Don’t Let Your Assets Be Frozen This Winter

Posted by on Dec 4, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning |

Winter weather is fast approaching (if not here already), and with it comes snow, sleet, and ice. But not in the lovely, sunny South Florida! While we’re lucky enough to not be iced over, your assets can still be frozen. Follow these tips to avoid having your assets frozen this winter.

How Assets Freeze

First things first: what are frozen assets?

Frozen assets are owned assets that cannot be bought or sold in any way because of a debt that still requires repayment. Until the debts are paid or satisfied, the asset’s owner cannot do anything with the asset.

To understand how to circumvent frozen assets, it’s important to know how the process occurs. One way your assets can be frozen is in probate court. Probate, as those keeping up with these articles know, is the court that you want to avoid at all costs. If you die without an estate plan (which we’ll get to in a moment), your assets will end up in probate court to be distributed.

The probate court also has to verify your will, if you have one. This process can take a long time, even more so if someone decides to contest your will. During the verification process, your assets are frozen. Even for time periods of up to several years, they can be frozen.

If that wasn’t bad enough, once the court verifies your will, they will then distribute your debts along with the assets. This has the potential to cause your family hardship if they not only have to go through probate, but shoulder your debts at the end of the ordeal.

Staying Out of the Cold

To avoid sending your assets to the Age of Winter, an estate plan is key. Estate planning is the process by which you arrange for the management and distribution of your estate after your death or if you are incapacitated. Through estate planning, you can minimize taxes and ensure that your family will stay out of probate court and your assets left unfrozen.

This important step ensures that a person’s wishes are upheld and their decisions, if they are unable to make them, are left to someone who they trust. It may be tempting to set aside the thought of estate planning for now—after all, not many people see their death as imminent—but that is not a wise choice. No matter how large or small, you do have an estate, and setting up arrangements for worst-case-scenarios is vital to your family’s financial health.

Don’t let your assets be frozen this winter. Set up an estate planning consultation today.

 

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Be Thankful and Be Careful

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in estate planning, Wills |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That title might sound a little ominous, but it’s not, we promise. Thanksgiving is coming up and the time-honored tradition is to go around the table with everyone saying what they are grateful for. However, don’t just be thankful this season: be careful as well.

You may have an estate plan already, but did you know that you should continuously review and update it? It’s not just about documenting it and slamming the drawer shut. You need to update your estate plan and keep it current for it to be most effective. In this article, we will discuss the need for updates, as well as the misconceptions surrounding self-written and online wills.

Keeping it Current

Your Turkey Day list of what you’re grateful for probably changes yearly based on what happened in the past 365 days. Similarly, your estate plan can change too, depending on changes in your life (marriage being the main one) or family. While you may think, “Oh, I’ll get to it eventually,” regarding changes to your estate plan, that’s not always the case. Forgetting to update and review your estate plan can be disastrous.

For example, if you get married and do not update your estate plan before passing on, your plan will not reflect the changes in finances and property that come from marriage. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t think you need to make any changes to your estate plan, review it ASAP, just to be sure.

Online and Self-Written Wills

There are different services that allow you to write an online and/or self-written will. These services promise the convenience of being able to sit at home on your laptop and just get it done inexpensively. That sounds nice, but, unfortunately, these services often don’t give you a finished product that includes everything you may want your family to have. DIY-willmaking often skips important steps that would otherwise allow you to avoid probate. If you want to do anything complex with your will, your self-written document will likely not contain the proper language, particularly surrounding land (land-based contracts must be very specific in their phrasing). Your relatives might end up having to go to court and spend thousands to contest your will and figure out what it means.

Forgetting simple things is easy on self-written wills because, to someone without legal training, the legal language is not easy to get right. Even if your relatives don’t contest the will, courts won’t follow the provisions if they are not properly written, meaning that your self-written or online will has all the effect of a notarized shopping list.

Keeping an updated, regularly-reviewed estate plan is really the only way to properly and effectively prepare for your future and the future of your family. Self-written and online wills generally miss the important elements, so scheduling an appointment to have it done properly by lawyers is the best way to ensure that you’re not only thankful this Thanksgiving: you’re careful, too.

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How Well Do You Sleep Without Your Property Protected?

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in estate planning |

When you think of November, you probably think of turkey, football, the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and more. But, what you may not realize is that November is National Sleep Comfort Month. During this month, people talk about and discuss ways to improve their sleeping. Without an adequate amount of sleep, a person can experience some negative ramifications that affect their whole life. To sleep well, you need to not feel stressed. And there’s nothing more stressful than risking your property.

Luckily, we can help. Protecting your property is a good way to reduce stress and ease into the month of November with a good sleep pattern. With an estate plan, your property will be protected, giving you peace of mind.

How Does Estate Planning Protect Your Property?

You may be wondering how exactly an estate plan protects your property, as it’s not as though it’s a security system or guard dog. But an estate plan actually is one of the greatest protections you can have.

Estate planning is the process of putting together a plan for where your property will go after you pass on. That’s not the only function of an estate plan, however. An estate plan also allows you to have a trusted individual make healthcare decisions for you in the event of a crisis. A similar trusted person makes decisions for you financially with the “Power of Attorney” estate planning tool.

If you don’t get together an estate plan, you will be looking at some serious risk to your property in the form of probate.

Property’s Downfall: Probate

If estate planning is your alarm system, think of probate as the burglar that the alarm system is designed to stop. Probate court is the legal process of passing on the property of someone who dies without an estate plan. Just having a will is not enough to get you out of probate court.

Probate is costly, time-consuming, and all-around miserable for your family. The court takes your property and divides it how it sees fit. Your property might even go to the state, which will sell it. This unappealing result is what happens if you don’t create a plan for what will happen to your property after you die.

Morbid though this conversation is, it’s important to think about, and it does have a positive upside: with estate planning, you can avoid the doom and gloom of probate. You’ll be able to sleep easy knowing that your property is protected and secured. Schedule an estate planning consultation today!

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Fall Back On Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Nov 6, 2017 in estate planning |

Sunday, November 5th was daylight savings time! Who doesn’t love the extra hour to sleep in? With daylight savings time, there are tons of different things you can do with your extra hour. Sure, you can pick to watch an extra episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix, but you can (and should) switch it up this year and do something that will benefit your future and your loved ones’ future for years to come: estate planning.

Schedule an estate planning consultation! Use your extra hour wisely, and you will be able to see the long-term effects of such diligent planning. In this article, we’ll tell you a little about what to expect from your estate planning consultation, as well as extra information about some main points to know.

The Consultation

When you go to your estate planning consultation, the discussion is going to focus on your needs and the needs of your family. However, as with anything, you might want to brush up a little on the topic before you go to the consult.

There are a variety of different estate planning tools such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care surrogates, and more. Here is a brief overview of the major terms to know.

Estate Planning Cheat Sheet

  • Wills are a little different from estate plans, but they are important to know about anyway. Wills go into effect when you die. Wills direct who will receive your property after death. Wills don’t actually help you avoid probate; that’s not how you dodge that bullet. The only way to avoid probate is through estate planning, which is covered in the next three points.
  • Trusts go into effect once you create them. You don’t have to be dead, as with a will. A trust minimizes estate taxes. It is a right in property that is held in a fiduciary relationship by one party. The trust benefits the other party. This second party is known as the beneficiary.
  • Powers of Attorney. Your power of attorney acts on your behalf in financial matters if you are unable to take control of your matters for yourself. A power of attorney is a good way to make sure that you can have someone responsible taking care of your finances.
  • Healthcare Surrogates. A healthcare surrogate makes healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Much like your POA, you want to make sure that your healthcare surrogate is responsible and knows what you want. A healthcare directive, to distinguish the two, is a written order that tells the doctors and hospital managing your care what you want to have happen if you are incapacitated.

With your extra hour, how will you spend it? For one of the days, you can use the extra hour to schedule an estate planning consultation and ensure that you have control of your future (then, of course, you can use the other days’ hours for Netflix, naptime, and relaxing).

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Trick-Or-Treat: Which One Will You Leave For Your Family?

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in estate planning, Family Law, Probate |

Some of the best Halloween memories come from trick-or-treating with your friends and family. When you go up to someone’s door and say, “Trick or treat!” you know that they will almost always give you candy, never a “trick” (unless you count getting raisins as a trick). When it comes to your family, you never want to leave them tricks either, but, unfortunately, that’s just what will happen if you die without an estate plan.

Probate court is the ultimate “trick,” and making your family go through that is not a fun surprise whatsoever. In this article, we’ll talk about what probate court is and how to avoid it, ensuring that your family will not get a nasty surprise after you die.

The “Tricks” in Probate Court

Estate planning has many benefits. It gives direction on where your assets should go when you pass on, and it allows you to take advantage of tax deductions and benefits so that you don’t saddle your family with the twin evils that are creditors and taxes.

Probate court is what happens when you die without an estate plan. The court manages the distribution of your assets and debts, often selling the former to pay the latter. Your family does not get anything and, if they do, they’re likely to not get it in the way in which you would prefer. Your creditors receive whatever it takes to pay off the debts. The point of probate court is to wrap an estate up by paying off debts, and it does so through an arduous, costly, and time-consuming process.

There is always the chance that the government will get your things as well, meaning that the state now owns your property and will likely sell it. These scary alternatives are what happens when you don’t have an estate plan.

Ramifications on Your Family

You may be wondering why you should care. You’ll be dead and won’t have to worry about any of this stuff; why not let the court just do it?

That’s where you’re wrong.

Your family and loved ones will be dragged into the probate process and saddled with court costs. Whoever is deemed administrator will be in charge of the process, which can take a long time. If you want to make sure that you don’t leave your family with a nightmare, create an estate plan that will give clear directions on how to manage your property, assets, and healthcare when you are incapacitated or dead. Save the tricks for Halloween, not your family.

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Real Monsters: Taxes, Creditors, and the Government

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning |

When you leave the theater after seeing the latest scary movie, you can rest assured that none of those monsters actually exist in real life (or at least, we hope not). However, taxes, creditors, and the government do exist, and they will make your life a real nightmare if you don’t take the proper steps to avoid them. If you don’t want your loved ones to have to go through a horror movie of their own, you will need to make an estate plan.

In this article, we will discuss what taxes, creditors, and the government do with your property if you pass on without an estate plan.

But First, what is an Estate Plan?

After reading the above section, you may be wondering what an estate plan is. An estate plan is a set of documents and legal tools that aid in the distribution of a person’s assets and property during their life (when they are ill) and after their death. An estate plan usually contains three main documents, though there may be others. These three documents are a living will, power of attorney for healthcare, and a power of attorney for financial matters. These three will help you manage your healthcare when you are sick, your finances when you are incapacitated, and your property and assets after you die.

Some people choose not to plan their estate because they feel like it is too much work or unnecessary. They couldn’t be more wrong. Failure to plan your estate will result in probate court, which be a million times more work for your family, who is already grieving after your death (for more information on probate court, see our article: The Terrifying Truth About Probate Court).

What Do the “Real Monsters” Do?

Let’s say you don’t take our advice and, like every horror movie victim ever, make the wrong decision to not plan your estate. There are three boogeymen who are going to get you: taxes, creditors, and the government.

  • Taxes. You can reduce taxes when you plan your estate. There are many different tax deductions and financial maneuvers you can engage in that will make the tax burden on your loved ones far less heavy. If you die without an estate plan, however, probate will take over and they will not care how many taxes your family is stuck with (and it will likely be a lot).
  • Creditors. Creditors take over collection of your debt. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. The main goal of probate court is to pay off creditors. Your family will get nothing, and your creditors will get everything. If you want to creditor-proof your estate, avoid probate.
  • The government. If you die without an estate plan and don’t have decedents, beneficiaries, and other individuals listed, there is a good chance that the government will get at least some of your property.

Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into who the real monsters are and where they are hiding. The clown in It may have been lurking in the sewers, but taxes, creditors, and the government are hiding in probate court.

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