested, managed, and distributed over time,” says Surprenant. “Some clients set up a family vacation home in a trust to make sure that it is enjoyed by all family members for generations to come.”
Surprenant & Beneski also works with clients who have charitable intent. They can suggest either particular charities or a community foundation to assist in identifying the right fit. “Clients have relayed great satisfaction in knowing that a cause near and dear to them will benefit from their efforts,” says Surprenant.
Peace of Mind for Yourself and Loved Ones
“A good estate plan can put future generations in the most favorable position possible,” says Nunes. That could mean providing a nest egg for special needs beneficiaries without impacting important government benefits they may be entitled to, providing rules and guidelines for trustees holding funds for minor beneficiaries, minimizing tax implications, and protecting an inheritance for beneficiaries from some of the unexpected events that can happen such as divorce, creditors, and lawsuits.
It also provides a roadmap for your loved ones. “Not everyone is comfortable being entirely open about their finances, estate plan, and the reasons why they have made certain choices,” says Nunes. “Having a clear and thoughtful estate plan can ease the way for your loved ones and chosen decision makers should they need to step into your shoes and care for you or execute your choices after you’ve passed.”
About Surprenant & Beneski
Surprenant & Beneski, a family-run estate planning law firm serving southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. Managing partners, Michelle Beneski and Daniel Surprenant, are siblings, and they are also two of 25 attorneys in Massachusetts who are Certified Elder Law Attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation, which is the only accreditation approved by the American Bar Association. www.myfamilyestateplanning.com
Hyannis: 336 South Street, Hyannis; 508.644.8590
New Bedford: 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford; 508.690.4792
Easton: 45 Bristol Drive, Easton; 508.690.5970