It’s About Responsibility This Memorial Day

Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Legal News | 0 comments

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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Summer is Near! Stay Safe This Vacation

Posted by on May 17, 2019 in Legal News |

Well, we made it! Summer is almost here. It’s time for hot beach days and no school for kids. Everyone loves summer, and for good reason! This summer, you might be preparing to go on vacation. There are many things to think about and plans to make before you go on vacation. You have to lock up the house, pack, get the kids ready, figure out who’s going to take care of the pets and plants, and more. 

But what about the big picture? 99.9% of the time, vacations go off without a (major) hitch. But, as any estate planning attorney (or insurance agent) will tell you, it pays to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Here are some big-picture things to think about doing before you head off on a great adventure.

Just-In-Case: Healthcare

Things happen on vacation sometimes. It’s rare, but they can happen. You’re in a new environment doing new things. There’s always the chance that something could go wrong. If that occurs, you want to have a plan in place. A healthcare directive and power of attorney for healthcare are ways that you can give directions to hospitals and nurses giving you care. These tools will alert your healthcare providers to your preferences, even if you are unable to give the directions yourself at the time due to incapacitation. 

Just-In-Case: Finances 

Similarly, you probably have plans for your financial health in the event that something happens to you. However, something could happen that causes you to be unable to verbalize your wishes for your finances. A power of attorney for finances is, like for healthcare, a trusted individual that you select to make these decisions on your behalf. He or she knows what you want (because you’ve told them), and they will ensure that your money goes to the right place. 

The Kids, Too

If you have minor children, they will need guardians if something happens to you. Make sure your estate plan includes details for who you want to take care of them in the worst-case scenario. Choose someone you believe would take the best care of your kids, not just overall, but also day-to-day. Talk to your proposed guardian to make sure they agree.

Insurance (All Kinds)

In addition to estate planning tips, there are other ways to prepare for every eventuality. One major way is through insurance. Are you renting a car? Get rental insurance. Are you flying? Get lost luggage insurance. 

If you’re going to be gone for a while, you can also purchase vacation insurance. This type of insurance covers anything bad that could possibly happen while on vacation: medical emergencies, emergency assistance, cancellations, travel changes that result in extra expense, and more. It’s a good idea in general to make healthcare plans in case something happens. Find in-network providers in your vacation area. If they aren’t there, check to see the out-of-network costs. Some insurance plans will not charge you as much as the usual out-of-network fee if you go for an emergency.

House Tips 

What’s at your house that you can’t just leave? Think about what you do every week. Pets, plans, and perishables are the “Three P’s” of planning for vacation. Make sure your pet will be taken care of. If you have plants or a lawn that needs care, arrange for that as well. Empty out your fridge! This is something all too many people forget to do before vacation. We’ve all done it at some point and coming home to rotting food is definitely not a welcome surprise when you get back from a relaxing vacation. 

We’re not saying that anything bad is going to happen on your vacation. But one thing about estate planning is that it takes into account every eventuality. If you like being prepared for pretty much anything, put the above tasks onto your to-do list before you go on vacation. 

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Mother’s Day: Don’t Forget Your Parents

Posted by on May 8, 2019 in Legal News |

This year, Mother’s Day is on May 12th (this may serve as a helpful reminder for those who might have forgotten the date—call your mom!). Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate your parents and your kids, as well as anyone else in your family who is or is going to be a mother. Motherhood is a wonderful thing, and it deserves to be celebrated all year, too. There is a way you can celebrate your mom besides the usual flowers, cards, and gifts. You can include her (and your kids) in your estate plan, providing security for years to come. Here’s how: 

A Plan for Mom’s Healthcare 

Much as we don’t want to think about it, parents get old. They get old, and they get sick. Though you might have great genes in your family that delay this inevitability for a while, aging eventually happens. Your mom might have plans to go into assisted living or a nursing home when she needs to. That discussion is usually a difficult one for any family. 

Have you thought about what happens if your mom gets sick? If she is too sick to give instructions to the doctor or nurses attending her, she might undergo health treatment she does not want. A healthcare directive is a way for her to lay out instructions ahead of time. That way, her wishes are honored even if she is unable to verbalize them at the time of care.

A Plan for Mom’s Finances

Likewise, a power of attorney for finance is a way to honor your mom’s wishes for her financial health, if she is unable to direct what she wants you to do with her money. A power of attorney is a trusted individual who will give those instructions for her. The option also exists to select a power of attorney for healthcare as well.

Mom’s Assets  

Another important consideration is your mom’s assets, such as her home, car, and other pieces of important property. A living trust is a way to ensure that these assets don’t have to go through probate court. The living trust is a tripartite relationship between a donor (1) who entrusts a trustee (2) with the asset. The third party is the beneficiary (3), to whom the trustee will grant the asset when the donor orders. Setting this up ensures that your mother’s assets are protected from the turmoil of probate court. This trust goes into effect the moment it is signed—not upon death, the way an asset transfer does in a last will and testament.

What About the Kids? 

We’ve talked about mom thus far. Now, it’s time to give the kids a mention. For kids, there two major things to consider (among others). The first is guardianship. If you have minor kids and something happens to you, the last thing you want is for them to be raised by an unfit guardian or one with whom they will not be comfortable. Setting up guardianship with a trusted individual will ensure that the kids are protected if something happens to you.

Second, there is another way to protect your kids’ future: education. You can set up an IRS 529 tax-advantaged savings plan to help you save for their college tuition. These plans are state-based, and they are an excellent way to prepare for college and get tax credits/cuts for doing so.

Things to Think About 

Above all, remember that communication is key. Talk to your mom, kids, potential powers-of-attorney, and guardians about the estate plan. Make sure everyone is on board before you sign the papers. There should be no surprises. That way, everyone is on the same page and things run as smoothly as possible in the event something happens.

The above considerations and tools are vital to ensuring that your mom and, if you have them, kids are protected in the future. Things happen. People get sick, and, even though that is unpleasant to think about, you need to be prepared just in case. Your mom deserves to have a safe, stable future, and helping her either obtain or update her estate plan is an excellent way to do that. Contact an estate planning attorney to get the process underway as soon as possible.

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April Is Stress Awareness Month

Posted by on Apr 20, 2019 in Legal News |

We’ve all experienced stressful situations in one form or another (we might even be going through some right now), but there are ways to manage and cope with stress that are healthy and productive. For example, you can exercise, take vitamins, and talk to a counselor to work out stressful feelings that you might experience. There are resources out there; you just have to grab onto them. 

Financial stress is an extremely common type of stress. Will you make enough to pay the bills? Are you paying down your debt? A way to avoid financial stress is to plan ahead. This can take the form of estate planning, which is the ultimate way to plan ahead and avoid hiccups down the road. Here’s how you can avoid stress through estate planning: 

Plan Ahead for Your Kids 

When you’re thinking of your kids, you might not immediately jump to your worst-case scenario, which is that something happens and they are left without you. Unfortunately, those things happen, and it is important to be prepared in the event of them. In your estate plan, you can select guardianship for your kids. Pick the guardian who will be most beneficial to your kids’ mental and physical health. Choose the person who you could see them with every day. Make sure you consult with your proposed guardian before making them the guardian, however.

Plan Ahead for Your Health

Another “worst case” scenario involves health concerns and problems. You might be healthy now, but in your old age that might not be the case. When you’re considering what you want doctors and nurses to do with your body and decisions, you can make a healthcare directive. This gives doctors, hospitals, and medical staff the ability to follow your instructions, even if you are too incapacitated at the time to give them yourself. These directives can include principles you hold dearly to yourself. 

Plan Ahead for College 

College is an important educational milestone in anyone’s life. You want to make sure that the people you love get to go to college, and if you can help them in any way, that is what you would want. By setting aside a tax-advantaged savings plan, you can put aside the funds you need for your loved one to go to college. The IRS has specific plans that you can use that give you tax credits in exchange for saving for tuition. These plans can be partial or in full regarding tuition payment. They are a good way to provide for your family’s higher education.

Save Your Family Stress 

If you love your family, you will want to save them stress. If you die without a proper estate plan, you will subject your family to probate court. Probate court involves a judge sitting on the bench dividing up your property. He or she will first use your assets to pay off your creditors, and then he or she will give your family what’s left. It is an inartful way to divide your belongings, and it rarely puts your family out ahead as the winner. Probate court is a long, expensive, and drudging process. Having an estate plan will let you avoid this process. 

Financial Planning

Lastly, having an estate plan allows you to financially prepare for every eventuality. You can select a power of attorney of finances who is a trusted individual. This individual is responsible enough to make decisions for you, and he or she will help you manage your finances if you are in a situation where you are not strong enough to do it yourself. This gives you a peace of mind about your financial health, even when your physical health is less-than-ideal.

When you’re thinking about Stress Awareness month, you should remember that a major part to fighting against stress is planning ahead and making sure that you are prepared for any and every eventuality that you can be. Estate planning is a great way to fight stress way ahead of time.

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Putting Your Tax Refund to Good Use

Posted by on Apr 16, 2019 in Legal News |

Happy tax season! Or, should we say, tax refund season. You’ll be getting your tax refund eventually, and there are some pretty good ways to put it to use. You might be tempted to go and spent it on a major purchase or on something else you want (but might not need). However, when thinking about what you want to spend your refund on, you should consider using the money to purchase a gift that keeps on giving: an estate plan. You will be able to create an estate plan that will benefit you immensely and pay off in the long run. Here’s how:

What’s so great about estate plans? 

You might be wondering why you should spend your tax refund on an estate plan, as opposed to something more fun-sounding. Well, an estate plan is fun, just probably not in the way that you’re thinking. It protects your future and your family’s future. It allows you to set aside your assets, financial and healthcare directives, and maintain personal protection in the event that you become too sick or incapacitated to do so yourself. It is a long-term tool that provides massive benefits. You won’t know how much you need one until you don’t have one, and then, the results are disastrous.

Financial Health 

A first major consideration is your financial health. You want to set aside certain assets for certain family members before you die, or perhaps you have a business that you want to protect. An estate plan will contain all your instructions for maximizing financial health and wellness, and you will also be able to appoint a financial power of attorney who will help you manage your finances. This power of attorney is trustworthy, and he or she can ensure that your financial decisions are honored the way they would be if you yourself were making them.

Physical and Mental Health 

Along those same lines, your physical and mental health are both very relevant in the estate planning decision. Have you considered what will happen if you are sick or incapacitated? You can appoint a power of attorney of healthcare and pass a healthcare directive that will allow you to make healthcare decisions even if you unable to do so yourself. The hospital will observe your directive and instructions, honoring your wishes so that you have peace of mind when you are sick.

Helping Your Family

Another very important aspect to estate planning is the way it allows you to help your family. For example, if you have kids, you can set aside guardianship papers for them in the event of a disaster where they are left without you. That way, you know they will be with someone you trust. Also, you can set aside money in tax-advantaged savings plans that will help you save up for tuition for someone’s college. These savings plans come from the IRS, and they are very helpful in preparing for higher education and reaping tax benefits.

 Avoiding Probate 

Last but not least, estate plans allow you to avoid probate, which is a stressful process that has no winners. Probate court is where your family goes if you die without an estate plan. The judge makes decisions about your finances, and he pays off your debtors and your family gets what is left. This process is arduous and often expensive. It doesn’t allow asset transfer for a while, which is inconvenient. Having a good estate plan will allow you to avoid that.

All of these above reasons are just some of the many ways that you can use estate planning to achieve your financial goals. That major purchase will be there next year. This year, use your tax refund money to start an estate plan that will last during your lifetime and benefit you and your family for years to come. It will give you and them peace of mind, and that is priceless. 

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Golf Masters: Give It Your Best Shot

Posted by on Apr 10, 2019 in Legal News |

The Golf Masters Tournament is here. The Golf Masters Tournament is basically the Superbowl for golf fans, and golf itself isn’t for everyone. Some people are the type to work hard at perfecting their shot and achieving the lowest possible score, while others are the type to hit one ball into the water and throw their clubs in after it. To each his own (most of us likely fall somewhere in the middle). Whether golf infuriates or hypnotizes you, there are some lessons to be learned from the sport that can apply to your future. You want to give life your best shot, not just on the field but off it too. Estate planning can help you do that.

Create a Base

An estate plan is a way to organize your assets and affairs so that they transfer smoothly and wrap themselves up neatly after you pass on. An estate plan does not have to be complete and picture-perfect the first time around. Things change, and family dynamics change, and you will likely end up updating your estate plan multiple times in order to reflect these changes. But, having an estate plan provides a basic working plan in the event that something happens. This base is crucial to maintaining the financial health of you and your family.

Help Your Kids 

Another great benefit of an estate plan is that it gives you the opportunity to help your kids. You are able to set up guardianship papers for them, which protects their wellbeing in the event of an emergency. You are also able to set up college savings plans for them, ensuring that they get at least some of their tuition paid. These savings plans have tax advantages, which means that you are saving more money than if you tried to save through a regular, non-IRS plan. Helping your kids is one of the pillars of estate planning.

Protect Your Assets

Your assets include basically everything that you own. When you die, do you know where your stuff is going? If you send your family to probate court because you don’t have an estate plan, you will end up giving your things to the state to pay off creditors. Your family will get whatever remains. You want your assets to go to the people you love, and estate planning will allow you to do that. There are many tools to protect your assets from the state.

Protect Your Business

You may also be a business owner with a lot of finances and plans to protect. Perhaps you haven’t thought about where your business will end up or what your business plans are in the event that you die. Estate planning can help you set up a succession plan or an asset division plan that will ensure that your business is not left rudderless if something happens to you. It’s an excellent way to ensure your business’s future, which also in turn protects your family’s future.

Financial & Physical Health 

Estate planning protects both your financial and physical health. Financially, you can hire a power of attorney and arrange for your finances to be taken care of if you’re too sick to make decisions yourself. The power of attorney is a trusted loved one. You can also put forth healthcare directives that will deliver instructions about your care to doctors and hospitals, even if you cannot communicate them yourself.

If you love golf, then we wish you the best when watching the Golf Masters Tournament. If you’re not a big golf fan and/or are bad at golf, that’s okay—you can still learn a lot from the sport and apply those lessons to your own life. Estate planning will help you take the best shot you can at life, on and off the course. 

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