Back to School!

Posted by on Aug 13, 2019 in Legal News | 0 comments

It’s almost time for your kids to go back to school. For you, that might be a relief. For the kids, hopefully they’re excited (or at least willing to give the new school year a chance). With kids heading back to school, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to protecting and providing for your children in your estate plan. 

Guardianship

Do you have a plan of guardianship set out in your estate plan, in the event that something happens to you? If you have minor children, this is a good idea. If something happens to you and your spouse, make sure you have a plan in place for their care. Pick a guardian who will take care of your kids’ day to day needs, as well as the big-picture stuff. Ask your proposed guardian first to make sure they are on board. It is a big responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly or decided in the spur of the moment.

College Savings 

College is expensive, pretty much anywhere you go. It’s never too early to start saving up for the expenses that college entails. The IRS is sympathetic to parents who are trying to save up for their kids’ college, and they allow you to use 529 plans, which are tax-advantaged savings plans, to save for college. When you put money in your 529, you get a tax break. The breaks vary depending on your state, but they’re preferable to setting aside a regular portion of your income in another savings account, which would just tax it as regular income. 

Things A Young Adult Should Do 

This post isn’t just for minors. Your kid might be preparing to enter college and take on the world as a young adult. At age eighteen, there are decisions your kid should make to ensure that he or she has at least some type of estate plan. It’s never too early to think about an estate plan, securing a power of attorney, or other, similar ventures. Though it might seem young, it will come in handy in the worst case scenario.

Trusts

When you set up a trust, you (the settlor) gives legal title to property to a trustee, who keeps it for the benefit of the beneficiary, who has equitable title to the property. This trust is a good way to give an inter vivos (in-life) gift while avoiding probate court after you pass on. A trust is an option for anyone looking to do something different with a gift that isn’t in a will. 

Gifts 

If you’re using a will to create a trust or giving a gift in your estate plan, that is a good way to provide for your kids. Make sure to consult with an estate planning attorney to make sure that the transfer is done properly. It might be tempting to create a will using a “fill in the blank” service, but there is a lot of room for error on those. One misplaced signature, for example, and half your provisions might not come in. It’s best to consult with an estate planner.

New Babies 

This is not to say that your kids are going to be having kids! But, while on the topic of children, if there are new babies in your family you want to create a gift for or include in your will, you should do so sooner rather than later. 

With back to school season in mind, your student, whether they’re a young kindergartener or someone about to leave for college, deserves all the protection you can give them in your estate plan.

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How Time Flies! Pre-season Is Here!

Posted by on Aug 7, 2019 in Legal News |

The NFL pre-season is upon us! The NFL pre-season is a great way for teams to scope out their favorite players, determine who can come off the injury list, see how the roster will be organized, and essentially get everything ready for the upcoming season-to-be. If you’re an NFL fan, you know that this means that your favorite time of the year is close. If you’re not an NFL fan, it’s still fun! It means that fall is here, almost, and that brings with it all the amazing things that come with the year’s second-to-last season.

When you think of the pre-season, you think of a preparedness plan that NFL coaches are making for the big event. In a way, estate planning is somewhat of a pre-season. Here are your core components: 

A Good Offense

Your attack plan is always important. You want to have a formidable offense. In the context of the NFL, this means a tough O-Line, strong receivers, and, of course, a star quarterback. For the rest of us non-NFL’ers in estate planning, a good offense means an affirmative plan of action when it comes to dividing up your assets and determining who your beneficiaries will be. 

You should attack asset division in an organized fashion, whether you’re gifting assets in an inter vivos trust so as to avoid going through probate or assigning monetary gifts to your family to be paid from any residuary in your estate. 

An Even Better Defense 

Of course, you can’t have offense without defense. In estate planning, your best defensive plan is to prepare for eventualities that may arise, such as sickness, death, or incapacitation. When you’re incapacitated, that means that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. Maybe you’re unconscious or too sick to be responsive. Either way, having documents in place such as a healthcare directive or people in place like a POA will ensure that your healthcare and financial decisions are made responsibly and in accordance with your wishes. 

Who’s Your Head Coach? 

Trick question: you are! And you shouldn’t forget that. When you’re preparing your estate plan, make sure that you’re acting in accordance with your own wishes and what is best for your estate. Remember, this is your estate plan. Make sure that you pick a POA who is responsible and knowledgeable, not just the first person who asks you.

Who’s Your Backup QB?

Speaking of a POA, your power of attorney definitely qualifies as your backup quarterback. They are fit individuals over the age of eighteen, of sound mind, and with specific duties who make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you become sick or ill. You can also appoint them as the executor or executrix of your estate after you die, which means that they wind up the estate and handle property division.

Keeping Your Roster Updated 

Coaches in the NFL change their rosters all the time. They know that things don’t always stay the same. Players get injured, suspended, or stop performing well. Just like the NFL coaches, you need to be prepared to change things in your estate plan if necessary. Make sure to keep it updated. If you see that there is a change in the family (a divorce, a new child, etc.) that requires adjustment, do it sooner rather than later.

As you can see, there are a lot of parallels to be made between the pre-season and preparedness in estate planning. When you’re thinking of ways to organize your life and get prepared, estate planning should be at the top of your list.

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Staycation? Do Some Drafting

Posted by on Jul 20, 2019 in Legal News |

 

 

There’s nothing wrong with a staycation! By staycation, we mean relaxing at home instead of going off on an exciting trip. Staycations are a great way to relax and tie up any loose ends or extra work that you may have been putting off during the regular year. One example of this extra work you can get done during your staycation is drafting your estate plan or will. 

We get it. Life is busy. But, when you have a chance to relax, you should take advantage of it. Contacting an estate planning attorney won’t take long at all, and the estate planning process will not be arduous. Here are some reasons you should consider using your downtime to draft an estate plan or will. 

Peace of Mind

“Peace of mind” sounds like a cliché term until you actually have it. Then, you realize how important it is. When you’re drafting your estate plan and will, you will be amazed at the sense of peace you’ll feel, knowing that you’ll be able to have everything prepared for any eventuality. 

The point of an estate plan and will is also to prove for your family’s peace of mind. They won’t be dragged into probate court because there is no wrap-up for your affairs. Your assets will be divided much more easily and in a way that is stress-free.

DIY Legal Work—Never A Good Idea

It might be tempting to just try to get it done on your own, with no assistance from a legal professional. This is a bad idea, and we’re not just being biased. The thing about the law is that it’s tricky. Things that seem like they should be valid are not, while things that seem like they should be invalid suddenly control the whole will or agreement. The terminology is tricky, as are the particulars, and it’ll save you time and money to have it done correctly by a professional, rather than to have it done incorrectly and deal with the confusion resulting from that.

You Won’t Know How Much You Need it ‘Til You Have It 

Stating that you should draft a will or a healthcare directive isn’t a comment on your own mortality. It probably doesn’t seem all that pressing right now, and maybe it isn’t. However, things happen. You won’t know how much you need it until you have it. It’ll be a huge relief to you to have these documents in hand during times of stress. Nothing worsens stress than not being prepared for the event. 

Even Updating Requires Some Time 

Even if you already have a will, that doesn’t mean that you can clock out. Updating is important. New family members and new circumstances are always occurring, and you want to make sure that your will and estate plan reflects that. Otherwise, an outdated document will cause family strife. Updating and ensuring currency and modernity is another key to a valid estate plan or will. Once again, law is tricky. Things that seem like they shouldn’t determine the outcome often do, and you want to make sure outcome-determinative things don’t torpedo the intentions behind your will.

More Ability to Focus During Your Downtime

When you’re on a staycation, you have more time to focus. You’re not rushing to do a million things at once, and that means that this is the perfect time to get this estate planning done. You’re in a space where you can focus, and that will come in handy when making these important decisions. 

There are a lot of benefits to a staycation, and one of these benefits is the ability to get things done that you wouldn’t have been able to during the usual hustle and bustle of life. Do some drafting during your staycation so you can check it off your list! 

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Avoiding These Common Ways to Put Assets at Risk

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019 in Legal News |

While materialism isn’t a good thing, you’ve worked hard for your possessions. You don’t want to put your assets at risk. One way to prevent putting them at risk is to make sure that you are able to avoid getting into situations where they could be lost. In this article, we will discuss the top ten ways, in no particular order, to put assets at risk (and how you can avoid them). 

1. Lack of Insurance

Insurance, as the old saying goes, is one of those things that you don’t know how much you need until you need it. When you want to protect your assets, you need insurance. Even if it isn’t the double-decker, platinum policy, a solid, practical insurance plan will work wonders. When deciding the type of insurance you want, look at the type of asset and the risks involved. Do your research into various policies and insurers, and you will be able to find the best price. You’ll be happy you have it.  

2. Dying Intestate 

A common way to lose your assets it to die intestate, which means that your assets are given first to your creditors, and then to your family. Dying without a will subjects your estate to probate, and your estate is carved up in a way that you likely would not prefer had you been able to make a choice. Making a will is an excellent way to keep your assets within the family, as is creating a trust. 

3. Probate Battles 

Probate court is where your estate is divvied up by a judge. Probate battles between family members, creditors, and beneficiaries occur all the time. Really, half of the time spent in probate court involves an argument of some sort. And, your estate and values won’t necessarily come out the winner. Avoid probate by ensuring that your estate plan is in good shape. 

4. Attempting to Make Your Will Yourself 

It’s tempting to just want to write down everything you want to have happen, sign the will, and be done with the whole estate planning thing. However, the law is tricky and complicated. There are a million and one ways to torpedo a will and totally get the intentions of it wrong. Asking a lawyer for help is the best way to ensure that it is done properly.

5. Business Considerations 

Hundreds of thousands of words could be written on the business considerations behind protecting your assets. However, there’s no need for that in this article. Make sure that you are fully aware of the liability of your assets in relation to your business. How limited is your liability in the event that your business is sued? Will you be exposed personally to lawsuit costs? If you know this information and are happy with it, then that is a good thing. If you’re unsure, this is something you’ll want to check out.

6. Picking the Wrong POA

You know your family, and you likely know who you would and would not want as a power of attorney. Always double check to ensure that that is your correct intention. If you have a POA in your estate plan now, make sure that that is still who you want. A less-than-ideal POA can be very problematic. 

7. DIY Legal Work 

Similar to one of the ways listed above, the unwise nature of DIY legal work extends to anything requiring drafting of a legal document. Even if the site you’re looking at offers a template, there are all too many ways to include a wrong term or end up with something totally different than what you want. The headache you’ll be spared by doing it properly the first time is the main reason why you should go to a lawyer first.

8. No Umbrella Insurance 

Umbrella insurance is the Cadillac of insurance in a lot of cases. If you have the extra money and want to get umbrella insurance (which is insurance that goes beyond the liability of your home), you should definitely do so.

9. Ex-Spouses 

Ex-spouses all too often have places in your estate plan that they likely should not have. If you’re divorced and haven’t changed your estate plan to reflect that, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your ex will get your things. However, it’s a better idea to not have them in there. Make sure to change your will or revoke a trust (if possible) if that doesn’t reflect your current relationship.

10. Put It in Writing 

Last but not least, put stuff in writing. If you’ve made a verbal promise to a relative about your estate plan, that might not be good enough. Put your intentions in writing, and an estate planner will help you do so.

These ten asset protection mistakes are not the only ways to risk your assets, but they are the most common. Watch out for the hidden pitfalls, and you will be able to avoid them. Knowing the risk is the first step to avoiding it.

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Tour de France – Tour of Life

Posted by on Jul 11, 2019 in Legal News |

The Tour de France is one of the most interesting events in sports. It has been the site of both incredible triumphs and defeats. The Tour de France, for those who might not know, is a men’s bike race that cycles all around France. The race does extend into a few other countries, but it predominantly focuses on France. It is televised, so people can cheer on their favorite racers and see how well they do. 

The Tour de France is a lot like life. You give your all, and you never really know the exact outcome or what you will get for your efforts. The Tour de France has been around since 1903, and athletes who compete have learned a lot about what it takes to prepare for such an arduous task. Much like these athletes, you also can prepare for the ups and downs that come with the “Tour de Life.”

Coasting: When Things are Easy

Life for you (hopefully) isn’t all twists and turns. There are periods of tranquility, and it is easy to get complacent during these periods, as nothing is going on that requires your immediate attention. However, during these peaceful periods when no one is sick, or family members are not fighting, or it otherwise is calm and tranquil, you should consider doing your estate plan or will drafting. 

There is an old saying that says, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” While, certainly, this isn’t literally applicable to our lives today, the sentiment is the same. Use downtime to make sure things are in place for turbulence. That means organizing a healthcare directive, picking a POA, getting your assets squared away for after you pass on, and more. Do it now, so that you don’t regret it later.  

The Ups and Downs of Life 

Sadly, there will be times when that coasting period ends, and things get tricky. This is where the above documents will come in handy. A good example of this is the POA (power of attorney) or the healthcare directive. Let’s say that one of the “downs” of life is you getting sick.

If you’re really sick, you might be incapacitated and unable to communicate effectively. A healthcare directive prepares for this. You’re able to communicate your wishes through the directive to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff, ensuring that you get the medical treatment you want even in times where you can’t communicate it.

Don’t Fall Asleep at the Wheel 

So, you’ve made your estate plan—now what? Well, first, good for you. You’ve prepared for any eventuality, and that should give you peace of mind. Now, it’s important not to fall asleep at the wheel. If there are changes in your family (new spouses, new family members, etc.), you will want to ensure that your estate plan reflects that. Don’t allow change to build up. If something happens, you don’t want to be bound to a plan that doesn’t reflect the new dynamics of your family. 

Thinking of Your Family 

Of course, your primary focus should be your family. When deciding how you want to divide your assets, make sure you are thinking about the best interests of yourself and your family. By communicating with them, you will ensure that your will best reflects the best division possible. This also applies for selecting a POA or guardian. Check with the proposed family member before nominating them to make sure you’re on the same page. 

During life, there will be ups and downs. It’s best, during the “ups” when you’re coasting on a flat surface, to prepare for the downs and what might happen. Just like the Tour de France athletes prepare, so should you.

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