Halloween Is Here!

Posted by on Oct 23, 2021 in Legal News |

halloween Halloween is here! What a time to be alive. Last year, Halloween celebrations were pretty much stifled. Though things aren’t back to normal yet (see the CDC guidelines for more information on how to celebrate safely), there’s at least a little breathing room. Halloween is a lot of peoples’ favorite holiday, even more than Christmas. We can’t say we blame them, as there’s a lot to love about spooky season, from the pumpkin spice to the candy to the horror movies. 

There are some things scarier than Halloween. Living irresponsibly and not having an estate plan is definitely on our list. In this article, we’ll talk about some major “don’ts” when it comes to estate planning. 

Failing to Plan 

Of course, the biggest planning mistake you can make is failing to plan in the first place. Estate planning is important because it secures not only your future, but your loved ones’ futures. If you die intestate, the court will focus on paying off creditors and wrapping up the estate. Not everyone you love will get what you want them to get. 

Not Discussing

It’s a good idea to set expectations now and let people know what you’re planning to do, as part of your will. Let your family know where your assets will go after you pass on. Otherwise, you run the risk of disagreement or contention after you die.

Naming Only One Beneficiary

You should always list more than one beneficiary for your asset. That way, if a beneficiary passes or is otherwise unavailable, the asset won’t revert back into the estate. List a contingent beneficiary for each asset that you’re going to be transferring. 

Forgetting Important Documents and Assets 

Some documents that you absolutely cannot forget about include powers of attorney and healthcare representatives and final arrangements. You also don’t want to forget about digital assets you may have or charities that you find important. An attorney will help you come up with a comprehensive list of everything you want to include in your estate plan, and they’ll likely have suggestions as well, based on your situation. 

Being Overly-Specific

We know that this one might seem counterintuitive, as lawyers often tell you that you should be overly-specific to the point of nausea. However, being too specific can sometimes be a negative when it comes to estate planning. You want to make sure that assets you have now will be of use in the future. Naming certain assets (sports tickets, real estate, etc.) with extreme specification opens up the risk that someone might get left out if the asset isn’t there in the future. The solution is to make sure you continuously update your estate plan to reflect any changes to these specifics.

Improper Funding for Trusts

Creating a trust is half the battle. You have to make sure it’s properly funded with a solid, trustworthy source. An unfunded trust is useless. In order to avoid this, work with an attorney to make sure everything is titled properly and that all the assets in the trust are actually in your name. Though this might not seem like a common problem, it actually is. 

Tax Issues

Taxes and death—the two unavoidables of life. Estate tax liabilities will put a dent in what you leave to beneficiaries. Usually, this liability won’t be an issue unless you have a large estate worth millions. If you do fall into this category, you need to talk to a tax attorney about ways to legally minimize your estate’s tax burden. 

You might be thinking to yourself that there are a lot of ways you can go wrong when it comes to estate planning. Luckily, estate planning attorneys can help you avoid these common pitfalls, ensuring that you’re dotting your Is and crossing your Ts. 

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Something Spookier Than Halloween: Probate Court

Posted by on Oct 16, 2021 in Legal News |

halloween Halloween is spooky season. It’s a time for all ghosts, ghouls, and goblins to come out and make themselves known. For a lot of people, this time of year is their favorite. And we can see why. The leaves are changing (if you live up North, that is), and Christmas is drawing closer. 

Speaking of all things scary and creepy, let’s talk about probate court. Though probate court might not spark the same fear as Stephen King’s It, it’s still no fun at all. Probate court deals with matters of estate administration. In this article, we’ll talk more about probate court’s functions and why you want to avoid it. 

What Does Probate Court Do? 

Probate court is presided over by a judge, of course, and that judge’s main mission is to ensure that someone’s creditors are paid off and their estate is wrapped up neatly. The basic role of the court is to deal with the debts and property of someone who has died. You can go through probate court even if you die with a last will and testament, as that will has to be authenticated. 

Disadvantages of Probate Court 

Public Process

Probate court is a public process. This means that family and friends have a forum to bring claims if they think they’re entitled to your property or that there is a problem with your legal documents after you die. As you can imagine, this increases the chance of conflict after your death. It might even escalate if relatives are battling it out, and your estate could wind up with some heft legal fees. Also, your personal information, down to the age of beneficiaries to how much your jewelry is worth, is out there for the public to see.


Probate court is supervised by a judge and controlled by a huge book of laws. Your executor is restricted and bound by these laws, and they’re not often able to act in a way that maximizes your estate’s value. Executors usually have to get the court’s permission for the majority of transactions they enact on behalf of your estate. 

No Advance Planning 

Anyone can go to probate, whether they have a will or not. There’s no advanced planning, and you don’t have to do anything before you die. However, that’s a double-edged sword, as the lack of advance planning means that you won’t have the ability to administer your estate in a way that shows your loved ones how much you care. The values expressed will be those of the court, not yours.


Dying intestate (without a will) is the scariest thing of all. Dying intestate has a lot of potential consequence, as that means that the court has total control. Your next of kin might not end up as your chosen heirs, and your loved ones will be bound by the law, not the provisions you make for them. 


Probate can consume a lot of your estate. That number might be in the single-digits, but it still leaves less money for your heirs. Taxes, filing fees, and other costs can make a sizable dent in your estate that your family is not likely to appreciate. 


Lastly, probate court is time-consuming. Though it’s been reformed time and again, it’s still unpleasant. Your executor will have to complete tons of forms throughout the process, working on your estate tirelessly. 

How to Avoid Probate Court 

After hearing all these negatives, you are probably wondering how you can avoid probate court. This is where an estate attorney can step in, as they can help you perform legal maneuvers, such as writing a living trust, naming beneficiaries on your bank accounts and retirement, and holding property jointly, that will get you out of probate court. There are ways around it; you just have to seek help first.

As you can see, probate court isn’t something you want to tangle with. Avoiding probate court is something with which an estate planning attorney can help you, as they understand full-well probate court and its disadvantages. 

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October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted by on Oct 9, 2021 in Legal News |

breast cancerBreast Cancer Awareness Month happens every October, and it’s a time to reflect on taking care of you and your loved ones. One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime, so this is a problem that affects everyone. 

Early screenings, regular mammograms, and vigilance can help reduce the chances of breast cancer having severe or even fatal effects. To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what it means for you and your family, visit www.breastcancer.org. 

As far as estate planning goes, breast cancer has an impact on how you should think about your estate plan, especially if the ailment runs in your family.

Illness and Estate Planning 

When you’re thinking about your estate plan, you should think about major life events and if you’re prepared for them. While some of those events, such as the birth of a new baby or a wedding, are cause for celebration, others, like illness and death, are not. In this article, we’ll discuss some important estate planning tools for illness. These tools will help you protect your assets and dignity in the event of the worst-case scenario.

HIPAA Releases

If you’ve ever been involved the medical field at all, either as a patient, worker, or both, you’ve probably heard the word “HIPAA.” HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act. It was drafted in 1996, and it imparted stringent requirements for the confidentiality of your healthcare information. 

A HIPAA release authorizes someone you designate to access your health information. This is essential if that person is going to be interacting with medical providers on your behalf. The authorization for this release will have to be, of course, voluntary and in writing. 

Living Will

A living will is a legal document that acts as a statement of your direct wishes as they pertain to your healthcare. Religious views are a common reason someone would choose a living will. A living will addresses specifications for your care—dos and don’ts—and what you do and do not consent to.

Health Care Proxy 

Another healthcare-related document that you often find in estate plans is a proxy. This medical power of attorney designates someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become too incapacitated to do so. Agents have the power to direct your medical care if need be, and they can also be named as your guardian, if a guardian proceeding were to ever occur. 


POLST stands for a “Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment.” This document, which your healthcare provider will help you complete, is part of  your medical records. It is accessible to your doctors whenever they need it, and it refers to end-of-life medical decisions. This means that it isn’t as broad as a living will or healthcare proxy. A POLST is useful to those who don’t have family to name or want more assurance that their end-of-life wishes will be honored. 

Power of Attorney (Financial)

Much like a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney is a person you designate to handle your financial, legal, and tax matters if you’re unable to do so. Every adult should have this basic document, but it becomes even more important for people who are living with an illness. 

A key question for those suffering from illness is how much control they should give up at the time versus later on, if things worsen. A financial power of attorney can be adjusted, if you feel that your condition merits less (or more) control to be handed over.

Though this list is not exhaustive, it is a way for you to see that, when it comes to illness, taking care of your loved ones requires vigilance and hard work. Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about ways you can legally prepare in the event of an illness like breast cancer. 

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