Breast Cancer Awareness: Take Care of Your Future and Focus on Your Health

Posted by on Oct 12, 2018 in Legal News |

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Bringing attention to this disease is crucial, as it affects millions of women. One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer at some point in their lives, and a smaller percentage (though still significant) will experience non-invasive breast cancer. This disease affects not just women, but men as well, and the families and friends of those suffering. One of the most important things to do during such a tough time is to keep stress low and focus on your health.

A way to do that is to plan for the future. Psychological research indicates that when you’re stressed or anxious, planning is more difficult. The ability to plan things out is disrupted by the parts of your brain experiencing the stress. The future can seem daunting. However, there is a way to put things in motion now that will greatly ease your mind: estate planning. 

Protecting Your Family 

In order to protect your family, you will want to keep them out of probate court. Your kids and grandkids will not want to go through the experience of probate court, which is time consuming and stressful. Probate court is the process by which a judge divides up your assets after you pass away, focusing first on repaying your creditors and then giving what’s left to your loved ones. Rarely does probate actually divide things up the exact way you would have wanted. In order to protect your family from this arduous process, estate planning tools such as a living trust (a three-party relationship where you transfer title to a trustee who holds it for your beneficiary) and others are available. 

Thinking About Your Kids 

If you have kids, you should definitely consider arranging a guardianship plan for them, just in case. Everyone should have this, whether they’re sick or healthy, as it never hurts to be prepared. Guardianship papers designate a guardian for your kids in the event you are unable to care for them. Choose a guardian for your kids who you feel will take care of their physical and emotional needs while providing a structured day-to-day lifestyle. This intensely personal decision is totally up to you, and you should, of course, think it through carefully and talk to your proposed guardian before executing the papers. 

Power of Attorney Considerations 

A power of attorney is an individual that you trust to make financial or healthcare decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them yourself. This person ensures that your wishes are carried out, and he or she makes sure you’re treated well and not taken advantage of. The power of attorney for finances takes care of your financial decisions while you’re incapacitated, whether it’s deciding what to do with your house, how to pay for medical care, how to pay for your kids’ school, or anything else. The power of attorney for healthcare is also a decision-maker, just with regards to medical decisions. 

Healthcare Directives 

Healthcare directives allow you to tell the hospital what you want ahead of time. You can lay out your specific wishes for doctors and nurses to follow. That way, you get the medical care you need even when you’re unable to communicate. These directives are something you can make while you’re with it and feeling well, which means that they will reflect major decisions that are made when completely aware. 

With estate planning, there are a lot of tools that will help you prepare for the future and whatever it might entail. You don’t have to feel anxious and nervous about where your assets will go if something happens, and this is a good, productive way to ease the stress that you’re carrying so that you can focus on your health. 

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What Assets Should You Protect First? 

Posted by on Oct 3, 2018 in Legal News |

When planning your estate, you’re probably going to feel a little overwhelmed at some point (and that’s why your estate planner is there—to help you!) Sure, in general terms, you might have considered what is and isn’t in your estate, but when you get down to it, you might realize you have way more stuff than you thought you did. This in turn leads to the question of what you should protect first. What assets are so important that they should be the first things you start with in your estate plan? 

Ideally, you want to protect everything, because everything is important in its own way. But you have to start somewhere. Here is a suggested list of what you should start with, in no particular order. Note that some of these aren’t necessarily assets in the traditional sense (i.e. tangible items), but they do deserve a mention. 

Your Home 

First and most obvious, you need to think about your home, if you own one. Think about what you want to have done with your house after you pass on. Do you want it sold? Do you want it to be granted to your relatives? Owning a house is a big responsibility, and it can be expensive. If you want to have your home liquidated, that could be the best option if you’re unsure whether your relatives could financially support home ownership.

Your Business 

This can apply to a business you own or just your assets that you have from work (equipment, stocks, etc.). If you have equipment or a business that you want to keep in the family, you should protect that in your estate plan. You can also include other plans for what you might want done with it, such as sale, transfer of ownership, or something else. 

Family Items 

Everyone has family heirlooms and items that they don’t want to see leave the family. These items are important to your heritage and help future generations understand your origins. Include these valuables in your estate plan and make sure you grant them to someone you know will keep them safe and pass them along, ensuring that the heirlooms are kept in the family. 

Intangible Assets 

You may have stocks and investments that you count among your assets. When you pass away, think about what you want done with them and whether you think it will be more profitable to sell or transfer them. Make sure you grant these intangibles to someone that you know will be able to manage them, particularly if you’re giving away cryptocurrency, which is volatile and, although very popular, hard to handle. 

Yourself 

When creating an estate plan, you want to make sure that your own needs are met in the form of a healthcare directive and power of attorney. These documents ensure that your financial and medical needs will be taken care of according to your specifications should something happen to you to prevent you from making those decisions yourself. 

Your Kids 

If you have minor children, even teenagers, you will want to have some type of plan laid out for guardianship in case something happens to you. Make sure that you select guardians who not only have your overall values, but who will also keep your kids’ day to day life stable and secure. This a big decision, so don’t be afraid to take a lot of time to think about who you would want to raise your kids. 

This quick list of things to think about when estate planning will help you get some idea of what, out of your giant pile of stuff, is important and should stand out. Talk to your estate planner if you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help, as they can assist you in picking out what you absolutely shouldn’t forget to cover, whether you’re writing a living trust, gifting property, or writing a will.

 

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How Divorce Affects Your Estate Plan 

Posted by on Sep 24, 2018 in Legal News |

When it comes to marriage in America, things aren’t looking so great. According to the American Psychological Association, between 40% and 50% of first marriages end in divorce. And even after you get divorced, you still can’t catch a break, with second and third marriages having even higher rates (67% and 74%, respectively). These gloomy statistics back up a lot of real-world concerns when it comes to divorcing; first and foremost, what happens to your stuff? When you’re considering getting a divorce, you should definitely consult with an estate planning attorney. There are several reasons for this, as there are quite a few documents that will likely be affected by the divorce. 

Divorce tends to sever joint ownership, and it also makes things tricky for property ownership, guardianship, and beneficiaries of your estate—and that’s if the divorce goes smoothly. Here are some reasons why you should talk to an estate planning attorney when considering divorce. 

Title Problems 

You and your spouse may have jointly owned property or assets. After your divorce, that connection is severed. Only one spouse will own the property. Take the home, for example. If you don’t want to co-own the house, the court might decide in favor of you or your spouse when considering where your house goes. The court will look to multiple factors to make this decision, such as each of your financial circumstances, contributions to the home (like additions, renovations, who uses it more), age, health, custody arrangements, and more. A judge can award the ownership of the house as part of a divorce agreement. 

Estate planning often concerns your house and what will happen to it after you’re gone. If you’re not going to have title to your home anymore as a result of divorce, it’s in your best interest to meet with an estate planner to reflect that change in your documents. 

Who’s Your Power of Attorney? 

Is your ex-spouse still your power of attorney? The power of attorney is the person who makes financial and legal decisions for you in the event that you’re too sick or injured to do so yourself. Your divorce might be a friendly split, but it’s doubtful that you’ll still want your ex to be your power of attorney. Worst case scenario, the divorce is nowhere near amicable, and you’ve just put a hostile party in a very powerful position that can have a lot of effects on your life. Changing your power of attorney is as easy as meeting with an estate planner, luckily.

Your Kids 

Custody arrangements are hammered out by the court, but custody of your kids can change your estate plan. You may want to start a trust for your kids or a 529 college-savings plan. If you find that arrangements for your children have altered the way in which you’re going to work them into your estate plan, you should meet with an attorney to reflect those changes.

The Upside 

Luckily, changing your estate plan papers is easy to do and very quick. While your divorce might be dragging on and miserable, rest assured that this won’t be a painful process, and you’ll be able to easily make new arrangements and adjust others for your convenience. 

Divorce is, unfortunately, very prevalent in today’s society, and that has created a wide range of estate planning issues. Even if your split is amicable, you still want to make sure that you know what your divorce will change and how it will affect your estate plans. Consult with an attorney to make this painful process run smoothly in at least one area. 

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Guardianship and Trusts: Providing the Best Future for Your Kids

Posted by on Sep 19, 2018 in Legal News |

When it comes to our kids, we know that there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to ensure that they’re safe and happy. Legal mechanisms like estate planning allow you to give your kids the surety that, in the event something happens to you, they will be protected. Within the estate planning toolbox, there are two tools that will protect your kids: the trust and the guardianship papers. Both help you plan for any possible eventuality, and both will give you and your whole family peace of mind.

In addition to a trust, choosing the best guardian for your kids is a must-do for anyone with minor children who is looking into estate planning. This involves careful thought and preparation, and we will give you some advice on choosing the best guardian for your kids. But first, let’s see how we define a trust.

What is a Trust? 

When you hear the phrase “Trust Fund Kid,” you might think of negative connotations, like the spoiled rich kids that are classic movie villain tropes. However, trusts aren’t just for people with tons of money. A trust is a three-party relationship that is fiduciary in nature. You, the trustor/donor, give nominal title to a trustee, who then holds title until you tell them to grant it to your beneficiary (in this case, your kids). This trust can hold many different things, including cash, stocks, bonds, or even property. The beneficiary can access the trust when they reach 18 (or 21, depending on your instructions). 

By forming a trust for your kid, you ensure that you will be able to financially support them in at least some respect once they reach adulthood. The trust grants financial security, and you don’t need to put millions in there to help your kids. 

Guardianship for Your Kids 

In addition to the financial security a trust brings, guardianship papers are a must-have for anyone who is estate planning with minor children. Even if your children are 17 and have almost reached adulthood, it can’t hurt to include guardianship, as you never know what can happen. Once you’ve made your selection, talk to your proposed guardian. If they agree, make sure to officialize it in your estate plan. 

Here are some considerations when choosing the best guardian for your kids.

Consider Overall Values 

We all have an idea of how we want to raise our kids and the values we want to instill in them. It doesn’t matter where these values come from—religion, family tradition, etc.—what matters is that they’re important to you. Draw up a list of general values you want a guardian to have. This will get your list going in the right direction. 

Think About Day-to-Day Life 

In sum, it’s really about what your kids will be doing each day of their life with their guardian. School, homework, work, planning for college—all these activities matter in the short- and long-term. When you’re considering a guardian, think about how your child’s day will go with them and whether it will be a stable environment for them to come home to each day.

Talk to Your Prospective Guardians 

You may have the perfect person in mind, but don’t forget: you need to ask their permission first. Talk to your guardian about your proposed role for them. Make sure they’re on the same page in terms of child-raising. 

While no one ever wants to think about negative potential life events, it never hurts to be prepared. In addition to a trust, choosing guardianship for your minor children in the event that something happens is the best way to ensure that, even in the worst case scenario, your kids will be protected and have the best chance possible at a great life. 

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Age Is Just a Number: Are You Ever Too Young for a Will?

Posted by on Sep 12, 2018 in Legal News |

It’s not uncommon to think of a last will and testament as being something that belongs to an elderly person who is in their last years. But actually, there is no specification saying you have to be old or dying to write a will and, in fact, you should consider writing one once you’ve reached adulthood. Anyone older than eighteen can make a will. (Someone who is younger than eighteen can’t form a will that is considered valid unless they meet certain circumstances, such as marriage and court approval). 

When making a will, it isn’t about age, it’s about capacity. So, when asking, “How young do you have to be to consider a will?” the answer is eighteen or over, as long as you’re able to understand and approve what you’re doing. 

Testamentary Capacity 

Regarding someone’s mental state, substantive law has a few requirements for those seeking to make a will. An individual who is eighteen or older needs to have what’s called “testamentary capacity.” Testamentary capacity means that the person is of sound (or disposing) mind, memory, and understanding at the time that he or she makes the will.

Someone has testamentary capacity if they (1) understand what a will is, (2) understand, in at least general terms, the type of property and the amount of property that they are disposing, and (3) have the capacity to consider moral claims when deciding who they want to leave their property to. 

Lastly, the will’s maker needs to know the contents of their will and approve of them. If the age and capacity requirement is met, you can make a valid will, whether you’re young and off to college or elderly and nearing the end of your life. 

Why Young People Need Wills

At eighteen, you might not have much of an estate. However, “not much of an estate” is still an estate, even if there are just a few things in it. You likely have at least some things in your name, whether it’s your car, laptop, clothing, and other personal effects. If something were to happen to you, however unlikely that might seem, you would want to make sure your parents knew what to do with your things. Plus, making your will when you’re young ensures that you’re at your peak capacity to understand. You don’t want to be old and sick before trying to tackle this process. 

What a Will Can Include 

A will includes instructions for where you want your assets to go after you pass away. An estate plan in general, however, can include much more than that, such as a healthcare directive and power of attorney, both of which are very important. These documents provide instructions on what to do with your finances and health decisions if you’re too sick to make them yourself. Designating your parent (or whoever) as your power of attorney will ensure that your things are taken care of until you’re back on your feet. When you’re creating your will, consider creating those two documents as well. An estate planner will help you through the process. 

It might be tempting to go online to a legal document site and create these yourself, but that almost always leads to things being forgotten or left out or minor technicalities arising that could wind up costing your family a lot in court fees to solve. It’s best to consult with a lawyer to make sure it’s done right the first time. 

Everyone young thinks they’re going to live forever, and, in almost all cases, they usually have a long time before they’re going to even need to use their estate plan. However, that doesn’t mean that they should neglect to make a will. Even something simple will offer protection in the worst case scenario, and estate planning in general provides protection in a variety of circumstances. 

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