What if I Cannot Find a Beneficiary?

As an executor or trustee, ensuring assets reach their intended beneficiaries is crucial. But what happens when a beneficiary is missing? Here’s a glimpse into the steps and considerations involved in locating beneficiaries, including the use of heir search services and the importance of legal guidance. Stay informed to navigate these complexities effectively and protect your fiduciary responsibilities. READ MORE

Celebrity Estate Plans Series Part 1 of 4: Michael Jackson 

In our exploration of Michael Jackson’s estate plan, we uncover valuable lessons applicable to everyone, regardless of fame or fortune. Despite his global influence, Jackson’s oversight in estate planning, relying solely on a Will instead of a trust, led to prolonged legal battles and public scrutiny for his family. This highlights the critical importance of comprehensive estate planning and the role of a successor trustee in safeguarding assets and family harmony. Learn from his story to ensure your loved ones are protected with a well-thought-out estate plan. READ MORE

The Importance of a Successor Trustee

A successor trustee is more than a legal designation; they are a cornerstone of your estate plan’s effectiveness and your peace of mind. Responsible for managing trust assets in times of incapacity and after your passing, this trusted individual ensures your directives are upheld without the complexities of probate. Their fiduciary duties underscore their commitment to acting in the best interests of your beneficiaries, making regular updates to your estate plan and clear communication with your successor trustee crucial steps in securing your legacy for the future. READ MORE

Value Freedom? Here’s Why an Estate Plan Is Your Declaration of Independence

As you celebrate the Fourth of July, embrace the ultimate American liberty: the right to decide your own affairs, even after death or in the event of incapacity. Learn how a Life & Legacy Plan empowers you to preserve self-determination, protect your family, grow your wealth, and define your legacy. This comprehensive estate planning approach ensures your wishes are honored, evolves with you, and minimizes stress for your loved ones. Make your own declaration of freedom and secure your legacy with a Life & Legacy Plan today. READ MORE

Severing Joint Ownership of Property

Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) is a common form of property ownership in the United States, offering an undivided right to enjoy the property and a seamless transfer to the surviving joint tenant upon death. While this method is attractive for its simplicity and low cost, it can lead to unintended legal consequences. Explore the benefits and potential pitfalls of JTWROS, and learn about the various methods for severing joint tenancy when necessary. Ensure your estate planning aligns with your wishes by consulting an experienced attorney. READ MORE

The Surprising Connection Between Men’s Health and Estate Planning

Did you know that your physical health can have a profound impact on your estate planning? As we mark Men’s Health Month, let’s explore how good health extends beyond just longevity and quality of life—it’s also crucial for setting up a robust estate plan. A strong estate plan ensures your wishes are respected throughout your life and even after, making it as important as your physical well-being. READ MORE

How to Talk to Mom and Dad about Creating an Estate Plan

Conversations about death and dying can be uncomfortable, but they’re essential for ensuring your parents’ wishes are honored. This blog explores the importance of discussing estate planning with your parents, offering practical tips on how to approach the topic. Learn how to navigate these sensitive conversations, involve all necessary parties, and review existing plans to build a solid foundation for your family’s future. Don’t wait – take steps now to secure your parents’ legacy and provide peace of mind for everyone involved. READ MORE

They’re Not Kids Anymore! Navigating Your Child’s Transition Into Adulthood

When your child turns 18, they’re legally considered an adult, even though they still have a lot more growing to do (though they might not think so!). Just like any other adult, their health and financial information is protected by privacy laws. But you can still step in and help them if you and your child plan ahead. In our latest blog, we share three essential strategies to help you and your child navigate this important transition: education, communication, and legal planning. Learn how to support your newly-minted adult through this critical phase and ensure you’re able to step in if needed. READ MORE

What If No One Wants My Stuff?

When creating an estate plan, a critical question arises: Who will get your belongings when you pass on? While major assets like homes and retirement accounts often get attention, personal items such as jewelry, clothing, and sports equipment can be overlooked. What happens if your loved ones don’t want these items? This article explores how to handle personal property in your estate plan, covering wills, trusts, and various methods to distribute or dispose of unwanted items, ensuring your wishes are honored and your loved ones are spared unnecessary burdens. Discover practical solutions and the importance of a comprehensive estate plan to protect your legacy. READ MORE

Father Knows Best: Avoiding Common Estate Planning Pitfalls

As a father, you’ve always strived to provide the best for your family, ensuring their well-being and securing their future. From the moment you first held your child, you committed to protecting them, guiding them, and supporting their growth and happiness. Your dedication is unwavering, and your love knows no bounds.

However, even the most well-intentioned plans can falter if you overlook the complexities of estate planning. It’s not just about having a will or a few financial arrangements in place; it’s about understanding the intricate details and potential challenges that can arise. Without a thorough and well-thought-out estate plan, your assets might not be distributed according to your wishes, and your family could face unnecessary legal battles and financial hardships. READ MORE

My Loved One Has Died: As an Heir or Beneficiary, Do I Need an Attorney?

You just found out that your favorite aunt has died. In the midst of your grief and sadness, you receive a notice from the attorney handling your aunt’s affairs stating that you are a beneficiary. Your best friend advises you to get an attorney. What should you do? Will your aunt’s attorney help you? After all, the attorney has been helping your family for years. Since this attorney knows your aunt and the family affairs, shouldn’t her attorney be able to help you as well? READ MORE

Protecting Your LGBTQIA+ Family: A Pride Month Guide to Estate Planning for Non-Biological Parents

This Pride Month, take the time to safeguard your family’s future by putting the proper legal protections in place for yourself and the people you love. You worked hard to build this life – don’t let lack of planning put it all at risk. In this article, I’ll address some key actions to take so you’re empowered to advocate for your rights as an LGBTQIA+ non-biological parent.  READ MORE

Including Noncitizens in Your Estate Planning

With our society becoming increasingly mobile and international travel becoming more affordable than ever before, families and family-like relationships have steadily grown far more diverse in terms of citizenship. It is no longer uncommon for spouses from different countries to retain citizenship in their native countries. Many couples split their time between the United States and another country to be near their families and enjoy the many benefits of such a lifestyle. In addition, it is not uncommon for a couple’s children or other loved ones to move away from their country of origin and take up permanent residence abroad, or even renounce their home country citizenship, depending on their choices of careers or domestic partners or other considerations. READ MORE

Memorial Day Reflections: Crafting Your Lasting Legacy With Estate Planning 

Memorial Day brings with it an opportunity to reflect on the concepts of mortality, remembrance, and legacy. As we remember the brave men and women who lost their lives serving in the military, may this day also inspire you to think about the legacy you wish to leave behind.

But, first, what is a legacy, really? “Legacy” is often misunderstood and so is estate planning. Legacy and estate planning are often perceived as “only for the wealthy” and/or “philanthropic”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  READ MORE

Can a Beneficiary Also Be a Trustee of a Trust?

Clients often naturally choose their children to be beneficiaries of their revocable living trusts. Many clients also wish to name one or more of their children as the trustee of that trust, but are not sure if that is allowed by the law. The short answer is yes, a beneficiary can also be a trustee of the same trust – but it may not always be wise, and certain guidelines must be followed. 

There are good reasons for naming a trust beneficiary as trustee. For one, it is convenient. A trust’s beneficiaries are usually known, loved, and trusted by the trustmaker, so it makes sense to select one of the beneficiaries as trustee. Also, a trustee-beneficiary has a vested interest in ensuring that the trust is administered in accordance with the trustmaker’s intentions because it benefits them, though this might be less true if the beneficiary is unhappy with their portion of the trust proceeds.  READ MORE

10 Steps to Take Now to Secure a Comfortable Retirement: Part 2

Welcome back to our discussion on securing a comfortable retirement! In the first part of this series, we explored essential steps including estate planning, preparing for long-term care, and passing on your legacy. As we continue with the second part of our series, we’ll delve into additional areas that are crucial for ensuring your golden years are not only financially stable but also enriched with independence, health, and continued personal growth. So let’s pick up where we left off. READ MORE

Options for Establishing and Transferring Your IRA to a Loved One

Now, more than ever before, Americans are using a variety of tax-deferred accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs to save for retirement. And while the laws are currently designed so that people must start withdrawing the money when they retire, it is not uncommon for many of these accounts to still have significant value at the owner’s death. As a result, a huge amount of accumulated wealth is just waiting to be passed on to loved ones over the next few decades as retirement account owners age and die.

Many people are unaware that there are numerous options for transferring these types of accounts to their loved ones. For purposes of this article, we will use “IRA” to refer to a retirement account because many people end up rolling over their 401(k) and other similar retirement accounts into an IRA to obtain greater investment options. READ MORE

10 Steps to Take Now to Secure a Comfortable Retirement: Part 1 

Retirement is more than just an end to the working years; it’s an exciting new phase of life that requires thoughtful preparation and strategic planning. Since May is Older Americans Awareness Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore 10 steps you can take now to ensure a comfortable and fulfilling retirement. In this article, we’ll discuss the first 5 steps, why they’re important, and how to implement them. Next week, we’ll continue with the remaining 5 steps. 

Effective estate planning ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, potentially reduces estate taxes, and can prevent a lot of legal complications for your heirs. Proper estate planning also helps to avoid the public, often lengthy and costly process of probate, ensuring that your heirs have quicker access to the assets you leave behind. READ MORE

What Is the Effect of an Unrecorded Deed?

A deed is a legal document used to transfer real property ownership rights from one person or entity (the grantor) to another (the grantee). In many cases, this transfer occurs due to the property being sold, with the seller transferring the property to the buyer. Typically, a deed is recorded with the local county recorder of deeds. Recording the deed gives the public notice that the grantee now legally owns the property. 

Not recording a deed can cause problems for the grantee. They may be unable to obtain a mortgage, insure the property, or sell it. Even more problematic, an unrecorded deed may make it possible for the grantor to sell the property to a buyer and subsequently sell the same property to a different buyer. This could result in the property being sold out from under the original buyer who failed to record the deed.  READ MORE

Estate Planning: A Gift of Peace and Power for Every Mother

Moms spend their days and nights thinking about how to make sure their children are happy, healthy, and safe. If you’re a mom, you know. If you aren’t a mom, you were born because of a mom. It’s one of the two things we all have in common. 

So, as  Mother’s Day approaches, let’s talk about the most meaningful gift you can give or receive on this hallmark holiday that means a lot: every mom deserves the peace of mind and power to create financial security for themselves and their children with thoughtful estate planning.  READ MORE

Fears When Talking about Money

Studies have shown that the largest contributing factors to generational loss of wealth are a lack of communication and trust among family members and the failure to prepare heirs. Often, fear is what underlies the lack of communication and trust that inevitably leads to unprepared heirs. Following are some of the fears that prevent people from communicating with their loved ones about their wealth.

We have all heard horror stories about trust-fund kids who had no motivation to do anything other than relax and enjoy life because they knew that a large inheritance would be available for spending once they reached a certain age. Knowing that the large inheritance was coming, they did the bare minimum to make sure they would receive it, but in the process, ignored opportunities to get the most out of their education or learn new skills because, in the child’s mind, the future was already mapped out. READ MORE

The Dark Side of the Internet: Protect Yourself From Online Scams and Digital Attacks 

In the digital age, online scams and cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, posing risks to not only everyday users but also to lawyers who manage clients’ sensitive information. But there’s no need to fear if you take measures to keep your data safe. And if (when?) you’re working with a lawyer, you should also know what actions lawyers take to protect your data. Taking these two approaches, let’s discuss how you can safeguard yourself from these digital attackers and how lawyers ensure their clients’ data is protected from the bad guys. 

And since this article is being published around “Star Wars Day” (i.e., May 4th, as in “May the fourth (Force) be with you”), I’ll refer to the bad guys as the “Dark Side” just for fun. READ MORE

What Is a Separate Revocable Living Trust?

When a couple engages in foundational estate planning, one of the first questions addressed by estate planning attorneys is whether it makes sense for the couple to use a revocable living trust (RLT) as a part of their plan. If using an RLT makes sense, an important follow-up question to married couples should be whether it makes sense for them to use a joint RLT or separate RLTs. 

A trust is a legal concept that allows an individual (i.e., a grantor, settlor, trustor, or trustmaker) to transfer ownership of their accounts and property to a trustee (for most RLTs, the trustee is the same person as the grantor) who has a legal obligation to use that property for the benefit of a beneficiary.  READ MORE

What Happens To Your Social Media Account When You Die?

When you die, what happens to your online life? Each social media platform has its own rules for dealing with the accounts of deceased users, ranging from permanent deletion to transforming accounts into places for mourning and memory.

Understanding these options is essential for managing digital assets responsibly and respecting your wishes. So let’s take a look at the various policies of major social media sites and what you can do to make sure your accounts are handled the way you want. After all, our social media accounts reflect our personalities, interests, and memories, so we want them handled with care. READ MORE

Ways to Leave Your Real Estate to Your Loved Ones (and the Pros and Cons)

Owning real estate continues to be a very popular investment vehicle for individuals and couples alike. One attractive feature of investing in real estate is that investment property can also double as a personal residence. In other cases, real estate investments may be rental, recreational, commercial, or farm properties.

Whatever the case, it is important to understand that real estate can be owned in several ways, each of which has important legal consequences when it comes to leaving that real estate to your loved ones upon your death. Failing to understand how you legally own your real estate and how it will be passed on to your loved ones can lead to unintended, and often negative, consequences. READ MORE

Why Estate Planning Is the Best Use of Your Tax Refund 

When that extra bit of money from your tax refund lands in your bank account, (kinda feels like Christmas, doesn’t it?)  it’s easy to start dreaming about all the ways you can use it. Financial experts may tell you that it’s a chance to pay off debts, tuck away savings for an emergency, or add to your retirement savings. You, on the other hand, may want to splurge on something special. However, there’s an often-overlooked option that not only provides immediate satisfaction but ensures long-term benefits for both you and your loved ones: estate planning.

Estate planning might sound like a complex and daunting chore reserved for the wealthy, but it’s actually a straightforward and crucial process for everyone. In its most basic terms, estate planning involves making a plan for what happens to your belongings and finances after you’re gone, or if you become incapacitated. READ MORE

Reviewing Your Accounts and Property upon the Death of a Loved One

How your accounts are owned makes a big difference in estate planning. The main objective is usually to ensure that no accounts and property are in only your name when you die. Otherwise, they will be subject to probate, a costly, public, and time-consuming court process that many people prefer to avoid. Therefore, it is important that you review your accounts and beneficiary designations to be sure that the death of your loved one has not compromised your previously established plan.

Accounts with beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities, will be distributed at your death, without probate court involvement, to the beneficiaries you have named. However, if you named only one beneficiary (the primary beneficiary) and that person predeceases you, the account will be distributed at your death according to the default rules in the policy or account agreement unless you update the primary beneficiary designation or have named a backup (contingent beneficiary). READ MORE

Navigating the World of Cryptocurrency: A Guide for Parents and Teens

Cryptocurrency, which folks also call “crypto” is, in essence, virtual money that can be used to buy goods and services. It can also be traded for profit, much like stocks. However, unlike the dollars in your wallet, crypto exists only in the digital world. The crypto universe is vast, with thousands of digital currencies out there.

Crypto is based on blockchain technology, which ensures transactions are secure, transparent, and decentralized, so they’re not controlled by any government or financial institution (there are pros and cons to this that we’ll describe below). Imagine blockchain as a digital Lego tower where each block represents a piece of information, and once a block is added to the tower, it can’t be removed or altered, making it a super secure way to keep track of cryptocurrency transactions – kind of like a high-tech, unbreakable diary READ MORE

How DIY Wills and Trusts Offer a False Sense of Security and May Leave Your Family With an Expensive Mess

If you’ve been traveling around the sun for a while, you’ve no doubt heard of a Will, a document that says what happens to your money and belongings after you die. You may even have a Will, or know you should get one. And maybe you’ve heard of a Trust and wondered what it is and how it works. You may have even done research on Google about how to do your own Will or Trust.

In fact, it’s hard to poke around the internet and not find do-it-yourself (“DIY”) Wills and Trusts services. Legal Zoom, TrustandWill.com, and even media personalities Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman offer cheap DIY documents. Heck, you can even create your own Will or Trust for free by downloading a few forms. What these websites won’t do, however, is explain the potential consequences that can happen if you use one of their services. READ MORE

Who Will Care for Your Child When You Cannot?

As a parent, you are responsible for the care of your minor child. In most circumstances, this means getting them up for school, making sure they are fed, and providing for other basic needs. However, what would happen if you and your child’s other parent were unable to care for them?

It is important to note that if something were to happen to you, your child’s other parent is most likely going to have full authority and custody of your child, unless there is some other reason why they would not have this authority. So in most cases, estate planning is going to help develop a plan for protecting your child in the event that neither parent is able to care for them. READ MORE

Don’t Let This Crucial Question Derail Your Estate Plan

Sitting down to create or update your estate plan can be overwhelming. Crucial to a successful plan is your ability to address two major questions: Who will get your stuff when you die, and how do you want those individuals or charities to receive that stuff?

One way you can give away your money and property at your death is to give it outright. In other words, once you have passed away and the administration process has been completed, your beneficiary will receive their inheritance (e.g., a bank or investment account, real property, etc.) outright with no strings attached. The inheritance immediately becomes theirs to do with as they please. This provides your beneficiary with the maximum amount of freedom and flexibility. READ MORE

Parents, Step-Parents And Children, Oh My! Blended Families + Death = A Potential Nightmare

Anyone who’s seen an episode of “Modern Family” knows that families these days come in many different shapes and sizes. Long gone are the days when a “family” was defined as a mother, father and two children (or was it 2.5 children? Where does the .5 come from anyway?). In this article, we’ll focus on one of the types of families that’s common in our modern culture: the blended family.

A “blended family” comes into being when parents divorce, and at least one remarries. While everyone may get along effortlessly while the parent is alive, that too-often doesn’t happen once the parent dies. Why? Because the law still hasn’t caught up to our modern definition of “family.” The law often favors the spouse, which works well when the spouse and the deceased have children together. But when the deceased parent has children from another marriage, the children can – indeed, often are – cut out of their inheritance.  READ MORE

Demystifying Probate and the Executor’s Role

When creating a last will and testament (commonly known as a will), one of your most important considerations is who to choose to serve as the executor (also called a personal representative) of your estate. 

As the name implies, the role of the executor is to execute the instructions that you provide in your will. You may give your chosen executor some discretionary powers in determining how your assets (money and property) are to be distributed, but they have limited latitude to make independent decisions. Any deviation from their specified powers could cause a conflict in your estate that leads to legal consequences. READ MORE

Till Death or Divorce: Why You Need to Plan Now for Your Relationship’s End

After the excitement of Valentine’s Day fades away and the last indulgence of chocolate is savored, it’s crucial to turn our attention to a topic that may not be as thrilling as the idea of everlasting love: the reality that all relationships come to an end one day. Before you stop reading, hear me out.

Whether it’s a breakup, divorce, or the death of a loved one after a lifetime together, every relationship eventually will come to an end. The most important thing is how you have planned for that ending, or whether you haven’t at all, as your planning (or lack of it) will have a real impact on you, your partner, your children, and your assets.  READ MORE

Estate Administration Details that TV and Movies Get Wrong

While television and movies provide great entertainment, they are not always factual. Even shows based on real events are not entirely accurate. Creators of television programs and movies will often alter details of a story or situation to provide an enjoyable experience. Because of these widespread embellishments, people often develop misconceptions about many industries and professions, including attorneys and estate planning.

People think that it is easy to write or change a will. Some movies or television shows imply that all you have to do is write something down and put it into an envelope for safekeeping. READ MORE

3 Estate Planning Documents Your Parents Need Right Now

Today, we’re diving into a topic that is absolutely crucial: estate planning for your parents. As they gracefully navigate their golden years, ensuring their peace of mind (and yours!) becomes a top priority. Whether they raised you the way you want, or showed you how you want to do it differently, as your parents’ age, one of the very best things you can do for your own best future, and that of your entire future lineage – your children, grandchildren, and beyond – is to take great care of the people you were born to or raised by.

The questions you need to start asking now are: How will you help them if they become ill or injured? Who will take care of their bills and make sure their health needs are met? How do they want to be cared for, if and when they cannot care for themselves? READ MORE

Who Should Be the Trustee of a Third-Party Special Needs Trust?

Family members with special needs may require assistance throughout their lives. If you want to ensure that a loved one with a disability is taken care of after you are gone, you can help manage resources for them by using a third-party special needs trust (SNT).

Also known as a supplemental needs trust, a third-party SNT is funded with assets (money and property) that do not belong to the special needs beneficiary but are meant to be used for their benefit. Third-party SNTs allow the beneficiary to receive some benefit from the trust while preserving the beneficiary’s eligibility for means-tested public assistance programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). When the beneficiary passes away, whatever funds remain in the third-party SNT can pass to other family members. READ MORE

14 Ways to Show Your Finances Some Love This Year – Part 2

Don’t underestimate the power of spreading love through financial generosity. Did you know you can gift up to $18,000 per person to an unlimited number of people each year? This allows you to share your wealth with family and friends in a tax-efficient manner. These gifts not only escape taxation but also foster stronger connections and deepen relationships with your loved ones.

Whether it’s helping with educational expenses, supporting a dream vacation, or simply offering a helping hand, annual exclusion gifts embody the spirit of giving and strengthen the bonds that matter most. With the sunset of the estate tax exemption set to occur in 2025, now is the time to make gifts if you have a taxable estate. Contact us to discuss options as there are far better ways to gift than outright. READ MORE

Saying Goodbye Is Hard: How a Comprehensive Estate Plan Can Help

When people think about estate planning, they usually focus on who will receive their money and property when they pass away and how it will be received. However, estate planning can also address your end-of-life wishes – the considerations and expenses involved when it is time to say goodbye to your loved ones. The following are important questions to ask yourself, as the answers are a critical part of creating a comprehensive estate plan.

Addressing your final wishes for your body may be uncomfortable, but planning ahead can save your loved ones time and give them peace of mind, knowing that they are carrying out your wishes. There are many common options available. READ MORE

14 Ways to Show Your Finances Some Love This Year – Part 1

Ah, February – the month of love, where hearts flutter and chocolates abound (single people, stay with me here). But amidst the romantic whirlwind, there’s a different kind of love that deserves our attention: the love we show ourselves and our family through thoughtful financial planning. 

Now I know what you’re thinking – that doesn’t sound as fun or showy as a fancy night,  a bouquet of flowers, or even a night in with Netflix. But trust me, making smart planning decisions with your assets is one of the best gifts you can give – and a gift that keeps giving over time. READ MORE

What Is a Residuary Clause and Why Is It Important?

When developing your estate plan, it is nearly impossible to address every account or property you own. There are sure to be some things you unintentionally overlook. However, by including a residuary clause, you can intentionallydisburse any remaining items inadvertently left over during the estate or trust administration process to a named beneficiary or group of beneficiaries. 

During the estate planning process, you may decide that you want to leave certain items to specific individuals. But what happens in the following situations? READ MORE

Think Your Kids Will Automatically Be Cared For In the Way You Want? They Might Not Be Unless You Do This

As parents, we’re hardwired to prioritize our children’s well-being above all else. We work tirelessly to provide for them, nurture them, and ensure they have every opportunity to thrive. Yet, amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, it’s easy to overlook a crucial aspect of their future: what happens to them if we’re no longer here to care for them?

It’s a sobering thought, but one that deserves your attention. You may assume that in the event of your untimely passing, your children will automatically be cared for and inherit your assets. However, the reality is far more complex and potentially unsettling. READ MORE

What Happens to Real Estate With a Mortgage When I Die?

Your mortgage, like the rest of your debt, does not simply disappear when you die. If you leave your home that has an outstanding loan to a beneficiary in your will or trust, your beneficiary will inherit not only the property but also the outstanding debt. They may have the right to take over the mortgage and keep the home, or they may choose to sell it and keep the proceeds. A few different scenarios can unfold, however, depending on the mortgage terms and the estate plan instructions. 

Ultimately, planning for the transfer of real estate upon your death can make the process much easier for your loved ones.  READ MORE

This New Law Makes It Easier to Save for Retirement and Pay Off School Loans At The Same Time

Managing your finances while dealing with the weight of student loan debt can be daunting. You have to decide whether to focus on repaying your loans or investing in your future through a workplace retirement plan. It’s a difficult choice, especially since prioritizing loan payments may mean forgoing the chance to increase your savings with employer retirement matches.

Good news! The SECURE 2.0 Act is here to help. Now, your student loan payments can count towards employer retirement matching contributions. It’s a win-win – you can address your debt and grow your savings at the same time. READ MORE

Inspiring Action: The Guide to Creating or Updating Your Estate Plan

Creating or revising an estate plan can feel overwhelming, causing many people to procrastinate. But the longer you put it off, the more potential there is to be caught unprepared in an emergency. So how can you motivate yourself and your loved ones to begin the process? Here are some strategies to help you overcome some of the negative feelings associated with this process and meet the challenge head on.

While the benefits associated with updating or creating a new estate plan are a reward in and of themselves, we can all use an extra push. Sometimes the promise of a small indulgence as a reward can change your frame of mind when initiating the process. READ MORE

Want to Show Your Partner How Much You Love Them? Put Them In Your Will

Love is the powerful force that connects us all, and there are various ways to show our love to those who matter most. While flowers, gifts, and notes come to mind, another meaningful way to express love is by planning for the future.

While estate planning may seem like a realm of financial jargon and legalities, it is, at its core, a tangible expression of your care for those closest to you. (And that’s why I refer to estate planning as Life & Legacy Planning.) READ MORE

Testamentary Trusts: The Best of Both Worlds

You have several different options when it comes to creating the right estate plan. Some people believe that a revocable living trust is the best way to go, while others think that a last will and testament (commonly known as a will) is best under certain circumstances. Others may find that a combination of both – through the use of a testamentary trust – provides the right amount of control and protection for themselves and their loved ones.

A testamentary trust will own accounts and property owned by you in your sole name without beneficiary designations, upon your death and enables you to instruct how your money and property will be handled in advance. Unlike a revocable living trust, the testamentary trust is created at your death, and ownership of your accounts and property are transferred to the trust through the probate process.  READ MORE

2 Conversations About Money and Death You Need to Have With Your Parents Right Now

If you’ve given any thought about estate planning, you probably associate it with preparing for death. But did you know that there are critical reasons (and significant benefits) for planning while you’re still well and alive? That’s why I refer to my services as Life & Legacy Planning. When done right, planning for your assets and your death is something that should start right now through honest, open conversations with your family.

It starts by talking with your parents, siblings, and children about what you want the future of your family to look like, how you’d like assets managed, and what type of care each family member would want in the event of a debilitating or terminal illness. READ MORE

I’m a Survivor . . . and Now I Have My Own Trust?

Many married couples share almost everything, including finances. This may be reflected in their estate plan by using one joint living trust instead of two separate trusts. Separate trusts can provide greater flexibility, but a joint trust can be structured so that when one spouse passes away, the trust is split into two subtrusts: a survivor’s trust and a decedent’s trust. 

This arrangement provides the surviving spouse with the same versatility that separate trusts offer. The surviving spouse has full control over their survivor’s trust, but may have limited control over the deceased spouse’s accounts and property that make up the decedent’s trust.  READ MORE

Protecting Your Family’s Safety Net: How to Set Up Your Life Insurance Policy The Right Way

Crafting a thorough Life & Legacy Plan involves designing a plan that allows you to fully relish your life while safeguarding your loved ones’ future in your absence. While life insurance is indeed a straightforward method to ensure your loved ones’ security, it’s crucial to structure your policy correctly for optimal impact on your family.

How you choose your beneficiaries for your insurance policy can really affect how well it works, how it gets used, and who gets to manage it once you’re gone. In this blog, we’ll look at the dos and don’ts of naming beneficiaries on your life insurance to make sure your loved ones get the support they need when something happens to you. READ MORE

Celebrating International LEGO Day 

Mark your calendars: January 28 is International LEGO day, which celebrates the date when the patent for the globally famous plastic brick system was filed. 

Since the 1940s, people have been creating their own worlds, brick by brick, with LEGOs. With an estate plan, you can help your loved ones build a great future. Make your estate plan as specific as you want by providing step-by-step instructions for how you want them to honor your legacy. Or give them the resources to bring their vision to life, no strings attached. READ MORE

This Change to The FAFSA Rules Could Help Your Grandkids Qualify for More Student Aid

Interested in supporting your grandchild’s future college education? The recent implementation of the FAFSA Simplification Act allows grandparents to enhance their contributions towards financing their grandchild’s education. This change became effective last month, offering increased opportunities for support.

Previously, any additions or withdrawals from a grandparent’s 529 college savings plan had to be reported on the FAFSA, potentially affecting the student’s eligibility for federal financial aid. Fortunately, the recent changes have ushered in a positive shift. READ MORE

Watch Out for Stolen Items in Your Loved One’s Estate

Your family member went through a meticulous estate planning process to organize and distribute money and property for the benefit of their loved ones, including you. But you may suspect that some of the high-value items in their estate originated as stolen property. The possibility of discovering stolen items within an estate is often overlooked, but it can have legal, financial, and emotional complications. How does it happen?

A New York Times article published in 2023 reported that the New York Metropolitan Museum is carefully combing through its art collections after the government seized dozens of art pieces that were suspected of having been stolen or looted in the past. It is widely known that art collections have mysteriously disappeared over the centuries, especially during wartime, and that ownership should be researched to avoid purchasing an item that belongs to someone else. READ MORE

Your Most Important New Year’s Resolution: A Kids Protection Plan

As we embrace the New Year with optimism and resolutions for a better future, make a top priority for the well-being of your minor children or grandchildren – a Kids Protection Plan. Even if legal guardians are already designated, many people, including lawyers, often make one of six common mistakes in the selection process. If you or your family haven’t named guardians yet, consider making it a New Year’s resolution to do so before the end of the month.

Thinking about a future without being there for your loved ones is tough, but having a plan ensures that the little ones you care about stay with familiar and trusted people if you can’t be there due to incapacity or death. Without taking action, the decisions about their care might be left to chance or a family court judge at the time of any unforeseen events. READ MORE

Do Not Leave Your Trust Unprotected: 6 Ways a Trust Protector Can Help You

Trust protectors are commonly used in the United States. Essentially, a trust protector is someone who serves as an appointed authority over a trust that will be in effect for a long period of time. Trust protectors ensure that trustees maintain the integrity of the trust, make solid distribution and investment decisions, and adapt the trust to changes in law and circumstance.  

Whenever changes occur, as they are bound to do, the trust protector has the power to modify the trust to carry out the trustmaker’s intent. Significantly, the trust protector has the power to act without going to court – a key benefit that saves time and money and honors family privacy.  READ MORE

Hiring a Lawyer: What Flat Fees, Hourly Fees and Retainer Billing Could Mean For Your Life and Family

Finding the right lawyer for legal issues, especially during a crisis, or even when things are calm, can be really confusing. You aim to find a lawyer you connect with, who gets your family’s needs. But you’ve got to think about the lawyer’s fees too and if they can handle your immediate problems and support you in the future.

Different legal needs – be it a tough court battle, a one-time transaction, or ongoing support – can be confusing to navigate. You might have thought about legal insurance or prepaid programs, but while they sound good, they often fall short. READ MORE

3 Examples of When an Irrevocable Trust Can – and Should Be Modified

Despite their name suggesting otherwise, irrevocable trusts can indeed be modified. Changes in laws, family circumstances, trustees, or financial situations can often conflict with the original intent of the trust. In cases of identified errors or evolving situations, it’s prudent to consider alterations to an irrevocable trust to ensure alignment with the trustmaker’s intentions.

Here are three examples of when an irrevocable trust can, and should, be modified or terminated: READ MORE

What Caregivers Need to Know About Estate Planning for a Loved One With Dementia – Part 2

As dementia advances, it’s crucial to take a more proactive and strategic approach to estate planning to prevent potential court disputes over your loved one’s wishes later on. If planning isn’t finalized before dementia progresses significantly, a judge – unfamiliar with your loved one and their preferences – may need to decide who handles their assets and care.

Keep reading to learn what steps need to be considered when estate planning for someone with more advanced dementia. READ MORE

Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Is Not Getting Better with Age

While many wines get better with age, the same cannot be said for some irrevocable trusts.  Maybe you are the beneficiary of a trust created by your great-grandfather over 70 years ago, and that trust no longer makes sense. Or maybe you created an irrevocable trust over 20 years ago, and it no longer makes sense for your current situation. Wine connoisseurs may wonder if there is any way to fix an irrevocable trust that has turned from a fine wine into vinegar.

You may be surprised to learn that under certain circumstances, the answer is yes – by decanting the old, broken trust into a brand new one. READ MORE

What Caregivers Need to Know About Estate Planning for a Loved One With Dementia – Part 1

Taking care of someone with dementia is tough for many families every year. If you’re looking after them, it’s really important to know how dementia changes their ability to make legal decisions. This helps make sure their wishes are respected and that you’re giving them the best care possible.

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of estate planning, even after a dementia diagnosis, as the best method to ensure the wishes and rights of your loved one are protected. READ MORE

Should You Share Your Estate Planning Details With Loved Ones?

When you decide to create a comprehensive estate plan, there are many things to consider. One is whether to tell your loved ones about your plan and how much information to share with them. Estate planning can be a complex and sensitive matter, so your choice may depend on your unique relationships with loved ones and your family dynamics. 

Sharing your estate plan with your loved ones can compromise the privacy of your financial and personal information. Some people therefore prefer to keep these matters private, especially when it comes to distributions of significant amounts of money or property. There are both advantages and disadvantages to revealing private information related to your estate plan. You can choose to communicate details relevant to specific individuals or offer a broader explanation to everyone involved. READ MORE

Holding Space for Grief: Ways to Comfort and Support A Loved One in Mourning

Losing someone dear is tough, and the path through grief can feel really tough to navigate. It’s something we all go through, and learning how to handle your own grief and be there for others matters a lot – it can make your life and connections better.

In our role as your attorney, we know it’s about more than just legal stuff. When people are hurting, offering them comfort is key, and when they’re ready, guiding them forward matters too. READ MORE

How Much Authority Does a Trustee Have Over the Stuff in My Trust?

A trustee is a person or entity responsible for managing and administering your trust according to your instructions and in accordance with state law. They are considered a fiduciary (meaning they are held to a higher standard of care and owe certain duties to the beneficiaries).

As a fiduciary, a trustee must protect the trust’s investments and act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. They must prepare and maintain trust accounting records and prepare tax-related forms, providing this information to the beneficiaries at their request. At some point, they may need or be required to liquidate or sell the trust’s accounts and property.  READ MORE

Have Unused 529 College Savings? Roll Them Into a Roth in 2024 

In December 2022, the SECURE 2.0 Act was enacted by Congress, ushering in notable modifications to retirement savings and student loans. Two pivotal provisions of this legislation are scheduled to be enforced in 2024, potentially exerting a considerable influence on your family’s financial outlook.

This blog elucidates the implications of the new law on your unused 529 college savings account and delves into its ramifications for your future savings. READ MORE

Blindsided: The Michael Oher Conservatorship Controversy Explained

Michael Oher has had a remarkable life so far. Born to a single mother struggling with addiction and growing up in and out of foster care, Oher went on to star as a University of Mississippi football player and was selected in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft. He played eight seasons in the NFL, won a Super Bowl in 2016, and is the subject of a book that inspired an Oscar-winning movie, The Blind Side. 

Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the Tennessee couple that took Oher into their home when he was in high school and were appointed as conservators of his estate, are featured prominently in The Blind Side. But Oher has recently alleged that, contrary to the movie’s portrayal of events, the Tuohys never actually adopted him. Oher alleges that the Tuohy’s instead tricked him into agreeing to the conservatorship and unjustly profited from his trust in them. READ MORE

Own a Business? Do This By December 31st to Get a Year-Long Extension To The Corporate Transparency Act Reporting Deadline

Embarking on business ownership is a gratifying venture, albeit one accompanied by regulatory obligations and reporting responsibilities that may pose challenges to manage. Small business proprietors and those with business interests held in trusts are mandated to adhere to the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) starting January.

Commencing January 1, 2024, the CTA necessitates that small enterprises divulge the identities of owners holding a 25% or greater ownership stake, alongside individuals exercising substantial control over the company’s operations. This regulation extends to trusts with ownership or control of a business. READ MORE

The Life and Legacy of Jimmy Buffett 

Jimmy Buffett died on September 1, 2023, at age 76 after a diagnosis of Merkel cell carcinoma (skin cancer) four years earlier. He was a renowned singer-songwriter, film producer, businessman, novelist, and philanthropist.

Buffett released his first album, Down to Earth, in 1970. By 2023, his net worth was officially $1 billion, including a $180 million stake in his company, Margaritaville Holdings LLC, which opened in 1985 and now brings in $1 to $2 billion annually.  READ MORE

What You Must Know About Your Right to Your Spouse’s Retirement Benefits

If you are part of a blended family, navigating the complexities of estate planning is crucial to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Managing considerations such as holiday arrangements for children and planning family vacations is part of the routine. However, it’s equally important to address the fate of your assets, particularly retirement assets, through careful planning.

In the context of blended families, failing to establish a clear plan for your assets before your passing means that the law will dictate the distribution, potentially conflicting with your intentions. This oversight, especially in the case of retirement assets, can lead to significant financial consequences for your loved ones and even result in prolonged and costly conflicts. READ MORE

Estate Plan Lessons from DeMuth v. Commissioner

Lifetime gifts are commonly utilized to minimize estate and inheritance taxes, particularly given the current federal estate tax threshold of $12.92 million. In addition to federal regulations, twelve states and the District of Columbia impose their own estate or inheritance taxes.

Individuals seeking to reduce their taxable estate often consider gifting assets to friends and family. However, a recent case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit underscores the importance of carefully timing and structuring such gifts. In this case, the failure to finalize gifts in the form of checks before the donor’s death resulted in a significant financial loss for the estate and its heirs READ MORE

How to Talk Money With Your Family Over The Holidays

The holiday season is approaching, offering a unique opportunity for family gatherings. If you’ve been contemplating discussions about financial matters, inheritance, end-of-life decisions, estate planning, and family wealth, having everyone together presents an ideal scenario. However, broaching these sensitive topics during festive occasions may not be appropriate.

1. Share Your Intention Ahead of Time: Initiate discussions about financial matters well in advance. If you have regular interactions with your family, casually mention your thoughts about creating a plan for your finances and family care. Planting the seed early on can make the idea more palatable. As the family gathering approaches, revisit the topic with more intention, seeking input on the best time for a dedicated conversation. Address any concerns the host may have, ensuring everyone is prepared for a meaningful discussion. READ MORE

Can Artificial Intelligence Programs Write Basic Estate Planning Documents? 

With the increased coverage of artificial intelligence (AI) and all of the applications it can have in our everyday lives, some people may wonder whether an AI program can create an estate plan for them. While AI may be able to generate basic estate planning documents, including wills and trusts, there is no guarantee that they will be valid and enforceable.

Providing accurate information and executing the documents in compliance with your state’s laws is critical. Otherwise, your documents will not work as intended. Most people do not have the legal knowledge necessary to determine what clauses and language should be included in a will or trust to accomplish estate planning goals. They also are not familiar with state laws or how to comply with them. This is why people rely on experienced attorneys to prepare the necessary documents to carry out their wishes. READ MORE

Transition to Adulthood: What Happens Legally When My Child Turns 18? 

Soon after the challenges of puberty and the excitement of high school, an even larger milestone looms: the 18th birthday. It marks your child’s transition from childhood to adulthood, and with it new responsibilities and rights. From a legal standpoint, this milestone also brings significant changes that every parent should be aware of. 

In the eyes of the law, an individual is considered a legal adult at the age of 18. This means that your child gains certain rights and privileges, including the ability to enter into contracts, vote, buy property, and make medical decisions for themselves. While this newfound independence is a crucial part of growing up, it can also pose challenges for parents, especially when adult children need their parents’ help or need someone to make decisions on their behalf. READ MORE

Sometimes Stuff Is the Most Important Part of Your Estate Plan

When planning for the future, it’s common to consider who will inherit financial accounts, properties, and other valuable assets. Yet, it’s equally important to recognize the worth of personal belongings. These items, often overlooked, hold their own significance. To ensure a comprehensive estate plan, take a moment to ponder these questions about your personal property. This step can greatly contribute to a well-rounded approach in securing your legacy.

Value is subjective and varies from person to person. For example, an antique clock may hold significant monetary worth, whereas your grandmother’s class ring may carry sentimental value. It’s important to recognize that different types of value require distinct strategies when considering how they will be passed on or distributed in your estate plan. READ MORE

The Scary Truth: Naming Godparents Does Not Create Legal Guardians

As a parent, your foremost concern is the welfare and future of your children. This encompasses planning for their education, health, and overall happiness, which often includes the tradition of selecting godparents to offer guidance and mentorship in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

While appointing godparents holds significant cultural and personal meaning, it is crucial to recognize that designating a godparent is distinct from naming a legal guardian for your children. In practical terms, even if you have designated godparents, there exists a possibility that, in the event of your absence, your children may end up in the care of unfamiliar individuals, child protective services, or with someone you would not choose to raise them. READ MORE

Estate Planning for Expatriates

The United States has the highest number of immigrants globally, but more and more Americans are considering relocating to another country permanently. Many wealthy Americans are also interested in buying property overseas and spending at least part of their time there.

However, moving abroad has practical implications, such as taxation and estate planning. Even when living outside the U.S., Americans still have financial obligations to the U.S. government. They should also have someone legally authorized to make financial decisions on their behalf. READ MORE

Year-End Tax Planning Starts Now: 8 Things To Do Now to Lower Your 2023 Taxes – Part 2

Last week, we explored four methods to reduce your 2023 tax burden, ranging from tweaking your withholding to smart medical planning. In this week’s blog, we’ll cover four additional ways you can employ to minimize your tax bill in April 2024.

Supporting causes you care about and giving back to your community is not only fulfilling but can also offer tax benefits, especially if your family’s deductions are approaching the standard deduction threshold. READ MORE

Year-End Tax Planning Starts Now: 8 Things To Do Now to Lower Your 2023 Taxes – Part 1

While it may feel premature to consider your 2023 taxes, now that the year is wrapping up, it’s an ideal moment to examine your finances and make strategic decisions that could reduce your tax burden in April.

Don’t wait until the last minute for year-end tax planning. You can begin taking thoughtful steps now. In this blog series, we’ll outline eight important actions you can take in this final quarter of the year to cut down on your 2023 taxes. READ MORE

Estate Planning Awareness Week: Reasons You Need an Up-to-Date Estate Plan

In today’s digital age, information is readily available online. However, there remain misconceptions about estate planning. Many of us don’t invest time in understanding it, possibly because we underestimate its necessity and the advantages it offers. There are common misunderstandings about estate planning: assuming a will bypasses probate, thinking that marriage ensures automatic inheritance, and believing that minimal assets mean no need for an estate plan.

Being educated about estate planning is crucial to avoiding potential complications in terms of time, money, and emotional distress. Take a moment to grasp the significance of an updated estate plan – it not only addresses post-mortem matters but also provides protection in the event of incapacitation for both you and your loved ones. READ MORE

What Do I Do If I Want to Undo My Revoked Will?

When life circumstances change, you may alter the decisions you have made in your estate planning documents. You might choose to revoke your will at some point. But what if you have a change of heart and want to reinstate it? There are different ways to revive a revoked will.

Depending on the laws of your state, you may have several choices for legally reinstating a previously revoked will. This can be done by either revoking the new will that cancelled the old one, expressing your intention to revive the old will, or re-executing the originally revoked will. READ MORE

Flu Season Fundamentals: How to Keep Seniors Safe This Fall 

The fall season is a beautiful time of year, yet it signals the start of flu season, potentially endangering your elderly loved ones. Thankfully, there are ways to guarantee their safety in the colder days ahead, such as being prepared to assist with their health and financial matters.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA), also known as a Medical Power of Attorney, is a legally binding document that grants authority to a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so. If your elderly loved one has yet to establish a Healthcare POA, it is advisable to take the necessary steps to create one promptly. READ MORE

How Far in Advance Can I Begin My Estate Planning?

You can make your estate plan whenever you’d like, but many opt to start earlier. Why? Because unexpected health or financial crises might arise, necessitating someone to handle your affairs while you’re alive. When Should You Start?  The right time to begin estate planning depends on your aims and the extent of your assets. If READ MORE

Key Considerations for Including a Kids Protection Plan in Your Estate Plan for Minor Children

As a responsible parent, you may have contemplated the crucial task of designating permanent legal guardians for your child in the event of unforeseen circumstances. If you have not yet taken this step, consider this a timely reminder to do so, ensuring your child’s well-being and security should the unexpected occur.

However, there are situations where designating permanent legal guardians for your child may not suffice to ensure that your children receive the care and upbringing you desire from the individuals you trust. In some instances, there may even be a potential risk of your children coming under the care of unfamiliar or undesirable individuals. READ MORE

How Business Executives Can Set and Meet Their Estate Planning Goals

As a business executive, your daily life revolves around strategizing, setting goals, and ensuring the success of your organization. However, have you ever considered applying these skills to protect your personal assets and provide for your loved ones in the future?

In this article, we will explore various strategies and goals that business executives should consider when looking ahead to safeguard their hard-earned wealth and ensure their family’s financial well-being. READ MORE

From ‘I Do’ to ‘What If’: Estate Planning Must-Do’s for Newlyweds – Part 2

Are you surprised to see a Trust on our list before a Will? Here’s why a Trust is next on your to-do list. If you are newly married, there’s a strong likelihood that you are relatively young in your life and your career, which means there will be many changes in your assets, family, and wishes as the years go by.

Or, you might be re-marrying or getting married later in life and already have a well-established home, financial portfolio, and family that you are now combining with your partner’s life.  READ MORE

Beware of Unequal Contributions When Purchasing a House

Co-buying a home with a partner, relative, or friend can reduce the costs of the down payment, mortgage payments, utilities, and other household expenses for each buyer, while allowing them to build home equity. Some co-buyers may not even want to live in the home. Their goal may be to rent it out or flip it for a profit. 

Home co-ownership can present problems as well. If one buyer has a bad credit score, it can negatively affect another buyer’s mortgage terms. And if one party cannot meet their financial obligations, the other party could be on the hook for the budget shortfall.  READ MORE

From ‘I Do’ to ‘What If’: Estate Planning Must-Do’s for Newlyweds – Part 1

Wedding season is winding down, and if you are a newlywed or are planning to tie the knot soon, it’s time to make your first legal move as a married couple – creating an estate plan. With all the joy and happiness a new marriage brings, planning for your potential incapacity and future death may feel out of place, but creating your estate plan as part of your post-nuptial to-do list is the greatest gift you can give your new spouse.

A lot changes once your marriage is official, but how you and your spouse want your finances to be managed or how you would want medical decisions to be made for each other are not automatically documented when you say “I do.”   READ MORE

Limited Impact of Estrangement on Estate Planning

Unfortunately, rifts sometimes arise between family members that are much more serious than just temporary squabbles. The result may be estrangement, defined as “the state of being alienated or separated in feeling or affection; a state of hostility or unfriendliness” or “the state of being separated or removed.” Estrangement does not mean that the relationship has come to an end legally, however.  

A husband may move out of the home he shared with his wife and have limited or no contact with her or their children. A child who has been abused may live with a relative and avoid contact with their parent. A parent may choose not to associate with a child who has committed crimes or abused their trust. These types of situations are unfortunate and occur more often than we would like. READ MORE

Got Intellectual Property? Include It In Your Estate Plan

You don’t have to be a famous producer or household name to own intellectual property. If you create music, own a business, write stories, or build gadgets in your garage, you almost certainly have intellectual property. However, because intellectual property is intangible, it’s often overlooked in estate planning.

And if you do have intellectual property, it may hold significant sentimental and even monetary value for you and the people who love you. Without properly planning for these works in your estate plan, your family could lose these valuable assets forever. READ MORE

Collecting Debts on Behalf of Your Deceased Loved One

People often engage in transactions that result in money being owed to them, such as loaning money to a friend or business partner or renting a house to a tenant. But what happens if someone passes away before they receive the money owed to them? Can someone else collect these debts? If your loved one has died and you think they were owed money at the time of their death, keep the following information in mind.

The fact that someone dies does not mean that the outstanding debt owed to them disappears or is no longer owed. The debt survives the death of the creditor and is then owed to the deceased creditor’s estate. In fact, a debt that is owed to the estate is considered an asset (i.e., money and property) of the estate. READ MORE

Help Your Parents Avoid These New Financial Scams – Part 2

Imagine opening your inbox to an urgent email from a seemingly legitimate source – perhaps your bank, a popular online retailer, or even a social media platform. The message claims there has been suspicious activity on your account and urges you to click a link or provide sensitive information to verify your identity. This is the classic phishing email – a crafty attempt to deceive you into revealing your personal data.

Phishing has been around since email became mainstream, but what has changed is the depth to which scammers feign legitimacy. Even if you or your parents are familiar with phishing email schemes, new approaches and advances in technology are making it harder than ever to detect a phishing email. READ MORE

You Can Benefit from Giving Gifts

A benefit of working hard is sharing the fruits of your labor with your loved ones. However, gift or estate tax consequences may impact high net worth clients when they share their wealth. By crafting a comprehensive estate plan, we can address these concerns and protect high net worth clients and their loved ones. The following three types of trusts may assist high net worth clients in sharing their wealth in a tax-advantageous way.

A grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) is an irrevocable trust you can use to make large financial gifts to your loved ones while also minimizing gift tax liability. These financial gifts remove future appreciation from your estate, reducing the amount that will be subject to estate tax at your death. However, there may be gift tax liability, which would be owed and paid at the trust’s creation. READ MORE

AARP and The Red Cross Celebrate Make-A-Will Month, But Here’s What They Didn’t Tell You

A Will is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of getting your affairs in order, so the advice presented by AARP, the Red Cross, and National Make-A-Will Month itself sounds really good. But in reality, the message of AARP and the Red Cross for Make-A-Will Month could leave your family with a stressful mess when you die or if you become incapacitated first.

To understand why, it’s important to know what a Will does and where its limits lie. READ MORE

Difference Between Transfer on Death and Payable on Death Designation

Adding a payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) designation to an account allows the assets (money and property) in that account to be passed to a named beneficiary when the original account holder dies. 

Like trusts, POD and TOD accounts bypass probate. They are also fast, easy, and usually free to set up. However, they do not provide the full range of benefits that a traditional trust does and can have some unintended consequences.  READ MORE

Help Your Parents Avoid These New Financial Scams – Part 1

Fraudsters and scam artists are nothing new, but changing tools and technology are making it easier than ever for scammers to target their victims, especially seniors. To protect your aging parents (or yourself) from these con artists, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the knowledge of how these scams work and what your loved ones need to know to keep their assets and emotions safe.

In this two-part series, we’ll explore four of the most recent and insidious financial scams that have surfaced, shedding light on their tactics and providing you with practical steps to shield your parents from potential harm. READ MORE

Three Important Concerns Self-Employed Individuals Should Address

Being self-employed is no easy task. You are the owner, and in some cases, the only employee. While you may have more freedom than the average worker, a lot of responsibilities lie on your shoulders. Working together, we can craft a comprehensive estate plan that will help you address three important concerns you may have.

You are your own boss, and you have your own business. That means it is your responsibility to obtain the important things we associate with employment, such as retirement accounts and insurance. To properly plan for your financial future and the future of your business and loved ones, it is important to have a comprehensive plan and an experienced advisor team. The right advisor team can educate you about the available retirement plan options and the best investment strategies based on your unique situation. READ MORE

Can You Rely on Legal Insurance for Your Estate Plan?

As the need for affordable legal services becomes even more important in today’s world, it’s common to opt for group legal insurance offered through your workplace benefits. These group insurance plans provide free legal assistance for a variety of needs from law firms that have contracted with the insurance company to provide the legal work.

While group legal insurance might seem like an easy option to save on your family’s legal needs, it’s often inadequate for creating the kind of estate plan you really need to protect your assets, your choices, and your loved ones. In fact – the type of estate plan, will, or trust created through legal insurance programs could leave your family with a big mess. READ MORE

Bills and Services to Cancel and Keep – When a Loved One Dies 

A loved one’s passing is challenging on many different levels. In addition to the emotional difficulty of processing someone’s death, there are also the many tasks that must be dealt with, such as going through their various accounts and taking the necessary steps to cancel them or transfer ownership. 

Most people subscribe to multiple digital subscription services in addition to utilities, insurance, memberships, medical prescriptions, and other recurring payment programs. Settling these accounts helps avoid unnecessary charges and protect against identity theft and fraud. If the duty to handle outstanding accounts falls to you, you will first want to identify which accounts your loved one held and then figure out what to do with them.  READ MORE

Don’t Send Your Kids Back to School Without These Documents

As kids return to school, they’ll spend most of their day in the care of other people – their teachers, coaches, and babysitters. That means that your children will spend most of their time with people who do not have any legal authority to take care of them for more than a brief time in the event you are in an accident or can’t be reached for any reason. 

And, if your kids are going off to college, you’ll no longer be able to make decisions for them or have access to their medical records in an emergency unless your adult kids create Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives. READ MORE

Should the Trustee of My Trust Be Different during My Incapacity Than at My Death?

When you create a trust, choosing a trustee is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you create a revocable living trust – that is, a trust that you establish during your lifetime and can revoke or amend – you may opt to act as trustee for your trust, retaining the full control over and benefit of the money and property it holds. However, what happens if you develop a health issue or are injured in a car accident and are unable to manage your own affairs? With today’s longer life expectancies, it is much more likely that you will experience dementia in your later years, making it impossible for you to handle your own finances. And what will happen when you pass away? It is crucial that you name a successor trustee (and an alternate in case the first successor is unable or unwilling to serve) who will step into the role of trustee to manage the trust on your behalf if you become incapacitated or die. 

There are certain characteristics you should look for in any trustee. They should be trustworthy and responsible, capable of making wise financial or investment decisions, and interested in carrying out your wishes as expressed in your trust document. Depending on your particular circumstances, it may be prudent to name different trustees to serve at your incapacity and at your death. On the other hand, some may prefer to have the same trustee serve in the event of both incapacity and death. READ MORE

10 Life Events That Signal It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan – Part 2

You might think that estate planning is something you can complete one time and then check off your to-do list for good. But the reality is that in order for your estate plan to work for you no matter how your life changes, your plan needs to change with it.

To make sure any big changes in your life are considered in your plan, I recommend reviewing your estate plan with your attorney at least every three years. But if any major life events happen before then, it’s crucial to have your plan reviewed as soon as possible so it can be updated if needed. READ MORE

What Not to Include in Your Estate Planning Documents

You may think that it would make sense to refer to yourself and your family members or loved ones by using their Social Security numbers to ensure that they are correctly identified when the time comes. It is important to provide information in your estate planning documents that is sufficient to properly identify your beneficiaries, but using full legal names, including middle name or initial, is typically adequate.

Providing Social Security numbers would leave the individual vulnerable to the risk of identity theft because there are several estate planning documents that may become part of the public record. A will may need to be filed with the probate court at your death, or a power of attorney or certificate of trust may need to be recorded if real estate is transferred. Once these documents are part of the public record, complete strangers will have access to this private information by making a simple request of the probate court or recording office and paying a small fee. Considering that in 2022 alone, the Federal Trade Commission received 1.1 million reports of identity theft, Social Security numbers should never be included in anyone’s estate plan. READ MORE

10 Life Events That Signal It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan – Part 1

Maybe you thought that creating a Will or Trust is something you can do once and then your family and assets are protected forever after. It seems to be how most lawyers structure their services, so it wouldn’t be surprising if you did think this. You work with your lawyer, they draft documents, you bring them home in a binder or notebook, put them on a shelf or in a drawer, and you never hear from them again. Estate plan, done. But, it’s not, and thinking of it that way could leave your family with a big mess when something happens to you. 

In reality, life events can drastically affect your estate plan and even cause your plan not to work in the way you intended. To make sure your plan remains up to date throughout your life, we recommend reviewing your plan at a minimum of every three years. Because I am so passionate about this, I offer to review my clients’ plans every three years for free. READ MORE

Home Security Systems and Estate Planning

Estate planning helps bring peace of mind and a sense of security, both in our lifetime and beyond. While we cannot predict our fate, we can at least dictate how our money and property will be distributed and ensure that we provide for our loved ones.  Physical security is a big part of feeling emotionally, READ MORE

What the National Debt Ceiling Extension Means for Your Family

The national debt ceiling is a legal limit set on the amount of money the government can borrow to finance its operations and meet its financial obligations domestically and around the globe. When the government reaches this limit, it cannot borrow more money unless Congress raises or extends the country’s debt ceiling. If the ceiling isn’t raised and the United States can’t pay back its debts, the country’s global creditworthiness is affected as well as financial security abroad and at home.

Congress raised the national debt ceiling on June 3, 2023, which means the United States will not default on its loans. This is good news, and yet the extension of the debt ceiling can still affect the economy and your family. READ MORE

What Is a Devise in My Estate Plan? 

If you are thinking about creating an estate plan, you may hear some new and confusing terms that make your brain hurt. To add to your bewilderment, not only are some of the words unfamiliar, they may also be homophones – words that are pronounced the same as other words, but have different meanings and spellings. For example, an heir is a person who legally (under a will or according to state law) receives money or property from another person when that person dies. In contrast, air is an invisible gaseous substance made up primarily of oxygen and nitrogen that surrounds the earth. The two words sound alike, but obviously have vastly different meanings.

Likewise, if you have heard an estate planning attorney mention a devise, it is very different from a device – which usually refers to a piece of electronic or mechanical equipment. So exactly what is a devise in your estate plan? Adevise is a legal term that traditionally has referred to a gift of real estate made by a will. However, in common usage, it has been used interchangeably with other legal terms such as a bequest, which traditionally refers to a gift made in a will of personal property – that is, property other than real estate. Courts will uphold the use of either term for a gift of real or personal property in a will if the will clearly shows that the person who created it (the willmaker) intended to make the gift.  READ MORE

Awakened Planning: How to Talk About Estate Planning at Your Family Reunion

July is National Family Reunion Month and the perfect time to reconnect with family from near and far, share life’s updates, and reminisce about the wonderful memories you share together. If you’re getting together with family this month, it’s also a perfect time to talk to your loved ones about your shared goals, family resources and the legacy you want to leave behind for the next generation. 

You might think that estate planning is too somber a topic for a happy family reunion, but it can actually be an opportunity to bring you closer to your loved ones by giving everyone time to speak openly about their wishes for the family and can help everyone feel unified by working together toward the family’s future wellbeing. READ MORE

How a Community Property Trust Could Save You Money in Taxes

Community property trusts can save you money on taxes by adjusting, or “stepping up,” the basis of the entire property after the first spouse’s death. Basis is generally the cost or value of an account or property at the time it was originally acquired by the owner. When you and your spouse invest in property jointly – be it real estate, stocks, or other assets – it becomes community property if you live in one of the following nine states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin. However, there are five states – Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Tennessee – where community property treatment can be utilized via the creation of a community property trust, even if you do not live in one of these states or a community property state.

When married couples work with their estate planning attorneys to create these types of trusts, they can take advantage of a full step up on the property’s basis. At the death of the first spouse, the basis of the property is stepped up to the date of death value of the account or property. This is different from jointly owned property, which only receives the step up on one-half of the property – the half belonging to the deceased joint owner. A full step up in basis means the capital gains taxes are much lower if the surviving spouse wants to sell, because the value of the entire account or property has been adjusted. Community property helps couples reduce their income tax liabilities after the first spouse’s death if an account or property is sold. READ MORE

Estate Planning Pitfalls – 3 Mistakes That Could Make Your Estate Plan Worthless

Including a Trust as part of your estate plan is a smart decision. It allows you to avoid probate, maintain privacy, and distribute your assets to your loved ones while also providing them with a lifetime of asset protection, if you choose it for them. But, here’s the thing you might not know, and is critically important to remember: simply creating a Trust is not enough. For your Trust to work, it has to be funded properly and may need to be updated over time.

Funding your Trust means transferring ownership of your assets from your own name into the name of your Trust. This can include bank accounts, investments, real estate, and other valuable possessions.  READ MORE

Three Things You Must Do to Protect Your Family if You Are Recently Unemployed

If you have recently lost your job, you are not alone! Inflation has skyrocketed in the United States over the past couple of years. Some smaller businesses have not been able to survive the increased expenses, putting employees out of work, while many larger companies have laid off employees to reduce their costs. If you are dealing with a job loss, you can transform what you may view as a crisis into an opportunity to take steps to protect yourself and your family.

Try not to dwell on the loss; rather, focus on planning for the future. In planning proactively to address both the immediate crisis and your long-term financial wellbeing, it is important to assess the state of your finances. Do everything you can to maximize your resources and minimize your expenses. READ MORE

Vacation Ready: Essential Legal Preparations for a Worry-Free Getaway

Vacations are a time to relax, unwind, and create beautiful memories with your loved ones. But before you set off on your adventure, it’s essential to ensure that your legal affairs are in order so you can fully relax during your travels. 

Don’t worry! As your attorney, I’m here to guide you through these important tasks, so you can enjoy your vacation worry-free. Plus, these steps only take a little time to complete and can provide you with peace of mind knowing that you have made proper arrangements if the unexpected happens to you or your family while you’re away. READ MORE

Was Your Loved One a Book Lover? Think Twice Before You Throw Them Out

Even with the most thorough estate planning, there is likely to be some personal property that is unaccounted for after somebody passes away. What remains after specific items have been distributed to loved ones and final expenses have been paid makes up the residuary estate.

A residuary estate can contain newly acquired accounts and property that were not accounted for in the latest draft of an estate plan. It can also contain overlooked items that, at least on the surface, seem to have nothing more than sentimental value. An old family Bible might be left to a close family member. The other books on the shelf, though, may be left in no-man’s-land. READ MORE

Have a Trust? How the Corporate Transparency Act Affects You

Get ready for an interesting twist in the world of legal and business news. You may already be familiar with the upcoming Corporate Transparency Act, set to kick in next year. If you aren’t, it’s time to get in the know because it could impact you, and if you it does, you’ll need support. Starting January 1, 2024, every small business will be obligated to submit an annual report revealing the names of their major owners. Now, here’s where it gets intriguing. If you happen to have a Trust that holds partial or full ownership in a business, that business might be required to disclose private details about your trust, including details about the name of your Trustee or beneficiaries, in your annual corporate report to the government.

But hold on, you might be wondering, how do you figure out if your Trust needs to be reported? Fear not, for I have some answers. Keep reading, and you’ll soon uncover all the essential details! READ MORE

Investment and Distribution Trustees: Why Would I Need Both?

When creating a trust, it is common to name yourself as the initial trustee who is responsible for all aspects of administering the trust. However, when considering who will take over when you can no longer act (either because of illness or death), it is sometimes helpful to divide the responsibilities between two or more successor trustees. For example, you may decide to have one trustee who manages the accounts and property held by the trust and another trustee who makes decisions about distributions to the trust’s beneficiaries. There are some important reasons why you may want your trust document to bifurcate the trustees’ duties in this way.

Benefit from specialized knowledge or aptitudes. Trustees have a variety of duties and responsibilities in administering a trust, and it is sometimes beneficial to divide them up between more than one trustee based upon the expertise or skills needed to perform a particular aspect of the trust’s administration. For example, if your sister-in-law is knowledgeable about investments and experienced in making financial decisions, but is not as skilled at handling potentially difficult interpersonal interactions, it may be beneficial to name her as your investment trustee, which is a trustee whose sole duty is to make discretionary decisions about the investment of funds held by the trust.  READ MORE

The Importance of Customized Estate Planning for LGBTQ+ Relationships – Part 2

Last week we started the discussion of why it’s so important for LGBTQ+ families to invest in custom estate planning. While major strides for LGBTQ+ rights have been made in recent years, estate planning law is still written with hetero, cisgender couples in mind, which means that your wishes and your rights may not be respected when you die or if you become incapacitated without proper planning in place.

This week, I’m covering two more reasons why every LGBTQ+ family needs custom estate planning. READ MORE

Have an Etsy Store? Make Sure It Is Properly Protected

The online marketplace Etsy has gone from a niche craft seller to one of the largest commerce companies in the world. Etsy has millions of active sellers worldwide, most of whom are based in the United States. Many Etsy sellers rely on the site as a primary or secondary income stream. Collectively, they contribute billions of dollars per year to the US economy. 

Etsy sellers tend to be independent workers who seek success on their own terms. But you should have a contingency plan for your Etsy store that considers the worst-case scenario of incapacitation or death. Ask yourself: what would happen to your store if you were no longer able to run it? READ MORE

The Importance of Customized Estate Planning for LGBTQ+ Relationships – Part 1

June is a time of celebration and reflection for the LGBTQ+ community as Pride Month shines a spotlight on the progress made in the fight for equal rights. While significant strides have been made, such as the legalization of same-gender marriage and increased recognition of LGBTQ+ families, there is still a large gap in estate planning for LGBTQ+ individuals that could leave your loved ones with a big mess.

Estate planning laws are still written for hetero, cisgender individuals, and many lawyers aren’t well equipped to customize their estate plans to account for the unique family dynamics and wishes of LGBTQ+ clients. Sadly, if you have LGBTQ+ family members or are in a non-traditional family dynamic of any kind and don’t have a custom estate plan, the people you love most could find themselves accidentally disinherited from your estate or stuck in a lengthy and expensive court battle. READ MORE

The Death of Raquel Welch and What Her Estate Plan Is (or Might Be)

Raquel Welch, whose acting career spanned five decades, passed away in February at the age of eighty-two. Welch appeared in more than thirty films and fifty television series, won a Golden Globe Award, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. However, Welch was more than an actress. She was also a savvy businesswoman with several successful ventures, including a fitness program, wig line, and celebrity product endorsements. 

Her reported net worth of $40 million will presumably go to her two adult children, although there are few public details about Welch’s estate plan. This suggests that Welch was also savvy about estate planning and may have set up a trust for her loved ones. READ MORE

Capturing the Stories of Aging Loved Ones: The Power of a Family Wealth Legacy Interview

May is Senior Citizen’s Month, a time to reflect and appreciate all the things the seniors in our lives have done for us. Whether they are our parents, grandparents, or elderly friends, our seniors have given us so much over the years. But sometimes seeing your loved ones aging or seeing how you’ve aged yourself may remind you of how quickly time passes and how much you wish you could pause life. 

When you think about a loved one who has passed away, you probably don’t give much thought to the material things they’ve left you. Maybe you have a piece of their clothing that you sometimes hold close to your heart or a favorite item of theirs displayed proudly on a shelf. But what you value most about that object likely isn’t its monetary worth but the memories it evokes of your loved one and the time you spent together.  You wish you could still hear from them, learn from them, and share memories with them. READ MORE

National Home Remodeling Month: How Remodeling Your Home Could Impact Your Estate Plan

Each May, the home remodeling industry and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) celebrate National Home Remodeling Month. In 2023, over 17 million home remodeling projects are expected to be undertaken in the United States. 

Between planning, permitting, and construction, the home remodeling process can take months to complete. But even after the finishing touches have been applied, there may still be work to do. If the home is part of an estate plan, a remodel can affect that plan and require changes to it. To keep your estate plan up to date, make sure to discuss a home remodeling project with an attorney. READ MORE

Want to Grow Wealth? Warren Buffet’s Unexpected Investment Advice

If you are going to take investment and estate planning advice from anyone, Warren Buffett is likely one you want to consider. As one of the most successful investors in history, his track record speaks for itself. However, his wisdom goes beyond picking stocks and making money. 

At this year’s Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, Buffett shared several pieces of financial advice but also provided insights on the importance of personal growth and estate planning when seeking to grow wealth.  While many of us may feel overwhelmed by the thought of estate planning or building our wealth, Buffett’s advice reminds us of two key but simple steps we can take to create financial and generational wealth. READ MORE

Planning a Barbecue Is Like Planning Your Estate

When you plan a barbecue, one of the first steps is to decide what foods to include on the menu. If you buy the burgers and hot dogs but forget the buns, the menu will lack an essential component and the party may be ruined. Likewise, in creating your estate plan, one of the first steps in making sure your goals are achieved is to consider what you own. If you omit important property or accounts from your estate plan, it is unlikely to fully achieve your goals. 

As your estate planning attorneys, we will provide you with a checklist that will help you think through what you own so that none of your property is inadvertently left out of your plan. For example, you will be asked to list real and personal property and all of your bank and other accounts, and to note whether you own them individually or jointly with your spouse or another person. READ MORE

Why “Just a Will” Is Never Enough

When you think of estate planning, a Will is usually the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, most people who contact me tell me they don’t need anything complicated for their estate- just a Will. Indeed, Wills have a reputation as the number one estate planning tool and can be seen all over TV shows and movies, from the dramatic “reading of the Will” (which rarely happens in real life) to characters plotting how best to defraud their billionaire uncle’s Will in order to inherit his lavish estate.

But although Wills are a key part of your estate plan – and a big part of the movies – relying on a Will alone won’t solve your estate planning needs – no matter what Hollywood says. Instead, using just a Will to plan your final wishes is likely to leave your loved ones with an expensive mess that won’t distribute your assets in the way you intended.   READ MORE

Why Can’t We Have a Joint Trust If We Are Not Married?

Joint trusts are beneficial for many married couples, especially if they have a stable relationship, do not have many creditors, and do not live in a state where their estate may be subject to a state death tax. Compared to separate trusts, they are easier to fund, allow the surviving spouse to have complete control over the money and property held in the trust, and may help avoid much higher trust income tax rates that are applicable to their spouse’s separate trust after their spouse dies.

If you are in a long-term relationship with your partner but are not married, you may want to take advantage of these benefits. However, joint trusts typically are not a good option for unmarried couples. This may not seem fair, but there are some important reasons why unmarried couples should consider separate rather than joint trusts. READ MORE

Create a Stronger Blended Family Through Estate Planning

Blended families were once considered “non-traditional” families, but today, blended families are becoming just as common as non-blended families. Currently, 52% of married couples (or unmarried couples who live together) have a step-kin relationship of some kind, and 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage. 

If you’re part of a blended family, you’ve probably recognized the extra layer of complexity that comes with planning for your family’s needs and accommodating the many relationships that exist between step-parents, step-kids, and step-siblings. Topics that might be straightforward for a “traditional” family – such as where to spend the holidays or who gets the old family car  – are more complex. READ MORE

Mental Health Awareness Month: How an Estate Plan Can Help Improve Anxiety

Roughly one in five US adults experiences a mental illness each year. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions, affecting nearly one-third of adults at some point in their lives. While anxiety can be generalized and chronic, it can also be a normal reaction to everyday stresses, such as worrying about finances, health, and family. 

During Mental Health Awareness Month, people are encouraged to make positive changes that can help them feel better. Anxiety may be rooted in concerns about the future, like what will happen when you pass away or have health problems. Many questions cannot be answered. But that does not mean we have no control over the future. READ MORE

4 Ways to Use AI to Make Life Easier for You and Your Family

AI (artificial intelligence) language models like ChatGPT and Jasper in particular are enjoying the spotlight this year. Essentially, these are online software programs that have the ability to interpret natural language and provide human-like responses. In a nutshell, that means you can type in questions or commands as if you were writing a message to a real person, and the software will produce an equally human-like response. 

What has the world buzzing over these programs is their ability to understand and interpret the text you enter into them in the same way a real person would, including an ability to modify its response based on your follow-up questions or commands. READ MORE

Are You Single with a Minor Child? If So, You Need a Plan

You have a minor child who depends on you for their survival, so you need to make sure that they will be cared for if you are ever unable to care for them. By creating an estate plan, you can address your minor child’s care and custody and provide instructions about how your money and property should be used for their care should something happen to you. 

Creating an estate plan allows you to name someone to care for your minor child if you are unable. A child under the age of majority (eighteen or twenty-one depending on your state law) cannot legally care for themselves (unless they have been emancipated). A guardian must be appointed to take care of the minor child if both parents have passed away or are unable to care for the child. READ MORE

Leaving Your Pet in Your Will Won’t Protect Them – Do This Instead

If you’re a pet owner, you know the special bond that exists between you and your pets, and to many pet owners, our furry friends aren’t just a pet – they’re a loved and important part of our families. So if you’re thinking about how best to provide for your family after you die or if you become incapacitated, it makes sense for your beloved pet to be a part of the plan. READ MORE

What Happens to Elvis’s Legacy Now?

Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, died in 1977. Like most celebrities of his stature, he left behind a complicated legacy and a considerable estate. Elvis’s estate, including Graceland, ended up in the hands of his only child, Lisa Marie Presley, who passed away in January at fifty-four years old. It is now set to pass to Lisa Marie’s three daughters.

Several complications could make administering Lisa Marie’s estate a messy affair, however. Personal financial issues, a wide age gap between her children, and a challenge to her will by mother Priscilla Presley cast doubt over what will happen not only to her estate but the future of Elvis’s legacy. READ MORE

Stephen “tWitch” Boss Dies Without a Will

Stephen Laurel Boss, also known as “tWitch,” was an American DJ, hip-hop dancer, choreographer, television producer, and actor whose personality lit up the stage on So You Think You Can Dance and as a producer and frequent guest host on The Ellen Degeneres Show. Boss also co-hosted the TV show Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings alongside his wife and fellow dancer, Allison Holkers.  

Boss and Holkers shared a seemingly extremely happy life together in Los Angeles, California, where they were raising their three children, ages 3, 7, and 14. Sadly, on December 13, 2022, Boss died by suicide at the age of 40. Boss’ death was a complete shock to fans and loved ones, who reported the star seemed happy in the weeks leading up to his death. READ MORE

Four Important Considerations If You Win the Lottery

On February 14, 2023, California state lottery officials named the winner of the largest lottery prize in United States history: Edwin Castro won an eye-popping $2.04 billion in a November 2022 lottery drawing, choosing a lump sum payment of $997.6 million instead of annual payments over three decades. A lottery player in Maine recently won the READ MORE

3 Simple Mistakes That Can Derail Your Estate Plan

If you’re tempted to use a DIY estate planning service or have already created a plan you aren’t 100% confident in, be sure to read how these three simple mistakes can derail your estate plan and leave your family with an expensive mess.

We regularly meet with clients who ask us to review an estate plan that they created online or with an attorney who isn’t experienced with estate planning. You see, these clients usually think they found a faster and cheaper solution to estate planning, but once the plan is signed and done, they’re often left wondering whether this “cheap” plan will actually accomplish their goals or if it will leave their family with a big mess instead. READ MORE

Five Things to Know Before Including a Limited Liability Company in Your Estate Plan

When it comes to protecting your hard-earned money and property, it is important that you have the right plan, which can include a number of tools for your unique situation. One tool that might benefit you is a limited liability company (LLC) that owns some of your accounts and property.

An LLC is a business structure that can own many types of accounts and property. The LLC is owned by members who contribute money or property to the LLC. You can have a single-member-owned LLC or a multimember-owned LLC. If there is more than one member, management of the LLC can either be carried out by each member or the members can elect a manager. READ MORE

Top 5 Questions To Consider Before Hiring A Lawyer For Your Estate Planning Needs

Hiring a lawyer to help you make wise decisions for life and death can be the most empowering choice you ever make for yourself and your loved ones. The way I explain it to my friends and family is, “estate planning isn’t about planning for your death; it’s about planning for your life.” So, with that frame in mind, let’s talk about how to choose an estate planning attorney because we aren’t all cut from the same cloth.

The right lawyer will be there for your family when you can’t be, so you want to understand who the lawyer is as a person, not just an attorney. Of course, you’ll also want to discover the services your lawyer offers and how they run their business. READ MORE

Nonjudicial Settlement Agreements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Some trusts are irrevocable as soon as they are created, which means that, in general, the trustmaker (the person who created and funded the trust) cannot terminate or modify it and take back the money or property that it holds. You may wonder why anyone would want an irrevocable trust, but irrevocable trusts can provide some very important benefits, particularly asset protection, tax minimization, and maintaining eligibility for government benefits. In contrast, trustmakers may amend or revoke a revocable living trust at any time prior to their death, but at their death the trust becomes irrevocable.

Although irrevocable trusts generally cannot be changed, many states’ laws allow interested parties to modify a trust in certain circumstances using a binding nonjudicial settlement agreement—assuming there is no language in the trust document prohibiting their use or providing another way for the trustee and beneficiaries to consent to modifications. READ MORE

Estate Planning Before You Travel: Why It’s Critically Important

You might think that because you are married, you don’t need an estate plan. Or you might even think your Will is enough and would just handle everything. But that’s generally not the case.

Even if you are married, you still need medical powers of attorney, making it clear that you want your spouse making medical decisions for you or even potentially adding in additional decision-makers. You still want a Living Will to give clarity on how you want medical decisions made for you. READ MORE

Why Deathbed Planning Might Give You Additional Grief

None of us likes to think about our own death or enjoys planning for that occasion. However, if you do not create an estate plan or fail to update it regularly, you are likely setting your loved ones up for even more stress and grief after you pass away. It may add to your own stress and impede your peace of mind during your lifetime because of the uncertainty that your wishes and goals will be fulfilled.

If you have not updated your estate plan to include loved ones who are not provided for in your existing plan, you may be tempted to make deathbed gifts. It may bring you pleasure to make significant gifts to loved ones because of the joy it may bring to them. However, in addition to the obvious problem that none of us knows the exact time we will die and may not be able to make the deathbed gifts we intend, there are some other drawbacks to deathbed planning that you may not have thought about. READ MORE

Why Everyone Needs to Keep Their Estate Plan Updated

The primary reason to update an estate plan is to ensure that an individual’s wishes are respected upon death. For example, suppose an individual has recently acquired valuable property or has had changes in family structure (such as marriage or children). In that case, updating the documents that outline how assets should be distributed is important. If the documents are not updated, this could lead to disputes between family members and legal complications when probate occurs. Additionally, if laws change at the state or federal level, those changes need to be incorporated into the existing estate plan to remain valid and effective. 

Another reason for updating an estate plan is for future tax planning purposes. Without proper planning and asset allocation, taxes can significantly reduce the amount that beneficiaries receive after one’s death. Additionally, some states have transfer taxes on certain assets (such as real estate), which must be factored into one’s estate planning decisions. In addition, changes in Federal tax law may affect whether other taxes, such as capital gains tax, applies at the time of death or while transferring assets during life – thus providing additional incentive for individuals to review their plans regularly with their advisors and make necessary updates when necessary.  READ MORE

Disability Panels to Take Back Control

When you create an estate plan, it is an admission of your mortality. But even if you accept that you are not going to live forever, you may be slower to face the possibility that you could become incapacitated before you die.

Although it can be an uncomfortable topic, incapacity is an essential but often overlooked part of drafting revocable living trusts. Placing your money and property in a living trust can accomplish many estate planning objectives, including planning for incapacity. Should you suffer a disability, your mental competency could come into question. At that point, it will need to be determined if a backup trustee should take over the management of your living trust. READ MORE

Obtaining A Power Of Attorney For Elderly Parents

Making important decisions for aging parents can be a challenging task, but power of attorney (POA) can provide peace of mind and clarity in times of need. POA enables individuals to make crucial decisions on behalf of their parents, such as managing their finances or making medical decisions when they are unable to do so themselves due to age or illness.

While it may be difficult to approach this topic with your parents, having these discussions early on can help ensure that you follow their wishes if their health changes over time. Starting the conversation with empathy and understanding can make all the difference. READ MORE

Have You Chosen the Right Trustee?

When creating an estate plan, there are several types of trustees to consider. An initial trustee is the decision maker that immediately starts managing the trust’s accounts and property. You may choose to be the initial trustee if you create a revocable living trust. However, for some types of irrevocable trusts, you will need to select someone else to be the initial trustee.

The successor trustee is the next in line to manage the trust. This person may need to act because the initial trustee becomes incapacitated, dies, or steps down from their role. READ MORE

Your Rights As The Parent Of A Young Adult – What You Need To Know When A Medical Crisis Hits

As a parent, you are quite accustomed to managing your children’s legal and medical affairs as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, now adults in the eyes of the law, and need urgent medical attention far from home?

The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult and has the legal rights of an adult. This means that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible. READ MORE

Have You Thought Through Your Retirement Plans?

Beginning your retirement is a great milestone that is worth celebrating. You have put in many years of hard work, and you are now able to focus your energy on the next phase of your life. However, before you begin this next chapter, you need to make sure that you have fully thought through this exciting change in your life.

Having a properly executed and legally binding estate plan is a great first step toward ensuring that you and your loved ones are cared for. However, estate planning is not a one-and-done event. It is important that you review your plan every year or so, especially after major life events such as the beginning of your retirement. When considering your existing plan, ask yourself the following key questions: READ MORE

Keep the Government and Lawsuit Happy Opportunists Away From Your Children’s Inheritance

If you have a current estate plan, I’ll bet you plan to leave your assets to your children outright and unprotected by age 35 or maybe a little later. Go take a look at your estate plan, and see what it does right now. And, if you don’t have an estate plan and you have kids or other people you care about, contact us today, and let’s get that handled for you. 

If you do have a plan and it distributes your assets outright to your kids – even in stages, over time, some at 25, then half of what’s left at 30, and the balance at 35 (or something along those lines), you’ve overlooked an incredibly valuable gift you can give your children (and the rest of your descendants for generations); a gift that only you can give them. And a gift that, once you’ve died and left them their inheritance outright, is lost and cannot be reclaimed.  READ MORE

Three Things You Need to Do When Your Spouse Dies and Their Will or Trust Has a Disclaimer Provision

If your spouse’s will or trust, or your joint trust, has a disclaimer provision, one of the time-sensitive decisions you will need to make is whether to disclaim (refuse to accept) money or property that you will otherwise receive as a trust beneficiary. State and federal law set forth the requirements that you must meet in order for the disclaimer to work as intended.

Under Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) § 2518, a qualified disclaimer is simply an irrevocable, unqualified refusal to accept a gift or bequest of a property interest. The disclaimer allows the interest in property to pass to someone other than the beneficiary who originally would have received it, and it is not considered a taxable gift from the first beneficiary to the next beneficiary in line. There is a special exemption under I.R.C. § 2518(b)(4) that allows a surviving spouse to benefit from disclaimed money or property, but taking advantage of the exemption requires careful planning. READ MORE

5 Reasons Why Shopping For The Cheapest Estate Plan Could Leave Your Family With An Unintended Mess

Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is often the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that won’t work for your family when they need it.

Unfortunately, we see the negative effects of cheap estate planning when family members come to us during a time of grief with that fancy binder that sat on the shelf for years sending out signals of false security, full of out-of-date estate planning documents, and find themselves stuck in what could have been an avoidable court process,  or even conflict when that’s exactly what their loved one thought they had paid someone to handle for them. READ MORE

What You Need to Know About Beneficiary-Controlled Trust

Would you like to provide your children or loved ones with an inheritance but protect them from the risks that may accompany a large windfall? If so, you can create a beneficiary-controlled trust in which the person you name as the trust’s primary beneficiary has rights, benefits, and control over the property held by the trust, but with important protections.

In a beneficiary-controlled trust, you can name the primary beneficiary as the sole trustee, or if you name a co-trustee, the beneficiary can be given the authority to remove the co-trustee and select a successor co-trustee if they choose. In addition, a beneficiary-controlled trust may include a broad, nongeneral power of appointment that enables a beneficiary who is also trustee to limit the ability of other more remote beneficiaries to enjoy the property held by the trust. READ MORE

Will Your Estate Plan Work When Your Family Needs It?

We hear similar stories from our clients all the time. In fact, outside of not creating any plan, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works. Yet by that point, it’s too late, and the loved ones left behind are forced to deal with the aftermath.

We recommend you review your plan annually to ensure it’s up to date and immediately amend it following events like divorce, deaths, births, and inheritances. This is so important we’ve created proprietary systems designed to ensure these updates are made for all of our clients. You don’t need to worry about whether you’ve overlooked anything as your family, the law, and your assets change over time. READ MORE

Why the Knives May Come Out at Death

Knives Out begins with the death of Harlan Thrombey, an internationally famous novelist who has just celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday at his country mansion, surrounded by family. Detective Benoit Blanc has been anonymously hired to investigate the death, and several family members have a murder motive, including his son-in-law, his son, his grandson, and the widow of his late son.

It turns out that Harlan’s death was a suicide, but that is just one thread in a jumbled knot of family dysfunction. Drawn into the fray are Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s nurse and the sole beneficiary of his estate. The large inheritance is revealed at a dramatic will reading that, although used as a dramatic device, nonetheless raises real-world estate planning lessons. READ MORE

Before You Agree to Be a Trustee, Read This!

Although every Trust is different, serving as a Trustee comes with a few core requirements: managing assets held in the name of the Trust, accounting for those assets, and following the terms of the Trust regarding distributions of income and/or principal to the beneficiaries of the Trust. 

Remember, a Trust is simply an agreement between the grantor and the distribution of assets. The Trust agreement directs distribution to a Trustee to hold and manage the assets “inside the Trust” for the benefit of the beneficiaries. READ MORE

Pros and Cons of a Family Limited Partnership

An FLP is an entity owned by two or more family members, created to hold the accounts, properties, or businesses that are owned by one or more of the family members. An FLP has at least one general partner who is responsible for the management of the partnership, has unlimited liability, and is compensated by the partnership for their work according to the partnership agreement. An FLP also has one or more limited partners who are permitted to vote on the partnership agreement and are not authorized to manage the partnership.

The limited partners receive the income and profits of the partnership and have no liability. Often, one or both parents are general partners because they contribute accounts, properties, or a business they own to the FLP and want to retain control of them as they transfer them to the next generation. To facilitate this transition, the children are given limited partnership interests while the parents retain general partnership interests. READ MORE

4 Common Mistakes Made On Life Insurance Beneficiary Designations

Although it would seem common sense, whether intentional or not, far too many people fail to name any beneficiary on their life insurance policies or inadvertently name their “estate” as beneficiary. Both of these errors will mean your insurance proceeds must go through the court process known as probate.

During probate, a judge will determine who gets your insurance death benefits. This process can tie the benefits up in court for months or even years, depending on who the beneficiaries of your estate are under the law. Moreover, probate opens up the proceeds to creditors, which can seriously deplete or even totally wipe out – the funds. READ MORE

Don’t Let Your Cryptocurrency Give You and Your Loved Ones Nightmares

Although cryptocurrency may be one of the latest investment strategies with great potential, for some individuals and their loved ones, investing in cryptocurrency has not gone as planned. The following stories are each a little different, but they all underline one simple warning: if you own cryptocurrency, you need a plan.

Cryptocurrency is an amazing advancement for secure and private transactions. This groundbreaking investment strategy has the potential to forever change how we view money and financial transactions. Because it is so new, finding and managing cryptocurrency may present some barriers. To best protect yourself and your loved ones, we encourage you to speak with a trusted advisor to craft your cryptocurrency plan. READ MORE

Revocable Living Trust Or Irrevocable Trust: Which One Is Right For You?

A trust is an agreement between the grantor of the trust (that’s you) with a trustee (someone named by you) to hold title to assets for the benefit of your beneficiaries (whoever you name). When we break it down in its simplest form, it’s that straightforward. It’s an agreement.

Now, the terms of that “agreement,” called a “trust agreement,” can vary significantly, and that’s where we come in as we’ll work with you to clarify the terms that you want between yourself and the trustee for the benefit of the people you name as beneficiaries. READ MORE

Important Milestones You Can Incorporate in Your Estate Plan

Life is full of contingencies. While some outcomes are relatively certain, other events are more difficult to predict. This uncertainty can create estate planning challenges. Because life changes quickly and sometimes unexpectedly, your estate plan needs to be flexible.

You can make changes to your estate plan when you are still alive, but when you pass away, your plan is effectively but not entirely – set in stone. Incorporating milestones into your estate plan is one way to hedge against the unpredictable future. By creating incentives for particular events, you can continue to exercise your values and provide for your loved ones beyond your lifetime. READ MORE

Why Every Adult Needs A Living Will

A living will, also called an advance healthcare directive, is a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors how you would want your medical care handled if you become incapacitated and cannot make such decisions yourself, particularly at the end of life.  Specifically, a living will outlines the procedures, medications, and treatments you would want and would not want to prolong your life if you cannot make such decisions yourself.

For example, within the terms of your living will, you can articulate 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

Does the Guardian for My Child Have to Be a United States Citizen?

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of estate planning is deciding what will happen to your child if both you and the child’s other legal parent were to die unexpectedly. While the odds of this happening are low, the consequences of not naming a legal guardian in your will or a separate document can be significant since a court would have to choose somebody to care for your child without your input.

In our globalized and mobile world, it is not uncommon to have close friends and family members who live in a different country. Some of these individuals may be a good choice as a guardian for your minor child, but it raises the question of whether a non-US citizen may legally qualify for guardianship. The short answer is that your child’s guardian does not necessarily have to be a US citizen or a permanent resident. However, it is ultimately up to the court to approve a guardian. READ MORE

Creditors And Your Estate Plan

Maybe you’ve wondered about your own debt or perhaps your parent’s debt – what happens to that debt when you (or they) die? Well, it depends, and that’s part of the reason you want to ensure your estate plan is well-prepared. How you handle your debt can greatly impact the people you love.

In some cases, you could inadvertently leave a reality in which your surviving heirs – your kids, parents, or others – are responsible for your debt. Alternatively, if you structure your affairs properly, your debt could die right along with you. READ MORE

Red Flags When Hiring a Professional To Be Your Trustee

When you form a trust as part of your estate plan, one of the most important decisions you will make is who will oversee the trust’s management when you are no longer able to manage it (also known as your successor trustee). Because a trustee’s work may be time-consuming, complicated, and risk liability, many people who create a trust consider naming a professional fiduciary as their trustee. Keep in mind that if you ask your estate planning attorney to serve as your successor trustee, you should ask for a separate engagement letter from the one you sign engaging them to create your estate plan. When looking to hire a professional to serve as your trustee, the following are several red flags you should keep in mind.

A professional’s agreement to act as your trustee does not guarantee that they have the resources needed to administer your trust properly. Be proactive about asking questions. Trust administration is an important job, and you should satisfy yourself that the person you appoint as your trustee is well-equipped to fulfill the role. READ MORE

3 Essential Questions To Ask Before Creating Your Will Online

If you are looking to create your last will and testament, or will, online, you’ll find dozens of websites that let you prepare a variety of estate planning documents for very little money and even for free. With so many do-it-yourself online document services out there, you might believe you can create your will online, all on your own, without paying a lawyer to help. 

But if you do, you need to understand how these services can backfire on you and your family. Online estate planning can be a catastrophe for those who aren’t aware of the risks. And as you’ll see, creating your will online without a lawyer’s guidance can even be worse for your family than if you’d done nothing at all.  READ MORE

Things You Can Do to Help Prove You Are Mentally Competent When Executing Your Estate Plan

Although we would all like to believe that our family and loved ones will honor our wishes as expressed in our estate plan, contests are more common than you might think. Sometimes, a family member does not receive what they thought they would after a loved one passes away. To try to get what they think they are entitled to, they may file a lawsuit alleging that the person who made the will (the testator) or trust (the grantor) was not mentally competent to create it.

There is a heightened risk that your estate planning documents will be challenged if you disinherit someone who ordinarily would have received money and property at your death or if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that will slowly decrease your mental capacity. If a court finds that you did not have the mental capacity to sign your estate planning documents, the documents will be invalidated. Your money and property will be transferred to the people identified by state law, who may not be the individuals you would have chosen. READ MORE

5 Financial Decisions to Consider Before December 31

If you have investments in a taxable account (including cryptocurrency investments), you may want to consider selling off any losers to offset any gains you have made. Selling losses can help reduce your tax liability for the year if you have any capital gains. Then you can carry forward investment losses to offset capital gains in the future. 

If you are sitting with cryptocurrency losses that you haven’t recognized yet because you haven’t sold your cryptocurrency due to wanting to stay in the market for when crypto goes back up, you can have the best of both worlds. Sell your cryptocurrency now before the end of the year, and because the “wash sales” rules don’t apply to crypto tokens, you can buy the exact same tokens right back. In contrast,  with non-crypto investments, you’d have to wait 30 days to buy back into the same investment in order to harvest non-crypto losses. READ MORE

Important Issues to Address Before You Leave on Vacation

An estate plan is a set of instructions memorialized in legal documents that explains to your trusted decision makers and loved ones your wishes about your care, the care of any dependents, and how your money and property should be handled.

Depending on your unique situation and needs, you may have a last will and testament (also known as a will) as the foundation of your estate plan. This document allows you to name someone to wind up your affairs (i.e., gather your belongings for safekeeping, create a list of everything you own, pay your outstanding bills and taxes, and give the remainder to the individuals and charities you have chosen). You can also name a guardian for your minor children if you have any. READ MORE

Green Funerals: 6 Eco-Friendly Options For Your Remains

The environmental costs of death are significant and constantly rising. With 8 billion people on the planet right now – all of whom have bodies that die and must be disposed of – we need to start seriously considering alternatives to traditional options for burial and cremation. Fortunately, more and more “green” options are being developed to reduce these costs, and this article looks at some of the latest innovations. 

In most conventional burials, the body is pumped with toxic embalming fluid, placed in a steel casket, and buried within a cement-lined vault six-feet underground. According to the Green Burial Council, burials in the U.S. go through roughly 77,000 trees, 100,000 tons of steel, 1.5 million tons of concrete, and 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluid each year. READ MORE

Legal Perils of Gifts and Joint Ownership between Unmarried Couples

When you live with a romantic partner, it may feel as though you share everything. And to some extent, this may be true, legally speaking. For example, there is a trend toward unmarried couples buying homes together. While this might make economic sense, especially at a time when household budgets are being stretched, it can also create legal complications.

Gifts that are given purely out of affection can create unintended consequences as well. This includes gift taxes and the relinquishing of control over the gift once it is accepted. Your heart might be in the right place, but without understanding gifts and joint ownership, you could be making a decision that you will come to regret. READ MORE

Will The Coming Wealth Transfer Be A Blessing Or A Curse For Your Family?

While most are talking about the many benefits the wealth transfer might have for younger generations and the economy, fewer are talking about the potential negative ramifications. Yet there’s plenty of evidence suggesting that many people, especially younger generations, are woefully unprepared to handle such an inheritance.

In fact, an Ohio State University study found that one-third of people who received an inheritance had negative savings within two years of getting the money. Another study by The Williams Group found that intergenerational wealth transfers often become a source of tension and conflict among family members, and 70% of such transfers fail by the time they reach the second generation. READ MORE

Spousal Lifetime Access Trusts: What You Should Know

At Cheever Law, APC, we don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death for yourself and the people you love, starting with a valuable and educational Family Wealth Planning Session. The Life & Legacy Planning Session will allow you to get more financially organized and make the best choices for the people you love. If you have already completed your estate plan, we will review that plan at your Life & Legacy Planning Session (aka Family Wealth Planning Session) to ensure that it will work the way you intend and address any holes or gaps that may be present if circumstances have changed since you executed your plan.

To learn more about our one-of-a-kind systems and services, contact us or schedule a 15-minute introductory call today.

A SLAT is a type of irrevocable trust created by one spouse (trustmaker spouse) for the benefit of the other spouse (beneficiary spouse) that is used to transfer money and property out of the trustmaker spouse’s estate. This strategy allows married couples to take advantage of their lifetime gift and estate tax exclusion amounts by having the trustmaker spouse make sizable, permanent gifts to the SLAT that decreases the value of their estate while maintaining some limited access to the money and property that is gifted for the beneficiary spouse’s benefit.   READ MORE

4 Year-End Tax-Saving Strategies For 2022

In 2022, you can contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA and up to $20,500 to a 401(k) if you’re under 50, and up to $7,000 to an IRA and $27,000 to a 401(k) for those 50 and older. If you don’t have the cash available to fund the maximum amount, try to contribute at least any amount that will be matched by your employer since that’s basically free money, and you lose it if you don’t use it.

That said, the ability to deduct your traditional IRA contributions from your taxes comes with certain limitations. These limitations are based on factors such as whether or not you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and your adjusted gross income (AGI), so make sure you know how your family is affected by these limits when taking deductions. On the other hand, Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible since they are made after taxes are taken out, but withdrawals from a Roth in retirement are tax-free. READ MORE

An Introduction to Dynasty Trusts

A dynasty trust starts the same way as any other trust. The trust’s creator (i.e., the grantor) transfers money and property into the trust, either during their lifetime or at the time of their death, in which case the trust is a testamentary dynasty trust. Regardless, as an irrevocable trust, once the dynasty trust is funded, it is set in stone. It cannot be revoked, and the rules the grantor sets for the trust can only be altered under certain state statutes governing trust modifications.

One role that the grantor must seriously consider is who will act as the trustee. It is common for the grantor of a dynasty trust to name an independent trustee, such as a bank or trust company, to serve in this role because they can administer the trust for as long as it lasts. READ MORE

How Will A Recession Affect Your Family?

During every economic shift, whether it’s the Great Depression, the last Great Recession, or even during the pandemic, some people get rich while others lose everything. Whether your family got rich, lost it all, or just hung on by their toes, you can learn from what happened and create the exact future reality you want for yourself and the people you love.

But to do that, you need to get into action now. In service to that, here are 4 steps you can take right away to change your family’s future and ensure you have the stability you need to sail through the economic shifts in the best way possible. READ MORE

7 Issues To Consider When Purchasing Disability Insurance

Disability insurance pays benefits when you are unable to work because you are sick or injured. Most policies pay a benefit that replaces a percentage of your income. But disability insurance is not the same as health insurance – it will not cover your medical bills. 

Instead, disability benefits replace a percentage of the income you lose due to your inability to work, so you can cover your basic financial needs, such as paying bills, covering daily living expenses, and providing for your family until you can return to work. To begin your search for disability insurance, first, you need to get clear about your minimum financial needs, or what we call your “minimum to thrive” number, should you become unable to work. READ MORE

The Pros and Cons of Probate

In estate planning circles, the word “probate” often carries a negative connotation. Indeed, for many people – especially those with valuable accounts and property financial planners recommend trying to keep accounts and property out of probate whenever possible. That being said, the probate system was ultimately established to protect the deceased’s accounts and property as well as their family, and in some cases, it may even work to an advantage. Let us look briefly at the pros and cons of going through probate.

For some situations, especially those in which the deceased person left no will, the system works to make sure all accounts and property are distributed according to state law. Here are some potential advantages of having the probate court involved in wrapping up a deceased person’s affairs: READ MORE

How To Manage Your Digital Accounts After Your Death – Part 3

In part one and two of this series, we covered the processes that Facebook,  Google, Instagram, Twitter, and Apple offer to manage your digital accounts following your death. Here in part three, we’ll conclude this series by covering the most effective methods for including digital assets in your estate plan.

If you’re like most people, you likely own numerous digital assets, some of which may have significant monetary value and others that have purely sentimental value. You may even have some digital assets that you’d prefer your family not access at all when you pass away. READ MORE

Three Tips for Overwhelmed Executors

While it is an honor to be named as a trusted decision maker, also known as an executor or personal representative, in a person’s will, it can often be a sobering and daunting responsibility. Being an executor requires a high level of organization, foresight, and attention to detail to meet responsibilities and ensure that all beneficiaries receive the accounts and property to which they are entitled. If you are an executor who is feeling overwhelmed, here are some tips to lighten the load.

he caveat to being an executor is that once you accept the responsibility, you also accept the liability if something goes wrong. To protect yourself and make sure you are crossing all the “t’s” and dotting all the “i’s,” hire an experienced estate planning attorney now. Having a legal professional in your corner not only helps you avoid pitfalls and blind spots, but it will also gives you greater peace of mind during the process. READ MORE

How To Manage Your Digital Accounts After Your Death Part – 2

Last week, in part one of this series, we covered the processes that Facebook and Google have in place to manage your digital accounts following your death. Here in part two, we’ll continue our discussion, covering how Instagram, Twitter, and Apple’s collection of online platforms handle your accounts once you log off for the final time.

Given that Instagram is owned by Facebook, the photo and video-sharing social media platform’s processes for handling your account after your death are similar – but not entirely the same – as Facebook’s. As a reminder, Facebook allows you to name a legacy contact to handle your death, and Instagram gives you two options for managing your account after death: You can either have your account memorialized or you can have it deleted. READ MORE

Why a Trust Is the Best Option to Avoid Probate

Establishing a trust can seem a bit complicated, and the process can cost a bit more initially than preparing a will. However, if you are willing to invest a little more upfront, a trust can be your best option for avoiding probate later. 

The key to effective planning that minimizes the likelihood of a drawn-out, contentious, expensive process is to work with highly qualified, trusted people. Find a lawyer who genuinely cares about you and your loved ones and who knows how to forge the right strategy for all of you. Give us a call today to learn more about the next steps for achieving the peace of mind you deserve. READ MORE

How To Manage Your Digital Accounts After Your Death – Part 1

If you have preferences about what happens to your digital footprint after your death, you need to take action. Otherwise, your online legacy will be determined for you and not by you. If you have any online accounts, such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Apple, or Amazon, you have a digital legacy, and that legacy is yours to preserve or lose. 

Following your death, unless you’ve planned, some of your online accounts will survive indefinitely, while others automatically expire after a period of inactivity, and still, others have specific processes that let you give family and friends the ability to access and posthumously manage your accounts. READ MORE

Three Celebrity Probate Disasters and Tragic Lessons

One would assume that celebrities with extreme wealth would take steps to protect their estates. But think again: some of the world’s richest and most famous people enter the pearly gates with no estate plan, while others have made estate planning mistakes that tied up their fortunes and heirs in court for years. Let us look at three high-profile celebrity probate disasters and discover what lessons we can learn from them.

These celebrity probate disasters serve as stark reminders that no one’s wealth is exempt from the legal trouble that can occur without proper estate planning. As always, we are here to help you protect your loved ones and legacy. Give us a call today to discuss protecting your hard-earned money and property and your loved ones. READ MORE

Trusts & Taxes: What You Need To Know

People often come to us curious – or confused – about the role trusts play in saving on taxes. Given how frequently this issue comes up, here we’re going to explain the tax implications associated with different types of trusts to clarify this issue. Of course, if you need further clarification about trusts, taxes, or any other issue related to estate planning, meet with us for additional guidance.

A living trust uses your Social Security Number as its tax identifier, and this type of trust is not a separate entity from you for tax purposes. However, a living trust is a separate entity from you to avoid the court process called probate, and this is where the confusion regarding taxes often comes from. But before we explain the tax implications of a living trust, let’s first describe how a living trust works.  READ MORE

Three Reasons to Avoid Probate

When you pass away, your family may need to sign certain documents as part of a probate process in order to claim their inheritance. This can happen if you own property (like a house, car, bank account, investment account, or other assets) in your name only and you have not completed a beneficiary, pay-on-death, or transfer-on-death designation.

Although having a will is a good basic form of planning, a will does not avoid probate. Instead, a will simply let you inform the probate court of your wishes – your loved ones still have to go through the probate process to make those wishes legal. READ MORE

2022 Estate Planning Checkup: Is Your Estate Plan Up-To-Date?

This year, Estate Planning Awareness Week runs from October 17th to 23rd, and one of our primary goals is to educate you on the vital importance of not only preparing an estate plan, but also keeping your plan up-to-date. While you almost surely understand the importance of creating an estate plan, you may not know that keeping your plan current is every bit as important as creating a plan, to begin with.

In fact, outside of not creating any estate plan at all, outdated estate plans are one of the most common estate planning mistakes we encounter. We’ll get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it was not properly updated. Unfortunately, once something happens, it’s too late to adjust your plan, and the loved ones you leave behind will be stuck with the mess you’ve left, or they could end up in a costly and traumatic court process that can drag out for months or even years. READ MORE

Handling S Corporation Interests in Estate Planning: Electing Small Business Trusts and Qualified Subchapter S Trusts

One of the many challenges of owning a small business is determining the appropriate tax classification of the business. When an individual owns a business entity classified either entirely or partially as an S corporation, it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney and tax advisor when planning for death. Depending on your estate planning goals, the advice provided by these professionals may be very different from the advice given to another business owner.

As you can see, there are various scenarios that should be considered by a business owner when it comes to estate planning with a viable business. And because of certain federal laws, your estate planning must carefully address a business taxed as an S corporation. READ MORE

5 Smart Ways To Pay For Your Funeral That Won’t Leave Your Family To Foot The Bill

With the cost of a funeral averaging between $7,000 and $12,000 and steadily increasing each year, at the very least, your estate plan should include enough money to cover this final expense. And if you are thinking of simply setting aside money in your will to cover your funeral expenses, you should seriously reconsider, as paying for your funeral through your will can create unnecessary burdens for your loved ones.

Although you can leave money in your will to pay for your funeral expenses, your family won’t be able to access those funds until your estate goes through the court process of probate, which can last months or even years. And since most funeral providers require full payment upfront, your family will likely have to cover your funeral costs out of pocket. Moreover, your loved ones will have to deal with all of this while grieving your death. READ MORE

Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax

The generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax is a federal tax on an individual’s transfer of property to a person at least two generations below the individual. Generally, GST tax applies to gifts made by an individual to grandchildren or descendants of the grandchildren. Gifts made by an individual to unrelated persons other than the individual’s spouse can also trigger GST tax. The recipients who would trigger GST tax are commonly known as “skip persons.” The GST tax is imposed whether the transfer occurs as a gift during the grandparent’s lifetime or at the grandparent’s death through inheritance by will or trust.

Congress first introduced the GST tax in the mid-1970s to close a loophole that allowed wealthy individuals to evade inheritance taxes by transferring property directly to grandchildren and skipping the grandchildren’s parents, which avoided estate taxes at the first generation. READ MORE

Anne Heche Dies with Conflict Around Her Will, Leaving Her Sons & Estate in Legal Limbo – Part 2

If Heche had built a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust into the trusts she set up for her kids, she could have not only transferred her assets to her sons upon her death or incapacity, without the need for any court intervention, but she could have also ensured that those assets would transfer with protection from common life events like divorce, debilitating illness, serious accidents, lawsuits, and bankruptcy. 

At the same time, the trust would have allowed Anne to establish clear guidelines for the Trustee. This would allow Heche to govern how those assets – which likely include the rights to films, books, and other intellectual property – should (and should not be) to benefit her sons. In this way, Heche could ensure that her artistic legacy is honored, and Homer and Atlas could benefit from her work for generations to come. READ MORE

Harmless Error Statute – A Saving Grace

When somebody dies without a legally recognized will, their money and property are typically subject to default state rules that determine who will receive it. To assert control over who will receive their money and property and who will wind up their affairs, many people choose to have a will prepared. In order for a will to carry out the person’s wishes, it must be properly prepared and executed, or else the terms of the will may not be followed. However, for individuals who live in a state that has adopted a harmless error statute, even a document that does not meet all of the formal legal requirements of a will may still be considered valid and admitted to probate if they intended it to serve as their will.

These rules are contained in sections 2-502 of the Uniform Probate Code (UPC), which standardizes state laws about wills, trusts, and the probate process. Although intended to be adopted by all fifty states, fewer than half of the states adopted the UPC in its entirety. As a result, there are significant variations in probate law by state. READ MORE

Anne Heche Dies with Conflict Around Her Will, Leaving Her Sons & Estate in Legal Limbo – Part 1

Actress Anne Heche died this August following a tragic car accident in which she plowed her vehicle into a West Los Angeles home, where it burst into flames. After being pulled from the wreckage, the Emmy Award-winning actress was hospitalized in critical condition, suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation.

The fiery accident left Heche brain dead and comatose, but she was kept on life support for seven days in order to identify a suitable recipient for her organs, which was in line with the actress’ wishes, according to a statement from her publicist. After a successful match with organ donors, Heche was removed from life support on August 14th, and she died shortly thereafter. She was 53 years old. READ MORE

Things to Consider Before Accepting Your Inheritance

An inheritance, like the loss of a loved one, can be life-changing. While there is no law that requires you to accept an inheritance, there are sometimes good reasons for doing so. And if you choose to turn down a gift, that does not mean it will end up in the hands of the state. Before accepting or rejecting an inheritance, you might seek legal and tax advice about the implications of either decision.

An estate plan contains instructions for distributing a person’s money and property when they pass away. Some families discuss who will receive certain accounts or property. For example, maybe all of the kids are asked if they would like to inherit an item from mom’s collection of family heirlooms. READ MORE

President Biden’s Student Debt Relief Plan Explained with FAQS

This August, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced a three-part plan to help low and middle-income families deal with the increasingly burdensome cost of paying for college while also making the student loan system more efficient and easier for borrowers to manage. The most dramatic part of the plan includes the cancellation of up to $20,000 in student loan debt, which would benefit an estimated 43 million borrowers, and completely cancel the debt of 20 million.

Since 1980, the cost of public and private colleges has nearly tripled, yet federal assistance hasn’t kept pace with the increased expense. Indeed, Pell Grants once covered roughly 80% of the cost of a four-year public college degree, but today they cover just one-third. This has forced many students to rely on student loans, and today’s typical undergraduate student leaves college with nearly $25,000 in debt, according to the DOE. READ MORE

Top Four Estate Planning Questions to Answer When Using Assisted Reproductive Technology

From a financial perspective, now is a good time to start planning for your child. As you are probably aware, the ART process can be expensive. Having a proper financial plan can help alleviate some of your worries during the process. Raising a child is also expensive; the cost of food, clothing, shelter, toys, and education must be considered. Even if you are not expecting a child imminently, setting money aside or preparing a budget to accommodate these expenses can put you on the right financial path.

When it comes to addressing your child in your estate plan, including who will be the child’s guardian if something should happen to you, how much money the child will receive, and when the child will receive an inheritance, it is best to wait until the child is soon born. While you can plan for a potential child, your estate planning documents will be clearer if you plan for things as they are at the time of drafting. However, you can still create an estate plan now and change your plan when a child is born. Creating an estate plan is not a one-and-done event. It must change and evolve as your, and your family’s circumstances change. READ MORE

Selling Real Estate Or A Business? Avoid Capital Gains Tax With A Charitable Remainder Trust

If you have a sale of real estate or assets coming up that will result in you owing capital gains tax, you may want to give us a call to discuss whether to set up a Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) first. Think of it this way: would you rather pay taxes and send your hard-earned money to the government, or use that same money to provide yourself with a lifetime of income and support your favorite charity at the same time?

CRTs offer a number of benefits to everyone involved. These trusts allow you to contribute to your most beloved charities while also generating a valuable extra source of income for the beneficiaries, which can assist with retirement, paying off taxes, or being used for additional estate planning purposes. Such trusts aren’t for everyone, so call us to see if a CRT fits in with your planning goals. READ MORE

Right of Occupancy Trust: A Trust to Protect Your Home and Your Loved Ones

A right of occupancy trust allows you to designate a beneficiary to live at your residence or use another piece of real estate for a designated time period or until the beneficiary dies or moves away. To implement this strategy, you include a provision in either your last will and testament or trust agreement that places the real property into a separate sub-trust overseen by the trustee you have selected. The terms of this provision may allocate money to the sub-trust to cover the property’s maintenance expenses. Instructions are also included that outline the beneficiary’s rights and responsibilities, as well as any responsibilities that the trustee will need to undertake on the trust’s behalf.

Finally, the trust instrument directs what happens to the property once the beneficiary passes away. You could choose to keep the property in the trust to be used by another beneficiary or give it outright to a beneficiary. Alternatively, the trustee may sell the property (unless doing so would adversely impact homestead or other rights) and hold the money in trust for someone’s benefit or distribute it outright to a chosen beneficiary. (Selling the property can have adverse impacts on homestead status, and the trustee should get legal advice before selling.) READ MORE

Protect Your Aging Loved Ones From Undue Influence

Following the death of a loved one, close family members are sometimes surprised to learn that they didn’t receive the inheritance they were expecting and that the deceased instead left most of their estate to an individual they only recently met, who wasn’t even a relative. While it’s not always the case, in some situations, this can mean your loved one was taken advantage of by a bad actor, who manipulated him or her into cutting out close family members from their plan and leaving assets to the bad actor instead. 

This is called “undue influence,” and it’s not only unethical, it’s illegal and considered a form of elder abuse. Given the growing number of seniors, the prevalence of diminished capacity associated with aging, and the concentration of wealth among elderly Baby Boomers, we’re likely to see a serious surge in the number of cases involving undue influence in the coming years. READ MORE

Think Your Estate Plan is Complete? Make Sure You’re Not Missing These Important Points

Roughly two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan. If you are among the minority of US adults who have prepared a will, living trust, and other end-of-life documents, you may think your estate plan is settled. But you might want to think again. An estate plan is a living set of documents that should be regularly reviewed and updated. Even if you are vigilant about changing your estate plan over time, there may be aspects that you have missed, such as beneficiary designations for retirement accounts or life insurance policies.

Because your estate plan relies on others, such as designated decision-makers and beneficiaries, it is important to consider not only what might happen to you but also what might happen to them. There may be other aspects of your estate plan that you have overlooked as well. The best-laid plans often go awry, but paying attention to the smallest details can help keep your final wishes intact. READ MORE

What Your Last Will & Testament Will (And Will Not) Do – Part 2

Like most court proceedings, probate can be time-consuming, costly, and open to the public. Moreover, during probate, there’s also the chance that one of your family members might contest your will, especially if you have disinherited someone or plan to leave significantly more money to one relative than the others. Even if those contests don’t succeed, such court fights will only increase the time, expense, and strife your family has to endure. 

Bottom line: If your estate plan consists of a will alone, you are guaranteeing your family will have to go to court if you become incapacitated or when you die. Fortunately, it’s easy to ensure your loved ones can avoid probate using different types of trusts, so meet with us, your attorney, to spare your family this unnecessary ordeal. READ MORE

What To Do if Your Trustee Is Unresponsive

First things first, if your trustee has not responded to you, try examining your contact method. How have you tried to contact them? If you have left them a phone message, try sending them an email instead. If a text message has received no response, try sending a letter through the mail. And it should be obvious, but if you are argumentative or hostile, it is not surprising that the trustee is not responding, even if they have a duty to do so.

If you cannot speak in a civil manner to the trustee, try keeping all of your communication in writing, be clear about your questions and requests, and do so without accusations or threats. If you have tried multiple methods of communication with your trustee in a civilized manner and still have not received any response, then it is probably time to take it to the next level of involving the attorney. READ MORE

What Your Last Will & Testament Will (And Will Not) Do – Part 1

August is “National Make-A-Will Month,” and if you have already prepared your will, congratulations – too few Americans have taken this key first step in the estate planning process. In fact, only 33% of Americans have created their will, according to Caring.com’s 2022 Wills and Estate Planning Study. 

Yet, while having a will is important, and all adults over age 18 should have this document in place for all but a few people, creating a will is just one small part of an effective estate plan that works to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. With this in mind, here we look at exactly what having a will in place will and will not – do for you and your loved ones in terms of estate planning. READ MORE

How to Keep Your Child’s Inheritance Out of Your In-Law’s Hands

During a marriage, the lines between what each partner owns can blur. Generally, whatever is acquired during the marriage by either partner becomes a marital property that is subject to division in the event of a divorce, but there are exceptions.

One exception is a bank account that is kept separate during the marriage. Inheritance money that you leave to your child or monetary gifts that you give to your child during your lifetime can theoretically go into a separate account. However, in practice, it can be difficult for spouses to avoid commingling bank accounts. Even something as simple as depositing marital money into the account or using it to pay bills during the marriage could make the account marital property. READ MORE

3 Critical Considerations For How To Save For Your Child’s (or Grandchild’s) College Education – Part 2

As we noted in part one, one alternative way to save for your offspring’s higher education is by using an irrevocable trust. Although there isn’t any income tax deferral on income earned by the assets held by these trusts, it is possible to structure a trust, so your beneficiaries could qualify for financial aid that they may otherwise be ineligible for with a 529 plan. Depending on your situation, qualifying for financial aid may prove even more valuable than savings on the income taxes owed on income earned by the trust.

Here in part two, we’ll further discuss how these trusts work and why they may be an attractive alternative to 529 plans if you are looking to save for your loved ones’ education – whether that education is college or some other form of learning. READ MORE

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