Questions You Should Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

Creating an estate plan is a personal and often emotional undertaking, making the selection of your estate planning attorney of the utmost importance. Here are some questions you should ask your estate planning attorney to determine if they are the right person for the job.

At its core, estate planning is a personal endeavor. Many estate planning attorneys have personal experiences that influenced their decision to specialize in this area. Asking this question can help you get to know your attorney and their reasons for practicing the way they do. These attorneys are passionate about their work and happy to share their background and the experiences that brought them to choose estate planning as their practice area. If the attorney you are considering has no particular reason for choosing estate planning, then perhaps you should keep looking. READ MORE

3 Critical Considerations For How To Save For Your Child’s (or Grandchild’s) College Education – Part 1

Since the pandemic’s start, college enrollments have declined by over one million students over the past two years. With college tuition getting more and more expensive, many students are considering alternatives to the traditional higher education path.

Gap years, travel, trade programs, and online training are replacing the traditional college education path for many. If you want that to be an option for your children or grandchildren, you should be aware that the traditional college savings plans may not be the right fit for your family. READ MORE

Three Steps You Can Take Now to Protect Your Artistic Legacy

The first step is to catalog your artwork, including pieces that you have sold. Make sure to specify to whom they were sold and for how much. This information can be helpful in valuing artwork that has not sold and providing a list of potential buyers for when you pass away. You should also include any pieces of artwork that you have lent. This knowledge will be helpful for your loved ones to determine who has the artwork and under what circumstances it will need to be returned. Your list should also include any pieces that have been licensed to someone else. It will be important for your loved ones to know about this stream of income, which could continue after your death. Also, consider including a list of pieces that you have gifted to individuals or donated to charities. Be sure to include any pieces that you have kept for yourself.

After you have compiled a list of your artwork, it will then be important to determine the value of any piece that has not already been appraised, and that is still considered yours (having been neither donated nor sold). This process can help you understand the value of everything you own (an important step in the estate planning process) and determine if you have adequate insurance to cover your artwork’s value. Just like other pieces of tangible personal property, your artwork can be susceptible to theft and destruction and needs to be protected. READ MORE

4 Essential Strategies For Protecting Your Family’s Assets

Insurance is always the first line of defense when it comes to asset protection. Anyone can file a lawsuit against you at any time – and basically for any reason. And whether you are ultimately found at fault or not, defending yourself in court can be extremely costly.

The insurance coverage you purchase should not only pay damages if a lawsuit against you is successful, the policy should also cover the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend you in court, whether you win or lose your case. And because a large judgment could exceed your policies’ coverage limits, you should also seriously consider buying umbrella insurance. READ MORE

Using Assisted Reproductive Technology: What Happens to Unused Genetic Material at Your Death?

When a person dies and leaves behind frozen sperm, eggs, or embryos, who owns the genetic material after the person’s death, and who can use it? While the answers vary from state to state, in general, there is a distinction between who owns and controls gametes (i.e., eggs and sperm) as opposed to embryos. Your sperm or eggs are generally considered your own individual property, and therefore your intent as to how gametes are to be used controls their disposition after your death, so if you intend to allow your frozen genetic material to be used for reproduction after your death, you should make your intent clear in your estate plan. 

State laws that address the issue of embryos vary substantially. As discussed above, in Louisiana, an embryo is considered a legal person and cannot be intentionally destroyed. In Florida, however, any written agreement controls the disposition of the frozen genetic material. In the absence of an agreement, the person who provided the gametes controls their disposition, whereas a couple jointly decides the disposition of their embryo. If one member of the couple dies, the surviving member makes all decisions about the embryo’s disposition. READ MORE

How Estate Planning Can Reduce The High Cost Of Dying – Part 2

As anyone who has dealt with loss knows, when a loved one dies, those left behind face significant challenges, not only emotional and logistical but financial as well. Empathy was designed to help manage and streamline these responsibilities for grieving families. In addition to the app, in March 2022, Empathy released its first-ever Cost of Dying Report, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans – each of whom had lost a loved one in the last five years – to get a clearer picture of dying’s the actual cost to families.

Last week, in part one of this series, we discussed some of the Cost Of Dying’s most notable findings and explained how proactive estate planning could dramatically reduce many of the financial, logistical, and emotional challenges for your loved ones following your death. Here in part two, we wrap up our summary of the report and outline more of the ways proactive planning can relieve the burden of your death for your family. READ MORE

Powerful Provisions in Your Financial Power of Attorney

In a financial power of attorney, you designate a trusted decision maker (agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf if you become disabled or unable to manage your financial affairs. Depending on the provisions you choose to include, your agent may have the power to buy and sell property, the power to invest, and powers regarding your retirement benefits. When you are selecting powers to give your agent, you should carefully consider the following three powers in particular: (1) the power to gift, (2) the power to make or change your estate plan, and (3) the power to prosecute and defend legal actions.

Depending on how it is written, the power to gift authorizes your agent to make gifts of your money and property to any person or organization on your behalf. On the one hand, this power could be quite beneficial because it can enable your family to accomplish necessary Medicaid and other public benefits eligibility planning after you become incapacitated. READ MORE

How Estate Planning Can Reduce The High Cost Of Dying – Part 1

According to Census figures, the pandemic caused the U.S. death rate to spike by nearly 20% between 2019 and 2020, the most significant increase in American mortality in 100 years. More than two years and 1 million deaths later, it’s more apparent that death is not only ever-present but a central and inevitable part of all our lives.

Yet, in what may be one of its few positive outcomes, some in the end-of-life industry believe that the pandemic’s massive loss of life has created an opportunity to transform the way we face death, grief, and all of the other issues that arise when we lose someone we love dearly. In fact, this sentiment is the mission of the new startup Empathy, an AI-based platform designed to help families navigate the logistical and emotional challenges following the death of a loved one. READ MORE

Three Things You Need to Know about Cryptocurrency and Your Estate Plan

Suppose you own cryptocurrency that has substantially increased in value or that you anticipate will substantially increase in value. In that case, it is essential to discuss with your estate planning attorney ways you can minimize potential income, estate, and gift tax consequences.

As cryptocurrency increases in popularity, more people have cryptocurrency holdings that must be considered part of their estate. Because cryptocurrencies are generally stored so that no personally identifying information is tied to them, owners of cryptocurrencies must inform their beneficiaries that these assets exist, or they could be lost forever at the owner’s death. READ MORE

5 Common Estate Planning Concerns For Your Second (Or More) Marriage

Whenever you merge two families into one, you will naturally encounter some challenges and conflict. To this end, blended families present several particularly challenging legal and financial issues from an estate planning perspective. Indeed, though all families should have an estate plan, planning is essential for those with blended families. 

Suppose you have a blended family, and something happens to you without a carefully considered estate plan. In that case, your loved ones are at risk of significant misunderstanding and conflict and having your assets tied up in court instead of passing to those you want to receive them. Unless you are okay with setting your loved ones up for heartache, confusion, and pain when something happens to you, you need an estate plan that’s intentionally designed by an experienced lawyer (not an online document service) to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. READ MORE

Important Questions to Ask When Investing in a Vacation Property

According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 2018, there were approximately 7.5 million second homes, making up 5.5 percent of the total number of homes. These homes are not only real estate that must be planned for, managed, and maintained, they are also the birthplace of happy memories for you and your loved ones. Following are some significant estate planning questions to consider to ensure that your place of happy memories is protected.

The fate of your vacation property at your death largely depends on how it is currently owned. If you are the property’s sole owner or if you own it as a tenant in common with one or more other people, you need to decide what will happen to your interest in the property. Suppose you own the property with another person as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or with a spouse as tenants by the entirety. READ MORE

What You Need to Know About Collecting Life Insurance Proceeds

If you’re looking to collect life insurance proceeds as the policy’s beneficiary, the process is fairly simple. However, during the emotional period immediately following a loved one’s death, it can feel as if your entire world is falling apart, so it’s helpful to understand exactly what steps you need to take to access the insurance funds as quickly and easily as possible.

Not to mention, if you’ve been dependent on the person who died for financial support and/or you are responsible for paying for the funeral or other expenses, the need to access insurance money can be downright urgent. Plus, unlike other assets, an estate’s executor typically isn’t involved with collecting life insurance proceeds, since benefits pass directly to a beneficiary, so this is something you will need to handle yourself.   READ MORE

What Happens to My Spouse’s Debts at Their Death?

Most Americans have some debt. The obligation to pay debts does not go away when a person dies. While most debts are paid by the deceased’s estate (money and property owned by the decedent at their death) and do not transfer to a surviving spouse or other beneficiaries, in some cases, you may be responsible for paying off your deceased spouse’s creditor claims.

If the legal duty to pay off a spouse’s debt falls to you, it has implications for your finances, so you will want to be clear on the laws where you live. If debt collectors contact you, know that you have rights as well. You should discuss questions about your debt payment obligations and rights with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and administration. READ MORE

Estate Planning FAQs For LGBTQ+ Couples

As we wrap up another Pride Month, the LGBTQ+ community faces an increasingly uncertain legal landscape. In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, ending the recognition of a constitutional right to abortion, many are worried that other rights, especially those enjoyed by same-gender couples, might also be threatened. 

In fact, with Roe overturned, legal experts warn that the Supreme Court’s new Republican majority may come for landmark LGBTQ-rights decisions next, including marriage equality established by Obergefell v. Hodges. In light of this potential challenge, same-gender couples must ensure their estate plans are carefully reviewed and updated by an estate planning lawyer who understands the special needs of LGBTQ+ planning to address any such developments. READ MORE

Can a Trust Own My Business after I Die?

If your business is taxed as an S corporation (and you do not have to be a corporation to be taxed as an S corporation), there are special rules about who can own an S corporation. It is essential to seek the advice of a qualified legal or tax professional before transferring ownership of your S corporation business interest to a trust and after the death of the grantor/trustmaker.

Although your trust can own your business after you die, you must consider many factors when transferring your business ownership interest to your trust. Therefore, it is essential to consult a qualified professional to ensure that you have considered all the elements and help you correctly complete the transfer. READ MORE

3 Reasons Why Single Folks With No Children Need An Estate Plan

While most adults don’t take estate planning as seriously as they should, if you are single with no children, you might think there’s no need to worry about creating an estate plan. But this is a huge mistake. Having an estate plan can be even more essential if you are single and childless.

If you are single without kids, you face several potential estate planning complications that aren’t an issue for those married with children. And this is true whether you’re wealthy or have minimal assets. Indeed, without proper estate planning, you’re jeopardizing your wealth and assets and putting your life at risk, too. And that’s not even mentioning the potential conflict, mess, and expense you’re leaving for your surviving family and friends to deal with when something unexpected happens to you.  READ MORE

Do You Update Your Estate Plan as Often as Your Resume?

A resume is a snapshot of your experience, skill set, and education that provides prospective employers insight into who you are and how you will perform. Imagine not updating your resume for five, ten, or even fifteen years. Would it accurately reflect your professional abilities? Would it do what you want it to do? Probably not. Estate plans are similar in that they need to be regularly updated to reflect changes in your life and the law so they can do what you want them to do. Outdated estate plans, like outdated resumes, do not work.

Think for a moment about all of the changes in your life so far. What has changed since you signed your will, trust agreement, and other estate planning documents? If something has changed that affects you, your trusted helpers, or your beneficiaries, your estate plan probably needs to reflect that change. READ MORE

If You’ve Been Asked To Serve As Trustee, Here’s What You Should Know

If a family member or friend has asked you to serve as trustee for their trust either during their life or upon their death, it’s a big honor – this means they consider you among the most honest, reliable, and responsible people they know.

That said, serving as a trustee is not only a great honor; it’s also a significant responsibility, and the role is not for everyone. Serving as a trustee entails a broad array of duties. You are ethically and legally required to execute those duties properly, or you could be liable for not doing so. READ MORE

Updating Your Estate Plan: How Many Tweaks Are Too Many?

Imagine a recipe card you have used for years. The card may still be readable if you have crossed out and replaced one or two ingredients. However, the recipe is probably confusing if you have altered the ingredients many times. If your loved ones cannot read your instructions to determine whether to add a cup of flour or a cup of sugar, your recipe will not work. You have a fifty-fifty chance for a great dish—or a complete disaster.

The same can be said about a will or revocable living trust. Making one or two changes to a document is generally acceptable, but your instructions may become confusing when revisions are numerous or comprehensive. The primary reason for the confusion is that the old document and any new documents must be read together to understand the full instructions. For this reason, starting over with a new will or a complete restatement may serve you better. READ MORE

How To Pass On Family Heirlooms & Keepsakes Without Causing A Family Feud

Smaller items, like family heirlooms and keepsakes, which may not have a high dollar value, frequently have the most sentimental value for our family members. But for a number of reasons, these personal possessions are often not specifically accounted for in wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents. 

However, it’s critical that you don’t overlook this type of property in your estate plan, as the distribution of such items can become a source of intense conflict and strife for those you leave behind. In fact, if you don’t properly address family heirlooms and keepsakes in your estate plan, it can lead to long-lasting disagreements that can tear your family apart. READ MORE

An Estate Plan Should Not Be a Set-It-and-Forget-It Endeavor

As we all know, life happens. There is really nothing we can do about it. However, some of the most common life events can have a dramatic effect on your estate plan. If you think your estate plan is like a slow cooker and you can set it and forget it, you and your loved ones may be in for a stomach-turning surprise when it is time to put your plan into action. Let us take a look at some common life changes and the impact they may have on your already established estate plan.

It is common for parents to have their estate plan prepared after the birth of their first child. However, depending on what provisions are in the first iteration, a second child might have difficulty getting their share without court involvement if the clients do not revise their plan after the birth of a subsequent child. READ MORE

Don’t Let Your Kids Leave Home Without Signing These 3 Documents

The first document your child needs is a medical power of attorney. A medical power of attorney is an advance healthcare directive that allows your child to grant you (or someone else) the immediate legal authority to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and are unable to make these decisions themselves.

Without a medical power of attorney in place, if your child suffers a severe accident or illness that requires hospitalization and you need to access their medical records to make decisions about their treatment, you’d have to petition the court to become their legal guardian. While a parent is typically the court’s first choice for a guardian, the guardianship process can be slow and expensive – and in medical emergencies, time is of the essence. READ MORE

Don’t Have a Lot of Money? Here Are Seven Ways You Can Still Leave Your Family a Great Legacy

Often, people who do not have a lot of money think that it is unnecessary to have an estate plan. After all, what is an estate plan without an estate? Yet estate planning is more than making sure a person’s wealth passes to the next generation. It also involves making your wishes known with regard to certain items of property, burial arrangements, and end-of-life care decisions. Family relationships have been irreparably damaged over the question of who gets the homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and children have agonized over how much to spend on their parent’s casket and other burial arrangements, not wanting to skimp on something they feel represents their love for their parent.

Your family can have peace of mind knowing with certainty that they are carrying out your wishes if they have a crystal clear understanding of what those wishes are. Whether or not you have much money, you can leave an important legacy to your family simply by making a plan. READ MORE

Key Milestones For Planning Your Retirement

The key to having a comfortable retirement is to save as much as possible as early in your career as possible. Time, tax breaks, and compounding interest all add up, and by getting into the habit of saving when you are young, it will be exponentially easier to reach vital retirement goals as you get older.

With this in mind, one of the most important things you can do at this age is to take full advantage of employer-sponsored retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, and other tax-advantaged plans, especially if your employer offers a match. A common rule of thumb is that you should save at least 15% of your pre-tax income each year. If that’s not possible, then save as much as you can – and at least enough to get the full benefit of your employer’s matching contribution if one is offered.  READ MORE

Estate Planning Lessons We Can Learn from Encanto

Like the Madrigal family, you can use your estate plan to benefit the world around you. You can design your plan so that the money and property you leave will cultivate a legacy that will not only impact your immediate family but can also benefit the community for generations to come. The Carnegie Foundation, which funds libraries and learning centers around the country, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which fights poverty, disease, and inequity worldwide, are well-known examples.

But you do not have to be a billionaire to establish a family foundation. In its simplest terms, a family foundation is a means of providing charity that is funded with family assets and often employs family members to work for its cause. Family foundations are an effective way to involve your family in establishing a charitable legacy that can benefit the community. READ MORE

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes Your Family Can’t Afford to Make – Part 2

Without a thorough understanding of how the legal process works upon your death or incapacity, along with knowing how it applies specifically to your family dynamics and the nature of your assets, you’ll likely make serious mistakes when creating a DIY will or trust. And the worst part is that these mistakes won’t be discovered until you are gone – and the very people you were trying to protect will be the ones stuck cleaning up the mess you created just to save a few bucks. 

Estate planning is definitely not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Even if you think your particular situation is simple, that turns out to almost never be the case. To demonstrate just how complicated estate planning can be, last week in part one, we highlighted the first five of 10 of the most common estate-planning mistakes, and here we wrap up the list with the remaining five mistakes. READ MORE

Dutiful Child or Manipulator of the Elderly?

As parents age and their physical and mental capacities diminish, it is natural for their adult children recognizing the parents’ decreasing ability to care for themselves, to step in and help them. Often, a specific child will take over the responsibilities, such as taking the parent to doctor’s appointments or the attorney’s office. As the parent begins to depend on the child more and more, it may make sense to appoint the child as a trusted decision-maker and even give them a larger inheritance to compensate them for their time. At the same time, other family members must take extreme care to ensure that a manipulative caretaker is not exploiting the elderly parent.

With more people living into their eighties and nineties, elder abuse is a serious and increasingly common problem in our society. Elder abuse can take several forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse or caretaker neglect or exploitation. Up to one-half of all elder abuse in the United States is financial exploitation, which is the aspect this article focuses on. Financial exploitation includes outright theft of money or property, illegal transfers of property, identity theft, and misusing a position of trust, such as through a power of attorney. READ MORE

10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes Your Family Can’t Afford to Make – Part 1

If you die without an estate plan, the court will decide who inherits your assets, which can lead to all sorts of problems. Our state’s intestate succession laws determine who is entitled to your property, which hinges largely upon whether you are married or have children. Spouses and children are given top priority, followed by your other closest living family members.

If you are single with no children, your assets typically go to your parents and siblings and then more distant relatives if you have no living parents or siblings. If no living relatives can be located, your assets go to the state. It’s important to note that state intestacy laws only apply to blood relatives, so unmarried partners and close friends would get nothing. If you want someone outside of your family to inherit your assets, having a plan is an absolute must. READ MORE

Make Sure Your Kids Are Prepared with This Summer Camp Checklist

This year, summer camps are expected to be back in full swing after two pandemic summers forced them to close or operate at limited capacity. Camp is an excellent opportunity for kids to make new friends, try new activities, and gain self-confidence and resilience. But as parents and counselors know, a lot of preparation goes into making lasting summer camp memories.

Camp is a unique experience because it may be the only time during the year that kids are away from home – and parental supervision – for an extended period. Although the time spent apart can be positive for the parent-child relationship, there are several contingencies that families should plan for ahead of time. After your child is off at camp, it may be too late to update contact information, medication lists, and temporary guardianship permissions. READ MORE

How Creating A Life & Legacy Plan With Us Creates And Preserves Your Family’s Legacy

Best of all, the Family Wealth Legacy Process is offered at no additional cost to you, since it is part of each plan we create for our clients. And the process of documenting this recording is as easy and convenient as possible: We use a series of helpful questions and prompts, which makes the process both easy and enjoyable. From start to finish, the entire process takes less than an hour. 
My favorite part about this process is that most of our clients tell us that going through it helps them rekindle life moments and memories they would otherwise not share with their loved ones. Indeed, this unique process can enrich your family with something far more valuable than any tangible asset you might leave, and instead leave behind a lasting legacy of love.  READ MORE

Silent Trusts: Could I Be the Beneficiary of a Trust and Not Know It?

After a trust has been created, the trustee has specific legal duties to the beneficiaries. Although a trustee’s duties vary by state, in most states, a trustee must disclose the trust’s existence, identify themselves as the trustee, and send the beneficiaries yearly accounting statements on request with information about the trust’s assets (accounts and property), taxes, distributions, and performance.

A silent trust eliminates the legal requirement that the trustee tells the beneficiaries about the trust’s existence or terms for a period of time. Typically, a silent trust’s terms will provide a triggering event, such as the beneficiary reaching a certain age or achieving a particular milestone or the trustmaker’s death or incapacity. The trustee’s obligations to inform the beneficiary begin only upon the occurrence of the triggering event. READ MORE

3 Reasons Why Transferring Ownership Of Your Home To Your Child Is A Bad Idea

Another drawback to transferring ownership of your home in this way is the potential tax liability for your child. If you’re elderly, you’ve probably owned your house for a long time, and its value has dramatically increased, leading you to believe that by transferring your home to your child, they can make a windfall by selling it. And by transferring the property before you die, you may think that you can save your child both time and money by avoiding the need for probate.

Probate is the court process used to distribute your assets according to the wishes outlined in your will or according to our state’s intestate succession laws if you don’t have a will. Depending on the complexity of your estate, probate can be a long and expensive process for your loved ones; however, that expense is likely to be relatively minor compared to the tax bill your heirs could face. READ MORE

If I Give My Home to My Child in My Will, Can They Take My Home While I Am Still Alive?

A will is a legal document that specifies what happens to your property upon your death. The key phrase here is “upon your death.” A will has no real legal significance until the time of your death. A will does not change title (ownership) to the property during your life, so naming your child in your will as the recipient of your home means that they have no ownership rights to your home until after your death. Also, you can rewrite or change a will at any time during your life while you are still mentally able to do so. Your child cannot take you home while you are still alive for these reasons.

You are using a will to give your house to your child at your death guarantees that they will have to go through the probate process to complete the title transfer. To avoid probate, some people will put their child’s name on the deed to their home while they are living, with the intent of continuing to own the house while they are alive and passing the home to their child at the time of their death. As discussed above, title to property is received through a deed. READ MORE

How Naming Guardians For Your Kids In Your Will Can Leave Them At Risk

One of the most disturbing aspects of this situation is that you probably have no idea just how vulnerable your kids are since this is a blind spot inherent to the estate plan of countless parents worldwide. Even many lawyers aren’t fully aware of this issue – and that’s because most lawyers don’t understand what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place, whether you’ve named guardians for your kids in your will or have yet to take any action at all. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we specialize in legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children. We can ensure that you have all of the proper legal safeguards to ensure that your kids will always be cared for by the people you would want, in precisely the way you would wish to, should anything ever happen to you. READ MORE

Does a Domestic Partner Have the Same Rights as a Spouse When It Comes to Estate Planning?

Everyone knows what a marriage is, but not everyone knows what a domestic partnership is. To answer whether domestic partners have the same estate planning rights as married spouses, it is helpful to define what a domestic partnership is.

A domestic partnership is an alternative to marriage created for same-sex couples who could not legally marry. However, when the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage became an option for same-sex couples. A domestic partnership is not just for same-sex couples; any couple can choose this status when marriage is not something they desire, for whatever reason. READ MORE

Does Your Family Need Umbrella Insurance?

If you are sued, your traditional homeowners or auto insurance will likely offer you liability coverage. Still, those policies only cover you up to a certain dollar amount before they max out, and you can be held personally liable for anything beyond that limit. For this reason, you should consider adding an extra layer of protection by investing in personal liability umbrella insurance.

Umbrella insurance offers a secondary level of protection against lawsuits above and beyond what’s covered by your homeowners, auto, watercraft, and other personal insurance policies. Umbrella policies can cover a wide array of potentially ruinous costs related to a lawsuit, such as medical bills, legal fees, lost wages, court costs, and other expenses. READ MORE

Three Steps to Take When the Deceased Has Controlled Substances

If your loved one was living in an assisted living facility or was in hospice before their death, check with the healthcare staff to determine whether they will dispose of the unwanted or expired medications. If you learn that you are responsible for their disposal and there are no specific disposal instructions in the medication package insert, or you have not received detailed disposal instructions from a healthcare provider, follow the steps below.

The first step for properly disposing of a deceased person’s controlled substances is to determine whether there is a drug take-back site or program nearby. This is the best way to dispose of unwanted or expired medications. You can check the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website or ask about possible options at your local pharmacy or police station. READ MORE

Protect Your Children’s Inheritance With A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust

Creating a will or a revocable living trust protects your kid’s inheritance. Still, in most cases, you’ll be guided to distribute assets through your will or trust to your children at specific ages and stages, such as one-third at age 25, half the balance at 30, and the rest at 35.

If you’ve created an estate plan, check to see if this is how your will or trust leaves assets to your children. If so, you may not have been told about another option to give your children access, control, and airtight asset protection for whatever assets they inherit from you. READ MORE

What to Know about Non-Fungible Tokens

A nonfungible token (NFT) is a unique digital code that represents a digital item such as art or music, as well as a growing number of physical items, that runs on the blockchain (a secure, decentralized, and cryptography-backed online ledger) and provides proof of ownership of virtual collectibles. That explanation may confuse, and when it comes to NFTs, confusion, and excitement are present in equal parts.

NFTs can generate new revenue streams for creators and be a store of value for collectors. If you own NFTs or plan to invest in them, you should update your estate plan accordingly. Handing down an NFT is more complicated than passing on a physical item or another traditional asset. But with buzz building around NFTs, they could be among the most valuable things in your estate. READ MORE

7 Last-Minute Moves To Save On Your Taxes For 2021

The American Rescue Plan’s expanded child tax credit was made fully refundable in 2021, and it was increased up to $3,600 per child through age five and up to $3,000 per child aged 6 to 17. Dependents who are 18 can qualify for $500 each. Dependents aged 19 to 24 may also be eligible, but they must be enrolled in college full-time. 

Eligible families automatically received half of the payments in advance monthly between July and December 2021 unless they opted out. When eligible parents file their taxes in 2022, they’ll get the remainder of the benefit they didn’t receive through advance monthly payments. If you did not receive the advance payments because you opted out or didn’t receive them for some other reason, you could claim the full credit when you file in April. READ MORE

When a Gift May Not Be a Gift

The federal tax code has particular rules about how much you are allowed to transfer to others each year – and throughout your lifetime – in the form of a gift. Any gifts above that amount may be subject to gift tax, paid by the giver. However, not every gift is subject to the gift tax. Annual exclusion amounts, a lifetime exemption amount, and other exclusions, such as education or medical exclusions, relieve a giver of paying federal gift taxes.

Because the lifetime exemption amount is very generous at this time, many people will not owe taxes on their gifts. However, high net worth individuals should be mindful of how gifting can affect the estate tax that may be due upon their death. READ MORE

Probate: What It Is & How To Avoid It – Part 2

Unless you’ve created an estate plan that works to keep your family out of court when you die (or become incapacitated), many of your assets must go through probate before those assets can be distributed to your heirs. Like most court proceedings, probate can be time-consuming, costly, and open to the public, and because of this, avoiding probate – and keeping your family out of court – is often a central goal of estate planning. 

To spare your loved one’s the time, cost, and stress inherent to probate, last week in part one of this series, we explained how the probate process works and what it would entail for your loved ones. In part two, we’ll discuss the significant drawbacks of probate for your family and outline how you can help them avoid probate with wise planning. READ MORE

Electronic Wills

Not very long ago, all legal documents were printed on paper and signed with a pen. But in today’s world, where we sign commercial contracts, form and run businesses, and buy everything from groceries to cars online, it seems almost prehistoric for state laws to require that someone appear in person in front of witnesses to sign a will printed on paper.

Under established law, a will is generally invalid unless it is in writing, signed by the willmaker, and witnessed by two other people. There is a good reason for these rules: courts need to determine whether a will is authentic after the person who made the will has died. By requiring that a willmaker follow these rules, a court can ensure that the willmaker had mental capacity when they signed the will, that they signed it voluntarily (and not under duress or threat), and that the will reflects the willmaker’s wishes. READ MORE

Probate: What It Is & How To Avoid It – Part 1

Unless you’ve created a proper estate plan when you die, many of your assets must first pass through the court process known as probate before those assets can be distributed to your heirs. Like most court proceedings, probate can be time-consuming, costly, and open to the public, and because of this, avoiding probate – and keeping your family out of court – is a central goal of most estate plans. 

It’s important to point out that even if you have a will in place, your loved ones will still be required to go through probate upon your death. Therefore, if you want to keep your family out of court and out of conflict when you die, you cannot rely solely on a will, and you’ll need to put in place other estate planning vehicles, which we will cover in further detail later.  READ MORE

How to Protect Yourself from Claims of Self-Dealing When Serving as a Trustee

A trustee usually has quite a bit of discretion in managing a trust’s accounts, money, and property (known as assets). At the same time, as a fiduciary, a trustee also owes the trust’s beneficiaries a duty of loyalty, which prohibits the trustee from self-dealing. In the simplest terms, self-dealing happens when a trustee uses the trust’s assets for their benefit instead of for the beneficiaries’ benefit.

Despite this simple definition, self-dealing can be much harder to identify in practice and is often done in ignorance, particularly when complicating factors such as the trustee being a trust beneficiary. READ MORE

Estate Planning Considerations for Couples with an Age Gap

With couples of similar ages, planning for the future is naturally a joint effort. However, if you are married to someone significantly older or younger than you, the future can look different and mean different things to each of you. To protect yourself, your spouse, and other loved ones, you need comprehensive financial and estate plans. For these plans to work as intended, you must have an open and honest conversation with your spouse about the following financial and estate planning topics.

Because you may rely on a job to provide you and your spouse with health insurance and income, and a job can take up a large amount of your time, it is essential to discuss these questions about the future of your employment. READ MORE

Using Beneficiary/Transfer-on-Death Deeds

A TOD deed (also known as a beneficiary deed) does what it sounds like it does – it transfers your real property to your selected beneficiaries upon your death, similar to a payable-on-death designation for a bank account or a transfer-on-death registration for an investment account. You continue to own and control the real property during your lifetime, so you can sell it, lease it, refinance it, give it away, or do anything else with it you choose.

You also continue to pay the mortgage and taxes and maintain the property. If you still own the property at your death, the TOD deed works to automatically transfer the property to your named beneficiaries without having to go through probate. And if you change your mind during your lifetime about whom you have named as beneficiaries in the TOD deed, you can amend or revoke it at any time. READ MORE

Protect Your Home, Family, & Assets From The Growing Threat Of Natural Disasters

The WMO found that climate change has helped drive a five-fold increase in the number of weather-related disasters in the last 50 years, and these calamities are getting more severe each year. As a result of climate change, weather records are being broken all the time, turning previously impossible events into deadly realities.

Despite this threat, most homeowners lack the insurance coverage needed to protect their property and possessions from such calamities. Roughly 64% of homeowners don’t have enough insurance, according to a 2020 report from CoreLogic, the nation’s largest source of property and housing data. One major factor contributing to this lack of coverage is the mistaken belief that homeowners insurance offers adequate protection from natural disasters. READ MORE

Marital Disclaimers and the Clayton Election: Last-Minute Estate Tax Planning

Before diving into some of the particulars of using a disclaimer and the Clayton election, let us first lay some conceptual groundwork. The main objective of using a marital funding formula in estate tax planning is to take advantage of both (1) the estate tax marital deduction and (2) the estate tax exemption to eliminate the federal estate tax due at the first spouse’s death and to reduce or eliminate federal estate tax due at the surviving spouse’s death.

What is the marital deduction? In general, as long as they meet the requirements under federal estate tax law, transfers from a decedent spouse to a surviving spouse (provided the surviving spouse is a US citizen) are excluded from the decedent spouse’s estate and are not subject to estate taxes at the first spouse’s death. This is the unlimited estate tax marital deduction. The unlimited estate tax marital deduction essentially postpones the payment of any estate taxes until after the second spouse’s death. READ MORE

Updating Your Estate Plan For Divorce: 5 Changes To Make

Your marriage is legally still in full effect until your divorce is final, so if you die or become incapacitated while your divorce is ongoing and haven’t changed your estate plan, your soon-to-be ex-spouse could wind up with complete control over your life and assets. Unless you want your ex to have that kind of power, you need to take action as soon as possible.

However, keep in mind that some states have laws that limit your ability to change your estate plan once your divorce is filed, so you may want to consider making some or all of the following changes to your estate plan as soon as the divorce is on the horizon and before you’ve filed. READ MORE

Springing Financial Powers of Attorney

If you can no longer manage your affairs, you will need somebody to act on your behalf and in your best interest. A financial power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that lets you designate a trusted person to make financial decisions for you (sign checks, open a bank account, collect your mail, etc.). The financial POA can be immediate, meaning somebody else is authorized to act for you now and into the future, or it can be springing, that is, effective only if and when an event occurs (usually when you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself).

While every estate plan should feature a financial POA, a springing financial POA requires a little more nuance to overcome its limitations. Additionally, a springing financial POA can pose problems that may not be quickly resolved even when carefully written. That said, some people dislike the idea of making a financial POA effective immediately. They prefer to have a financial POA kick in only when necessary. READ MORE

4 Reasons Why Estate Planning Is So Essential For Business Owners

When it comes to creating an estate plan, most people typically think of a will. While it’s possible to leave your business to someone in your will, it’s far from the ideal option. That’s because upon your death, all assets passed through a will must first go through the court process known as probate.

During probate, the court oversees your will’s administration to ensure your assets (including your business) are distributed according to your wishes. But probate can take months, or even years, to complete, and it can also be quite expensive, which can seriously disrupt your operation and its cash flow. What’s more, probate is a public process, potentially leaving your business affairs open to your competitors. READ MORE

Statements of Intent or Purpose in Estate Planning Documents

The reasons you, as a trustmaker, create a trust are certainly special and important to you. Still, your intent or purpose for creating a trust can also have significant legal ramifications.

For this reason, it is often critical that a trustmaker express in writing their purpose for creating the trust. There are essentially two different ways of documenting a trust maker’s intent – each has slightly different purposes, and sometimes both are generally called a “statement of intent.” READ MORE

Purchasing Life Insurance For Your Family: What You Need To Know

Although purchasing life insurance may seem pretty straightforward, it can be rather complex, especially given the different types of coverage available. Plus, because insurance agents often earn hefty commissions on the policies they sell, it can be challenging to determine precisely how much coverage (and what type of insurance) you need – and who you can trust to give you objective and accurate advice about that coverage.

With this in mind, we’ll break down the common types of life insurance coverage, explain how each of the different kinds works, and outline what you need to know to purchase a policy that will adequately address your needs, objectives, and family situation. While you should always meet with your Personal Family Lawyer® to ensure you get the proper coverage, here are a few of the most important factors to consider when shopping for a life insurance policy. READ MORE

Changes to the FAFSA Form and What It Means for Grandparents

College tuition costs and student loan debt keep going up, so much so that student debt has reached a crisis point. Student loan debt in the United States is approaching $2 trillion and grows six times faster than the national economy. The average annual cost of a private four-year college is more than $32,000 – not including expenses such as housing, food, books, and supplies. Between 2005 and 2020, the average per-student debt level nearly doubled, from $17,000 to $30,000. 

Student loan debt is an economic drag, limiting opportunities long after graduation. One of the most popular ways to save for education is a 529 plan, a qualified tuition program. These plans take their name from Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, but they are established and maintained at the state level. Every state except Wyoming has a version of the 529 plan.  READ MORE

Don’t Leave Your Children With The Babysitter Until You Read This

As we head into the third year of the pandemic, we are coming to terms with just how fragile our lives and health are. If you haven’t gotten sick yourself, it’s almost certain you know someone who has, and many of us even know of one or more individuals who have died in the past two years. 

Although severe illness and death are always at risk for – and should plan for – the pandemic has forced many of us to face our mortality like no other event in recent memory. Some of those worst-case scenarios we thought would never happen now seem much more likely, and for some people, those unthinkable situations have even become a reality. READ MORE

Pour-Over Will: Not Your Average Will

If your estate plan is based around a living trust, you are probably familiar with the trust’s benefits over a standard will. Avoiding probate, reducing attorney’s fees, and providing privacy for you and your loved ones are the primary benefits of using a living trust.

Ideally, you transfer all your accounts and property into the living trust. At the same time, you are still alive by changing ownership from you as an individual to you as the trustee of the living trust or naming the living trust as the beneficiary of items such as life insurance or a retirement account. The trust, in effect, is a legal entity that is separate from your estate (the money and property you own). Since you create the trust while you are alive and will most likely name yourself as the beneficiary, you will continue to use and enjoy the accounts and property. READ MORE

5 Ways DIY Estate Plans Can Fail & Leave Your Family At Risk – Part 2

State laws are also particular about who can serve in specific roles like executor, trustee, or financial power of attorney. In some states, for instance, the executor of your will must either be a family member or an in-law and if not, the person must live in your state. If your chosen executor doesn’t meet those requirements, they cannot serve.

Furthermore, some states require the person you name as your executor to get a bond, like an insurance policy, before they can serve. Such bonds can be challenging to get for someone who has a less-than-stellar credit score. If your executor cannot get a bond, it would be up to the court to appoint your executor, which could end up being someone you would never want managing your assets or a third-party professional who could drain your estate with costly fees. READ MORE

Common Trusts: Parenting beyond the Grave

You probably do not keep a ledger of how much each child costs you. You spend as much money as each child requires. Inevitably, there are spending imbalances. Although not perfectly equal in terms of dollar amounts, such an approach can be considered fair because you allocate funds based on need instead of an arbitrary measure such as age.

Fairness involves accounting for the differences among your children. You want to be fair to them in life – and in death. When setting up an estate plan, you are acknowledging the unpleasant possibility – no matter how remote – that you may not be around to care for your minor children while they are growing up. READ MORE

5 Ways DIY Estate Plans Can Fail & Leave Your Family At Risk – Part 1

Creating your estate plan using online document services can give you a false sense of security – you think you’ve got estate planning covered when you most likely do not. DIY plans may even lead you to believe that you no longer need to worry about estate planning, causing you to put it off creating a proper plan off until it’s too late.

In this way, relying on DIY estate planning documents is one of the most dangerous choices you can make. In the end, such generic forms could end up costing your family even more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing any planning at all. READ MORE

QTIP Trust – Will My Spouse Get What They Need?

A qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trust is an estate planning tool that married couples can use to minimize uncertainty about the future and maximize certain tax advantages. Since no one can predict how much they will own at the time of their death, which spouse will die first, whether the surviving spouse will remarry, or what the estate tax rate will be when they die, a QTIP trust can help deal with and minimize these uncertainties without the need for a crystal ball.

The most common form of a QTIP trust is a testamentary QTIP, created when the first spouse dies. This QTIP is a marital trust established as part of a married couple’s estate plan to hold money and property for the surviving spouse’s benefit. This trust may be the only one created at the first spouse’s death, or it may be part of a multiple trust arrangement where, after the first spouse’s death, the family trust (or credit shelter trust) receives an amount equal to the federal estate tax exemption and the marital trust gets the rest. READ MORE

Preventing Family Conflict And Disputes Over Your Estate Plan

Family dynamics are highly complicated and prone to conflict even during the best of times. But when tragedy strikes a household member, even minor tensions and disagreements can explode into bitter conflict. And when access to money (or even quite often, sentimental items of furniture or jewelry) is on the line, the potential for discord is exponentially increased. Ultimately, there is no higher cost to families than the cost of lost relationships after the death or incapacity of a loved one.

By becoming aware of some of the leading causes of conflict over your estate plan, you’re in a better position to prevent those situations through effective planning. Though it’s impossible to predict how your loved ones will react to your estate plan, the following issues are among the most common catalysts for conflict. READ MORE

Using Real Estate Deeds in Estate Planning

An important question arises regarding the type of deed that should be used for transferring real property into the trust’s name. Several types of deeds can be used, one of which is a general warranty deed. The other types of deeds commonly used in the United States for transferring property are quitclaim deeds and special warranty deeds. Although a complete discussion of the differences among the types of deeds is not possible in an article of this length, the following information briefly explains each type of deed and why someone might want to use it when transferring ownership of real property.

When someone wants to transfer whatever property rights they have in a parcel of property, they can use a quitclaim deed. When individual drafts and sign a quitclaim deed, they are, in effect, making a statement that whatever they own regarding the property described in the deed is now transferred to the transferee. READ MORE

Life Insurance and Estate Planning: Protecting Your Beneficiaries’ Interests

A common misconception people have about life insurance is that they only need to designate their spouse, child, or loved one as the policy’s beneficiary to ensure that the life insurance benefits will be available to the beneficiary when they die. Life insurance is a significant financial and estate planning tool. Still, there is no guarantee that your beneficiary will receive or keep the benefit from your insurance without certain protections in place.

Despite the estate tax exemption currently being at a historic high, the exemption amount will likely change under the current administration or sunset in 2026 at the latest. Therefore, if you have purchased life insurance, consider taking the extra step to ensure that your loved ones’ financial futures are secure. READ MORE

What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts at Your Death?

According to Statista, more than 295 million people in the United States use social media. If you are an avid social media user, have you considered what will happen to your accounts when you die? If you have spent time creating, uploading, and sharing content, it is essential to take a look now at what will happen after you pass away so you can determine your content’s future.

Because the process for each account is different, your loved ones must know what social media accounts you have and what your wishes are for their future after you have passed. By adequately laying out your wishes in your estate plan, you can guide your loved ones and reassurance that your legacy will live on. READ MORE

One of The Greatest Gifts To Your Family Is The Plan For Incapacity

Incapacity can be a temporary event from which you eventually recover, or it can be the start of a lengthy and costly affair that ultimately ends in your death. Indeed, incapacity can drag out over many years, leaving you and your family in an agonizing limbo. This uncertainty is what makes incapacity planning so incredibly important.

The goal of effective estate planning is to keep your family out of court and out of conflict no matter what happens to you. So if you only plan for your death, you’re leaving your family – and yourself – extremely vulnerable to potentially tragic consequences. READ MORE

All Good Things Must Come to an End: Reasons a Trust Might Terminate

The reasons why a trust might terminate can vary. Still, in general, termination occurs because the trust has accomplished its purpose, is no longer economically feasible, has distributed all its property, revoked, or is dissolved by the court because of a dispute or illegality.

A trust is a legal arrangement in which one person (the trustmaker) places their property in a trust and appoints someone (a trustee) to hold title to and manage the trust property for the benefit of one or more people (the beneficiaries). The property placed in a trust can be money, real estate, securities, business interests, insurance policies, and other types of assets. READ MORE

Why Putting Your Family Home In A Trust Is A Smart Move – Part 2

We explained how revocable living and irrevocable trusts work in part one. We discussed the process of transferring the legal title of your home into a trust to ensure it’s adequately funded. Here, in part two, we will outline the key advantages of using a trust to pass your home to your loved ones compared to other estate planning strategies.

One of the primary advantages of using a trust to pass on your home to your heirs is avoiding the court process known as probate. Unlike a will, assets held in trust do not have to go through probate. During probate, the court oversees the will’s administration, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes. READ MORE

Untangling Tangled Titles: Homeownership, Property Deeds, and Estate Planning

Do you own the home you live in?

If you are currently living in a property that you inherited, but the deed has not been transferred into your name, you may be surprised to learn that, under the law, you are technically not the owner. This legal situation is known as “tangled title.” A tangled title negatively impacts a property’s current occupant in several ways. It can also harm generational wealth and even contribute to fraud.

Most of their wealth is tied up in their home for many households. However, until a tangled title is resolved, you cannot take full advantage of your home’s value. Untangling a tangled title is often a complicated legal process that requires attorney assistance. There are costs, but not straightening out a title could be much higher in the long term.

Title and deed are legal terms used in real estate. The person who holds the title to a property is that property’s legal owner. A deed is a legal document used to transfer property ownership to another. Although a deed is an official written document, the title merely refers to the concept of ownership rights. You cannot hold a home’s title in your hands.

Titles can often get tangled in the intrafamily transfer of homeownership. A tangled title most commonly occurs when the person whose name is on the deed passes away and a surviving relative continues living in the home without their name being on the deed. READ MORE

Why Putting Your Family Home In A Trust Is A Smart Move – Part 1

A proper estate planning is as much a part of responsible homeownership as having homeowners insurance or keeping your home’s roof well maintained. When it comes to including your home in your estate plan, you have a variety of different planning vehicles to choose from, but for a variety of other reasons, putting your home in a trust is often the smartest choice. 

Although you should consult with us your Family Lawyer to identify the best estate planning strategies for your particular circumstances, in this two-part series, we’ll discuss how trusts work (both revocable and irrevocable), and then outline the most common advantages of using a trust to pass your home to your loved ones compared to other planning strategies. READ MORE

Decanting: Redoing Your Loved One’s Estate Plan

Decanting is an essential tool that emerged in some states in the last century. This tool is increasingly being used to remedy situations where a now-irrevocable trust needs to be fixed because of changing circumstances that appear to work contrary to the trustmaker’s intent.

Decanting gets its name from the practice of pouring wine from an old bottle into a new container, allowing the undesirable sediment or impurities to remain behind in the original container and the pure wine to be held in a much cleaner container, thereby enhancing the quality of the wine before consumption. Similarly, trust decanting aims to pour the trust property from an outdated or problematic trust into a newly drafted trust with the necessary improvements so that the beneficiaries can enjoy the trust property without the undesirable elements of the old trust. READ MORE

The Basics On NFTs: The Newest Cryptoverse Craze

An NFT is a cryptographic token on a blockchain in the most basic terms. It is used to establish proof of ownership of digital artwork, videos, GIFs, collectibles, and other digital assets. While NFTs use the same blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrency, NFTs themselves are not a traditional currency, though they can operate similarly to currency. Some people call them JPGs because they are graphic images, but they represent much more than a simple JPG file.

NFTs have been generating a significant buzz in the tech and art sectors for years now. Still, after Christie’s auction house sold a single NFT collage from the digital artist Beeple for a staggering $69.3 million this March, NFTs have begun making mainstream headlines. READ MORE

Are Family Limited Partnerships under Attack?

An FLP is a business entity created under state law to hold and manage the property. It comprises partners that can be either individuals or other entities such as trusts and limited liability companies (LLCs). An FLP must have at least one general partner liable for the partnership’s debts and liabilities. The other partners can all be limited partners, which means they are personally insulated from liabilities arising within the partnership. The partnership is generally protected from liabilities that a limited partner may incur outside the partnership.

In an estate planning context, FLPs are often created when a parent or parents own property such as real estate or business interests that they would like to retain control and management of but at the same time want to begin the process of transferring to their children for transfer tax purposes. The parents can form the FLP with themselves (or another entity such as an LLC they own) as the general partner and name their children (or trusts created for their children’s benefit) as limited partners. READ MORE

FAQs About Long-Term Care Insurance

With the booming aging population, more and more seniors will require long-term healthcare services, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. However, such long-term care can be costly, especially when it’s needed for extended periods.  

Moreover, many people mistakenly believe that their health insurance or the government will pay for their long-term care needs. But the fact is, traditional health insurance doesn’t cover long-term care. And though Medicare does pay for some long-term care, it’s typically limited (covering a maximum of 100 days), challenging to qualify for, and requires you to deplete nearly all of your assets before being eligible (unless you use proactive planning to shield your assets, which we can support you with if that’s important to you and your family). READ MORE

Mental Health Considerations in Estate Planning

Saying that America is dealing with a mental health crisis is not an exaggeration. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 20 percent of US adults experience mental illness, including 1 in 20 who experience serious mental illness, and 17 percent of American youth experience a mental health disorder. 

The mental health crisis has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. Loneliness and isolation are fueling increases in anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide and self-harm report Mental Health America. More people are seeking mental health screening and treatment, but around 23 percent of Americans with mental illness are still not receiving the services they need. READ MORE

10 Things You Should Know About Living Wills

A living will often called an “advance healthcare directive,” is a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors how you would want decisions related to your medical care handled in the event you become incapacitated and are unable to make such decisions yourself, particularly at the end of life. Specifically, a living will outline the procedures, medications, and treatments you would want – or would not want – to prolong your life if you become unable to discuss such matters with doctors yourself.

For example, within the terms of your living will, you can spell out certain decisions, such as if and when you would want life support removed should you ever require it, and whether you would want hydration and nutrition supplied to prolong your life.  READ MORE

Questions First Responders Must Consider to Best Protect Their Loved Ones

Being unable to work or make decisions for yourself can seem like an unimaginable scenario. You spend your time coming to other people’s rescue, so it may be difficult for you to imagine a time when you might need help or rescue. However, such things happen to people every day. To best protect yourself and your loved ones, there are a few things you should consider.

Disability insurance allows you to supplement some of or all your income (depending on your level of coverage) while you cannot work. With the proper range in place, you know that, should you be injured, you and your loved ones will still have money coming in to support you. If you have no disability insurance or are concerned that its coverage is insufficient, consider reaching out to an insurance agent to review your current situation and future needs expertly. READ MORE

Think You Are Too Young to Need An Estate Plan? Think Again

All adults over age 18 should have some basic estate planning documents in place. And this is true regardless of how much money you have, whether you are married or single, and whether or not you have kids. On that note, if you are an adult of any age and the pandemic didn’t inspire you to create your estate plan, here are four reasons why you shouldn’t wait another day to get your plan started.

Most people assume estate planning only comes into play when they die, but that’s dead wrong – pun fully intended. Although planning for your eventual death is a big part of the process, it’s just as important – if not more so – to plan for your potential incapacity due to a severe accident or illness. READ MORE

Should You Consider a Life Estate for Your Home?

A life estate, sometimes called a right of occupancy, is a property law concept that allows a property owner to split their interest in real estate and other types of property into different kinds of ownership that can exist simultaneously. For example, the owner of a cabin could legally split their ownership interest in the cabin, allowing them to possess and enjoy the cabin for the remainder of their life and then, at death, automatically pass full ownership of the cabin to a named individual.

Using a life estate deed is one way to establish a life estate in your home. This type of deed must be drafted carefully to identify who will own the life interest (the right to possess and enjoy the property during their life) and who will receive the remainder interest (the right to receive the property when the individual owns the life interest dies). READ MORE

Estate Planning Must-Haves for Parents – Even If You Have Legal Documents

A comprehensive estate plan can protect the things that matter most. For many, this means their property and their family.

When naming a legal guardian for your minor children, there are many factors to consider, such as whether the guardian has similar values to yours or can provide a welcoming home environment. But the most challenging decisions are often the most important. Consider the outcome if you died without having legal protections for your children in place. Your children could be subject to conflict between relatives, or they could be raised by someone you would never want or in a way you wouldn’t want. They could even temporarily be taken into the care of strangers. READ MORE

10 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Family Business Lawyer™

Without the guidance and support of trusted legal counsel, you are likely not aware of all the ways your business is leaking money, putting yourself and your family at risk, and possibly limiting the positive impact you have on the lives of your clients.

Beyond those potential issues, if you are handling all of your company’s legal, insurance, financial, and tax decisions yourself, you’ll likely get overwhelmed by all the necessary pieces required to run a business daily – crunching numbers, negotiating contracts, dealing with insurance, and preparing your taxes – and something will suffer. READ MORE

2021 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up to Date?

Even if you put an excellent estate plan in place, it can turn out to be worthless for the people you love if it’s not regularly updated.

Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal – your plan should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances and other changing conditions, such as your assets and the law. 

No matter who you are, your life will inevitably change: families change, laws change, assets change, and goals change. In the absence of any significant life events, we recommend reviewing your estate plan annually to ensure its terms are up to date. READ MORE

5 Mistakes Start-ups Make When Forming Their Business

It seems that everywhere you look, a new start-up is trying to make it big with a game-changing idea. But it’s only the ones that can turn that idea into a reality that reach business success. Too many start-ups fail to transition from concept to execution or encounter significant setbacks along the way. While developing your growing start-up, don’t make the common mistake of disregarding tedious but vital tasks such as making sure all your legal, insurance, financial, and tax ducks are in a row. 

Establishing a solid legal system can help you avoid costly mistakes and save time and stress down the road. Many entrepreneurs struggle with developing such systems because they don’t foresee the most common mistakes start-ups make. Avoiding these only takes a little self-awareness and planning, so read on to learn how to sidestep the five biggest legal mistakes a start-up can make. READ MORE

How Estate Planning Can Bring Blended Families Closer

Yours, mine, and ours, in today’s modern family, it’s oh so familiar. The blended family is the product of 2nd or more marriages, in which one or more of the parties comes with children from a prior marriage. And then, they may even go on to have children together.

Suppose you have or are part of a blended family. In that case, it’s essential to understand how estate planning could be precisely what you need to keep your family out of conflict and in love, both during life, in the event of incapacity, and when one or more of the senior generation or parents dies. 

Let’s begin with understanding where potential conflicts could arise when you have a blended family.  READ MORE

Why Operation Agreements Are a Must For Business Owners

As with so many things in life, some of the same qualities that help small businesses succeed can also lead to their demise. Fortunately, much of that risk can be lessened through operational excellence.

For example, the owners and managers of small businesses often know each other before going into business together. Sometimes, they’re even related. Preexisting relationships can help propel small businesses forward, especially when there are high levels of trust and competence.

Unfortunately, however, familiarity is sometimes accompanied by a lax attitude toward operational formalities. Owners and managers may skimp in critical areas such as:

Governing documents such as articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, and bylaws;

Solid or regular auditing and accounting practices; and

Shareholder meetings and minutes. READ MORE

Why You Need a Trust – Even if You Aren’t Rich

When you hear the words, “trust fund,” do you conjure up images of stately mansions and party yachts? A trust fund – or trust – is actually a great estate planning tool for many people with a wide range of incomes who want to accomplish a specific purpose with their money.

Simply put, a trust is just a vehicle used to transfer assets, and trusts are especially useful for parents of minor children as well as those who wish to spare their beneficiaries the hassle of going to Court in the event of their incapacity or death.

And why would you want to keep your family out of court (known as avoiding probate)? READ MORE

Estate Planning Awareness Week: Don’t Fall Victim to These Common Myths

This week is Estate Planning Awareness Week. To that end, we are geared towards helping you become aware of and better understand common estate planning myths. Left unaddressed, these myths can create serious trouble for your loved ones, often leading to intrafamily conflict, permanently damaged relationships and lengthy and expensive court battles. READ MORE

With Tax Laws in Flux: What Should Business Owners Do Now?

If you read last week’s blog titled, “House Democrats Propose Sweeping New Changes To Tax Laws That Stand To Have Major Impact On Business Taxation and Estate Planning—Part 1” or if you’ve been following the news about the coming changes, you know that none of us know what will ultimately happen – or even when we will know the final outcome.

Given that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was not passed until December 2017, and the same thing could happen here, with some provisions potentially impacting your taxes this year, as well as provisions that could impact decisions you’d make for next year, but those decisions must be made now, what should you do? READ MORE

With Tax Laws in Flux: What Should You Do Now?

Last week in our blog titled “House Democrats Propose Sweeping New Changes to Tax Laws That Stand To Have Major Impact on Estate Planning – Part 1,” we discussed the new bill’s proposed changes to tax rates and estate planning vehicles, including several different types of trusts.

Here, in part two, we’ll focus on what you should do now, given that the tax law is in flux and we may not have clear answers until close to the end of the year. READ MORE

House Democrats Propose Sweeping New Changes To Tax Laws That Stand To Have Major Impact On Business Taxation and Estate Planning – Part 1

On September 13, 2021, Democrats in the House of Representatives released a new $3.5 trillion proposed spending plan that includes a wide array of changes to federal tax laws. Specifically, the Democrats have proposed a number of significant tax increases and other changes to fund the plan, including increases to personal income tax rates and READ MORE

House Democrats Propose Sweeping New Changes To Tax Laws That Stand To Have Major Impact On Estate Planning – Part 1

On September 13, 2021, Democrats in the House of Representatives released a new $3.5 trillion proposed spending plan that includes a wide array of changes to federal tax laws. Specifically, the Democrats have proposed a number of significant tax increases and other changes to fund the plan, including increases to personal income tax rates and the capital gains tax rate, along with a major reduction to the federal estate and gift tax exclusion and new restrictions on Grantor Trusts that would basically eliminate such trust’s ability to be used as planning vehicles.

While the proposed legislation is still under consideration and far from being finalized, given the broad-reaching impact these changes stand to have, we strongly encourage you to take action now if you would be affected by the proposed legislation if it does pass. With the exception of capital gains rate increase, which could go into effect on transactions that occur on or after Sept. 13, 2021, most of the proposed changes would be effective after December 31, 2021, meaning that you have time to plan now.

That said, due to the time it takes to plan and execute some of the financial and estate planning actions we’d need to support you with, we suggest you start strategizing now. That way, you’ll have plenty of time to take the appropriate action before the end of the year. With that in mind, here we’ll outline how the proposed tax law changes stand to affect your financial, tax, and estate planning, so you can contact us if you would be impacted if the new bill does pass. READ MORE

3 Pitfalls To Avoid When Buying An Existing Business

Whether it’s your very first or your fifth company, if you’re looking to start a new business venture, you have two options: 1) build your own from scratch or 2) buy an existing one. And while many entrepreneurs dream of building their own company from the ground up, the reality is, launching a brand-new business can be incredibly difficult.

Building a business from scratch can involve years of working long hours for little to no financial reward. In fact, whether your company is ever able to generate a profit or not, starting your own business can consume your life like few other activities. What’s more, no matter how much you sacrifice, there’s no guarantee the venture still won’t fail miserably.

On the other hand, buying an existing business and successfully making it your own can be somewhat less stressful. After all, you’re buying an operation that has already proven successful, with an existing customer base, brand recognition, and cash flow. READ MORE

A Not-So-Happy Accident: Bob Ross’s Estate Planning Failures Leave His Son With Next to Nothing – Part 2

Bob Ross’ planning failures led to an ugly court battle between his former business partners and his family, who were fighting for control of the lucrative intellectual property rights to the Bob Ross brand.

Unfortunately, Bob’s son Steve ultimately lost his fight to benefit from the business empire built on his father’s persona and painting skills. Here in Part Two, we’ll explain the steps you can take to ensure that your loved ones don’t suffer the same fate and are able to fully benefit from all of your business assets following your death.

When it comes to the ownership of business assets, the legal agreements governing the ownership rights of a business are what determines who owns the business and its assets upon the death of an owner, regardless of what your estate plan says. This is why it’s essential that you make certain that any business agreements you enter into are in coordination with your estate plan. We can help you do this as long as we know about all of your business holdings, including your intellectual property and business entities when we handle your estate planning with you. READ MORE

The Big-Time Benefits Of Hiring Your Kids

One of the biggest benefits of running a family business is being able to employ your minor children. By hiring your kids, you have the opportunity to teach them the value of hard work, give them experience managing money, and support them to save for their future. READ MORE

A Not-So-Happy Accident: Bob Ross’s Estate Planning Failures Leave His Son With Next to Nothing – Part 1

As the host of the wildly popular The Joy of Painting TV series on PBS, Bob Ross became a pop-culture icon, who was equally famous for his giant head of hair, soothing baritone voice, and folksy demeanor as he was for his iconic landscape paintings. And like so many other artists, Bob’s artwork and image would become even more popular following Bob’s death in 1995.

Bob’s philosophy in both painting and life was that there “were no mistakes in life… just happy little accidents.” Sadly, as detailed in the recent Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, Bob’s failure to coordinate his business agreements with his estate plan was anything but happy, leaving his only son largely unable to benefit from his father’s fame and fortune.

As we’ll discuss in this series, Bob’s planning failures have led to an ugly court battle between his former business partners and his family, who were fighting for control of the lucrative intellectual property rights to the Bob Ross brand. READ MORE

Estate Planning Must-Haves For Single Parents

Having an estate plan that covers the care of your children in case you should be in a severe accident, fall ill, or die welcomes peace of mind for the single parent knowing everything and everyone they love is taken care of.  Here are the must-haves that can protect your children if something were to ever happen to you: READ MORE

Legendary Rapper DMX Dies With No Will, Millions in Debt, and 15 Children – Part 2

As we reported last week in part one, Legendary hip hop artist DMX born Earl Simmons passed away on April 9 at age 50 after suffering a massive heart attack a week earlier at his home in White Plains, New York. The heart attack was reportedly triggered by a cocaine overdose on April 2, which left the rapper hospitalized in a coma. After a week of lingering in a vegetative state, his family made the decision to remove him from life support.

Although DMX was wildly successful in both music and movies, the rap icon experienced serious legal and financial problems, along with frequent issues with drug addiction throughout his career. Having fathered 15 children with nine different women, DMX’s money issues largely stemmed from unpaid child support, but he also failed to pay income taxes, and both of these issues would land the rapper in prison and rehab on more than one occasion.

The saddest part of this whole situation is that virtually all of the conflict, expense, and trauma that DMX’s loved ones are likely to endure could have been easily prevented with straightforward estate planning. Using revocable living trusts, for example, DMX could have ensured that his children and fiancée would have immediate access to his assets upon his death or incapacity, avoiding the need for court involvement altogether and keeping the contents and terms of his estate totally private. READ MORE

5 Mistakes To Avoid When Investing In Business Insurance

Business insurance is your first line of defense in protecting your company from a wide variety of different potential threats. Without the right insurance or with too little of the insurance you do need you could be at great risk from the costs of a lawsuit, judgment, or in the event of an unforeseen emergency or disaster. READ MORE

Legendary Rapper DMX Dies With No Will, Millions in Debt, and 15 Children – Part 1

Legendary hip hop artist DMX, born Earl Simmons, passed away on April 9 at age 50 after suffering a massive heart attack a week earlier at his home in White Plains, New York. The heart attack was reportedly triggered by a cocaine overdose on April 2, which left the rapper hospitalized in a coma. After a week of lingering in a vegetative state, his family made the decision to remove him from life support.

DMX and Desiree, who were engaged in 2019, had been together for seven years, and she gave birth to his 15th child, a boy named Exodus Simmons, in 2016. However, because the two were never married and DMX did not create any estate planning providing for her, Desiree will likely inherit nothing from her late fiance’s fortune.

Don’t let what happened to DMX’s family happen to your loved ones. Whether you have no estate plan at all or have a plan that needs review, even one created by another lawyer, contact us, as your Family Lawyer, today. With our support and guidance, we can ensure that your loved ones will always be provided for and stay out of court and out of conflict no matter what happens to you. READ MORE

4 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Business Entity – Part 2

When starting a business, you have to make a ton of different decisions. From deciding what to name your company to hire employees, getting your business off the ground comes with a nearly endless number of decisions.

Last week in part one, we discussed the first two of four leading factors to consider when selecting your entity, and here, we cover the final two.

Properly selecting, setting up, and maintaining your business entity is far too important of a task for you to try to handle all on your own. We offer you trusted advice on the most advantageous entity for your particular business and then help ensure that your entity is properly set up. We can also provide you with sound business systems to make your business more efficient and establish a clear separation between your business and personal finances, which is a crucial part of maintaining your entity’s liability protection. READ MORE

Don’t Forget To Protect Your Furry Family: Estate Planning For Your Pets

Humane Society estimates that between 100,00 to 500,000 pets are placed in shelters each year for exactly this reason, and a large number of these animals are ultimately euthanized.

Unfortunately, the law considers pets to be nothing more than personal property just like cars, furniture, and electronic devices. So unless you take the proper steps to include your pet in your estate plan, your beloved companion could end up in a shelter or worse following your death or incapacity. READ MORE

4 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Business Entity – Part 1

When starting a business, you have to make a ton of decisions. Deciding what to name your company and hiring employees, what kind of products or services you should sell, and how to fund your operation, getting your business off the ground comes with a nearly endless number of decisions.

all these decisions, perhaps none is more important or has a more significant impact on your success (or failure) than your choice of business entity structure. Indeed, the entity you choose for your business will affect everything from the amount of taxes you pay and what kind of records you are required to keep to how vulnerable your assets are to lawsuits incurred by your company. READ MORE

Everything You Need to Know About Including Digital Assets In Your Estate Plan – Part 2

Last week in part one, we discussed some of the most common types of digital assets and the current legal landscape governing what happens to those assets upon your death or incapacity. Here, we offer some practical tips to ensure all of your digital assets are properly included in your estate plan, so these assets can provide the most benefit for your loved ones for generations to come. READ MORE

Preserving Your Money and Property Beyond the Third Generation

Whether you have inherited your wealth or have built it yourself, you likely want to share this wealth with the next generation and beyond. Providing for multiple generations through your financial and estate plans is a significant legacy to leave your family. As previously mentioned, ensuring that it is done properly requires careful planning with experienced professionals. To take the next step in your planning, consider the following steps (if you have not already done so): READ MORE

Benefits of Having Your Business Donate to Charity

Giving money to charity might seem counterintuitive to those running a for-profit company. However, it is important to keep in mind that charitable giving can not only make a big difference to the recipients of your generosity, but it can also provide a net gain to your business. In addition to the potential tax advantages of charitable giving, donations have been shown to boost employee morale and productivity, improve a company’s brand image, and build customer relationships. READ MORE

The Difference Between a Prenuptial Agreement and a Will or Trust

Having a will or a trust is something responsible people do, but despite the more common use of these tools today, a certain percentage of the general population still misunderstands the difference between the reasons for creating a will or a trust and the reasons for entering into a prenuptial agreement. What do these different legal documents do? And when should you use them? READ MORE

What You Need to Know about Hiring Seasonal Employees

A lot has changed since last summer, but the same federal and state laws still apply to employers that hire seasonal employees. If your business is considering bringing on summer help to handle an increased workload, you may need a refresher on navigating benefits, taxes, overtime, pay, and employment of teenage workers. READ MORE

Britney Spears’ Nightmare Conservatorship Underscores The Vital Importance Of Incapacity Planning – Part 1

Since the age of 16, when she burst onto the charts with her debut single, “…Hit Me Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears has been one of the world’s most famous and beloved pop stars. Yet despite her massive fame and fortune, Britney, who is now 39, has never truly had full control over her own life. READ MORE

How to Maximize Your Startup Cost Deductions

Coming up with a solid concept for a new business and working to get your operation off the ground can be an expensive undertaking. But the good news is that you can write off a number of the expenses involved with the startup process. READ MORE

My Loved One Has Died – What Do I Do Now?

When a family member or other loved one dies, grief and shock can sometimes be overwhelming. The last thing most people want to think about is making phone calls or funeral arrangements. Some things do not need to be done immediately, but there are some steps that should be taken soon after the loss of your loved one. We hope the following guide will help facilitate this process during a stressful and emotional time. READ MORE

Just Married? 6 Estate Planning Essentials for Newlyweds – Part 2

Indeed, once your marriage is official, your relationship becomes entirely different from both a legal and financial perspective. With this in mind, last week in part one, we discussed the first three of six essential items you need to address in your plan, and here we cover the final three. READ MORE

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift for Every Father

We may go to great lengths to protect and pass on our family’s financial wealth. Still, very few of us take the time to even document, much less preserve, our family’s legacy. The stories, values, insights, and life lessons of our parents, grandparents, and those who came before them— are typically lost forever when a beloved father figure passes away. READ MORE

Why Is My Trust So Long?

When you met with an attorney a few weeks ago, perhaps all you expected was a simple will. Maybe you thought that, with your situation, the work should be easy and the documents should be few. But now that you have finished working with the attorney, your parting gift is a large binder filled with hundreds of pages. You may be wondering, “Why is my trust so long?” READ MORE

What is Long-Term Care and Who Provides It?

Most long-term care involves assisting with basic personal needs rather than providing medical care. You are usually determined to need long-term care if you need help with two or more “activities of daily living” (such as bathing, dressing, eating, and going to the bathroom). Family members usually provide long-term care to start, but as an illness escalates paid care may become necessary. READ MORE

Selling a Deceased Loved One’s Real Estate: Things You Need to Know

After the death of a loved one, such as a parent, there are a variety of tasks that must be handled to wrap up your loved one’s final affairs. Selling your deceased loved one’s real estate is one of the more daunting ones. But before you call a real estate agent, you should take some time to get familiar with and consider a few of the key issues as you work through this process. READ MORE

What Are the Rights of a Child Born Outside of Marriage?

If you are a nonmarital child or have a nonmarital child, it is essential to understand how rights to inherit are formed and defined. Failure to adequately provide estate planning for a nonmarital child could be problematic for children and families attempting to assert their rights following the nonmarital father’s death. READ MORE

Don’t Let Diminished Financial Capacity Put Your Elderly Loved Ones At Risk – Part 1

Coinciding with the boom in the elderly population, the number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is expected to increase substantially as well. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease will double by 2060, when it’s expected to reach 14 million—more than 3% of the total population. READ MORE

Simultaneous Deaths: What If My Spouse and I Die at the Same Time?

The chances of a married couple dying in a common accident or within a very short time of one another are probably quite slim. However, it does happen. And it happens frequently enough that most states have laws to address the issue and the problems that can arise from simultaneous deaths. What are these laws, why do we need them, and can we work around them if we need to? READ MORE

Do I Have to Leave Anything to My Children?

One common storyline in Hollywood movies is the rich father disinheriting the family outcast. The story usually traces the child’s attempts to win the father over and be considered a part of the family again. But can fiction imitate reality? Can you actually disinherit a child? READ MORE

What Happens to Your Pets When You Die?

If you have pets, my guess is that you love them as much as you do your children, but I’m also guessing that you have not provided any written or, better yet, legally documented instructions about what should happen to them, if you become incapacitated or when you die. If you have, read this article with an eye to ensuring you’ve checked all the right boxes for the beings you love. If you haven’t, read on because it’s time to take action, and we can make it easy for you to do the right thing by the pets you love. READ MORE

What If No One Wants My Property?

A critical question to ask yourself when creating an estate plan is who will get your stuff when you pass on? While most people think about who they would like to receive the major items, such as homes, retirement accounts, savings; however, personal property, such as jewelry, clothing, sports equipment, vehicles, and other possessions are often overlooked. READ MORE

Four Common Myths about Estate Planning

Almost everyone will benefit from estate planning, which addresses non-wealth aspects of your legacy along with the financial aspects. Estate planning can ensure someone you trust will care for your children and pets after your death, and make sure treasured family heirlooms end up where you want them to go. Estate planning also can help you pass along your values. READ MORE

Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Intellectual Property?

Even if you’ve worked with a lawyer to set up your business entity or a CPA to file your taxes, those advisors may not be thinking about or helping you plan for what happens to your intangible business assets upon your death. Similarly, most lawyers who focus on estate planning don’t really understand the value of intellectual property and how to protect it. READ MORE

Reviewing Your Estate Plan after the Death of a Loved One

Although your estate plan primarily focuses on what will happen if you become incapacitated (unable to make or communicate your wishes) or die, the death of a loved one can have a major impact on your planning. If you have an estate plan, one of the first items you need to do when a loved one dies is to review the documents with the following questions in mind: READ MORE

Moving To A New State? Remember to Update Your Estate Plan

Although you likely won’t need to have an entirely new estate plan prepared for you, upon relocating to another state, you should definitely have your existing plan reviewed by an estate planning lawyer who is familiar with your new home state’s laws. Each state has its own laws governing estate planning, and those laws can differ significantly from one location to another. READ MORE

5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Estate Planning Lawyer – Part 2

Although hiring the right estate planning lawyer may not seem like a really important decision, it’s actually one of the most critical choices you can make for both yourself and your family. After all, this is the individual you are trusting to serve on your behalf to protect and provide for your loved ones in the event of life’s most traumatic experiences.

Should you choose the wrong person for the job, your family could potentially face all manner of unnecessary conflicts, expenses, and legal entanglements during a time when they are at their most vulnerable. In the end, estate planning is about far more than having a lawyer create a set of documents for you, and then never seeing you again, or only seeing you when something goes wrong. READ MORE

5 Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Estate Planning Lawyer – Part 1

Since you’ll be discussing topics like death, incapacity, and other frightening life events, hiring an estate planning lawyer may feel intimidating or morbid. But it definitely doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, it can be the most empowering decision you ever make for yourself and your loved ones. The key to transforming the experience of hiring a lawyer from one that you dread into one that empowers you is to educate yourself first. This is the person who is going to be there for your family when you can’t be, so you want to really understand who the lawyer is as a human, not just an attorney. Of course, you’ll also want to find out the kind of services your potential lawyer offers and how they run their business. READ MORE

Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts

If you want to provide for a loved one who is disabled or has special needs when you are no longer here, care must be taken to ensure that the inheritance you leave will help rather than harm your loved one. An inheritance received outright could negatively impact your loved one if he or she is currently receiving government aid or benefits or will need to apply for aid in the future. READ MORE

Things You Need to Know as Successor Trustee

Accepting the role of successor trustee can seem a little intimidating when you look at the job description. However, you are not alone. Your advisor team (trust administration attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), financial advisor, and insurance agent) can guide you through the various steps of the administration process. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to consider delegating trust administration tasks to another person with comparable, more advanced, or specialized skills such as an attorney, CPA, or financial advisor. Also note, services completed on behalf of the trust can be charged to the trust, not to you personally. READ MORE

How to Choose a Trustee

When you establish a trust, you name someone to be the trustee. A trustee does what you do right now with your financial affairs – collect income, pay bills and taxes, save and invest for the future, buy and sell property, provide for your loved ones, keep accurate records, and generally keep things organized and in good order. READ MORE

The Recipe for a Satisfying Estate Plan

Misconceptions about who needs an estate plan abound. Most people believe that estate planning is only for extremely wealthy business moguls or celebrities. But that could not be further from the truth. Estate planning is the process of making decisions about what happens to you, your money, and your property when you pass away or can no longer make decisions for yourself. Thus, estate planning should be standard practice for every adult age eighteen or older.

To learn more about Cheever Law, APC and estate planning, please register for our FREE educational Life & Legacy Planning Webinar. We look forward to serving you! READ MORE

4 Tips for Talking About Estate Planning with Your Family Over the Holidays

With COVID-19 still raging, your 2020 holiday season may not feature the big family get-togethers of years past, but you’ll still likely be visiting with loved ones in some fashion, whether via video chat or in smaller groups. And though the holidays are always a good time to bring up estate planning, given the ongoing pandemic, talking about these issues is particularly urgent this time around. READ MORE

Remarrying In Midlife? Avoid Accidently Disinheriting Your Loved Ones

Today, we’re seeing more and more people getting divorced in middle age and beyond. Indeed, the trend of couples getting divorced after age 50 has grown so common, it’s even garnered its own nickname: “gray divorce.”

With divorce coming so late in life, the financial fallout can be quite devastating. Indeed, Bloomberg.com found that the standard of living for women who divorce after age 50 drops by some 45%, while it falls roughly 21% for men. Given the significant decrease in income and the fact people are living longer than ever, it’s no surprise that many of these folks also choose to get remarried.

And those who do get remarried frequently bring one or more children from previous marriages into the new union, which gives rise to an increasing number of blended families. Regardless of age or marital status, all adults over age 18 should have some basic estate planning in place, but for those with blended families, estate planning is particularly vital. READ MORE

Getting Divorced? Don’t Overlook These 4 Updates to Your Estate Plan – Part 2

Going through divorce can be an overwhelming experience that impacts nearly every facet of your life, including estate planning. Yet, with so much to deal with during the divorce process, many people forget to update their plan or put it off until it’s too late.

Last week in part one, we discussed the first two changes you should make to your plan: updating your beneficiary designations and power of attorney documents. Here in part two, we’ll cover the final updates to consider. READ MORE

Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies Without A Will – Part 2

Last week in part one, we discussed a few potential explanations for this apparent blind spot in Boseman’s estate plan, and how the young actor might have prevented the situation by creating a pour-over will to be used as a backup to any trusts he had put in place. Here in part two, we’ll focus on another critical component of Boseman’s estate plan – incapacity planning.

Regardless of his age or health condition, Boseman, like all adults over 18 years old, should have three essential planning documents in place to protect against potential incapacity from illness or injury. These include a medical power of attorney, living will, and durable financial power of attorney. READ MORE

Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies Without A Will – Part 1

On October 15th, nearly two months after the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, filed documents with the Los Angeles probate court seeking to be named administrator of his estate. Earlier this year, Boseman and Ledward were married, and the marriage gives Ledward the right to any assets held in Boseman’s name at his death.

What makes Boseman’s story somewhat unique from the others is that it seems likely the young actor put some estate planning tools in place, but it’s possible he didn’t quite finish the job. Based on the number of hit films he starred in and how much he earned for those films, several sources have noted that Boseman’s assets at the time of his death should have been worth far more than the approximately $939,000 listed in probate court documents. READ MORE

Questions & Answers On COVID-19 Tax Changes for 2020—Part 2

Last week in part one, we answered questions about tax changes offered by the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC). Here in part two, we’ll wrap up this series by answering questions about the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and four additional tax breaks offered by the CARES Act that could save your business even more on your 2020 taxes. READ MORE

Questions & Answers On COVID-19 Tax Changes for 2020—Part 1

Throughout 2020, Congress passed multiple pieces of legislation—most notably the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—offering numerous forms of tax relief to help businesses like yours deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19.

That said, these new laws have also created a tangled web of new tax and accounting changes that can be quite challenging to keep track of. To help you sort through all of the new programs and ensure your business takes advantage of the full range of tax breaks available, in this two-part series, we’ll provide answers to some commonly asked questions about the coronavirus-related tax changes for 2020. READ MORE

Once Your Kids Are 18, Make Sure They Sign These Documents

While estate planning is probably one of the last things your teenage kids are thinking about, given the dire threat coronavirus represents, when they turn 18, it should be their (and your) number-one priority. Here’s why: At 18, they become legal adults in the eyes of the law, so you no longer have the authority to make decisions regarding their healthcare, nor will you have access to their financial accounts if something happens to them. READ MORE

COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advance Healthcare Directives—Part 2

With new cases of COVID-19 currently surging in dozens of states, doctors across the country are joining lawyers in urging Americans to create the proper estate planning documents, so medical providers can better coordinate their treatment and care should they become hospitalized with the virus.

The most crucial planning tools for this purpose are medical power of attorney and a living will, advance healthcare directives that work together to help describe your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care should you become unable to express your own wishes. While all adults over age 18 should put these documents in place as soon as possible, if you are over age 60 or have a chronic underlying health condition, the urgency is paramount. READ MORE

COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advance Healthcare Directives—Part 1

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country, doctors across the nation are joining lawyers in urging Americans to create the proper estate planning documents, so medical providers can better coordinate their care should they become hospitalized with the virus.

The most critical planning tools for this purpose are medical power of attorney and a living will, advance healthcare directives that work together to help describe your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event you’re unable to express your own wishes. In light of COVID-19, even those who have already created these documents should revisit them to ensure they are up-to-date and address specific scenarios related to the coronavirus. READ MORE

Avoiding Financial Grief: How to Protect Your Significant Other from Frozen Accounts

The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Nothing can truly prepare a person for such a loss. However, dealing with the financial stress of frozen bank accounts can exacerbate the stress. Without proper planning, your significant other could struggle to gain access to your accounts. The frustration is especially distressing if the frozen account was the primary source for paying joint or household expenses. READ MORE

How to Avoid the Need For a Prenuptial Agreement – Part 1

If you’re counting down the days to your wedding, divorce is probably the last thing you and your fiancé want to be thinking about, and yet you might be rightfully concerned about what would happen to your assets in the event of a divorce – or your death. In this two-part series, I’ll first discuss the pros and cons of prenuptial agreements, and then in part two, provide estate-planning alternatives you may want to consider. READ MORE

Is It Time to Go Solo(preneur)?

There’s nothing like a major change in the economic climate to make you rethink your day job. “Business as usual” currently means a large element of uncertainty about what the future holds for your working life. Whether you’ve lost your job, had your hours cut, or have seen these things happen to people you know, your feeling of security has likely taken a hit. And, maybe that can be a good thing, something that calls you to start taking action. READ MORE

Learning to Flourish, Even in a Financial Crisis

A financial crisis doesn’t have to be a crisis for you or your family. In fact, this could be the perfect time to access the wealth of resources currently available to fund your next level of growth. It’s a time to invest in yourself, and to learn to use your gifts, skills, and talents to serve others in a big way. That way, you won’t have to depend on anyone else, including your job, corporations, or the government, to sustain you. READ MORE

The Basics of Disability Insurance and How It Can Help During COVID

The Americans with Disabilities Act has detailed specifics on what a disability is, but the most basic definition is that an individual has “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.” That can apply to a car-accident or other injury, or a debilitating illness documented by a doctor, including mental illness. READ MORE

3 Unique Ways to Handle the Guilt Inherent to Being a Parent

If you are like most parents, you were probably struggling with guilt even before the virus. You simply can’t make it to every award ceremony or recital, and you might not have as much time to play with your kids or help them with their homework as you’d like. Those feelings of guilt may now be compounded by all the additional responsibilities you’ve had to take on in a short space of time. READ MORE

Online Wills? When You Should, When You Shouldn’t and Where to Do It

With all of the media about “digital wills” and “online estate planning” it could be tempting to think you can do your estate planning yourself, online. And, maybe you can. But, if you do, you need to know the potential pitfalls. Online estate planning could be a big trap for the unwary and actually leave your family worse off than if you had done nothing at all. READ MORE

How To Get Access to Your COVID Stimulus Money

On March 27, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill into law that will hopefully provide some relief for many, perhaps including you. The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) sends money directly to Americans, expands unemployment coverage, and funds loans and grants for small businesses. So let’s look at how you can access these funds. READ MORE

The Most Important Legal and Financial Actions To Take Right Now

As you already know, the COVID-19 pandemic means nothing is business as usual.

In this time of stress and chaos, your parents may be resistant to talking about estate planning. Perhaps you have not completed your own planning and are hesitant to get started. It may feel too pessimistic to plan for the worst in the midst of a scary situation. However, that’s exactly why it’s the most important time to do so. Plus, since hopefully you are staying inside, you may actually have the time to dedicate to getting these tasks taken care of. READ MORE

How To Talk To Your Parents and Get Them To Stay Home

There’s no doubt that your parents have survived frightening world events, whether that was World War II, the war in Vietnam, nuclear threat, illness, poverty, civil unrest, or all of the above. However, the use of the word “unprecedented” regarding what’s happening now is not an exaggeration. And they may not understand it all or what they should do, not because they aren’t wise, but because the news has been confusing to interpret. Here are some tips to help you speak with your parents about staying home. READ MORE

Are You Clear About How Your Parents Estate Plan Will Impact You?

It is my hope that your family is safe and healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I invite you to ask several important questions, such as: Do your parents have an estate plan? Is it up to date? These times provide us with a reminder that estate planning is critical for all of us. READ MORE

Unprecedented Times: Time to Get Prepared

In light of these unprecedented times and the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for all of us to follow in order to protect yourself and to protect others. Large gatherings are cancelled and we are encouraged to limit physical contact and take extra precautions to take care of ourselves and our families, not out of fear, but out of concern and care for those around us and to stop the spread. In order to minimize exposure and the spread of the virus, take extra steps to protect yourself and your family by actively supporting your immune system, practice proper personal hygiene, which includes proper hand-washing, and limit physical contact with others. Additionally, ensure you are prepared and have food, supplies and resources for 30 days at home. Please visit the CDC for a complete list of the Guidelines if you haven’t done so already.

Your health and safety is important to me and the extra precautions include implementation of virtual meeting options by partnering with Zoom, a video conferencing technology solution. Utilizing technology, my office can continue to serve and support you while staying connected and minimizing physical contact. These are the times where it is more important than ever to ensure you are prepared, which includes having your estate planning in place. READ MORE

CORONAVIRUS: Impact to Your Wealth, Health and Happiness

While it’s still hard to tell how the Coronavirus will impact us in the long term, it’s become a subject that’s impossible to ignore. Here are some resources to stay up to date on the virus and to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy. READ MORE

4 Things Trusts Can Do That Wills Can’t

Both wills and trusts are estate planning documents that can be used to pass your wealth and property to your loved ones upon your death. However, trusts come with some distinct advantages over wills that you should consider when creating your plan.

That said, when comparing the two planning tools, you won’t necessarily be choosing between one or the other—most plans include both. Indeed, a will is a foundational part of every person’s estate plan, but you may want to combine your will with a living trust to avoid the blind spots inherent in plans that rely solely on a will. READ MORE

Kobe Bryant’s Untimely Death Highlights the Vital Need for Estate Planning at All Ages

The death of Kobe, his daughter, and the others is overwhelmingly tragic and heartbreaking. The entire matter is terribly painful. It highlights our mortality and that our tomorrows are not promised. We cover these issues in hopes that it will inspire you to remember that life is not guaranteed, death can come at any moment, and your loved ones are counting on you to do the right thing for them now. READ MORE

The SECURE Act’s Impact On Estate and Retirement Planning—Part 1

The changes ushered in by the SECURE Act have dramatic implications for both your retirement and estate planning strategies—and not all of them are positive. While the law includes a number of taxpayer-friendly measures to boost your ability to save for retirement, it also contains provisions that could have disastrous effects on planning strategies families have used for years to protect and pass on assets contained in retirement accounts. READ MORE

The SECURE Act: How Does It Affect Your Retirement Accounts?

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act), which became effective on January 1, 2020. The Act is the most impactful legislation affecting retirement accounts in decades. It will have a positive impact for many older Americans but could have negative tax consequences for many beneficiaries of their retirement accounts. READ MORE

Productivity Tips for the New Year

Are you feeling bogged down in a swamp of clutter, deadlines, and incomplete tasks? As we draw closer to the end of the year, make it your goal to do a few simple things over the course of a day or two that will result in increased productivity and peace of mind for 2020. READ MORE

4 Tips For Discussing Estate Planning With Your Family This Holiday Season

The holidays offer an opportunity to visit with loved ones you rarely see and get caught up on what’s been happening in everyone’s life. And though it might not seem like it, the holidays can also be a good time to discuss estate planning. In fact, with everyone you love, from the youngest to the oldest, gathered together under one roof, the holidays provide the ideal opportunity to talk about planning. READ MORE

Buyer Beware: The Hidden Dangers of DIY Estate Planning—Part 2

Online planning documents may appear to save you time and money, but keep in mind, just because you created “legal” documents doesn’t mean they will actually work when you (or most importantly, the people you love) need them. Without a thorough understanding of how the legal process works and impacts family dynamics upon your death or incapacity, you’ll likely make serious mistakes when creating a DIY plan. READ MORE

Buyer Beware: The Hidden Dangers of DIY Estate Planning – Part 1

In this way, relying on DIY planning documents is one of the most dangerous choices you can make. In the end, such generic forms could end up costing your family even more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing any planning at all. At least with no plan at all, planning would likely remain at the front of your mind, where it rightfully belongs, until it’s handled properly. READ MORE