All I Want For Christmas Is Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Legal News | 0 comments

The holiday season is fast approaching, and deciding what gifts to get the loved ones in your life can be a fun (if not a little stressful!) tradition. If you’re looking to get a unique gift that is long-lasting, beneficial, and durable for your family, think outside the box and consider setting up an estate plan.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process by which you decide where your assets will go after your death, what decisions will be made (and by whom) if you are incapacitated, where your debts will be assigned, and many more important decisions. Dismantling and distributing someone’s estate is a process, but it is far easier and cheaper to carry out when you have an estate plan than it is to go to probate court.

Think of probate court as the Abominable Snow Monster. You want to avoid it at all costs because, unlike Bumble in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, probate court never turns out to be nice. Instead, probate is a lengthy, time-consuming legal affair that distributes your assets and debts with no regard to what is best for your family.

But, don’t worry! In this article, we’ll tell you how to stay out of probate court by detailing what generally goes into an estate plan. (Remember, these are just a few of the many legal tools you can have in your estate plan).

Key Documents in Your Estate Plan

  • Living Will

 

A living will, as you may or may not know, is also called an “advance healthcare directive.” The living will allows you to determine the healthcare decisions that will be made in advance if you are too incapacitated to give directions to the hospital yourself.

 

A living will is useful for anyone over 18 to have because, once you are no longer a minor, your parents cannot give the hospital directives in your stead. It’s important to have a backup plan.

 

  • Living Trust

A living trust details how you want your assets, property, and funds to be distributed after you die. It also will describe who will take care of your minor children (if you have them), as well as any specific instructions you have regarding your assets. The difference between this and your “last will and testament” is that a living trust is not subject to probate.

  • Durable Power of Attorney

A durable POA is a trusted individual that you name in your estate plan. He or she will make financial and healthcare decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated. By naming the POA yourself, using your own judgment (as opposed to that of a probate court, who does not know your family dynamics), you can rest assured that you have someone who will handle your affairs responsibly.

  • Last Will

Your last will and testament details how you want your assets divided upon your death. This is different from a living trust because this does have to go through probate. Therefore, the last will and testament is mentioned in this list because it can be viewed as an intermediate document until your living will and living trust are set up.

Again, these are just some of the many resources you have that will allow you to avoid the law’s Abominable Snow Monster. You can also set up forms detailing who your beneficiaries are, where your debts will transfer, and other important decisions, all of which wrap up your affairs properly. This Christmas season, give your family the gift of security and peace of mind by scheduling a consult to set up your estate plan.

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Don’t Let Your Assets Be Frozen This Winter

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning |

Winter weather is fast approaching (if not here already), and with it comes snow, sleet, and ice. But not in the lovely, sunny South Florida! While we’re lucky enough to not be iced over, your assets can still be frozen. Follow these tips to avoid having your assets frozen this winter.

How Assets Freeze

First things first: what are frozen assets?

Frozen assets are owned assets that cannot be bought or sold in any way because of a debt that still requires repayment. Until the debts are paid or satisfied, the asset’s owner cannot do anything with the asset.

To understand how to circumvent frozen assets, it’s important to know how the process occurs. One way your assets can be frozen is in probate court. Probate, as those keeping up with these articles know, is the court that you want to avoid at all costs. If you die without an estate plan (which we’ll get to in a moment), your assets will end up in probate court to be distributed.

The probate court also has to verify your will, if you have one. This process can take a long time, even more so if someone decides to contest your will. During the verification process, your assets are frozen. Even for time periods of up to several years, they can be frozen.

If that wasn’t bad enough, once the court verifies your will, they will then distribute your debts along with the assets. This has the potential to cause your family hardship if they not only have to go through probate, but shoulder your debts at the end of the ordeal.

Staying Out of the Cold

To avoid sending your assets to the Age of Winter, an estate plan is key. Estate planning is the process by which you arrange for the management and distribution of your estate after your death or if you are incapacitated. Through estate planning, you can minimize taxes and ensure that your family will stay out of probate court and your assets left unfrozen.

This important step ensures that a person’s wishes are upheld and their decisions, if they are unable to make them, are left to someone who they trust. It may be tempting to set aside the thought of estate planning for now—after all, not many people see their death as imminent—but that is not a wise choice. No matter how large or small, you do have an estate, and setting up arrangements for worst-case-scenarios is vital to your family’s financial health.

Don’t let your assets be frozen this winter. Set up an estate planning consultation today.

 

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Be Thankful and Be Careful

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in estate planning, Wills |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That title might sound a little ominous, but it’s not, we promise. Thanksgiving is coming up and the time-honored tradition is to go around the table with everyone saying what they are grateful for. However, don’t just be thankful this season: be careful as well.

You may have an estate plan already, but did you know that you should continuously review and update it? It’s not just about documenting it and slamming the drawer shut. You need to update your estate plan and keep it current for it to be most effective. In this article, we will discuss the need for updates, as well as the misconceptions surrounding self-written and online wills.

Keeping it Current

Your Turkey Day list of what you’re grateful for probably changes yearly based on what happened in the past 365 days. Similarly, your estate plan can change too, depending on changes in your life (marriage being the main one) or family. While you may think, “Oh, I’ll get to it eventually,” regarding changes to your estate plan, that’s not always the case. Forgetting to update and review your estate plan can be disastrous.

For example, if you get married and do not update your estate plan before passing on, your plan will not reflect the changes in finances and property that come from marriage. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t think you need to make any changes to your estate plan, review it ASAP, just to be sure.

Online and Self-Written Wills

There are different services that allow you to write an online and/or self-written will. These services promise the convenience of being able to sit at home on your laptop and just get it done inexpensively. That sounds nice, but, unfortunately, these services often don’t give you a finished product that includes everything you may want your family to have. DIY-willmaking often skips important steps that would otherwise allow you to avoid probate. If you want to do anything complex with your will, your self-written document will likely not contain the proper language, particularly surrounding land (land-based contracts must be very specific in their phrasing). Your relatives might end up having to go to court and spend thousands to contest your will and figure out what it means.

Forgetting simple things is easy on self-written wills because, to someone without legal training, the legal language is not easy to get right. Even if your relatives don’t contest the will, courts won’t follow the provisions if they are not properly written, meaning that your self-written or online will has all the effect of a notarized shopping list.

Keeping an updated, regularly-reviewed estate plan is really the only way to properly and effectively prepare for your future and the future of your family. Self-written and online wills generally miss the important elements, so scheduling an appointment to have it done properly by lawyers is the best way to ensure that you’re not only thankful this Thanksgiving: you’re careful, too.

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Protecting Your Children Is Protecting Your Legacy

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in 529 Plan, Trusts, Wills |

Child safety and protection is a major concern this month, with officials and teachers giving many different tips on keeping your kids safe from all types of dangers. However, one piece of protection advice you may not have heard is estate planning.

Estate planning allows you to designate where you want your property to go after you pass on. There are many different estate planning tools that benefit your children because, as stated in our title, protecting your children is protecting your legacy. In this article, we will discuss these major legal devices that will protect your children’s inheritance and honor your wishes.

Wills, Trusts, and 529 Plans

There are many different ways in which you can leave your property to your children, but wills, trust, and 529 plans are three of the major ones. Here is a brief overview of each:

· Wills. A will is a legal document by which someone designates how they want their property to be distributed after they die. Wills also contain instructions as to who will execute the requests in the will (that person is known as the executor). Note that wills do NOT get you out of probate court, and just having a will is insufficient.

· Trusts. These are more complicated than wills, and they take more time to manage and create. Trusts do ensure that you won’t wind up in probate court, dealing with that expensive and time-consuming nightmare. Trusts are fiduciary agreements. The trustor gives a trustee the right to hold the trustor’s property or assets for a third party’s benefit. This third party is known as the beneficiary. Trusts take effect as soon as you create them, whereas wills take effect after you die.

A living trust is revocable, meaning that the trustor can make changes and modifications as they so choose. This is beneficial, as situations and circumstances tend to change as time passes. An irrevocable trust, by contrast, means that it cannot be altered without the beneficiary’s permission.

· 529 Plans. A 529 plan is an excellent way to invest in your child’s education. These plans allow you to set aside money for your child’s college education. The name 529 comes from § 529 of the IRS Code. 529 plans have been around since the mid-1990s. There are special tax benefits that come along with this type of plan and, usually, your child’s choice of school does not matter in order for them to get the 529.

There are usually two types: prepaid and savings. Prepaid plans allow you to pre-pay all or some of the cost of college education. Savings plans work like a 401k; you invest your

contributions, and the account varies based on the performance of the investment option you chose (mutual funds or something else).

Protecting your children by making sure that you have a plan for your property after you die might not be broadcasted among the many child safety tips, but it is certainly important. By scheduling an estate planning consultation, you can ensure that you are preserving the best

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How Well Do You Sleep Without Your Property Protected?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in estate planning |

When you think of November, you probably think of turkey, football, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and more. But, what you may not realize is that November is National Sleep Comfort Month. During this month, people talk about and discuss ways to improve their sleeping. Without an adequate amount of sleep, a person can experience some negative ramifications that affect their whole life. To sleep well, you need to not feel stressed. And there’s nothing more stressful than risking your property.

Luckily, we can help. Protecting your property is a good way to reduce stress and ease into the month of November with a good sleep pattern. With an estate plan, your property will be protected, giving you peace of mind.

How Does Estate Planning Protect Your Property?

You may be wondering how exactly an estate plan protects your property, as it’s not as though it’s a security system or guard dog. But an estate plan actually is one of the greatest protections you can have.

Estate planning is the process of putting together a plan for where your property will go after you pass on. That’s not the only function of an estate plan, however. An estate plan also allows you to have a trusted individual make healthcare decisions for you in the event of a crisis. A similar trusted person makes decisions for you financially with the “Power of Attorney” estate planning tool.

If you don’t get together an estate plan, you will be looking at some serious risk to your property in the form of probate.

Property’s Downfall: Probate

If estate planning is your alarm system, think of probate as the burglar that the alarm system is designed to stop. Probate court is the legal process of passing on the property of someone who dies without an estate plan. Just having a will is not enough to get you out of probate court.

Probate is costly, time-consuming, and all-around miserable for your family. The court takes your property and divides it how it sees fit. Your property might even go to the state, which will sell it. This unappealing result is what happens if you don’t create a plan for what will happen to your property after you die.

Morbid though this conversation is, it’s important to think about, and it does have a positive upside: with estate planning, you can avoid the doom and gloom of probate. You’ll be able to sleep easy knowing that your property is protected and secured. Schedule an estate planning consultation today!

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