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

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in estate planning, Family Law, Probate | 0 comments

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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The Terrifying Truth About Probate

Posted by on Oct 19, 2017 in Probate | 0 comments

           

With this upcoming Halloween season, particularly with the release of the movie It, there is a lot to be spooked by. While probate court might not be as scary as killer clowns, it certainly is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs.

So, What IS Probate?

Probate is a legal process and not a fun one, either. Probate is often referred to as “probate court” because the process is supervised by a court. Probate is what happens when a person dies without an estate plan. The court decides how to distribute your assets and debts, leaving you with no control.

You may think, “What do I care? I’ll be dead,” but remember that your family is going to be the most heavily burdened by probate. Avoiding probate court is a must.

What Does a Probate Court Do?

Probate court handles many other functions besides simple property distribution. Probate courts determine the executor of the estate, will authentication (if there is one), identification of beneficiaries, heirs, and/or decedents, payment of debts, and other important processes that you could avoid dragging your family into court for if you take the proper steps.

The probate lawyers do most of the work, but the executor supervises. The administrator (AKA executor) obtains necessary documents, hires the attorney, manages the process, cancels credit cards, pays off debts, and more. It is not an enviable job.

While some states do allow an avoidance of probate if your estate is below a certain net worth (in California, for example, the bar is $100,000), you will probably still have to go through a process, albeit a simplified version, that would be better avoided altogether.

The Terrifying Truth

The terrifying truth is that probate court is NOT something you want your family and loved ones to endure, even if you aren’t going to be around to care. Avoiding probate court involves creating an estate plan. Estate planning will help you get organized and plan for your future in the event of your demise. A well-prepared estate plan will protect your family from the court fees and time-suck that is probate court.

Estate planning attorneys are here to help. We aid you in managing the process, drafting the necessary documents, and counseling you on the best course of action depending on your situation and what your goals are.

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Estate Planning Is A Women’s Issue

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in estate planning, Probate, Wills |

            As Beyoncé told us, girls run the world! And Business Women’s Day is one of several holidays reminding us of that fact. Women have come a long way in the workforce. In 1950, one in three women were part of the labor force. By 2016, that statistic was three out of five, and, today in 2017, even more gains have been made in women’s leadership. While we still have some ways to go to make sure that the workforce is equal, particularly for women of color, there have been a lot of improvements. We don’t want to squander what our foremothers gave us, and estate planning is a women’s issue because it allows us to protect our hard-won assets.

Estate Planning and Women

To understand why estate planning is a women’s issue, it’s important to realize how little of an “estate” women were historically “allowed” to have. Even just up until forty years ago, women were still not given the abilities men had to control their own money. It wasn’t until 1969 that a U.S. court definitively ruled that labor jobs couldn’t not only be given to men, and firing women from factory work simply because of their gender was illegal.

Estate planning allows you to direct where your assets will go and how your healthcare decisions, financial choices, and other important directives are to be made in the event of incapacitation or death.

Here are some of the ways in which estate planning benefits women:

  • Agency and Control

Things happen, and you want to be able to keep your property and assets where you want them, without being forced into a decision that would cause a loss of property. Estate planning gives you agency over your healthcare choices and financial decisions. There is no better way to be secure that what you’ve worked hard for won’t be for nothing.

  • Peace of Mind

In the event of incapacity or death, the documents contained in an estate plan will give you a trusted person to make decisions for you. Your living will also contains directives that will tell the hospital and other personnel how to manage your care.

  • Longevity

If you want, you can ensure that your money and property are invested or put into a trust fund that will keep them around for a long time to benefit your daughters and granddaughters.

Estate planning is a women’s issue, and, this September, make sure that you retain control over your assets and finances by creating an estate plan.

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The Benefits of Preserving Your Digital Legacy

Posted by on Jun 8, 2017 in estate planning, Probate |

code, coding, computer

The Benefits of Preserving Your Digital Legacy

Take a moment to consider the wide array of online profiles and accounts that are floating around cyber space; bearing your name, personal information, communications, blogs, stored files, and so on. What happens to our online identities when we are gone? Who will receive access to your email, blog, and social media accounts? In South Florida, social media & digital assets are all encompassing in our daily lives. Whether it is for work, school, home, or purely social purposes, our digital assets are incredibly valuable, & should be considered with the rest of our assets when planning our estates. By incorporating your digital assets into your estate plan; you can achieve the following benefits:

▪ Control over how your accounts are closed & preserved.

▪ Control over choosing someone you trust to be an online executor, & follow your wishes regarding the disposal or care of your digital assets.

▪ Privacy – preventing the wrong person from accessing your private information.

▪ Ensuring that your fiduciaries discover all the vital account information when the need arises

▪ Prevention of identity theft – if no one has knowledge or access to your accounts, there is a higher probability that identity theft will go unnoticed.

▪ Easy discovery of electronic bills and similar accounts, to avoid late fees & cancellations that will create losses for the estate.

▪ Preserving your story – allowing family members to access your blog, photos, and other digital assets that keep your memory and story alive.

While many may advise you to simply incorporate your digital asset wishes into your will, doing so can be problematic when it comes to privacy. When a will is admitted to probate, its contents become public record. Thus, any private digital asset information you place in your will, such as usernames and passwords, are exposed to the public. As an alternative, said information can be placed in a separate document that is referenced in the will; or better yet, placed into a trust. This way, your social media identity remains private, and you can receive all of the same benefits mentioned above.

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The Future Awaits…Are You Protected?

Posted by on May 24, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning, Probate, Special Needs Trust, tax, Trusts, Wills |

It’s that time of year: graduation season. Four years of hard work have finally paid off. This is the time that seniors have anxiously awaited for, and dreaded, to come. It is time for seniors to grab their cap and gowns and wave goodbye to all the crazy parties, all-nighters at the library and three am pizza runs.Although this is such a big transition for students, this is also a big change for parents who’s student loans may be kicking in or may have a student moving back home in order to figure our his or her next steps.
 
Whatever your situation may be, it may be a good time to take a second look at your estate plan to make sure everything is in order. A properly executed estate plan will allow you to control what happens to your assets in case anything were to happen.  By executing some necessary documents, you can remain assured that everything you worked so hard for is left in the right hands. Some important documents to consider are:
 
Revocable living trust: this trust will act as a roadmap for your loved ones, in case you were to fall ill or pass away. These trusts will help your loved ones avoid probate, which can save them money from getting to avoid going to court and fighting over what was left.
 
Pour over will: upon your death, this will leaves any property not transferred to your trust before your death to your trust. This trust functions as a safety net to insure that your trustees as ultimately manage property owned in your individual name rather than in the name of your trust provided in your revocable living trust.
 
Irrevocable trust: this trust may not be changed or revoked when made. The purpose of this trust is to produce certain tax or asset protection results.
 
Last will and testament: this trust communicates a person’s final wishes in regards to possessions and dependents. This trust instructs the court what to do with all assets in case anything was to happen. However, unlike in the revocable living trust, your loved ones still have to go through probate proceedings, which can be costly.
 
Durable power of attorney: in case you are not able to handle specific health, legal and financial responsibilities yourself, nominate someone, like a trusted friend or relative to handle it.
 
Living will: gives you some control, in case you are to become ill. This document allows you to express your wishes to doctors in case you become incapacitated.
 
For more information on Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Probate administration visit our website at www.wfplaw.com
 
It’s A Wild World. Are Your Protected?
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Keep Calm and Prepare for April Fools. 

Posted by on Mar 27, 2017 in asset protection, estate planning, Probate, Special Needs Trust, tax, Trusts, Wills |

April Fools is one week away and for some this means it’s time to brace yourself.  Maybe you have children that scheme all year or perhaps you are married to the ultimate prankster – whatever your situation may be, it’s time to prepare for a possible heart attack and get your estate plan in place today.

A properly executed estate plan will allow you to remain in control, to some degree, either during times of incapacity or even after you’re long gone.  By executing some important documents, you can rest easy knowing who will raise your children, how your children’s inheritance will be managed and where everything will be going.  Some important documents to consider include:

  • Revocable Living Trust – Whatever assets held in trust will avoid probate, saving your loved ones the money and hassle.  The trust will also direct the trustee to manage and distribute your assets according to your terms.
  • Last Will & Testament –  Nominate your Personal Representative, choose a Guardian for any minor child, and add any burial or cremation requests.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – Nominate an individual to make financial decisions on your behalf or qualify you for public benefits, should you not be able to do so yourself.
  • Living Will – Advanced directive or “pull the plug” document.  Allows your healthcare surrogate to give the doctor the “ok” to pull the plug if you are being kept alive by artificial means.
  • Designation of Healthcare Surrogate & HIPAA Release – Designate the individual of your choosing to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf, in the event you cannot do so yourself.

Don’t just prepare for the anticipated pranks coming next week – prepare for your future and family today!  Call (954) 944-2855 for your free consultation.

For more information on Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Probate Administration visit our website at www.wfplaw.com.

It’s A Wild World. Are You Protected?

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