Estate Planning Before a Vacation

Posted by on Jun 24, 2021 in Legal News |

Summer is here! It’s June, which means it’s time to vacation in the sand, sun, and surf. Before you go on a vacation (and hopefully, you get to go, as the past year has been stressful for us all), it’s important to take care of some estate planning essentials. This article will serve as a guide to how to estate-plan before taking a vacation.

Why Before a Vacation? 

Though vacations are fun and laid-back, the real reason that you should estate-plan before a vacation takes into account the less-fun side of things. Bad things can—but hopefully won’t—happen on a vacation. If you die or become ill or injured on a vacation, an estate plan will keep your assets and medical decisions from being taken over by third parties who don’t know you and don’t know your family. 

What to Have 

Below are a few legal tools and documents that you should have in your estate plan. These aren’t the be-all, end-all of estate planning, but they will get you off to a pretty good start. Though certain websites and services offer to let you write these documents yourself, it’s best to let a professional do them for you, as lawyers can best navigate the tricky legal waters. 

Beneficiary Designations 

Beneficiary designations on things like 401(k) and life insurance documents provide someone to receive these accounts in the event that you pass away. Usually, it’s a spouse or child who is given the money, but it can be anyone you name (if you’re divorced, make sure your ex isn’t on the account). If there’s no beneficiary named, it will likely be the court who decides who gets what. 

Will or Trust

Wills and trust are two legal documents, each different in their own ways, with similar purposes. They both are designed to lay out where your assets will go if you die. You can couple these with a letter of intent, which you write to your executor spelling out your intentions for your assets. Both wills and trusts are cornerstones of asset division.  


If you have minor children and something happens to you and your spouse on vacation, who will take care of them? Though the idea of getting eaten by a shark or contracting some random deadly disease seems far off, you never know. Name your kids’ guardians in your estate plan. Choose people who will give them the best day-to-day quality of life, and make sure you talk to your proposed guardians beforehand, as you want to make sure they are on board with such a huge, life-changing responsibility. 

Power(s) of Attorney

Powers of attorneys are trusted individuals that you choose to make healthcare and/or financial decisions for you in the even that you’re unable to make them yourself. Taking from the example above, let’s say you contract a rare disease and are too sick to pay your bills. A financial POA will take care of those responsibilities for you until you are well enough to return to those tasks. 

Advanced Directive

Also known as living wills, advanced healthcare directives are important documents for anyone with strong opinions about their medical care. If you have certain religious or moral wishes (such as Do Not Resuscitate) about your healthcare, you can delineate them in an advanced directive. Doctors, nurses, and specialists will rely on this document when providing you with care. The advanced directive is highly personal, reflecting what you truly want and don’t want.

What If I Don’t Have These? 

Basically, not having an estate plan and running into peril will require third parties—courts—to make decisions for you. For example, if you don’t have guardianship designations set up for your kids and you die, a judge, who doesn’t know your family, will step in and make the decision for you. The court process is costly, impartial, and can seem invasive. Estate planning will help you sidestep all of that. 

Though estate planning might seem like a bummer before a vacation, consider it a boring—yet necessary—part of the vacation planning process. Contact an attorney to plan out some of the documents discussed above, as the lawyer will be able to quickly sort out what you need, getting you on your way to the sand and sun as fast as possible. 

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Father’s Day: Protecting the Ones You Love

Posted by on Jun 17, 2021 in Legal News |

Dads are the best. They protect us, help us, and teach us new things. Even when we’re adults, our dads still are the leaders of the family. If your father doesn’t have an estate plan, give him the gift of a planning session, as that might help repay some of the amazing things your dad has done for you. 

In the spirit of protection, in this article, we’ll discuss who and what your estate plan can protect. If you or your dad don’t have one, it’s time to get going on that process ASAP. Contact an attorney to discuss your options in setting up an estate plan. 

Estate Plans Protect Beneficiaries 

Once upon a time, estate planning was thought of as something only rich people needed, as it was their wealthy beneficiaries who would benefit from having a place in plan. However, that conception has totally changed, and there are a lot of middle-class families who can seriously benefit from having an estate plan in the event something happens to the breadwinner(s) of the family. 

No matter what you’re leaving behind, if you don’t have a plan for what happens when you pass away, you will have no control over where it goes—it might even be sold and the proceeds given to creditors. Beneficiaries are protected with estate planning, as the major component of estate planning involves designating who you want to receive your assets. Without a plan, the court will decide who gets what, and that process can not only rack up fees, it can also get ugly. The court doesn’t know your family history, so it doesn’t know who should and shouldn’t be receiving any money. 

Heirs Get Spared the IRS (Kind Of)

Sometimes, when setting up an estate plan, there are legal ways to minimize and shrink your tax burden. If estate planning is about protecting loved ones, what better way to do so than to keep them away from the IRS? One essential of estate planning is transferring assets in a way that creates the smallest tax burden for heirs. Though it’s foolhardy to say taxes will be wiped out totally, they can be reduced with savvy planning. 

Even just a little foresight can enable people—especially married couples—to reduce federal/state estate and state inheritance taxes. Without a plan in place that has been developed by a professional, your beneficiaries might end up shelling out quite a bit of cash to Uncle Sam. 

Keeping Kids Safe 

Another major benefit to estate planning is that it helps plan for the unthinkable. No one thinks something bad will happen to them, but you never know, in this crazy world. If you have minor children, setting up guardianship for them will keep them in a stable home if you and your spouse die before they turn eighteen. Without a will naming guardians for your kids, courts step in and decide who raises them. An impartial judge who has never met your family really is not the best person to decide such an intimate, life-changing decision. 

Even if your dad’s kids are grown now, yours might not be. Protecting kids is what dads do—and estate plans can help.

Say Goodbye to Messy Family Situations 

We’ve all seen or heard these horror stories, and we might even know of them occurring in real life—perhaps in our own family. When someone dies without a will, the war between family members begins. It gets really ratcheted up if the person has a considerable amount of money. Someone always thinks they deserve money the most, even if they’re notoriously irresponsible. The result is ugly squabbling that can even end up in litigation, racking up not only family animosity, but also a ton in legal fees. 

Bypass that mess by having an estate plan. The plan will stop fights before they begin, as you decide who controls your finances if you become incapacitated, and you decide what happens to your assets (money, property, etc.) after you die. You can even come up with individualized plans for your relatives, such as a trust fund for someone who isn’t responsible to inherit a lump sum but still should get something. Telling your family situation to a lawyer, who is bound by client confidentiality, will help the practitioner decide what is best for your family. 

As you can see, there are some major benefits to having an estate plan in place. Don’t try to set one up yourself, as there are a lot of minor technicalities to legal documents, and a lot can go wrong. Instead, discuss options with an estate planning attorney, who will help you get the necessary documents together. Schedule an appointment and find out more on our website

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Mid-Year Estate Planning Evaluation

Posted by on Jun 6, 2021 in Legal News |

Can you believe that we’re already in June? 2021 is flying by and things appear to be looking up (at least, when compared to what happened in 2020—knock on wood). Now that half the year has passed, it is time to do a mid-year evaluation of your estate plan. This guide will provide a few simple questions for you to ask yourself when determining whether your estate plan covers everyone and everything it needs to cover. 

1. Do I have a will?
A will is a final statement of your intentions when it comes to your assets. It determines where your assets will go after you pass on, and it is a vital step in the estate planning process. Dying without a will leads to intestacy, which will force your family into a painful and unexpected court process. Having a will as a cornerstone of an estate plan is extremely important. 

2. Do I have a trust?
A trust is a three-party fiduciary relationship set up in a legal document. You, the donor, transfer title to a trustee, who holds the title until they are instructed to transfer title to the beneficiary. A trust is useful for someone who wants to and is able to pass on title to an asset immediately. A trust can also help you avoid probate court, which makes it an attractive option for many. 

3. Do I have beneficiary designations? 
There are a few possessions that can pass to heirs without you dictating them in the will (such as a 401[k]). Maintaining a beneficiary and contingent beneficiary—someone to take the account if the other beneficiary cannot—will allow the person you want to receive your assets without the court stepping in. Not naming a beneficiary to these assets means that a court will be left to decide the funds’ fate, and the court’s decision could run counter to your wishes. 

4. Do I have a letter of intent?
This one is easy to complete, but it’s still vital. The letter of intent is a document that you leave to your executor. It defines what you want done with a particular asset or assets after you die or get sick. The letter of intent can also provide details on your funeral. It will also make a statement of your intent, which can help if there are murky parts of your will. 

5. Do I have a healthcare power of attorney? 
A healthcare power of attorney (POA) makes decisions for you if you’re too sick to make them yourself. This trusted person—usually a spouse or family member—will step in on your behalf, ensuring your wishes are followed. Though you might feel fine now, anything can happen. 

6. Do I have a financial power of attorney? 
Similar to a healthcare power of attorney, a financial POA makes monetary decisions for you in the event that you’re too sick to make them yourself. Again, even if sickness doesn’t seem like it’s looming on the horizon for you, it’s best to be prepared, just in case. 

7. Is my business taken care of?
Some of us are business owners, and businesses must be included in estate plans as well. Having a succession plan and plan of action for your business after you die will keep your company from falling into disarray when you’re gone. 

8. Do I have guardianship designations?
Those with minor kids should have guardianship designations, in the event that something happens to them and their spouse. Make sure to talk to your proposed guardian before you make the decision, as you want to ensure the guardian is on board before potentially saddling them with a huge responsibility.

9. Have I acquired any new major assets? 
Estate plans change, and sometimes those changes are due to new assets that need to be incorporated into the plan. If you’ve acquired something major, you’ll need to include it in your estate plan, sooner than later. 

10. Has anything major changed in my life? 
This update applies to pretty much any major event in your life. If there are new births, deaths, or weddings, they need to be reflected in your estate plan. 

These brief questions will put you on the right path to ensuring that your estate plan covers what it should cover. Visit our website to learn more and contact an estate planning attorney. 

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