Practice AreasEstate Planning

Mark Goodall has been a member of the Omaha Estate Planning Council for over 25 years. He has watched an industry grow up around developing and providing sophisticated planning tools for wealthy people and complex tax situations.

However, most people's planning needs are quite simple. Mark has become concerned that consumers are receiving estate planning information from the media that confuses instead of educates resulting in no plan at all. People need to talk to someone who can cut through those ambiguous messages. And for senior citizens, powers of attorney and advanced directives can be the most helpful planning you can do for your family. But you need to do something; you will sleep better.

Have a conversation with a planner that you trust and that you can understand. If you are still confused, you have the wrong planner. The following comments might help put things into perspective.

Married with Minor Children

  If you are married with children who are also children of your spouse, by birth or adoption, then what you are likely doing is second death planning. That is, you probably own your assets jointly so there is little or no administration on the first death. For most married people, especially those with assets under $1 million, this manner of asset ownership need not change.

If both of you should pass away, however, your children need to be protected. You need a plan that contains a trust for the children and you also need to name a guardian. The odds of this happening are very low, but if it happens, the need of that trust is great. So don't get bogged down in details, the planning instrument is quite simple; get something drafted and signed. You can change it as your circumstances change.

Adult Children and Senior Citizens

 - If your children are grown and
  1. You have a net worth less than $1million (and, by the way, that puts you in some very good company);
  2. You have fairly sensible children; and
  3. Your children are also your spouse's children;
then your estate planning should be very simple and understandable. You don't have to worry about taxes or delays. Administration fees should be reasonable.

Single Senior Citizens

  If you no longer have a spouse, or your spouse has limitations, making sure that someone has financial and medical powers of attorney and giving directions for care in the event of serious illness become very important. It is this planning for your late life days that can be very helpful for those that care for you.

More Complicated Situations

  The following is a list of some situations that require a little more tailoring and consideration:
  1. Special needs children;
  2. Children of different relationships;
  3. No children;
  4. Same sex relationships;
  5. Substantial wealth;
  6. Real estate in another state;
  7. Charitable giving.

The good news is that thoughtful planners have the tools to provide solutions with all kinds of planning situations or the insight to refer you to someone more suited. But do something.

Living Trust

  Mark has watched the evolution of the so-called living trust from one of a number of planning tools to a tool that some planners suggest should be universal. You should know that Mark does not agree with its use as a universal planning tool and has many issues with the manner in which this device is promoted, as well as the cost. There are, however, limited situations in which such a trust is just the right tool.

The key to any plan is whether it is right for you. If you are curious about a living trust because you have been lead to believe

  1. That it avoids delays;
  2. That an inventory of your assets is not public after your death;
  3. That there are little or no professional fees to administer your estate; and
  4. That the trust saves you taxes;
you are probably wrong on all four points. Funny, isn't it. Because when you walked out of that seminar you could have sworn that is what you heard. Talk to someone with some experience and perspective.

Here a couple of links to information that may be helpful to you:

Here are examples of what other Bar associations have done about the problem of how living trusts are marketed:

Mark Goodall, Attorney at Law
10404 Essex Court, Suite 100
Omaha, Nebraska 68114