Nevada Estate Planning Attorney
Creating a thorough estate plan affords people with the opportunity to determine their family’s future in the event of their death. An estate plan also determines an individual’s future if they become incapacitated. There are laws in Nevada that outline the requirements for valid estate planning documents. At Surratt Law Practice, we support our clients from before cradle to grave, and that includes the estate planning process.
Estate planning presents you with an overwhelming number of choices. That, combined with the complexities of the legal process, can place a heavy burden on you when you’re looking to protect your family’s future.
What Does an Estate Plan Include?
An estate plan helps you prevent unintended consequences from arising in the wake of your death or incapacitation. Drafting the right documents makes sure your voice is heard regarding medical care, distribution of assets, custody of dependent children, and decision-making power. An estate planning lawyer can help you create valid documents in accordance with Nevada law.
It is imperative to consider a variety of factors when drafting your estate plan. An estate planning attorney with Surratt Law Practice will help you dictate your decisions regarding power of attorney, health care or medical directives, Wills, Trusts, and beneficiary designations.
A will is a document that designates the distribution of a decedent’s assets to their beneficiaries. It also includes the designation of your desired beneficiaries. In addition to determining the distribution of assets, a comprehensive will allows you to designate your preferences regarding the custody of your surviving dependent children. An executor of your estate can be appointed in the will as well. This document is subject to probate, however, which allows it to be contested. Working with a will attorney in Nevada can help you ensure that your will follows the requirements of Nevada Law.
A trust is an arrangement that allows for the holding of assets on behalf of a designated beneficiary for a duration of time specified by you, the grantor. Trusts, unlike wills, become active upon the transfer of assets. A trust can be set to activate when a beneficiary, or trustee, reaches the age of majority or on an otherwise designated date. Alternatively, a trust can be set to activate upon death. A grantor may designate a trustee and provide instructions to manage the use of the assets provided within the trust. Our Nevada trust attorneys can help you determine what types of trusts are right for your assets.
Power of Attorney
Designating a power of attorney affords you with the power to select another person to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. A power of attorney can be authorized for a specific amount of time, or for an undefined period of time (until death). Power of attorney can be afforded for a singular purpose, such as financial or medical decision-making power, or for a broader purpose. Designating a power of attorney for health care alleviates the burden of decision-making for your family regarding your medical treatment. Establishing a financial power of attorney allows your partner, or other designated person, to make financial decisions for you in the same capacity that you would be able to make yourself.
Health Care/ Medical Directives
Other important considerations in the estate planning process are your decisions regarding health care and medical directives. Making choices in advance through a medical directive protects your loved ones from having to make hard choices on your behalf during a time of grief and heartache. This document allows you to communicate your choices regarding medical care and long-term life-sustaining treatment to doctors, healthcare providers, and loved ones. There are four primary considerations when designating your medical directives. These include selecting a power of attorney for healthcare, opting for a do not resuscitate order (DNR), drafting a physician order for life-sustaining treatment, and creating a declaration choosing to withdraw treatment that prolongs the process of dying if you become diagnosed with an irreversible condition. Nevada has adopted the Uniform Act on Rights of the Terminally Ill, which gives you the right to request a refusal of treatment if you become terminally ill.
Designating beneficiaries allows you to elect who your assets will be distributed to upon your death. This creates an opportunity to ensure that the right people inherit your property, financial assets, or belongings, rather than allowing others to decide on your behalf. Even if you do not hold a lot of high value assets, this is an essential part of planning for your loved ones’ future. Making these elections in advance allows you to ensure that your partner, dependent children/surviving children, pets, and others are cared for after you pass.
There are three types of beneficiary designations: revocable, irrevocable, and contingent. A revocable beneficiary can be changed at any time under any circumstance, whereas an irrevocable beneficiary can not be changed without their consent. A contingent beneficiary is a person who will receive your assets in place of your initial selection in the event that they are unable to do so.
What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
While both wills and trusts are essential elements of managing assets and planning for the future, there are key differences that are important to understand when estate planning.
A will is a document that designates the distribution of assets upon your death. It can also include instructions for decision-making after your death, such as funeral or burial plans, custody of surviving dependent minors, and the appointment of an executor. Upon activation, a will must go through the process of probate. Probate opens your will to scrutiny by the courts. During probate, the courts will explore whether your requests are in alignment with Nevada law.
A trust, however, is more of an entity that holds assets, rather than a document that designates the handling of assets. Unlike wills, which are activated by death, trusts become active upon the transfer of assets, which can be set to occur during or after the grantor’s lifetime. Typically, a trust is established when assets or funds are to be distributed for a specific purpose. Trusts can have a limited term, and can be set to activate when a trustee reaches a certain age or an otherwise designated date.
What Is a Special Needs Trust?
A Special Needs Trust, or SNT, is a legal entity that holds assets on behalf of a person with a disability or illness in order to allow them to qualify for disability benefits provided through the government. These benefits typically include Medicaid, Medicare, and SSI or SSDI benefits. By creating a Special Needs Trust, you can provide an asset to a person without disrupting their ability to qualify for necessary benefits based on income or assets restrictions. Special Needs Trusts are irrevocable, meaning that they can not be altered once they are created and creditors cannot access funds designated to the beneficiary.
Navigating the Estate Planning Process
Estate planning at its core is simply the process of planning for the care of your loved ones after your death. When initiating the estate planning process, there are several key elements to consider. An estate planning attorney can help you decide which documents and designations are right for you, and guide you on how to communicate your desires in alignment with Nevada law. To initiate the process of drafting your estate plan, consider the following questions:
What assets do you have to distribute?
The first step in drafting your estate plan is to identify your assets. Having a clear understanding of your property and its value will help you determine how to divide and distribute your estate. This includes inventorying your tangible and intangible assets.
- Real estate & properties owned
- Collectible items
- Other personal property
- Checking and savings accounts
- Certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
- Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and health savings accounts
- Ownership in a business
Who do you want to inherit your assets?
Once you know what your assets are and their value, decide who you would like those assets to be distributed to. These are your beneficiaries. When establishing beneficiaries and determining how to distribute assets to them, consider your loved ones’ needs. Dependent children, pets, partners, or other loved ones each have unique circumstances. Accounting for the needs of your loved ones includes making the following determinations:
- Designate guardians or caregivers for dependents, children, or pets
- Document your wishes for the care of your dependents, children, or pets
- Decide if your current life insurance policy or financial assets are sufficient to care for your dependents’ financial needs
What are your directives?
During this part of the process, consider your directives regarding asset distribution and medical determinations. Establish the following:
- Powers of attorney for medical purposes, financial purposes, or general affairs
- Medical care directives, including DNRs, physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, and declarations to withhold medical care under certain conditions.
- Trusts, as needed, or otherwise define the distribution of assets
Legacy Wealth Planning
When designing an estate plan with high assets, it is important to consider how those assets will impact future generations of your family. Legacy wealth planning is creating a distinguished plan regarding how your assets will be managed during your lifetime and distributed after your death. Selecting charities or donation opportunities that reflect your family’s values, distributing assets through trusts to select beneficiaries, and making decisions regarding business entities are all a part of legacy wealth planning.
Who Can Serve as an Executor in Nevada?
In Nevada, any person over the age of 18 without a felony conviction can be named the executor of your estate. An executor is the person you task with carrying out the designations made in your will. An executor has a variety of responsibilities following your death, including notifying relevant parties, locating important documents, collecting and inventorying your assets, collecting debts owed to your estate, initiating probate, paying claims against your estate, distributing assets to your beneficiaries, and closing your estate. Typically, an executor is a family member, close friend, or another loved one of the deceased. Acting as an executor is a time-consuming and detail-oriented task. In some cases, an attorney is tasked with assisting an executor in carrying out your designations in accordance with the law.
Updating Your Estate Plan as Life Changes
As life changes, it’s essential to regularly review and revise your estate plan. Significant changes such as divorce, childbirth, marriage, adoption, expanding your family, and the acquisition of new assets can cause a plan to become outdated. Continuously updating your beneficiaries and ensuring that all assets are recently evaluated and updated can ensure that the decisions you communicate to your loved ones after death or incapacitation are accurate.
Updating Powers of Attorney or Healthcare Directives
Healthcare directives and powers of attorney should be revisited regularly to ensure that your most recent choices are reflected. This helps to solidify the likelihood of your wishes being honored after death or incapacitation. The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging establishes the 5 D’s as signifiers to update your estate plan:
- Decade – at the start of each new decade in life
- Death – when a loved one or beneficiary dies
- Divorce – when you go through a divorce or other significant family change
- Diagnosis – when you receive a new serious medical diagnosis
- Decline – when you experience a significant negative shift in your health or condition
Once you update your documents, you should ensure that all relevant parties have updated copies of your estate planning documents.
Protecting Your Pet in Your Estate Plan
You can use your estate plan to secure your pet’s future after your death. Including your pet in your estate plan allows you to control who will take custody of your pet and whether that person has the financial means to provide for your pet. In an estate plan, you can create a pet trust. A pet trust is a legal entity that holds financial assets on behalf of your pet for the purpose of their care after upon activation. While your pet can not be named a beneficiary, or trustee, to the pet trust, you can elect a person to inherit the trust with the stipulation that the money is used to care for your pet. In addition to a pet trust, you can include requests for how your pet will be cared for, including healthcare and other stipulations, following your death.
Selecting Burial or Cremation in Nevada
In addition to decisions regarding asset distribution and medical directives, you should designate your preferences for burial or cremation. Because a will is often found after the handling of your remains, it is wise to make preferences known to applicable parties ahead of time. Planning and paying for a funeral in advance alleviates some stress from grieving loved ones. Signing a Burial and Cremation Affidavit that authorizes an executor or otherwise specified person to order your burial or cremation.
What Happens if You Die Without an Estate Plan?
If you die without a will or estate plan in Nevada, your assets are distributed to your relatives under intestate succession laws. Dying intestate, or without a valid will or estate plan, complicates the probate process. Without a will in place, you surrender the right to have your voice heard regarding the handling of your estate and the designation of your beneficiaries. If you have preferences regarding whom your assets should be distributed to, stipulations surrounding the use of your assets, or preferences for the care of dependent children or pets, an estate plan is crucial. Additionally, estate planning allows you to dictate your wishes regarding medical treatment or define powers of attorney in the event of incapacitation. If you become incapacitated without contingent designations in place, you forgo your right to choose who will make decisions on your behalf.
Nevada Intestate Succession Laws
Intestate succession laws, or inheritance laws, apply when a Nevada resident dies without a will. This excludes any assets for which you have already named a beneficiary. Assets that typically have beneficiary designations in advance are:
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Property in a living trust or trust
- Accounts with transfer-on-death designations
- Jointly owned property
- Assets with a transfer-on-death designation
The remainder of your assets will be distributed according to intestate succession laws. Because of the lack of specific instruction, these assets will likely go through a lengthy probate process. Nevada is a community property state, meaning that your spouse shares joint ownership of assets acquired after marriage. If you die intestate without children but married, your spouse inherits your entire remaining estate. If you die intestate with children and married, your spouse will inherit the community property and half of the separate property (assets acquired prior to marriage) in your estate, leaving the remainder of the separate property to be divided amongst your children. In order for a partner or child to inherit your estate, they must be legally recognized.
FAQs About Estate Planning in Nevada
An estate plan is broader than a will, and typically encompasses a will. An estate plan can include the management of assets before or after your death. Estate plans also include decisions you make about your care following incapacitation. Advance medical directives, trusts, burial or cremation plans, and financial or healthcare powers of attorney are all a part of estate planning that do not require a will. A will, on the other hand, only activates upon your death and includes postmortem asset distribution and decision-making.
A trust is a legal entity that is set up to manage an asset. A revocable trust is a trust that allows the terms to be changed at any time. This change can occur with or without the consent of the beneficiary. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, can only be modified with beneficiary consent.