Butler & College, LLC assists businesses, individuals and families with their real estate and estate-planning needs with a focus on residential real estate transactions, commercial real estate and estate planning.
One of the services they provide is to help individuals establish wills or trusts. Butler & College attorney Sarah Miller Smith, who focuses her practice on estate planning, said the initial consultation for this service is always free.
The consultation provides an opportunity for both Smith and the client to ask questions and allows her to learn important family details such as whether there are children and grandchildren, beneficiaries with special needs, financial concerns or strained relations with in-laws. Additionally, it gives Smith a chance to review asset information, which can help determine if any changes need to be made to beneficiary designations or account titles.
Smith will discuss the range of options and advise her client on the type of plan and what documents they need to have in place. Next, they organize the details (who they want in charge, who they want to be named as beneficiaries, and whether or not a trust needs to be set up for beneficiaries, etc.)
She then prepares all the documents — Smith typically aims to work on a two-week turnaround — and has the client return to her office for a signing meeting to review the client’s estate plan and make any necessary changes prior to signing. Butler & College has witnesses and notaries on hand for the signing so that all legal documents are properly signed and executed.
The process is easy and streamlined, usually requiring one consultation and one signing. After the final signing, Smith advises clients to revisit or review their estate plan every three to five years in the event any changes to the law have been made or if family situations have changed. Major life events including a death in the family, new family members, a financial crisis, an inheritance or a divorce are just some of the circumstances that might necessitate revisiting documents.
While it’s not something everyone wants to think about, establishing an estate plan is not a decision to delay. “It’s always important to plan ahead so that you can put your wishes in writing yourself,” asserted Smith. “You don’t want to create issues and complications for your family members when you pass away or become incapacitated. Just having those legal documents in place and having your affairs organized makes it easier for your family down the road.”
And if you wait until it’s too late, there is not much that can be done. The state of South Carolina will then determine how financial assets and possessions are divided up among family members. Getting a will or trust in place avoids potential issues such as these and makes it a more manageable situation.
“I like the process,” remarked Smith. “Showing them (clients) how it happens. Every family’s different. Every plan needs to be tailored to that person or family.”
For more information, call 843-284-8676 or visit bandclawfirm.com.
By Colin McCandless