The Real Cost To Your Family: Having No Estate Plan At All
This is a continuation of the discussion of the true costs and consequences of failed estate planning. Here I discuss a few of the most common—and costly—planning mistakes I encounter with clients. If this article exposes any potential gaps or weak spots in your plan, meet with me to learn how to properly address them.
Three Tips for Talking About Your Estate Plan During the Holidays
Christmas is right around the corner, bringing the joyous season of gathering with family and loved ones into full-swing. It is the time to slow down, get caught up with loved ones, and enjoy the family and experience quality time around the dinner table. It is also a great idea to take this opportunity to review your estate plan and talk about the topic with your loved ones.
When Something is NOT Better Than Nothing—Part 2
Last week, I shared the first part of this series discussing the hidden dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. In part two, I cover one of the greatest risks posed by DIY documents.
You might think you can save time and money by using do-it-yourself estate planning documents you find online. You’re probably anxious to check estate planning off your life’s to-do list, and these forms offer a seemingly quick and inexpensive way to handle this important task.
Big “Life Changes” Often Mean Big “Estate Plan Changes”
Estate planning must be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that your plan still accomplishes your goals and objectives and will work the way you want it to at incapacity and at death.
Should your child’s guardian and trustee be the same person?
When it comes to estate planning, who will be ultimately in charge of your minor child is an important decision that requires consideration of many factors.
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
While our great nation celebrated its independence yesterday on July 4th, you can rest assured that you too can declare independence for your family — from court interference. Life can be unpredictable. Whether it is a financial issue, the birth or adoption of a child, sickness or incapacity, it is important to be prepared with proper estate planning. In fact, failure to put together a comprehensive estate plan can leave you and your loved ones at the mercy of the court when it comes to distributing assets or caring for a minor or sick family member.
Create a Special Needs Trust to Protect the Financial Future of Your Child with Special Needs
It always surprises me to hear parents who have a child with special needs tell me that they were not aware of what they needed to do to ensure the future well-being and care of their child is properly handled. Or sometimes, they tell me they didn’t know they needed to do anything at all.
If that’s you, and you have a child with special needs at home, this article is for you. And if you have friends or family who have a child with special needs, please share this article with them.
Every parent who has a child with special needs must understand what’s needed to provide for the emotional, physical, and financial needs of their child, if and when something happens to them.
6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 2
Selecting and naming the right guardians for minor children in the event that something happens to you is a critical component of your estate plan. Last week I’ve outlined some basic steps to select and name a legal guardian in Part One of this two part series. Regardless of whether you own any other assets or wealth, it’s vital to complete this process immediately, so you know that who you care about most—your kids—will be cared for the way you want, no matter what. While it’s rare for something to happen to both parents of a minor child, it does occur, and the consequences are simply too severe to not take a few simple steps to select and legally name guardians the right way. Even if you don’t have any minor children at home, please consider sharing this article with any friends or family who do—it’s that important!
6 Steps to Select and Name the Right Guardians for Your Children—Part 1
One of your most important responsibilities as a parent is to select and legally document guardians for your children. This doesn’t mean just naming godparents or trusting the grandparents will step in if necessary. It means consciously deciding who would raise your children if you cannot. And then it means legally documenting your choices and making sure the people you’ve chosen know what to do if they’re ever called upon.
However, most people have no idea how to even start this process, much less create a legally binding plan. Because of this, many parents simply never get around to doing it. And those who do often make one of several common mistakes—even if they’ve worked with an Attorney. Why? Because most lawyers haven’t been trained properly to help parents with this vital issue.
As a result, unless you’ve worked with me or another trained Personal Family Lawyer®, it’s likely your children are extremely vulnerable to being taken out of your home and placed in the care of strangers. This might be temporary, while the authorities figure out what to do, or they could end up being raised to adulthood by someone you’d never choose.
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Consider this story. Beth’s divorce from her husband was recently finalized. Her most valuable assets are her retirement plan at work and her life insurance policy. She updated the beneficiary designations on both to be her two minor children. She did not want her ex-husband to receive the money.
Beth passes away one year after her divorce. Her children are still minors, so the retirement plan and insurance company require an adult to be appointed to receive the inheritance Beth left behind. Who does the court presumptively look to serve as the caretaker of this money? Beth’s ex-husband who is now the only living parent of the children. (In some states, this caretaker of the money is called a guardian, whereas in others it is the conservator. The title does not matter as much as the role, which is to manage the funds on behalf of a minor, since the minor is not legally able to handle significant assets or money.)
Sadly, stories like Beth’s are all too familiar for the loved ones of divorced people who do not make effective use of the estate planning tools. Naming a beneficiary for retirement benefits or life insurance, or having a Will can be a good start. However, the complexities of relationships, post-divorce, often render these basic tools inadequate. Luckily, there is a way to protect and control your children’s inheritance fully.
Why Not Just Go on NoloⓇ and Create Your Own Estate Planning Documents Cheaply?
In almost all scenarios, do-it-yourself estate planning is risky and can become a costly substitute for comprehensive in-person planning with a professional legal advisor. Typically, these online programs and services have significant limitations when it comes to gathering information needed to properly craft an estate plan. This can result in crucial defects that, sadly, won’t become apparent until the situation becomes a legal and financial nightmare for your loved ones.
Creating your own estate plan without professional advice can also have unintended consequences. Bad or thoughtless documents can be invalid and/or useless when they are needed.
The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts
When discussing estate planning, a Will is what most people think of first. Indeed, Wills have been the most popular method for passing on assets to heirs for hundreds of years. But Wills aren’t your only option. And if you rely on a Will alone (without a Trust) to pass on what matters, you’re guaranteeing your family has to go to court when you die. In contrast, other estate planning vehicles, such as a Trust-based plan are now being used by those of all income levels and asset values to keep their loved ones out of the court process.
But determining whether a Will alone or a Trust-based plan (Trust and Pour-Over Will) is best for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances. And the fact that estate planning has changed so much makes choosing the right tool for the job even more complex.
The best way for you to determine the truly right solution for your family is to meet with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® for a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During that process, I’ll take you through an analysis of your personal assets, what’s most important to you, and what will happen for your loved ones when you become incapacitated or die. From there, you can make the right choice for the people you love.
Estate Planning Best Practices Gleaned From Famous Celebrity Deaths
Discussing death can be awkward, and many people would prefer just to ignore estate planning all together. However, ignoring—or even putting off—such planning can be a huge mistake, as these celebrity stories will highlight.
The next time one of your relatives tells you they don’t want to talk about estate planning, share these famous celebrities’ stories to get the conversation started. Such cautionary tales offer first-hand evidence of just how critical it is to engage in estate planning, even if it’s uncomfortable.
After Tax Reform, Is Estate Planning Still Necessary?
The new tax legislation raises the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for couples. The increase means that an exceedingly small number of estates (only about 1,800, nationally) will have to worry about federal estate taxes in 2018. However, comprehensive estate planning does a lot more than guard against you owing federal estate taxes. Other than taxes, you and your family likely face a range of estate planning challenges. Even prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, relatively few Americans needed to worry about the estate tax. However, virtually everyone will face a number of other issues, such as incapacity, medical emergences and guardianship concerns and everyone will face death. Estate Planning is very important and I look forward to giving you the peace of mind you deserve.
IRAs, Annuities and Guardianship: Providing for Your Minor Children after You Die
Deciding guardianship for your minor children may very well be the most vexing decision you’ll make regarding your estate planning. Not only must you trust the appointed guardian to raise your children as you’d want them raised, but you also need that person to be financially responsible with your children’s inheritance. For example, if you have an IRA or an annuity that you wish to pass to your minor children, how can you ensure those funds will be used properly—especially if the person you trust most to raise your kids isn’t necessarily the best with finances? This article will unravel each aspect of this important question.