Love is Spelled T-R-U-S-T

Posted by on Feb 28, 2018 in Trusts |

It’s the season of love; Even after Valentine’s Day there’s still plenty of leftover decorations to go around. However, you don’t just spell love “L-O-V-E”; there’s another way to spell it: T-R-U-S-T.

We’re talking about estate planning. While setting up a trust for your kids, grandkids, and relatives might not be as flashy of a gift as a new Ferrari, it actually will have even more value in the long run. There are some common misconceptions about trusts—or, rather, about last wills being better than trusts—so, in this article, we will clarify what a trust is and why it’s beneficial.

What is a trust?

A trust is a three-party relationship. The relationship consists of the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary. The trustor, also known as a donor, conveys property or assets to the trustee. The trustee acts as a receiver. After the property is transferred to the trustee, the trustee acts as a nominal owner of the assets. At the moment the trustor specifies (usually upon said trustor’s death), the trustee conveys the property to the beneficiary, who then becomes the property’s owner.

Lastly, you should know what the term “trust agreement” means. A trust agreement specifies the rules of the trust and manner in which the trust should be followed. There are also federal and state law rules that must be followed in conjunction with the provisions of the trust agreement.

There are many different reasons to get a trust, including reducing your estate tax, protecting your assets after you die, and avoiding probate court. There are many different types of trusts, so consult with your estate planner to find out which one is best for your circumstances.

Why not just get a last will and testament?

A last will and testament goes into effect after you die. It also must go through probate court, and you are often subject to more taxes than you would be with a trust. Probate court is a long, arduous process, and your beneficiaries do not receive their gifts immediately. Though a will is cheaper to set up, it does not pay off as well in the long run.

What are the benefits of a trust?

There are several benefits of a trust. First, you can avoid probate court, as stated above. Second, a trust is effectively immediately and can be changed if something happens. When you set up your trust, it is known as an inter vivos trust. You then decide if it is revocable or irrevocable. Revocable trusts allow you to change your mind. This flexibility is beneficial. Thirdly, you can shield your estate from certain taxes through a trust, and, lastly, you are able to decide the manner in which your assets are distributed, as well as the timing. These four benefits are just some of the many that make a trust a great idea.

Because of the safety and reliability a trust provides, it’s clear that there’s more than just one way to spell “love.”

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Divorce’s Impact on Your Estate Plan

Posted by on Jan 29, 2018 in estate planning, Family Law, Trusts, Wills |

Divorce is a bummer (or maybe not, depending on your situation). It impacts almost every area of your life, and your estate plan is no different. While estate planning might not be high on your to-do list during the divorce process, you should still take some time to consider which documents need to be updated.

Divorce laws vary based on your state, but, overall, the legal principle is the same: it is the termination of the marital bond and restructuring or canceling of martial obligations. Both the pre- and post-divorce phases require action on your part when it comes to your estate plan.

Before the Divorce is Final

There are several documents you need to

update before the divorce is final. These include your living trust, living will, Power of Attorney, and will. You cannot assume that the completion of the divorce will immediately terminate your ex-spouse’s involvement in your estate plan. While that may be the case for the will, it’s not always so for the others.

  • Living trust. Your trust will be interpreted based on whether it is revocable or not. A trust that is revocable at the time of your death, provisions in the trust regarding your ex-spouse will be invalid. But, if your trust is irrevocable and you die with the trust still naming your ex-spouse as beneficiary, he or she is going to get all your things. The law cannot help you in this situation.
  • Living will. Your living will concerns healthcare directives and other related issues. If you fall ill and are incapacitated, who is your agent? If it is your ex-spouse, you may want to change that. If you feel comfortable with the person you’ve just divorced making critical life-or-death decisions about your medical care, then you should keep them as your agent. If not, make the change. It is not always clear whether a state’s laws will automatically excuse your ex-spouse from his or her duties in your living will.


  • Power of Attorney. Generally, depending on the state in which you live, if your spouse is your power of attorney and you divorce him or her, this grant of power will be revoked once the action for divorce is filed. However, the whole power of attorney is not revoked in its entirety. Your spouse may still be named as guardian, and that will not be revoked until the final decree.


  • Will. Depending on when you made your will, the final decree of divorce will generally revoke any provisions in the will concerning your ex-spouse. This only applies to your ex-spouse. Your ex-spouse’s kids are not kicked off the will, so if that’s something you want to do, you cannot count on the rule of law doing it for you.

Post-Divorce: What You Need to Do

So, you’ve made it, and the final decree has happened. Now what?

Well, in your estate plan, you will likely have some gaps to fill, including power of attorney, agent, beneficiaries, and other roles from which you have removed your ex-spouse. You will need to restructure and re-do your estate plan to make sure those critical positions are covered. Schedule an estate planning consultation today, regardless of whether you are pre- or post-divorce.


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Merry Christmakwanzakah: Everyone’s Included—Like Your Estate Plan Should Be

Posted by on Dec 21, 2017 in 529 Plan, estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

Merry Christmakwanzakah: Everyone’s Included—Like Your Estate Plan Should Be

One of the best parts about the holiday season is the many, many different celebrations that take place. From Christmas to Kwanza to Hanukkah, the holidays are a time for everyone to see their family and engage in celebrations. And, while you’re with your loved ones, it’s time to think about one of the best gifts you can get them—an estate plan that includes everyone.

Sure, estate planning doesn’t sound quite as exciting as a new Xbox or a car, but, in the long run, it ends up being even more valuable (trust us). Estate planning is the process by which your assets, debts, and estate are assigned and distributed after your death.

The Toolkit

Think of your estate plan as a legal toolkit. If you open the kit, you will see many different documents, all of which pertain to a different aspect of your life. However, these tools all have the same goal: avoiding probate.

Probate court is what happens if you do not have an estate plan. The court takes charge of your estate, dividing up assets and debts and winding down the estate in a way that is time-consuming and difficult for your family. A mere last will and testament is not enough. There are many different documents in an estate plan. Listed below are a few of the main ones.

What’s in your legal toolbox?

  • Power of Attorney. Your power of attorney is a trusted individual who you pick to manage your financial and healthcare decisions if you are sick or incapacitated to the point where you cannot make these decisions yourself. We all have that relative who we wouldn’t trust to babysit a rock, let alone make life-changing choices for others. By picking your POA yourself, you ensure that you are choosing someone who is competent and responsible.
  • Living Will. Also known as an advance healthcare directive, a living will specifies what a person wants to have happen in the event of certain medical emergencies. This way, if you can’t tell a doctor or hospital yourself what you want, your directive will have the plan laid out for you.
  • Living Trust. A trust is a three-party relationship. This relationship is of a fiduciary nature. The first party, known as a trustor, confers assets or property to a second party, the trustee, for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary. The living trust allows for this fiduciary relationship to take place upon your death, when your trustee confers to your beneficiary the property with no probate court acting as middleman.
  • 529 Plan. This 529 plan is for people who have kids who are going off to college—if not now, then in the future. The 529 allows you to set aside funds for your kid’s college funds. You may also know a 529 as a “qualified tuition plan.”
  • TOD Sheets. TOD—Transfer on Death—sheets do just that: upon your death, property is transferred in the form of a deed. Morbid though the name is, this legal tool is really helpful and operable in many states.

Estate planning also needs to include everyone you want. When you schedule a consultation, make sure that you have a thorough discussion about those you want to include. Don’t forget that you can—and should—make updates and changes to your plan whenever necessary. The above legal tools are just some of what can help you wrap up your estate quickly and efficiently when the time comes.

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Protecting Your Children Is Protecting Your Legacy

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in 529 Plan, Trusts, Wills |

Child safety and protection is a major concern this month, with officials and teachers giving many different tips on keeping your kids safe from all types of dangers. However, one piece of protection advice you may not have heard is estate planning.

Estate planning allows you to designate where you want your property to go after you pass on. There are many different estate planning tools that benefit your children because, as stated in our title, protecting your children is protecting your legacy. In this article, we will discuss these major legal devices that will protect your children’s inheritance and honor your wishes.

Wills, Trusts, and 529 Plans

There are many different ways in which you can leave your property to your children, but wills, trust, and 529 plans are three of the major ones. Here is a brief overview of each:

· Wills. A will is a legal document by which someone designates how they want their property to be distributed after they die. Wills also contain instructions as to who will execute the requests in the will (that person is known as the executor). Note that wills do NOT get you out of probate court, and just having a will is insufficient.

· Trusts. These are more complicated than wills, and they take more time to manage and create. Trusts do ensure that you won’t wind up in probate court, dealing with that expensive and time-consuming nightmare. Trusts are fiduciary agreements. The trustor gives a trustee the right to hold the trustor’s property or assets for a third party’s benefit. This third party is known as the beneficiary. Trusts take effect as soon as you create them, whereas wills take effect after you die.

A living trust is revocable, meaning that the trustor can make changes and modifications as they so choose. This is beneficial, as situations and circumstances tend to change as time passes. An irrevocable trust, by contrast, means that it cannot be altered without the beneficiary’s permission.

· 529 Plans. A 529 plan is an excellent way to invest in your child’s education. These plans allow you to set aside money for your child’s college education. The name 529 comes from § 529 of the IRS Code. 529 plans have been around since the mid-1990s. There are special tax benefits that come along with this type of plan and, usually, your child’s choice of school does not matter in order for them to get the 529.

There are usually two types: prepaid and savings. Prepaid plans allow you to pre-pay all or some of the cost of college education. Savings plans work like a 401k; you invest your

contributions, and the account varies based on the performance of the investment option you chose (mutual funds or something else).

Protecting your children by making sure that you have a plan for your property after you die might not be broadcasted among the many child safety tips, but it is certainly important. By scheduling an estate planning consultation, you can ensure that you are preserving the best

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Are You Digging Your Own Financial Grave?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

When you think of October, you might think of witches, warlocks, pumpkins, and cooler weather. However, what you may not know is that October is also Financial Planning Month, during which you can make a commitment to getting your affairs in order and tidying up your finances.

You can dig your own financial grave by doing nothing. You don’t even have to pick up your metaphorical shovel. Simply sit back and make no estate plan, and you will have dug your own financial grave, along with your family’s. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can commit to financial peace this October.

Estate Planning: The Horror Movie Antidote

The real monsters are taxes, creditors, and the government, and they all are lurking at probate court. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. Probate will pay off your creditors and saddle your family with estate taxes in the event that they distribute your property to them. The process is lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive. October may be the month for scary surprises, but let’s avoid the unwelcome surprise that is your family having to go to probate court.

Estate planning will safeguard you against the horrors of probate court. Here is a brief overview of estate planning:

What to Know about Estate Planning

An estate plan allows you to decide where your assets will be distributed. It also gives directives on how to manage your care and finances if you are incapacitated. Here are the main documents included in an estate plan (though by no means is this list exhaustive).

  • A living will. If you become incapacitated, chances are you don’t want the state to make your decisions for you. The government might not make the right choice when it comes to pulling the plug or not. A living will gives the hospital healthcare directives and information on your care that doctors can follow. Even if you are unable to give these directions yourself, the living will tells them how to manage your care.
  • A financial power of attorney. If incapacitated, you will also want to ensure that your finances are managed appropriately. Appointing a financial power of attorney means you can pick someone you trust and know is responsible to be in charge of your money when you are unable to do so.
  • A power of attorney for healthcare. A power of attorney for healthcare will also help you make healthcare decisions when you are unable. If your living will doesn’t cover something, this person (who you also pick), will be assist in making these decisions.

While estate planning isn’t the most Halloween-ish topic to discuss, it certainly is spooky to think about what happens if you don’t have a plan. Hopefully, this brief overview helped you to get a sense of what estate planning is and the many benefits that come with it.

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Planning For Everyone In Your Life—Even Your Pet

Posted by on Aug 14, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts |

Everyone loves their pets. In 2012, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that a little more than 70 percent of Americans have a pet. Even though most pet owners would like to believe they will always be around to take care of their pets, often this is not the case because of death or incapacity. Therefore, many people may want to leave something behind to ensure that their pet is taken care of in the event something happens.

Usually, an animal cannot inherit money, property, or an estate. Therefore, a pet could not be the beneficiary of a trust. Thus, even when someone would try and leave something behind for their pet, the Florida probate courts were unable to enforce the provisions.

However, in 1990, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws changed the Uniform Probate Code (UPC) to allow for the creation of pet trusts. Florida has since then adopted the UPC and has made pet trusts valid for the lifetime of the pet.

These pet statutes provide ways for the courts to distinguish the pets, uphold the trust, and decide the sensibility of assets. If the trust has been established to care for more than one animal, the trust will remain in effect until the death of the last animal. However, when creating a pet trust, testators should consider other factors, like arrangements for alternate caregivers, the day-to-day care requirements for the animal, including emergency care and the final disposition of the pet.

There are also other important considerations when establishing a pet trust, like determining whom the pet caregiver will be. The pet caregiver should be a person or organization that is actually willing to provide for the animal once you are gone. Therefore, it is best for a testator to speak to the potential caregiver before nominating them to ensure that they are willing to accept this responsibility. The pet owner should also consider whether the potential caregiver has the physical accommodations to provide for the pet. For example, if the pet owner has a dog or cat, the pet owner should consider whether the potential caregiver lives in a building that permits animals. Even though everyone would like to take care of their pets after they are no longer able to, it is best to consult with an estate planning attorney because drafting the proper document can be complex.

Whether your priority is your children, your pet, or just preserving your legacy, estate planning is important for everyone.  Don’t delay call today for your free consultation.

For more information on Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and Probate administration visit our website at

It’s A Wild World. Are Your Protected?

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