International Travel: Time For An Update!

Posted by on Jul 16, 2018 in Legal News | 0 comments

There’s nothing more thrilling than a great international vacation! As you make your checklist of things to do before you travel, don’t forget to put “Update estate plan” on the to-do list. 

When you’re about to travel internationally, you want to make sure that you update not just your passport, but your estate plan as well. Every three to five years, you should review your documents. There might be papers in your estate plan that you drafted a decade ago; it would definitely be a good idea to look over those, as it’s very likely something in your life has changed in the past ten years. 

Why should I update my estate plan? 

International travel in particular Is a significant catalyst for updating your estate plan because it has a lot of unknown variables. You’re overseas, and if something happens, the situation will not be handled in the same way it is here; your doctors aren’t overseas, and your entire family and lawyer probably aren’t traveling with you. Updating your estate plan is important in case something happens. If you become sick, incapacitated, or even pass away while on the other side of the world, documents in your estate plan will become tools to guide others on how to manage the situation and get your affairs in order.

Documents to Review 

Not only should you review these documents, you should also update them if necessary. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you might find that there are more things you need in your plan to ensure your total preparedness for travel. 

That said, here are the major ones to be on the lookout for: 

  • Power of attorney. A power of attorney is a trusted individual that you select to make healthcare and/or financial decisions for you in the event that you become too sick or incapacitated to do so. While you may have chosen your power of attorney with domestic ailments in mind, you should also add a stipulation for that person (or perhaps someone else) to be in charge of your healthcare and finances should you be incapacitated while overseas.
  • Living will. Your living will is a healthcare directive that tells doctors and hospitals what to do with you when you are receiving treatment yet are unable to communicate your health wishes. This state usually happens when you’re too sick to tell the doctors what you want. Update your living will to include a provision that makes similar arrangements for when you’re hospitalized overseas, as well as arrangements to transfer you to your preferred hospital if possible.
  • Guardianship. Worst case scenario, you pass away while overseas. If you have young children, you don’t want there to be a delay in finding the proper guardian for them. Choose your minor children’s guardians beforehand. That way, if something happens, they’ll be in the best hands possible.

Have fun on your trip! You’ll have greater peace of mind while traveling just knowing that, in the event something happens, you’ll be in good hands. Reviewing and updating your estate plan is not a cumbersome process at all, and it will be time well spent. 

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July Is Unlucky Month For Weddings. Compensate For Bad Luck With A Good Prenup!

Posted by on Jul 10, 2018 in Legal News |

Did you know? July is the Unlucky Month for Weddings. If you’re beyond superstition and decide to defeat the odds, make sure at least that you have a prenuptial agreement in place and all of your affairs in order. After all, lucky or unlucky, we do not need to bring up the stats on divorce rate, do we?? Take our advice and consider setting up a prenup, cause it’s better to live in “richer” than in “poorer” once the wedding bells stop ringing. 

A prenuptial agreement isn’t pessimism, so much as it is smart business planning. Prenuptial agreements are contracts entered into prior to the marriage that discuss what will happen to each party’s finances in the event the marriage fails. Broaching the subject of a prenup can be tricky, as your future spouse might think you’re betting on the relationship to fail, but it is an important conversation to have in order to protect yourself and your assets. It’s about smart business planning and minimizing risk.

What is a Prenup?

Prenuptial (prenup) agreements are often called “premarital agreements.” This type of private ordering functions as a contract. The contract is entered into by people prior to their marriage or civil union. Prenups can cover a lot of different areas, but the idea is pretty much consistent: protecting your assets in the event of a divorce. Categories of prenups have to do with property division, spousal support, and asset forfeiture. There are also guardianship conditions that can be included, though child support and custody is not modifiable via a prenup. Only a court can determine and modify child support and custody. The reason for this is that what you put in the prenup might not be in the best interests of the child. The best interests of the child takes precedence over whatever private order you might seek. 

Five things are required for a prenup to be valid. First, the prenup has to be in writing, Second, the prenup must be voluntarily executed by the parties. Third, at the time of formation, all information has to be fully and fairly disclosed. Fourth, the prenup can’t be unconscionable (which means so unfair that it “shocks the conscience” of the average observer). Lastly, it needs to be notarized the same way that a deed would be. If you meet all of these conditions, you have got yourself a prenup.

How do I get a Prenup?

Prenups are a common asset protection tool of estate planning. Consult an estate planner to see what he or she has to say about organizing the prenup. The planner will ensure that the above elements are met and your prenup is valid. But, remember, a prenup has to be voluntary, so your future spouse must be on board with the idea. Otherwise, the prenup won’t be valid. 

Benefits of a Prenup 

Your personal and business assets will be protected in the event that your marriage is unsuccessful. You can guard them against forfeiture and division, and you won’t lose what you’ve worked hard for because of your divorce. Should the marriage go south, your business will survive and you won’t get hit hard financially. 

Hopefully, this article has encouraged you to have the conversation about prenups. These agreements aren’t a reflection of the strength of your relationship; they’re a reflection of how careful you are about finances, and fiscal responsibility is always a good characteristic to have in a partner. Consult an estate planner to create or update your prenuptial agreement today. 

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Come On Baby Light My Fire(works)! I’m Getting An Estate Plan

Posted by on Jul 3, 2018 in Legal News |

It’s almost the Fourth of July! Fireworks, steamy barbecues, pool parties and tons of fun are on the table! But, before you start lighting things on fire — especially in the evening, after having treated yourself the entire day to way too many mimosas, margaritas, or beers … — make sure your assets are protected. And we don’t just mean limbs, noses and other precious bodily parts. We mean estate planning. Summer in general is a good time to take care of stuff you might have been too busy to look at during the rest of the year, and reviewing and updating your documents to ensure your assets are protected is never a bad idea. 

Here are some major estate planning tools that you can use to keep your assets safe:

Living Trust 

A living trust is a three-party fiduciary relationship. You are the donor. The person you’re ultimately giving your assets to is the beneficiary, and the third party is known as a trustee. You give nominal title of the assets to your trustee, who then confers the property to the beneficiary at a set time. The living trust is effective immediately and it can be revocable or irrevocable, depending on what you want. 

The reason a living trust is such a powerful way to protect your assets is because it allows you to avoid probate court. Your assets will go directly to the desired recipient. They won’t be taken through court and possibly diverted to pay off debts. 

Power of Attorney 

The power of attorney is a person you choose. This trusted individual will take care of your finances in the event that you become too sick or incapacitated to take care of them yourself. The POA handles important decisions for you regarding your assets, and he or she handles them during a very vulnerable time in your life. For that reason, you should give a lot of thought to the person you choose, as they will be protecting your assets when you aren’t able to do so yourself.

Living Will

The living will is similar to a POA in that it takes place when you’re too sick or incapacitated to make your own decisions. The living will is a directive that tells hospitals and doctors what you want done in terms of medical decisions. When you can’t take charge of your own healthcare in the moment, there will still be a way for you to have a say in what happens to you.

Business Plan 

Estate planning is particularly important for business owners. Business owners should have a succession plan in their estate planning toolkit or a directive on the sale of the business after they pass away. Updating partnership agreements and reviewing documents pertaining to the life of the business after you, the owner, dies is vital to ensuring the growth of the business and financial wellbeing of your family. 

Guardianship 

If something happens to you and you have minor children, who will be their guardian? Guardianship is an important tool to have in your estate plan because it gives you peace of mind that your children will be taken care of even if you’re not around. Having guardianship documents is always a good idea for anyone with minor children.

These are just some of the many ways you can protect your assets. So, before you start lighting fireworks and firing up the grill, make sure that you have taken care of your estate planning needs. After that, Happy Fourth!

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Independence Day: No More Probate Court! 

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Legal News |


Independence Day is coming up soon, and you’re probably already thinking of ways in which you can celebrate one of America’s most fun holidays. In between all the red, white, and blue, remember that the idea of independence can stretch across all kinds of areas, including those that you hold most dear. Have you thought about your future lately? And not just what you’re going to do tomorrow, or even weeks from now, but the future that will go on after you pass away. 

Estate planning helps you prepare for such a future. It ensures that you’re able to spare your family the tedium and expensiveness of probate court via tools such as living trusts, gifts, and documents that will help keep your estate out of the legal system. In this article, we’ll talk about why your estate needs its “independence” from probate court. 

What is probate court? 

After you die, the world is left with your estate, which includes, among many things, your assets and debts. Your asset need to be distributed, as do your debts. Probate court is a special area of the legal system in which a judge uses your assets to pay off your debts, and then assigns whatever is left to your relatives. It’s basically the management and distribution of your estate using the legal process. Someone in your family is assigned the position of executor, and it is his or her job to oversee the winding down of the estate. 

The Costs of Probate Court

Probate court can take at least a year, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be able to have your assets distributed the way you want. There’s also no guarantee that your debts will be paid off in a manner you find appropriate for your family’s financial situation. The judge’s first goal is to get the creditors and IRS paid. Your loved ones come second to debtors and tax collectors. 

While your estate is tied up (the more complicated the estate, the longer it’ll take), your family won’t have access to your assets. If they need money to pay bills, they are out of luck for the duration of the court process. Probate court requires a judge’s approval for basically every little thing. If your family goes through probate, a judge will run interference throughout the whole process, which will make the whole estate windup very protracted. 

There’s also the expense of a legal proceeding. Filing fees can be several hundred dollars. While these fees come out of the assets of your estate, that’s still giving money to the courts that could have gone to something your family really needed. 

Zero Privacy

Lastly, probate is not a private process. Probate court records are a public matter, and information about your liabilities, assets, representatives, and beneficiaries are all out there for the public to see. If someone wants to know something about you, they can read the probate file easily to find out, whether they do it by asking a county clerk (who is unlikely to care why the person wants to read your file) or by going online. Avoiding probate means that your family gets privacy. 

Estate planning tools are there to help your family avoid the tedium, expense, and lack of privacy that comes with probate court. There are legal mechanisms that can give your family immediate access to your assets without requiring them to pass through court. Consult a planner today to make sure you’re getting your own “Independence Day” from costly and time-consuming legal processes. 

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Power of the POA

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Legal News |

When you think of estate planning, you might picture in your head a last will and testament from someone who’s ninety years old. That, however, is not the case at all (though certainly that is a common document and age range). Estate planning is a young man’s game too, and college kids need a power of attorney the same way someone five decades their senior does.

You should encourage the college-age kids in your life to get a power of attorney. In this article, we’ll discuss what a power of attorney is, as well as why college-age people should have one.

What is a Power of Attorney? 

If you become unable to manage your own affairs due to incapacitation (illness, injury, mental incompetence, etc.), a power of attorney is the person you legally appoint to manage your affairs in your place. Even if you have absolutely no problems on the horizon and are in perfect health, you still should have a power of attorney. There are a few different types of power of attorney. These include general, special, and healthcare. You should also know the term “durable power of attorney.” 

General power of attorney gives a person broad authority to act on your behalf for a wide range of different issues. This type of POA is included in an estate plan most often. The special power of attorney is narrower in scope, and you assign to the special POA only those powers you wish them to have. A healthcare POA makes healthcare decisions for you if you’re too sick or injured to make them. 

Lastly, a durable POA is just a document ensuring that there won’t be any issues in keeping the authority of the general, special, or healthcare power of attorney intact in the event that you’re too incapacitated to make your own decisions. The durable power of attorney can also go into effect if you’re mentally incompetent to handle decision-making, and you can choose the doctor(s) you want to determine your competency to lift the POA. 

Why do college kids need one? 

Estate planning is based on the fact that no one is infallible. It is the best way to prepare for the “what ifs” in life, and college kids are still vulnerable to different types of illnesses and injuries. They certainly aren’t injury- and sickness-proof while they’re away from home. Having a college-age kid sign a power of attorney ensures that kid’s parents will be able to manage their affairs, should the kids become unable to do so. As the kids are 18 and no longer minors, they can pick any adult they trust, related or unrelated. College kids don’t have many assets, but they do have bills, a bank account, and digital accounts that need to be managed if something happens. 

Kids who are in college rarely think anything can happen to them, but, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. It’s important to be prepared, and having a power of attorney is a necessity for anyone who is no longer a minor.

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Keeping the Father’s Day Feeling Going with Estate Planning 

Posted by on Jun 26, 2018 in Legal News |

Father’s Day has just passed, and you’ve probably either given or received some pretty great gifts. If you’re a dad, or someone related to a dad, you should know that the spirit of celebration doesn’t have to end just because the holiday is over. There is still a great gift you can give someone in your life, whether you’re giving the gift as a father or to a father. This is the gift of estate planning. Estate planning is the process of arranging and assigning the way in which your assets and debts will be distributed after you pass on. 

Without an estate plan, your family could be looking at some time (and money) spent in probate court trying to figure out what to do. To spare them that tediousness, below are some common estate planning documents you should know.

529 Plan 

     A 529 plan is a tax plan that allows you to set aside some of your assets for the kids in your family who will be going to college. This plan is also called a “qualified tuition plan.” The qualified tuition plan can be sponsored by states, state agencies, or state institutions, and it comes with tax advantages. The 529 plan can operate as a savings account designed to accrue federal and state tax benefits (income tax breaks, low maintenance, simple reporting, control of the account, and more). The impact on financial aid is minimal.

As an alternative to a savings plan, you can have a prepaid plan, which will pre-pay tuition for colleges, either in full or in part. These 529 plans are generally fine to use for out-of-state colleges, but you should check with your estate planner to ensure that they are usable.

Living Trust 

    A living trust is different from a last will and testament. The living trust has three parties: (1) you, the donor, (2) the trustee, and (3) your beneficiary. You give nominal title to the trustee, who passes the title of the asset to the beneficiary after you pass away (or whenever you decide you want your beneficiary to have it). You don’t have to go through probate court with a living trust the way you do with a last will, as a living trust goes into effect immediately. Depending on the trust, it can be revocable or irrevocable. 

Guardianship 

     Naturally, a Father’s Day post couldn’t go by without mentioning the kids who have made you a father. An important part of estate planning for those with minor children is deciding who will have guardianship of them in the event that something happens to you. Keep the guardianship plan updated if there are any changes (for example, if the person you would have chosen can no longer take the kids, make sure you immediately change your estate plan to reflect that). Having someone you trust as a guardian will give you peace of mind and benefit your kids immensely should something happen.

These are just some of the many documents that go into estate planning, and there are tons of other tools in the toolbox that will be right for your particular financial situation. Consult with an estate planner today to keep the Father’s Day gift-giving going. 

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