We assist individuals in preparing comprehensive, affordable, tax-advantaged estate plans to protect their assets and their families, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and advance directives.
Divorce, Family Law & Estate Planning > Estate Planning
Estate Planning Lawyer for Wills, Trusts, Advance Directives & Powers of Attorney
Estate planning involves not only providing for the transfer of assets after death, but also protecting assets and loved ones during life. For those owning a family business, including ranches and farms, estate planning also involves business succession planning when there is a desire to keep the business in the family for future generations.
As Montana estate planning lawyers and business succession attorneys, we help clients with all of these matters. We typically providing estate planning services on a fixed-fee basis, after we understand a client’s needs and objectives and we have determined the documents that will need to be prepared.
Powers of Attorney, Guardianships, & Conservatorships
A critical part of estate planning requires developing instruments that help protect a person and their family if the person suddenly becomes severely disabled and cannot express their wishes for their care. Through powers of attorney, we help clients specify who should make healthcare and financial decisions should such an incapacitation occur.
Without a power of attorney, it may be necessary to take legal action for the appointment of a guardian and/or a conservator for a person’s affairs. Such appointments can be costly, as they normally will entail legal and other fees for the appointment itself, and also ongoing court reporting for matters including financial expenditures. With a power of attorney, court oversight is typically minimized or not required. If, however, a guardianship or conservatorship is needed (such as for an elderly family member), we can assist in helping you obtain the required legal representation.
End of Life Matters – Living Wills and Advance Directives
Many families experience the emotionally challenging decisions required when determining what medical treatment should be rendered if a loved one is experiencing a terminal medical event and cannot make decisions for their own care. Should procedures be taken to extend life, or should only palliative care be provided? And who should make these decisions?
Sadly, in many cases, without a living will (also referred to as an advance directive), family members may not know the wishes of their loved one. There may also be a disagreement among family members as to which medical route should be chosen. Family members may feel guilty if they need to terminate life-sustaining treatment.
With a living will or advance directive, you can specify the end of life care that you wish to receive if you are unable to communicate your wishes. You can also specify who is entitled to make decisions about your care if such decisions need to be made. Living wills and advance directives thus provide the guidance that is needed so that loved ones do not have to make these difficult decisions.
Estate Planning at BKBH
Wills and Trusts
We assist clients in drafting wills and trusts that govern the distribution of their assets after death. We also assist trustees with court approval of accountings. Trusts are legal entities and can sue and be sued. When trustees face such litigation, our team is here to assist you for a successful resolution of such claims.
All adults should have a Will. If a person dies intestate (without a will) in Montana, Montana intestacy law determines how property is to be distributed– even if the person who died wanted a different distribution of their property.
With a Will, all property that is personally owned by a person at the time of death must be distributed exactly in accordance with the person’s Will. A Will can be used to distribute personal items, such as family heirlooms, so that disputes among family members over treasured possessions can be avoided.
Trusts can be used for a number of purposes, including:
- Avoiding probate with respect to the assets held in the trust
- Providing for unforeseen events, such as the possible death of a parent before children become adults
- Providing for special needs children to maximize governmental benefits
- Medicare planning for nursing home expenditures
- Ensuring that assets are distributed over time
- Tax minimization
- Business succession purposes
When we meet with you and understand your circumstance and desires, we can advise as to whether a trust may be beneficial.
Post-Mortem Estate Planning and Litigation
We also represent clients with post-mortem estate planning. As an example, in some instances it may be beneficial to create a trust to hold a recent asset distribution. It may also be beneficial to form an LLC (limited liability company) to hold the assets of a family business.
Probate and Estate Administration
In addition to our estate planning practice, we also assist clients in all aspects of probate and estate administration, including matters involving the transfer of legal title to assets (including real property), and matters concerning the administration of a trust.
Will, Trust, and Probate Contests
In some cases, disputes may arise concerning the validity of a will, the actions taken by personal representatives in administering an estate, or questions about who may be entitled to receive a decedent’s assets. We are available to represent clients in these and all other matters associated with probate and estate administration, including will, trust, and probate contests.