Luck’s Got Nothing to Do With Estate Planning

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Read More

No Time To Take A Knee: Your Estate Plan Needs A New Formation

Posted by on Sep 14, 2016 in asset protection, Digital Estate Planning, estate planning, Family Law |

Football Team on Ice during Daytime

No Time To Take A Knee: Your Estate Plan Needs A New Formation

Estate Planning is never just “set it and forget it.” No matter what the scoreboard says, it is always important to have your estate plan reviewed by an estate planning attorney every three to five years.

Even when you are halfway through the game, and in the lead, you would never just take a knee and rely on your winning position. This applies in estate planning as well, because even when you are prepared and in a winning position, you have to keep up with the game in order to ensure your “win.” There are a variety of life events that can create a need for new strategies, which is why it is so important to have your estate plan reviewed to ensure that your game plan is still effective. There is no specific time for when you need to have your estate plan reviewed, but generally every three to five years is sufficient. However, if there is any particular life event that takes place that will affect your relationships or distributions, you may want to have your plan reviewed for alterations. Such life events include the following:

Marriage & Divorce: if you have recently married or divorced, you will want to take your current estate plan to your attorney to determine whether these life events are addressed in the documents. Furthermore, you may want to change your Personal Representative, Trustee’s, Guardian’s, etc.

Children: Sometimes your Will & Last Testament will provide for after-born children, but you should take the document to your estate-planning attorney to ensure that your little bundle of joy is provided for. Additionally, you may want to set up a trust, a 529- college plan, alter beneficiary designations in your will, and nominate a legal guardian.

Estate Size Increase: You want to make certain that your estate plans are tailored to your estate size. Therefore, when your estate increases, you may want to make some changes in terms of tax and estate planning. Furthermore, if you have an estate plan that is set up to avoid probate, and acquire new property, you will want to assign that property to your living trust. You also may want to consider a variety of estate planning strategies, anywhere from setting up an LLC to protect certain assets from lawsuits, to reducing the size of your estate for tax purposes.

Read More

Even When The Lights Shut Off, Everyone Still Wants A Piece

Posted by on Sep 21, 2015 in Digital Estate Planning, Elder Law, estate planning, Probate, Special Needs Trust, tax, Trusts, Wills |

Robin Williams

It’s not all glitz and glam once the lights turn off, something that Robin Williams’ family is quickly discovering. The beloved star, who passed away last year, is having his estate  administered through probate, and fighting among family members is beginning to plague the process. Although Robin Williams had an estate plan, much of his assets were unaccounted for, leaving his children from prior marriages, and widowed spouse in disagreement over who is entitled to what. Avoid this hassle, and spare your loved ones the stress and grief that accompanies a contested probate process. It is imperative that you not only have a prepared and updated estate plan in place, but also that you speak with your family members to discuss these plans so that there are no surprised, or even worse, angered members once you’re gone.

Avoid some of the more common Estate Planning Mistakes:

Top Estate Planning Mistakes

  1. Thinking That You Have Plenty Of Time To Get To It:  No one has a crystal ball and tomorrow is not promised to any of us.  I have clients that have hired me to draft their estate plan and then they died prior to being able to sign it or fund it.  There are other people who die too young to even sit with the attorney.  Estate planning is necessary for everyone and you should sit with your attorney as soon in life as possible.
  2. Drafting Your Own Estate Plan:  There are so many moving parts with a trust-based estate plan that attempting to do it yourself is the equivalent of trying to take your own appendix out.  There are legal requirements in drafting, executing, funding, and updating.  If you miss any of them, it could invalidate your entire plan.  An estate planning attorney doesn’t sell you documents, they provide the service that goes into making sure that those documents are correct.
  3. Not Knowing Where All the Assets Are: A scattered estate plan by a secretive decedent may cause some assets to be left uncollected, undistributed and even lost.
  4. Not Updating Your Estate Plan:  It is imperative that your estate plan is reviewed on an annual basis to avoid unintended results.
  5. Not Communicating with Trustees and Beneficiaries:  It is important to let the people who are named in your estate plan know what role you are asking them to play.
  6. Leaving the Living Trust Unfunded: A living trust is merely a vehicle that allows you to pass your assets outside of probate.  However, if there are no assets in the trust, nothing has been accomplished.  You can buy the most expensive safe at the store but it wont protect your valuables unless you put the valuables into the safe.
  7. Leaving Assets Outright to Beneficiaries: Assets that are left outright to heirs and beneficiaries are exposed to creditors, predators and divorcing spouses.
  8. Not Having a Living Will:  A living will gives guidelines for your physician to follow in the event you are in a terminal, end-stage, and persistent vegetative state.
  9. Not Having a Durable Power of Attorney:  A durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate and authorize someone to legally act on your behalf, in the event that you become incapacitated.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?SM

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation

Read More

Asset Protection… Are you protected?

Posted by on Sep 10, 2015 in asset protection, Business Plan, corporate formation, Digital Estate Planning, estate planning, Limited Liability Company, Real Estate, tax, Trusts, Wills |

Are you protected?

Are you protected?

Don’t leave your assets vulnerable to attack. Much like a goalie, asset protection planning will help to shield your assets from attack.

Asset protection is a broad term, encompassing many different techniques, but here at our South Florida law firm, we focus our asset protection on two areas: estate planning and business formation. In the area of estate planning, the main approach is to use trusts to dispose of your assets rather than a will. A trust protects your assets by first avoiding probate and all of the costs (both monetary and time) associated with that process. Secondly, trusts protect your assets by keeping them in your family. With a will, the asset is no longer yours to control following the first disposition, a trust allows you to control the asset for multiple generations. This makes sure that the inheritance will never be taken by divorce or remarriage. For example, if you want to give all of your estate to your daughter and then to her children, a trust allows you to do this without giving any to her spouse. Furthermore, a trust protects your beneficiaries from themselves, if they are either too young or not fiscally responsible. Because they are the beneficiary and not necessarily the trustee, you can name a trustee who will make the financial decisions for them. Finally, trusts offer asset protection by being creditor protected. Assets that are in a trust can not be reached by creditors, assuring that the inheritance remains with the beneficiary.

Choosing the proper business form also works as asset protection. If you own a business as a sole proprietor or even in a general partnership, you can be personally liable for all of the debts of the business. Limited partnerships, LLCs, and corporations can protect your asset from business debts. A limited partnership consists of two classes of partners: a general partner, who manages and is more active, and a limited partner, who is more like an investor. The limited partner’s liability is limited to whatever they have put into the company, whereas the general partner remains liable for all the debt. An LLC offers limited liability as well, while allowing for more active participation. The manager of a multi-member LLC makes the decisions and runs the company, but is still afforded protection. If someone sues an LLC, they can only recover the company’s assets. Subsequently, if a person sues the manager of an LLC for a personal matter, the assets of the LLC are protected from this personal creditor. Finally, a corporation offers protection to all of its shareholders while also offering increased flexibility with the management structure. A corporation allows for different classes of stock with different voting abilities. Corporations also allow you to raise capital by issuing stock.

Regardless of what business form you end up choosing, you must also engage in business succession planning. Because all of these business forms are separate legal entities, they will survive after you are gone. Therefore, you must plan for what happens to your companies or you risk them dying. If you have multiple members or partners in your company, you can arrange a plan beforehand in which they buy your shares at a predetermined price. The company could then purchase life insurance in that amount to make sure that the company does not have cash flow issues and does not have to sell off company assets to buy your stake.

Whether you are looking at asset protection from an estate planning or business formation standpoint, our attorneys can help be your goalie and protect the assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation, or visit our website at www.wfplaw.com

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?

Read More

The Social Networker’s Asset Protection Guide

Posted by on Jun 25, 2015 in Digital Estate Planning, estate planning |

39196627_l

What you need to know about “deceased-user policies”

Social networking is it’s own category of digital assets, as these accounts are more personal to the owner, and often leave behind a surviving legacy. Their value is rarely monetary, but rather sentimental to those the Networker has left behind. When planning ahead, the most important consideration for the Social Networker is the “deceased-user policies” that are agreed to upon creation of the account.

For example, Facebook allows a family member to “memorialize” the account, so that friends can continue to interact with the Facebook wall, in memory of the deceased. Certain access and features are limited to protect the account holder, and the account can be closed upon a formal request that meets certain criteria. Therefore, in your will, you can merely direct your personal representative to close or memorialize the account. This same memorialization can be made for LinkedIn accounts as well. For Twitter, however, a family member can deactivate the account and receive an archive of the tweets by merely submitting basic information to twitter in a formal request. Therefore, the account holder may not be concerned with leaving provisions for such accounts, beyond an instruction that they merely be closed (or left open). There are some accounts, on the other hand, that will give family member’s access upon a court order. Keep this in mind for accounts that you specifically do or do not want others to have access to. If you do, then provide the username and password. Otherwise, you may want to include express language that prohibits access to these accounts. This will likely prevent a judge from ordering that your account be accessible to family members.

The Social Networker can start planning ahead today with the following steps: (1) make a list of your social networking accounts; (2) designate the accounts you want private verses those you would like passed on to loved ones; (3) read the user agreements for each account, or have an attorney do it for you (as these policies are often buried in legal language); (4) consult your estate planning attorney with your digital asset wishes, and incorporate them into your will &/or trust; (5) rest easy, your digital legacy is now protected!

Read More

The Importance of Planning Early

Posted by on May 19, 2015 in About Us, asset protection, Digital Estate Planning, Elder Law, estate planning, Family Law, Probate, Trusts, Wills |

image

The recent derailment of an Amtrak train left at least eight casualties and many more injured.  Nobody who boarded the train that fateful day was expecting this to happen, rather they were just going about their day as they would any other.  Death is a difficult topic to approach, because nobody likes to think that someday it will happen.  It is important however, because you want to make sure that you are ready for when it happens and because, unfortunately, it can happen at any time.

Waiting too long to draft an estate plan can be troublesome as well.  When a person dies, there may be reasons to question the mental capacity of the individual at the time he or she prepared an estate plan. Undue influence or fraud from third parties, who take advantage of a close relationship with the decedent for personal gain, can be reason to challenge a legal document after death.  Another reason that can be grounds to challenge a legal document is whether it was properly executed and with all the formalities required.

Powers of attorney, for example, are powerful documents that grant another individual broad discretion over medical and financial decisions. Such an important power should involve careful planning. Standard legal forms found online, software programs with legal templates, and other self-help documents, are attractive to many individuals due to the ease of access and low cost. However, template powers of attorney are not always the equivalent of a proper Florida power of attorney drafted by a lawyer.

Many states, like Florida, have strict requirements regarding execution of valid powers of attorney or advance directives.  In order to make it easy for your loved ones to say goodbye, you should consult an estate planning attorney who can recognize potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

It’s a Wild world. Are you protected?SM

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection techniques, please contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 to schedule your free consultation.

Read More