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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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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