Luck’s Got Nothing to Do With Estate Planning

Posted by on Mar 19, 2018 in Digital Estate Planning, estate planning | 0 comments








You’ve probably, at some point or another, seen those ads that offer DIY-legal services. These ads claim that, by using their site, you’ll be able to create your own will in less time, with far less expense. Or perhaps you’ve decided to buy a book on estate planning and go for it yourself. While it’s true that you’ll create something, and you’ll probably do it cheaply, do-it-yourself estate planning is a move that will cost you more in the long run.

See, while self-produced legal services may seem tempting, they have a lot of negatives. You won’t get lucky and make the perfect estate plan—luck’s got nothing to do with it. You need a qualified estate planning attorney to get the job done right. In this article, we’ll talk about the dangers and downsides of DIY-estate planning.

Mistakes are Easy to Make and Hard to Fix

Lawyers go to law school for years. Estate planners train in the specific field of estate planning law, and even they check their documents over once, twice, three times or more before finalizing them. Typos, confusion with the legal terms, and problems with the signing are all major areas where DIY wills go wrong.

Requirements can seem nitpicky when it comes to estate planning, but these requirements serve an important state interest: preventing fraud. When it comes to witnesses, things get a little tricky. For example, some state laws dictate that a witness to the will cannot be a beneficiary of anything in it, while other laws require witnesses to all sign in one another’s presence. DIY will-making sites, which often service all 50 states with a boilerplate form, are unlikely to tell you that.

The problem isn’t the screw-up, it’s the fact that the error won’t be caught until after you’ve passed on. That’s when your document will have to go through court because it was handled improperly. The court process will be long and difficult, and it’s unlikely that your plan will be carried out the way you wanted it. And, again, this witnessing slipup is just one example of many pitfalls that accompany estate planning.

The “One-Size-Fits-All” Misconception

DIY services are often one-size-fits-all, meaning that they are not specific to your particular estate. Every estate is different, and attempting to standardize it all into a “one hour or less” planning session just isn’t realistic.

For example, you may want to pass on savings bonds to your beneficiaries, or some other similar asset. These assets, however, do not generally pass through a will or living trust. If you try to designate them through those documents, it will become very messy. Coordinating the different assets with the right documents is something an experienced lawyer will be able to do.

Also, DIY estate planners often leave too much up to their family, simply trusting that their family members will “do the right thing” and intuit what the writers mean in their self-made will. However, if family members always cooperated all the time, there would likely be no needed for estate planning altogether. You want to make sure you have, in clear, precise, correct terms what you want done after you die. That will shield against family fights or schisms that could lead to your will be interpreted in a way you did not intend.

Basically, while a DIY service might be cheaper, it actually costs you more in the long run, as slipups and errors, as well as problems coordinating the documents, can lead to major issues with executing your estate plan after you die. The best course of action is to schedule an estate planning consultation.

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Protect Your Pot O’ Gold

Posted by on Mar 8, 2018 in estate planning |

St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, and, as we all know, everyone’s trying to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, what you may not realize is you’re already sitting on a pot of gold: your estate. And, not only do you have this gold, you also need to protect it. Estate planning is the process by which you decide where your assets will go after you die. But, that’s not all that an estate plan protects. It also helps with medical care and property while you’re still alive.

In this article, we will look at the many ways your estate plan can protect your pot of gold, both before and after you die.


Before You Go

If you were to ask people on the street what they think estate planning entails, you’d probably get a lot of answers about a last will and testament. But after death isn’t the only time your estate plan comes in handy. With it, you can protect, while still living:

  • Your medical needs.

If you are in incapacitated or unconscious, that doesn’t mean that you won’t need medical care, and it also doesn’t mean that your medical care has to become depersonalized. Through estate planning, you can have what is known as an advanced healthcare directive, where you dictate details about your medical care that you wish to receive during this period. This is also called a living will. Your medical needs and wishes will be protected through this estate planning document.

  • Your financial needs.

Similarly, if you are incapacitated, you will want someone to make your financial decisions for you and keep your finances in good order. Through a power of attorney, you can select someone you trust to make these decisions, providing protection for your finances.

Protecting Your Pot of Gold After You Pass

Estate planning also allows you to make arrangements after you’ve passed on. By having a living trust, you can avoid probate court and have your assets moved to the correct places as quickly as possible. Here are the things that estate planning can protect after you have passed on:

  • Assets.

Obviously, estate planning through documents such as a living trust will ensure that your money and property will go where you want them to when you’re not around. A living trust is a three-party fiduciary relationship between a donor (the person giving the asset), trustee (the person the donor gives it to temporarily), and the beneficiary (the asset’s eventual destination. You can ensure your estate is wrapped up as quickly as possible using these types of tools.

  • Your beneficiaries

If you plan your estate properly, you won’t have to go through probate court, which is a long, difficult process your family will not want to experience. Estate planning can also shield your estate from certain liabilities and taxes, saving your family money.

Estate planning can help you protect your pot of gold, distributing it where you want it and saving your family a lot of time and hassle in the future.

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Love is Spelled T-R-U-S-T

Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Trusts |

It’s the season of love; Even after Valentine’s Day there’s still plenty of leftover decorations to go around. However, you don’t just spell love “L-O-V-E”; there’s another way to spell it: T-R-U-S-T.

We’re talking about estate planning. While setting up a trust for your kids, grandkids, and relatives might not be as flashy of a gift as a new Ferrari, it actually will have even more value in the long run. There are some common misconceptions about trusts—or, rather, about last wills being better than trusts—so, in this article, we will clarify what a trust is and why it’s beneficial.

What is a trust?

A trust is a three-party relationship. The relationship consists of the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary. The trustor, also known as a donor, conveys property or assets to the trustee. The trustee acts as a receiver. After the property is transferred to the trustee, the trustee acts as a nominal owner of the assets. At the moment the trustor specifies (usually upon said trustor’s death), the trustee conveys the property to the beneficiary, who then becomes the property’s owner.

Lastly, you should know what the term “trust agreement” means. A trust agreement specifies the rules of the trust and manner in which the trust should be followed. There are also federal and state law rules that must be followed in conjunction with the provisions of the trust agreement.

There are many different reasons to get a trust, including reducing your estate tax, protecting your assets after you die, and avoiding probate court. There are many different types of trusts, so consult with your estate planner to find out which one is best for your circumstances.

Why not just get a last will and testament?

A last will and testament goes into effect after you die. It also must go through probate court, and you are often subject to more taxes than you would be with a trust. Probate court is a long, arduous process, and your beneficiaries do not receive their gifts immediately. Though a will is cheaper to set up, it does not pay off as well in the long run.

What are the benefits of a trust?

There are several benefits of a trust. First, you can avoid probate court, as stated above. Second, a trust is effectively immediately and can be changed if something happens. When you set up your trust, it is known as an inter vivos trust. You then decide if it is revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts allow you to change your mind. This flexibility is beneficial. Thirdly, you can shield your estate from certain taxes through a trust, and, lastly, you are able to decide the manner in which your assets are distributed, as well as the timing. These four benefits are just some of the many that make a trust a great idea.

Because of the safety and reliability a trust provides, it’s clear that there’s more than just one way to spell “love.”

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Nothing Says Romance Like an Estate Plan

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in estate planning |

As the saying goes around this office, “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Michael Wild in a baby carriage!”

While estate planning might not seem romantic, and you probably don’t usually finish that rhyme with Michael Wild, there is something to be said for estate planning as a romantic gesture. It certainly indicates a lot of commitment to your spouse, family, and the people who mean the most to you. No Valentine? No problem. Estate planning is still vitally important for you, even if you’re a bachelor or bachelorette.

Estate Planning & Marriage

If you’re getting married or are currently married, you should definitely be creating or updating your estate plan. An estate plan decides where your assets will be transferred when you die. Here are some things to consider when including your spouse in your future.

  • Marital property. Marital property is jointly owned between you and your spouse. It is property that you purchased using marital assets. You and your spouse will have to decide where you want it to go in the event of your death. Because it is marital property, it needs to be a decision made that involves the two of you.
  • If you die, you will probably want to make your spouse a beneficiary of at least some of your assets. In an estate plan, you can specify your spouse as the beneficiary through a living trust, which sets up a three-party relationship whereby the trustee grants your spouse the assets upon your death. You can also make your spouse the trustee for your children, who you can make beneficiaries.
  • Decision-making in emergencies. An advance directive allows you to delineate the healthcare choices you want in case you sink into a coma or are otherwise too incapacitated to make these decisions. You can also name your spouse as a decisionmaker, if you choose. You can name them Power of Attorney, which gives them the authority to make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself.
  • Money is pretty romantic, and the tax cuts that estate planning can get you and your spouse will be pretty significant, particularly since the estate tax will soon be dissipating in a few years’ time.

Don’t Forget the Kids

Your “baby carriage” probably won’t have Michael Wild in it, but he definitely can help you figure out how to best take care of your kids via estate planning. If you have minor children, you definitely need to make sure that you assign guardianship to them in the event of your death. You can also put aside money for your kids’ colleges and name them as beneficiaries or your Power of Attorney. Your children will benefit highly from your estate plan.

No Kids, No Spouse, No Problem

If you’re single and childless, you should still have an estate plan. You likely have assets and property and, if you die, you don’t want to drag your relatives through probate court. Estate planning can divide up your property and transfer it quickly, with as little hassle as possible.

This Valentine’s Day, show your loved ones commitment and care by creating an estate plan or updating a currently existing one. No matter what your status in life, everyone can benefit from estate planning.

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Have a Heart, Write a Will

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Wills |


February isn’t just the month of Valentines, it’s also a month where you acknowledge your physical heart too. February is American Heart Month, recognizing the fact that heart disease, stroke, and similar ailments are huge problems in America. For a not-so-fun fact, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for both men and women. So, don’t just take care of your heart by sending Valentines—make sure you’re going to the doctor and checking on your physical health as well.

Have a heart in another way too—write a will. If you want to give the best Valentine to your loved ones, you can help them prepare for the future.

What is a will?

A will isn’t exactly wrapped with a red bow with candy hearts attached to it, but it is sentimental in its own way. There are two types of wills you should know about: a living will and a last will and testament. Chances are, you probably have heard of the second one more than the first.

A living will is a document that details what you want to do in the event you become incapacitated (you’re in a coma or so sick you cannot make your own decisions with a clear head). The living will is effective once you’re unable to communicate. It tells doctors and nurses what they should do in terms of your medical care. It is all about medical care—usually refusing or requesting medical treatment. If you’re unconscious and have no living will, hospitals may perform procedures they consider legally obligatory. If you don’t want that, you should specify that in your will. A living will is also known as an advance directive.

Your last will and testament provides instructions on what to do with your property, assets, and guardianship after you pass away. It is legally effective upon your death. You can name your kids’ guardian if something happens to you, making this an extremely important document for parents of minor children. The person who carries out your last will is your executor. If you die without a will, you are considered intestate, and the state’s intestacy laws will control how your assets are divided.

Which should you get?

You should always have a living will, as you never know if something will happen. Secondly, a last will and testament isn’t the be-all, end-all of estate planning. A living trust is actually preferable to a last will. A living trust constructs a three-party fiduciary relationship. It is legally effective immediately and can be changed easily, if you want to change your beneficiary.

A last will requires your executor to go through probate court, a long, arduous process that takes up time and resources. A living trust doesn’t require that court visit, making it easier to have than a last will. Schedule an estate planning consultation today to help you decide.

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