Avoiding These Common Ways to Put Assets at Risk

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019 in Legal News | 0 comments

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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Happy 4th of July (Almost)! 

Posted by on Jun 22, 2019 in Legal News |

july fourth, independence day, wild felice

Independence Day is one of the most treasured holidays in America, and it’s almost here! Here are three interesting facts about the 4th of July that you might not know, as well as a mini-history lesson about the renowned George Washington (and his equally-famous last will and testament).

Three Fun Facts about the Fourth 

First, did you know that the 4th of July was not the actual date that the Founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence? If you want to be annoying at your family barbecue, you can point out that the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence was on July 2nd, with another, formalized document being signed on August 2nd. The 4th is the date that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration.

If that last fact was a bit of a buzzkill, this one won’t be. It turns out, the colonists’ celebrations on the Fourth of July contained pretty much the same level of wildness as they do now. All the pent-up frustration over high taxes and colonial strictness led to pretty raucous parties once the colonists were free. For example, the Virginia Gazette, a paper that circulated in 1776, reported that Americans toppled a statue of King George and melted it into bullets. They also hosted huge bonfires where they burned King George in effigy and held fake funerals for him. Oh, and there were tons of fireworks even then as well. 

Thirdly, even the troops in the colonies were able to celebrate during the Revolutionary War. George Washington, sensing that his army was low on morale, ordered a double ration of rum to be served in all the camps to celebrate the Fourth. 

A Little Bit About George Washington 

George Washington is perhaps one of the most fascinating leaders in all American history. He actually somewhat accidentally started the French and Indian War —or, at least, he was responsible for the shot over the bough that set it off.

Washington had just gone through a fierce battle that ended in the death of a French military leader, Commander Jumonville. Despite this death, Washington did not win the battle, and the loss was largely due to his errors and naivety. His letter of surrender, detailing Jumonville’s death, was somehow received by the French and translated by a Dutch soldier. 

But, this post-battle letter was translated incorrectly. Instead of translating that the war was the ambiguous cause of Commander Jumonville’s death, the Dutch soldier read the letter as Washington “assassinating” Jumonville. Because Washington was, in 1754, a British colonist, this was considered an act of aggression (casus belli) to justify war. It ignited the tensions between the French and British, effectively kicking off the French and Indian War, which snowballed into the Seven Years’ War. The British won both and sent the French packing. 

For a short time, anyway. 

But tensions were brewing with the Americans. The British soldiers sent over to fight the War with the French were paid more than the Americans. This was really expensive, as was the whole conflict in general. So, the British enacted the Stamp Act in 1765. 

It was this Stamp Act that pushed American colonists to the edge. The extra money going into King George’s pocket deeply angered the colonists, and when other taxes followed (such as the infamous Tea Tax), that led to, well, a revolution. 

The Revolution.

So, in a strange, winding way, George Washington was a catalyst for the wars that led to Americans throwing down the gauntlet against the British. And now, centuries later, here we are on the Fourth of July.

The Estate of George Washington

There is a custom of Washington’s that you too can emulate. No, it’s not starting a Revolution, but it is similar to how he organized his life. Washington was a meticulous planner when it came to wrapping up his affairs. He was very ill in 1799, and he wrote one of the most famous last wills and testaments of all time. He made two copies, giving one to his wife, Martha, and throwing another in the fire. The will was deeply personal, granting land to loved ones, particularly his wife, and releasing debts his family members, even distant relatives, owed to his estate. 

He took care of his loved ones, and you can too. Contact an estate planner about setting up a trust (a probate-free way to plan out your affairs). Through careful planning, you can emulate Washington’s responsibility and dedication to his family and friends.

Happy Fourth! 

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June is National Hunger Awareness Month 

Posted by on Jun 14, 2019 in Legal News |

june hunger awareness month

June is National Hunger Awareness Month, and with that comes the sobering reminder that there are people among us who do not have food to put on the table each night. Hunger takes a lot of different forms. It’s not just the typical vision of someone homeless on the street, though that is a large part of the hunger problem. It is also about families struggling to make ends meet and single parents barely making it. 

If you’re fortunate enough not to have this problem, you can give back this June by donating canned food, money, or other supplies to local shelters and food drives. Often, homeless shelters and soup kitchens needs volunteers to work there and help out during the week and on weekends. 

Another thing to keep in mind this June is that putting food on the table isn’t the only way to be responsible for your loved ones and keep them safe. Here are other ways you can provide for your family for the future.

Asset Protection 

Think about your possessions (assets) and how much they mean to you. This isn’t to say you’re materialistic, but we all love our stuff. There are things each of us have that we want to pass on, and these possessions are important, whether they are items or actual pieces of real property. 

Estate planning allows you to transfer your assets to loved ones. If you choose a trust, the transfer goes through immediately, and it is given to your loved ones at a time you select. You can transfer real property through estate planning, and get your affairs in order in other ways too, which are detailed briefly below.

Taking Care of Loved Ones

Note that when we say “get your affairs in order,” we don’t mean that you have to be on your deathbed. You can do this at any age, in any health condition. This estate plan might not come into realization for years and years. However, taking care of the vulnerable members of your family in the future is something you do not want to wait to do. Here are ways to take care of the most vulnerable members of your family, including the elderly, children, near-adults (AKA college students), and the sick. 

The Most Vulnerable in the Family 

The Elderly 

If you have elderly family members, giving them the gift of an estate planning session is valuable. Whether they have an estate plan that needs updating or checked-over or they have no estate plan at all, it is important to make sure they are all set for the future. This doesn’t include just asset transfer. It also includes healthcare directives, Powers of Attorney, and other assignments to protect their finances and honor healthcare decisions in the event of incapacitation. 

Children 

If you have children, the last thing you probably want to think about is what would happen to them if something happened to you. But, unfortunately, it is a remote possibility you should give some thought to. Selecting a responsible guardian is part of a well-rounded estate plan. Consult with your proposed guardian before selecting them officially, and make sure you two are on the same page when it comes to parenting.

Almost-Adults 

If you have college kids or soon-to-be college kids in your life, there is always the matter of tuition. It’s never too early to start planning for your kid’s college education. Starting a 529 tax plan is a way to save up for college tuition and get tax breaks for doing so. Even if it’s just part of the cost of education, any little bit is enough.

The Sick 

If you or your family members are infirm, consider setting up (or helping them set up) a healthcare directive and/or Power of Attorney for healthcare. A POA for healthcare is someone entrusted with making healthcare decisions on a sick and incapacitated person’s behalf. A healthcare directive is a set of instructions for a hospital to follow in case you are too sick to give these instructions yourself. 

Protecting your loved ones, particularly the most vulnerable in your family, is essential to being responsible.

June is a good time to remember those who are struggling in the world. We all should give back and provide for others during this time, as well as every other month. Take a look at your local news to see how you can help during National Hunger Awareness Month. 

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The NBA Finals are Here! 

Posted by on Jun 9, 2019 in Legal News |

The NBA Finals are here and alas! All good things must come to an end. Now, we’re not trying to start an argument on who’s going to win (though that could be a conversation lasting hours), but I think we can all agree that the NBA season coming to an end is a sad moment for some basketball fans. Next up is football season, as well as the closeout of baseball season. 

While the NBA Finals’ coming to an end might just mean that you have to wait around for next season, that doesn’t mean that is the case with everything else. Make sure you’re prepared for the next “season” of your life through careful estate planning. 

New Family Members 

New family members are exciting! Whether it’s a new baby being born or a new relative by marriage, you will want your estate plan to reflect these new family members you love and care about. If you want your new granddaughter or in-law to get part of your estate, make sure you contact an estate planner and update as soon as possible. That way, you will ensure that your estate plan reflects your true wishes.

Thinking About Your Kids’ College

College is essential to getting a job these days. This doesn’t mean just a four-year program. Higher education comes in many forms, including learning a valuable trade or attending a two-year program to get your associates degree. Whichever form your kids choose, it will likely cost at least some amount of money. Starting a tax-advantaged 529 plan is an excellent way to prepare for the future (and get some IRS breaks for doing so!).

Speaking of Kids…

If you have young children, you will want to put in a guardianship plan for them in the event that something happens to you and your spouse. That way, your kids are well-taken-care-of in the worst scenario. No, it’s not an easy thing to think about or even consider, but it is vital to prepare for even the remotest possibility. Choose a guardian you know will take care of your kids’ day to day needs. Consult with that proposed guardian to ensure that you are on the same page.

Preparing for Sickness

If you get sick, you probably have some instructions in mind for the doctors. Maybe you want a certain medication or to avoid a certain procedure. These instructions are important and personal. They need to be codified in a piece of writing and/or entrusted to a POA (Power of Attorney) to make sure your wishes are honored. Doctors and nurses are almost always responsible people, but they won’t know what you want unless you tell them, and you might be too sick to do so. A healthcare directive and plan for this worst-case event will serve as a safeguard for you.

And Everything Else, Too

There is a ton of stuff that goes into an estate plan, and there’s no way to cover everything in such a short article. It really comes down to who and what are important in your life. And then, once you have that list, estate planning is about protecting these people and assets for the future. The future is always going to be uncertain, but you should still make an effort to prepare for every eventuality. As famous author Stephen King once said, “Everything’s eventual.”

All good things come to an end, but there are ways to prepare. You might be entering one of the next “seasons” of your life above, whether new members of the family are coming in or leaving the nest. It always helps to have a game plan and be one step ahead. By careful estate planning and contacting an estate planning attorney, you can make sure you get the process right. 

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It’s About Responsibility This Memorial Day

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Legal News |

On Monday, May 27th, we celebrate the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Interestingly, the holiday used to be called Decoration Day, and it has been (officially) around since 1966. It always falls on the last Monday in May, and almost everything is be closed for business that day. 

Veterans showed an enormous amount of personal strength and responsibility. It was a burden that very few other people shared and continue to share today. When you’re thinking about responsibility in your own life, it is daunting to think about taking on such a burden. Here are some ways, both estate-planning-related and not, to celebrate this Memorial Day. 

The National Moment of Remembrance 

Though President Johnson officially declared Memorial Day a federal holiday in 1966, the practice of remembrance dates back to the 1860s. It was mainly celebrated by the northern states at first, as the southern states did not want to honor their dead Confederate soldiers on the same day as Union soldiers. 

That changed after WWI, as the holiday shifted to honoring those killed in WWI, which included citizens from the North and the South. WWI killed over 53,000 Americans, while WWII killed nearly 300,000. The wars after that, combined, took around 110,000 lives.

The National Moment of Remembrance is a Memorial Day tradition that has been around since 2001. It takes place at 3 P.M. on Memorial Day, and it is a nationwide, shared moment of silence for the lives lost during America’s wars.

Do Something Community-Oriented (However Small)

War, in the end, is about division. A world divided goes to war, and celebrating community is somewhat of an antidote to that. Whether it’s picking up litter in your community, helping an elderly neighbor, or donating to a community organization, we can all do something small to appreciate one another. 

Red Poppy Flowers

Another interesting Memorial Day tradition is that of red poppy flowers. Once again, this tradition dates back to Civil War times. After the Civil War, General John Logan, who oversaw what was left of the military at the time, ordered flowers placed on the graves of all soldiers, Union and Confederate, who died in the war. 

It wasn’t until post-WWI when red poppies became the flower associated with fallen soldiers. The red poppy tradition came from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field. McCrae wrote the poem in 1915 in the aftermath of the Second Battle of Ypres. The poppy was the only flower to bloom on the battlefields during that time, and so it became the flower for fallen veterans. 

Take Responsibility in Your Own Life 

It is overwhelming to think about the enormous responsibility that these soldiers showed, and it is difficult to compare such sacrifice to our own lives. When thinking about ways to take responsibility in your own life, consider planning for your future. Set up an estate plan that details what you want from your healthcare and finances. Make sure you include asset protection. This will not only protect your future; it will help your family as well. They will be spared the turmoil of probate court after you pass on. 

For Your Kids’ Future, Too

Consider your kids’ future. Education is a predictor of how well a society, as a whole, will do, and a college or trade school education sets someone on the right path to success. Use an IRS 529 plan to help save for your kids’ college. The plan is tax-advantaged, and it is a way to get a head start on your kids’ future.

Thousands of soldiers have died for this country throughout the years. It was the Civil War that took the most lives, with World War II following right after. War is a terrible thing, and the sacrifices that our veterans made to keep us safe should never be forgotten. This Memorial Day, remember the lives of veterans through observing tradition and taking responsibility in your own life and for your own future.

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