Happy 4th of July (Almost)! 

Posted by on Jun 22, 2019 in Legal News | 0 comments

july fourth, independence day, wild felice

Independence Day is one of the most treasured holidays in America, and it’s almost here! Here are three interesting facts about the 4th of July that you might not know, as well as a mini-history lesson about the renowned George Washington (and his equally-famous last will and testament).

Three Fun Facts about the Fourth 

First, did you know that the 4th of July was not the actual date that the Founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence? If you want to be annoying at your family barbecue, you can point out that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence was on July 2nd, with another, formalized document being signed on August 2nd. The 4th is the date that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration.

If that last fact was a bit of a buzzkill, this one won’t be. It turns out, the colonists’ celebrations on the Fourth of July contained pretty much the same level of wildness as they do now. All the pent-up frustration over high taxes and colonial strictness led to pretty raucous parties once the colonists were free. For example, the Virginia Gazette, a paper that circulated in 1776, reported that Americans toppled a statue of King George and melted it into bullets. They also hosted huge bonfires where they burned King George in effigy and held fake funerals for him. Oh, and there were tons of fireworks even then as well. 

Thirdly, even the troops in the colonies were able to celebrate during the Revolutionary War. George Washington, sensing that his army was low on morale, ordered a double ration of rum to be served in all the camps to celebrate the Fourth. 

A Little Bit About George Washington 

George Washington is perhaps one of the most fascinating leaders in all American history. He actually somewhat accidentally started the French and Indian War —or, at least, he was responsible for the shot over the bough that set it off.

Washington had just gone through a fierce battle that ended in the death of a French military leader, Commander Jumonville. Despite this death, Washington did not win the battle, and the loss was largely due to his errors and naivety. His letter of surrender, detailing Jumonville’s death, was somehow received by the French and translated by a Dutch soldier. 

But, this post-battle letter was translated incorrectly. Instead of translating that the war was the ambiguous cause of Commander Jumonville’s death, the Dutch soldier read the letter as Washington “assassinating” Jumonville. Because Washington was, in 1754, a British colonist, this was considered an act of aggression (casus belli) to justify war. It ignited the tensions between the French and British, effectively kicking off the French and Indian War, which snowballed into the Seven Years’ War. The British won both and sent the French packing. 

For a short time, anyway. 

But tensions were brewing with the Americans. The British soldiers sent over to fight the War with the French were paid more than the Americans. This was really expensive, as was the whole conflict in general. So, the British enacted the Stamp Act in 1765. 

It was this Stamp Act that pushed American colonists to the edge. The extra money going into King George’s pocket deeply angered the colonists, and when other taxes followed (such as the infamous Tea Tax), that led to, well, a revolution. 

The Revolution.

So, in a strange, winding way, George Washington was a catalyst for the wars that led to Americans throwing down the gauntlet against the British. And now, centuries later, here we are on the Fourth of July.

The Estate of George Washington

There is a custom of Washington’s that you too can emulate. No, it’s not starting a Revolution, but it is similar to how he organized his life. Washington was a meticulous planner when it came to wrapping up his affairs. He was very ill in 1799, and he wrote one of the most famous last wills and testaments of all time. He made two copies, giving one to his wife, Martha, and throwing another in the fire. The will was deeply personal, granting land to loved ones, particularly his wife, and releasing debts his family members, even distant relatives, owed to his estate. 

He took care of his loved ones, and you can too. Contact an estate planner about setting up a trust (a probate-free way to plan out your affairs). Through careful planning, you can emulate Washington’s responsibility and dedication to his family and friends.

Happy Fourth! 

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June is National Hunger Awareness Month 

Posted by on Jun 14, 2019 in Legal News |

june hunger awareness month

June is National Hunger Awareness Month, and with that comes the sobering reminder that there are people among us who do not have food to put on the table each night. Hunger takes a lot of different forms. It’s not just the typical vision of someone homeless on the street, though that is a large part of the hunger problem. It is also about families struggling to make ends meet and single parents barely making it. 

If you’re fortunate enough not to have this problem, you can give back this June by donating canned food, money, or other supplies to local shelters and food drives. Often, homeless shelters and soup kitchens needs volunteers to work there and help out during the week and on weekends. 

Another thing to keep in mind this June is that putting food on the table isn’t the only way to be responsible for your loved ones and keep them safe. Here are other ways you can provide for your family for the future.

Asset Protection 

Think about your possessions (assets) and how much they mean to you. This isn’t to say you’re materialistic, but we all love our stuff. There are things each of us have that we want to pass on, and these possessions are important, whether they are items or actual pieces of real property. 

Estate planning allows you to transfer your assets to loved ones. If you choose a trust, the transfer goes through immediately, and it is given to your loved ones at a time you select. You can transfer real property through estate planning, and get your affairs in order in other ways too, which are detailed briefly below.

Taking Care of Loved Ones

Note that when we say “get your affairs in order,” we don’t mean that you have to be on your deathbed. You can do this at any age, in any health condition. This estate plan might not come into realization for years and years. However, taking care of the vulnerable members of your family in the future is something you do not want to wait to do. Here are ways to take care of the most vulnerable members of your family, including the elderly, children, near-adults (AKA college students), and the sick. 

The Most Vulnerable in the Family 

The Elderly 

If you have elderly family members, giving them the gift of an estate planning session is valuable. Whether they have an estate plan that needs updating or checked-over or they have no estate plan at all, it is important to make sure they are all set for the future. This doesn’t include just asset transfer. It also includes healthcare directives, Powers of Attorney, and other assignments to protect their finances and honor healthcare decisions in the event of incapacitation. 

Children 

If you have children, the last thing you probably want to think about is what would happen to them if something happened to you. But, unfortunately, it is a remote possibility you should give some thought to. Selecting a responsible guardian is part of a well-rounded estate plan. Consult with your proposed guardian before selecting them officially, and make sure you two are on the same page when it comes to parenting.

Almost-Adults 

If you have college kids or soon-to-be college kids in your life, there is always the matter of tuition. It’s never too early to start planning for your kid’s college education. Starting a 529 tax plan is a way to save up for college tuition and get tax breaks for doing so. Even if it’s just part of the cost of education, any little bit is enough.

The Sick 

If you or your family members are infirm, consider setting up (or helping them set up) a healthcare directive and/or Power of Attorney for healthcare. A POA for healthcare is someone entrusted with making healthcare decisions on a sick and incapacitated person’s behalf. A healthcare directive is a set of instructions for a hospital to follow in case you are too sick to give these instructions yourself. 

Protecting your loved ones, particularly the most vulnerable in your family, is essential to being responsible.

June is a good time to remember those who are struggling in the world. We all should give back and provide for others during this time, as well as every other month. Take a look at your local news to see how you can help during National Hunger Awareness Month. 

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The NBA Finals are Here! 

Posted by on Jun 9, 2019 in Legal News |

The NBA Finals are here and alas! All good things must come to an end. Now, we’re not trying to start an argument on who’s going to win (though that could be a conversation lasting hours), but I think we can all agree that the NBA season coming to an end is a sad moment for some basketball fans. Next up is football season, as well as the closeout of baseball season. 

While the NBA Finals’ coming to an end might just mean that you have to wait around for next season, that doesn’t mean that is the case with everything else. Make sure you’re prepared for the next “season” of your life through careful estate planning. 

New Family Members 

New family members are exciting! Whether it’s a new baby being born or a new relative by marriage, you will want your estate plan to reflect these new family members you love and care about. If you want your new granddaughter or in-law to get part of your estate, make sure you contact an estate planner and update as soon as possible. That way, you will ensure that your estate plan reflects your true wishes.

Thinking About Your Kids’ College

College is essential to getting a job these days. This doesn’t mean just a four-year program. Higher education comes in many forms, including learning a valuable trade or attending a two-year program to get your associates degree. Whichever form your kids choose, it will likely cost at least some amount of money. Starting a tax-advantaged 529 plan is an excellent way to prepare for the future (and get some IRS breaks for doing so!).

Speaking of Kids…

If you have young children, you will want to put in a guardianship plan for them in the event that something happens to you and your spouse. That way, your kids are well-taken-care-of in the worst scenario. No, it’s not an easy thing to think about or even consider, but it is vital to prepare for even the remotest possibility. Choose a guardian you know will take care of your kids’ day to day needs. Consult with that proposed guardian to ensure that you are on the same page.

Preparing for Sickness

If you get sick, you probably have some instructions in mind for the doctors. Maybe you want a certain medication or to avoid a certain procedure. These instructions are important and personal. They need to be codified in a piece of writing and/or entrusted to a POA (Power of Attorney) to make sure your wishes are honored. Doctors and nurses are almost always responsible people, but they won’t know what you want unless you tell them, and you might be too sick to do so. A healthcare directive and plan for this worst-case event will serve as a safeguard for you.

And Everything Else, Too

There is a ton of stuff that goes into an estate plan, and there’s no way to cover everything in such a short article. It really comes down to who and what are important in your life. And then, once you have that list, estate planning is about protecting these people and assets for the future. The future is always going to be uncertain, but you should still make an effort to prepare for every eventuality. As famous author Stephen King once said, “Everything’s eventual.”

All good things come to an end, but there are ways to prepare. You might be entering one of the next “seasons” of your life above, whether new members of the family are coming in or leaving the nest. It always helps to have a game plan and be one step ahead. By careful estate planning and contacting an estate planning attorney, you can make sure you get the process right. 

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It’s About Responsibility This Memorial Day

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Legal News |

On Monday, May 27th, we celebrate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Interestingly, the holiday used to be called Decoration Day, and it has been (officially) around since 1966. It always falls on the last Monday in May, and almost everything is be closed for business that day. 

Veterans showed an enormous amount of personal strength and responsibility. It was a burden that very few other people shared and continue to share today. When you’re thinking about responsibility in your own life, it is daunting to think about taking on such a burden. Here are some ways, both estate-planning-related and not, to celebrate this Memorial Day. 

The National Moment of Remembrance 

Though President Johnson officially declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1966, the practice of remembrance dates back to the 1860s. It was mainly celebrated by the northern states at first, as the southern states did not want to honor their dead Confederate soldiers on the same day as Union soldiers. 

That changed after WWI, as the holiday shifted to honoring those killed in WWI, which included citizens from the North and the South. WWI killed over 53,000 Americans, while WWII killed nearly 300,000. The wars after that, combined, took around 110,000 lives.

The National Moment of Remembrance is a Memorial Day tradition that has been around since 2001. It takes place at 3 P.M. on Memorial Day, and it is a nationwide, shared moment of silence for the lives lost during America’s wars.

Do Something Community-Oriented (However Small)

War, in the end, is about division. A world divided goes to war, and celebrating community is somewhat of an antidote to that. Whether it’s picking up litter in your community, helping an elderly neighbor, or donating to a community organization, we can all do something small to appreciate one another. 

Red Poppy Flowers

Another interesting Memorial Day tradition is that of red poppy flowers. Once again, this tradition dates back to Civil War times. After the Civil War, General John Logan, who oversaw what was left of the military at the time, ordered flowers placed on the graves of all soldiers, Union and Confederate, who died in the war. 

It wasn’t until post-WWI when red poppies became the flower associated with fallen soldiers. The red poppy tradition came from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field. McCrae wrote the poem in 1915 in the aftermath of the Second Battle of Ypres. The poppy was the only flower to bloom on the battlefields during that time, and so it became the flower for fallen veterans. 

Take Responsibility in Your Own Life 

It is overwhelming to think about the enormous responsibility that these soldiers showed, and it is difficult to compare such sacrifice to our own lives. When thinking about ways to take responsibility in your own life, consider planning for your future. Set up an estate plan that details what you want from your healthcare and finances. Make sure you include asset protection. This will not only protect your future; it will help your family as well. They will be spared the turmoil of probate court after you pass on. 

For Your Kids’ Future, Too

Consider your kids’ future. Education is a predictor of how well a society, as a whole, will do, and a college or trade school education sets someone on the right path to success. Use an IRS 529 plan to help save for your kids’ college. The plan is tax-advantaged, and it is a way to get a head start on your kids’ future.

Thousands of soldiers have died for this country throughout the years. It was the Civil War that took the most lives, with World War II following right after. War is a terrible thing, and the sacrifices that our veterans made to keep us safe should never be forgotten. This Memorial Day, remember the lives of veterans through observing tradition and taking responsibility in your own life and for your own future.

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Summer is Near! Stay Safe This Vacation

Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Legal News |

Well, we made it! Summer is almost here. It’s time for hot beach days and no school for kids. Everyone loves summer, and for good reason! This summer, you might be preparing to go on vacation. There are many things to think about and plans to make before you go on vacation. You have to lock up the house, pack, get the kids ready, figure out who’s going to take care of the pets and plants, and more. 

But what about the big picture? 99.9% of the time, vacations go off without a (major) hitch. But, as any estate planning attorney (or insurance agent) will tell you, it pays to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Here are some big-picture things to think about doing before you head off on a great adventure.

Just-In-Case: Healthcare

Things happen on vacation sometimes. It’s rare, but they can happen. You’re in a new environment doing new things. There’s always the chance that something could go wrong. If that occurs, you want to have a plan in place. A healthcare directive and power of attorney for healthcare are ways that you can give directions to hospitals and nurses giving you care. These tools will alert your healthcare providers to your preferences, even if you are unable to give the directions yourself at the time due to incapacitation. 

Just-In-Case: Finances 

Similarly, you probably have plans for your financial health in the event that something happens to you. However, something could happen that causes you to be unable to verbalize your wishes for your finances. A power of attorney for finances is, like for healthcare, a trusted individual that you select to make these decisions on your behalf. He or she knows what you want (because you’ve told them), and they will ensure that your money goes to the right place. 

The Kids, Too

If you have minor children, they will need guardians if something happens to you. Make sure your estate plan includes details for who you want to take care of them in the worst-case scenario. Choose someone you believe would take the best care of your kids, not just overall, but also day-to-day. Talk to your proposed guardian to make sure they agree.

Insurance (All Kinds)

In addition to estate planning tips, there are other ways to prepare for every eventuality. One major way is through insurance. Are you renting a car? Get rental insurance. Are you flying? Get lost luggage insurance. 

If you’re going to be gone for a while, you can also purchase vacation insurance. This type of insurance covers anything bad that could possibly happen while on vacation: medical emergencies, emergency assistance, cancellations, travel changes that result in extra expense, and more. It’s a good idea in general to make healthcare plans in case something happens. Find in-network providers in your vacation area. If they aren’t there, check to see the out-of-network costs. Some insurance plans will not charge you as much as the usual out-of-network fee if you go for an emergency.

House Tips 

What’s at your house that you can’t just leave? Think about what you do every week. Pets, plans, and perishables are the “Three P’s” of planning for vacation. Make sure your pet will be taken care of. If you have plants or a lawn that needs care, arrange for that as well. Empty out your fridge! This is something all too many people forget to do before vacation. We’ve all done it at some point and coming home to rotting food is definitely not a welcome surprise when you get back from a relaxing vacation. 

We’re not saying that anything bad is going to happen on your vacation. But one thing about estate planning is that it takes into account every eventuality. If you like being prepared for pretty much anything, put the above tasks onto your to-do list before you go on vacation. 

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