Have a Heart, Write a Will

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Wills |


February isn’t just the month of Valentines, it’s also a month where you acknowledge your physical heart too. February is American Heart Month, recognizing the fact that heart disease, stroke, and similar ailments are huge problems in America. For a not-so-fun fact, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for both men and women. So, don’t just take care of your heart by sending Valentines—make sure you’re going to the doctor and checking on your physical health as well.

Have a heart in another way too—write a will. If you want to give the best Valentine to your loved ones, you can help them prepare for the future.

What is a will?

A will isn’t exactly wrapped with a red bow with candy hearts attached to it, but it is sentimental in its own way. There are two types of wills you should know about: a living will and a last will and testament. Chances are, you probably have heard of the second one more than the first.

A living will is a document that details what you want to do in the event you become incapacitated (you’re in a coma or so sick you cannot make your own decisions with a clear head). The living will is effective once you’re unable to communicate. It tells doctors and nurses what they should do in terms of your medical care. It is all about medical care—usually refusing or requesting medical treatment. If you’re unconscious and have no living will, hospitals may perform procedures they consider legally obligatory. If you don’t want that, you should specify that in your will. A living will is also known as an advance directive.

Your last will and testament provides instructions on what to do with your property, assets, and guardianship after you pass away. It is legally effective upon your death. You can name your kids’ guardian if something happens to you, making this an extremely important document for parents of minor children. The person who carries out your last will is your executor. If you die without a will, you are considered intestate, and the state’s intestacy laws will control how your assets are divided.

Which should you get?

You should always have a living will, as you never know if something will happen. Secondly, a last will and testament isn’t the be-all, end-all of estate planning. A living trust is actually preferable to a last will. A living trust constructs a three-party fiduciary relationship. It is legally effective immediately and can be changed easily, if you want to change your beneficiary.

A last will requires your executor to go through probate court, a long, arduous process that takes up time and resources. A living trust doesn’t require that court visit, making it easier to have than a last will. Schedule an estate planning consultation today to help you decide.

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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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Be Thankful and Be Careful

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in estate planning, Wills |

















That title might sound a little ominous, but it’s not, we promise. Thanksgiving is coming up and the time-honored tradition is to go around the table with everyone saying what they are grateful for. However, don’t just be thankful this season: be careful as well.

You may have an estate plan already, but did you know that you should continuously review and update it? It’s not just about documenting it and slamming the drawer shut. You need to update your estate plan and keep it current for it to be most effective. In this article, we will discuss the need for updates, as well as the misconceptions surrounding self-written and online wills.

Keeping it Current

Your Turkey Day list of what you’re grateful for probably changes yearly based on what happened in the past 365 days. Similarly, your estate plan can change too, depending on changes in your life (marriage being the main one) or family. While you may think, “Oh, I’ll get to it eventually,” regarding changes to your estate plan, that’s not always the case. Forgetting to update and review your estate plan can be disastrous.

For example, if you get married and do not update your estate plan before passing on, your plan will not reflect the changes in finances and property that come from marriage. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t think you need to make any changes to your estate plan, review it ASAP, just to be sure.

Online and Self-Written Wills

There are different services that allow you to write an online and/or self-written will. These services promise the convenience of being able to sit at home on your laptop and just get it done inexpensively. That sounds nice, but, unfortunately, these services often don’t give you a finished product that includes everything you may want your family to have. DIY-willmaking often skips important steps that would otherwise allow you to avoid probate. If you want to do anything complex with your will, your self-written document will likely not contain the proper language, particularly surrounding land (land-based contracts must be very specific in their phrasing). Your relatives might end up having to go to court and spend thousands to contest your will and figure out what it means.

Forgetting simple things is easy on self-written wills because, to someone without legal training, the legal language is not easy to get right. Even if your relatives don’t contest the will, courts won’t follow the provisions if they are not properly written, meaning that your self-written or online will has all the effect of a notarized shopping list.

Keeping an updated, regularly-reviewed estate plan is really the only way to properly and effectively prepare for your future and the future of your family. Self-written and online wills generally miss the important elements, so scheduling an appointment to have it done properly by lawyers is the best way to ensure that you’re not only thankful this Thanksgiving: you’re careful, too.

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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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