April Is Stress Awareness Month

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Legal News | 0 comments

We’ve all experienced stressful situations in one form or another (we might even be going through some right now), but there are ways to manage and cope with stress that are healthy and productive. For example, you can exercise, take vitamins, and talk to a counselor to work out stressful feelings that you might experience. There are resources out there; you just have to grab onto them. 

Financial stress is an extremely common type of stress. Will you make enough to pay the bills? Are you paying down your debt? A way to avoid financial stress is to plan ahead. This can take the form of estate planning, which is the ultimate way to plan ahead and avoid hiccups down the road. Here’s how you can avoid stress through estate planning: 

Plan Ahead for Your Kids 

When you’re thinking of your kids, you might not immediately jump to your worst-case scenario, which is that something happens and they are left without you. Unfortunately, those things happen, and it is important to be prepared in the event of them. In your estate plan, you can select guardianship for your kids. Pick the guardian who will be most beneficial to your kids’ mental and physical health. Choose the person who you could see them with every day. Make sure you consult with your proposed guardian before making them the guardian, however.

Plan Ahead for Your Health

Another “worst case” scenario involves health concerns and problems. You might be healthy now, but in your old age that might not be the case. When you’re considering what you want doctors and nurses to do with your body and decisions, you can make a healthcare directive. This gives doctors, hospitals, and medical staff the ability to follow your instructions, even if you are too incapacitated at the time to give them yourself. These directives can include principles you hold dearly to yourself. 

Plan Ahead for College 

College is an important educational milestone in anyone’s life. You want to make sure that the people you love get to go to college, and if you can help them in any way, that is what you would want. By setting aside a tax-advantaged savings plan, you can put aside the funds you need for your loved one to go to college. The IRS has specific plans that you can use that give you tax credits in exchange for saving for tuition. These plans can be partial or in full regarding tuition payment. They are a good way to provide for your family’s higher education.

Save Your Family Stress 

If you love your family, you will want to save them stress. If you die without a proper estate plan, you will subject your family to probate court. Probate court involves a judge sitting on the bench dividing up your property. He or she will first use your assets to pay off your creditors, and then he or she will give your family what’s left. It is an inartful way to divide your belongings, and it rarely puts your family out ahead as the winner. Probate court is a long, expensive, and drudging process. Having an estate plan will let you avoid this process. 

Financial Planning

Lastly, having an estate plan allows you to financially prepare for every eventuality. You can select a power of attorney of finances who is a trusted individual. This individual is responsible enough to make decisions for you, and he or she will help you manage your finances if you are in a situation where you are not strong enough to do it yourself. This gives you a peace of mind about your financial health, even when your physical health is less-than-ideal.

When you’re thinking about Stress Awareness month, you should remember that a major part to fighting against stress is planning ahead and making sure that you are prepared for any and every eventuality that you can be. Estate planning is a great way to fight stress way ahead of time.

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Putting Your Tax Refund to Good Use

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Legal News |

Happy tax season! Or, should we say, tax refund season. You’ll be getting your tax refund eventually, and there are some pretty good ways to put it to use. You might be tempted to go and spent it on a major purchase or on something else you want (but might not need). However, when thinking about what you want to spend your refund on, you should consider using the money to purchase a gift that keeps on giving: an estate plan. You will be able to create an estate plan that will benefit you immensely and pay off in the long run. Here’s how:

What’s so great about estate plans? 

You might be wondering why you should spend your tax refund on an estate plan, as opposed to something more fun-sounding. Well, an estate plan is fun, just probably not in the way that you’re thinking. It protects your future and your family’s future. It allows you to set aside your assets, financial and healthcare directives, and maintain personal protection in the event that you become too sick or incapacitated to do so yourself. It is a long-term tool that provides massive benefits. You won’t know how much you need one until you don’t have one, and then, the results are disastrous.

Financial Health 

A first major consideration is your financial health. You want to set aside certain assets for certain family members before you die, or perhaps you have a business that you want to protect. An estate plan will contain all your instructions for maximizing financial health and wellness, and you will also be able to appoint a financial power of attorney who will help you manage your finances. This power of attorney is trustworthy, and he or she can ensure that your financial decisions are honored the way they would be if you yourself were making them.

Physical and Mental Health 

Along those same lines, your physical and mental health are both very relevant in the estate planning decision. Have you considered what will happen if you are sick or incapacitated? You can appoint a power of attorney of healthcare and pass a healthcare directive that will allow you to make healthcare decisions even if you unable to do so yourself. The hospital will observe your directive and instructions, honoring your wishes so that you have peace of mind when you are sick.

Helping Your Family

Another very important aspect to estate planning is the way it allows you to help your family. For example, if you have kids, you can set aside guardianship papers for them in the event of a disaster where they are left without you. That way, you know they will be with someone you trust. Also, you can set aside money in tax-advantaged savings plans that will help you save up for tuition for someone’s college. These savings plans come from the IRS, and they are very helpful in preparing for higher education and reaping tax benefits.

 Avoiding Probate 

Last but not least, estate plans allow you to avoid probate, which is a stressful process that has no winners. Probate court is where your family goes if you die without an estate plan. The judge makes decisions about your finances, and he pays off your debtors and your family gets what is left. This process is arduous and often expensive. It doesn’t allow asset transfer for a while, which is inconvenient. Having a good estate plan will allow you to avoid that.

All of these above reasons are just some of the many ways that you can use estate planning to achieve your financial goals. That major purchase will be there next year. This year, use your tax refund money to start an estate plan that will last during your lifetime and benefit you and your family for years to come. It will give you and them peace of mind, and that is priceless. 

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Golf Masters: Give It Your Best Shot

Posted by on Apr 10, 2019 in Legal News |

The Golf Masters Tournament is here. The Golf Masters Tournament is basically the Superbowl for golf fans, and golf itself isn’t for everyone. Some people are the type to work hard at perfecting their shot and achieving the lowest possible score, while others are the type to hit one ball into the water and throw their clubs in after it. To each his own (most of us likely fall somewhere in the middle). Whether golf infuriates or hypnotizes you, there are some lessons to be learned from the sport that can apply to your future. You want to give life your best shot, not just on the field but off it too. Estate planning can help you do that.

Create a Base

An estate plan is a way to organize your assets and affairs so that they transfer smoothly and wrap themselves up neatly after you pass on. An estate plan does not have to be complete and picture-perfect the first time around. Things change, and family dynamics change, and you will likely end up updating your estate plan multiple times in order to reflect these changes. But, having an estate plan provides a basic working plan in the event that something happens. This base is crucial to maintaining the financial health of you and your family.

Help Your Kids 

Another great benefit of an estate plan is that it gives you the opportunity to help your kids. You are able to set up guardianship papers for them, which protects their wellbeing in the event of an emergency. You are also able to set up college savings plans for them, ensuring that they get at least some of their tuition paid. These savings plans have tax advantages, which means that you are saving more money than if you tried to save through a regular, non-IRS plan. Helping your kids is one of the pillars of estate planning.

Protect Your Assets

Your assets include basically everything that you own. When you die, do you know where your stuff is going? If you send your family to probate court because you don’t have an estate plan, you will end up giving your things to the state to pay off creditors. Your family will get whatever remains. You want your assets to go to the people you love, and estate planning will allow you to do that. There are many tools to protect your assets from the state.

Protect Your Business

You may also be a business owner with a lot of finances and plans to protect. Perhaps you haven’t thought about where your business will end up or what your business plans are in the event that you die. Estate planning can help you set up a succession plan or an asset division plan that will ensure that your business is not left rudderless if something happens to you. It’s an excellent way to ensure your business’s future, which also in turn protects your family’s future.

Financial & Physical Health 

Estate planning protects both your financial and physical health. Financially, you can hire a power of attorney and arrange for your finances to be taken care of if you’re too sick to make decisions yourself. The power of attorney is a trusted loved one. You can also put forth healthcare directives that will deliver instructions about your care to doctors and hospitals, even if you cannot communicate them yourself.

If you love golf, then we wish you the best when watching the Golf Masters Tournament. If you’re not a big golf fan and/or are bad at golf, that’s okay—you can still learn a lot from the sport and apply those lessons to your own life. Estate planning will help you take the best shot you can at life, on and off the course. 

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Overdue Taxes and How to Fix Them

Posted by on Mar 23, 2019 in Legal News |

Well, the above title says it all. You got behind on your taxes, the IRS is mad, and you need to fix it. While the IRS has been painted as the boogeyman since America started collecting taxes, it is a necessary evil and doesn’t have to be quite so scary. If you have overdue taxes, you already know that you can’t waste another minute. Here are some ways you can get caught up on your taxes (as well as what happens if you don’t).

Don’t Wait for Them to Contact You 

When it comes to the IRS, no news is not good news. If they haven’t contacted you about back taxes, that doesn’t mean that they’re unaware. The system is automated. It is likely that they have or are about to receive an alert about your unpaid taxes. Waiting for them to contact you also looks like you’re trying to avoid paying back taxes, and that is less than ideal when asking them for leniency. 

A Payment Plan 

There are options for payment plans. The IRS knows, logically, that at some point, people are going to run into problems and won’t have their tax money ready. The IRS offers payment plans to eligible individuals. These are installment agreements, which means that you pay a set amount over a repeated period of time (like a mortgage, for example). A payment plan will work for you if you believe you can pay off your taxes within the time period. Note that there will be fees associated with the plan, and you might be required to pay by direct debit. 

The Fresh Start Program 

The Fresh Start Program works well for small business owners and those who are self-employed. Installment agreements are part of the Fresh Start Program. If you owe up to $50,000 you can pay over a period of six years in the form of direct debits. This is called a “streamlined installment agreement.” Through this type of agreement, you can file to have your lien removed ahead of time if there is one. You can get the notice of the lien withdrawn if you show that you’re paying on time and according to plan.

Offer in Compromise 

Offers in compromise are another part to this Fresh Start Program. Part of the program entailed giving the IRS more flexibility when looking at your current situation. With the offer in compromise, the IRS looks at your debts, what’s going on, why you can’t pay your taxes, and equity in your assets. They may be able to settle your debt with you at a lower price. The IRS will give you that offer when it is a reasonable amount that they expect to receive within an allotted time frame. This isn’t for everyone, so check to see if you are eligible.

Penalties

Of course, there are penalties for back taxes. That’s how they arrested Al Capone. He admitted to not paying income taxes, and a judge sentenced him to eleven years. He didn’t do any comparable time for his other crimes. 

That’s not to say that that’s what will happen to you. More likely, there will be a penalty fee. The fee is usually an additional five percent of the amount owed per month. If you don’t pay for sixty days past the due date, the minimum fee is $135 (or 100% of what you owe—whichever number is smaller). Jail time doesn’t happen unless it is in severe cases, which, if you take care of this now, this won’t be. 

Hopefully, this article has shown you that there are options when it comes to paying back your overdue taxes. It’s important to contact the IRS quickly to show that you’re aware that you owe taxes. They are likely more willing to work with you if they know you can start putting at least some payments down. 

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St. Patrick’s Day: Leave the Luck to the Festivals

Posted by on Mar 16, 2019 in Legal News |

This March 17th, as it has been since the early 1600s, is St. Patrick’s Day. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland, and it is actually a public holiday in the Irish Republic. St. Patrick’s Day is the day of the patron’s saint’s death. The day is celebrated by wearing green, drinking beer, and, in pretty much every country, having a parade. It is most often associated with luck and gold coins, yet you should leave the luck to the parades. When it comes to your future, you don’t want to take any chances. Your pot of gold is a well-crafted estate plan; here’s why. 

In Sickness…

One place where you don’t want to test your luck is sickness. Illness can creep up on anyone, and it’s important that you don’t let it catch you unawares. Consider obtaining a healthcare directive and power of attorney. A healthcare directive is a set of instructions that you submit to the hospital ahead of time. In case you’re too sick to tell the doctors yourself, they will go by the instructions you leave them. This works well if you have special needs or religious views that you want respected. 

A power of attorney helps you manage your healthcare and/or financial decisions when you’re too unwell to do it yourself. You selected a trusted individual to be in charge of the decision. This individual should know you well, and they should respect your decisions and know what you want. This position is vital, and it takes a lot of consideration.

…And in Health 

When you’re healthy, you might feel tempted to test your luck. After all, you don’t see sickness or anything on the horizon. What’s the worst that can happen? As everyone knows, that question is a loaded one. When you’re healthy, you can get a lot done with regards to your estate plan. You can include directions on transfers of assets, medical care, creditor repayment, and more. Seize the day when you are healthy to prepare for when you are not.

Luck Won’t Keep You Out of Probate Court 

Probate court is where your assets go when you don’t leave instructions on what to do with them. Even a last will and testament is subject to probate court. A way out of it is to set your assets up in a living trust, which will nominally take effect once it is signed. This way, your assets go to your beneficiary (via your trustee) without sticking them in probate. Probate court wraps up estates by paying off debts first and then splitting the remains. It also takes a long time, and it is very expensive. It is not something you want to put your family through, to say the least. 

Safeguarding Your Gold 

And by “gold,” we don’t mean shiny metal. Your home, car, furniture, collectibles, etc.; everything you own is an asset. You want to protect these from probate court and keep them in the hands of the people you love. You can do this by working out a well-crafted estate plan. Safeguarding your treasure is a matter of good estate planning. 

(And Your Kids, Too)

If you have kids, you will want to make sure that someone is there to take care of them if you’re unable to do so. You can include guardianship in your estate plan. The guardian you choose should be one who is, obviously, responsible and who consents to become the guardian. 

Luck is best left to the Irish, and St. Patrick’s Day is a fun time every year. However, don’t get swept up in the fervor and think you’re untouchable. It’s time to craft an estate plan that will be better than anything a leprechaun can offer. There’s a way to structure your future that protects yourself, your family, and your assets without cutting corners. It is best to contact an estate planning attorney for assistance. 

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