Memorial Day: Thinking About the Idea of a Legacy

Posted by on May 24, 2022 in Legal News | 0 comments

Memorial Day, this year in 2022, takes place on Monday, May 30th. Almost all of us have a day off of work that day, and we use that time to reflect on the many men and woman of the Armed Forces who have given their lives to protect America and its citizens. The annual holiday is a somber one, and it is very important to understanding the core what makes America what it is today.

The fallen military personnel have left a legacy that will be remembered for years. In this article, we’ll talk about legacies and how they can apply to civilians’ daily lives. 

Estate Planning and the Military 

If you are a military member reading this, you should know that the Armed Forces provides quite a few estate planning services, up to and including the preparation of documents. Military attorneys can help you with functions like power of attorney (both limited and general), wills, healthcare decisions, and more. If you want to start your estate planning process or broaden your current estate plan, you need to talk to a lawyer specific to the military. 

Tools to Leave a Legacy 

Two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan, according to CNBC. This shocking fact means that the majority of the population are leaving decision-making up to the state in the event that they die or become incapacitated. The court system is not prepared to handle this many people, and it is important that that number is reduced. 

To start, here are some basic documents that will help you protect your legacy in the event that you die: 

  • Will. This is a final expression of where you want your assets to go after you die. In a will, you can name beneficiaries who will receive your property after you have passed on. Though a will has to go through probate, it is a good start for most estate plans. Dying intestate without a will is very damaging to your family.
  • Trust. A living trust does not need to go through the probate process, and it allows you to transfer title of your assets immediately to a trustee. At a time of your choosing, such as upon your death, the trustee will transfer the asset to the beneficiary. Like the will, this is another way to preserve your legacy by ensuring your heirs get your property when you die. 
  • Power of Attorney. This trusted individual makes decisions on your behalf when you are too sick to do so yourself. If incapacitated, it is important that you have someone who is able to take care of your financial and healthcare wellbeing in a responsible, effective way.
  • Healthcare Directive. A “Do Not Resuscitate” command is a common one seen in a healthcare directive. This legal document lays out your end of life wishes, i.e. whether you want to be resuscitated or not and if you have any specific cultural or religious requests with regards to your healthcare. Even if you cannot verbalize the wishes because you are too sick, the healthcare directive will ensure doctors and nurses honor them. 
  • Guardianship. Your minor kids will need a guardian in the event something happens to you and your spouse, if applicable. Including guardianship papers in the estate plan by selecting a trusted individual who you know will take care of your kids’ day-to-day needs.

Dealing with Familial Disputes

There is no foolproof way to ward against familial disputes about your will or any of the other legal documents within your estate plan. If someone is disappointed, then they may try to challenge. That being said, there are some tips to keeping the process harmonious and challenge-free. Here are some ways to minimize familial disputes during the estate planning process: 

  • Hire a lawyer. A lawyer is the best way to ensure that your will is filled out correctly and in compliance with the law. He or she has also been around the block a few times and will know how to minimize family fights, as he or she has likely had quite a bit experience with estate planning tiffs. 
  • Talk to your family. This one might seem obvious, but it bears mentioning. If a family member is shocked in a bad way, he or she might react by challenging. But, if you keep everyone updated on what you plan to do with your estate plan, they will know ahead of time. They can air their grievances, and the communication will prevent anyone from being caught off-guard.
  • Prove capacity. One of the most common ways that people challenge a will or trust is by claiming someone was not of sound mind. This means that the person allegedly was unable to make sound decisions and understand the effects of those decisions. If you think a challenge to your mental capacity is possible, talk to your lawyer. He or she may suggest you get a full medical workup to answer the question of mental capacity. This evaluation could prevent your relatives from making a challenge based on capacity. 

Have a safe Memorial Day, and remember to contact an estate planning attorney if you have any questions about how to handle your legacy. 

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Probate Administration FAQs

Posted by on May 17, 2022 in Legal News |

probateIf you’ve ever had to engage with the probate system, then you know it can be capricious and difficult. However, having a baseline knowledge of what to expect from probate court will come in handy and make the process easier. In this article, we will discuss the “Frequently Asked Questions” about the topic of probate administration. 

What is probate? 

Let’s start with the basic question of what probate is. Probate, in very simple terms, is the legal procedure through which your “estate” (AKA, everything you own) goes through when you die. This legal proceeding entails the court distributing your estate to creditors and heirs. 

What happens during probate? 

Every probate is different in some way or another, but most follow a pretty concrete, step-by-step plan. Below are the steps of the probate process: 

  1. An executor or lawyer submits a copy of your death certificate. This starts the probate process. 
  2. Your will, if you have one, needs to be authenticated by the court. The court ensures it has been properly signed in compliance with the law. After the court approves the will, it is “valid.”
  3. The judge will then formally appoint someone (someone that you’ve probable named) as the executor. The executor will oversee the rest of the process and settle your estate. 
  4. The executor will post your bond, if necessary, though that is not always required. Posting a bond will protect beneficiaries against any errors the executor makes during probate. Bonds can be pretty expensive.
  5. This is the biggest task: informing creditors and beneficiaries. They need to know that you have passed so they can collect inheritances (if applicable) and settle your debts. 
  6. An assessment must be completed to determine the value of your estate. Everything you own when you died will be valued, and that number will be your estate’s value. 
  7. Next, the executor will pay debts and fees from your estate. 
  8. Remaining assets, if there are any, will be given to the correct beneficiaries. With this, the probate process will likely be considered over.

What must go through probate court? 

Your will, obviously, has to go through probate court. If you do not have a will (i.e. if you die intestate), then everything you own goes through probate court. Regardless of what your will states, the following always goes through probate court: 

  • Any inheritance where your beneficiary died before you
  • Non-titled property
  • Sole-ownership property
  • Partner-owned investment property 

What does not have to go through probate court? 

There are some assets that avoid probate court. If you plan it right with the help of an attorney, you can help avoid a lot of the probate process, should you have these assets: 

  • Items with a beneficiary named
  • Items inside a living trust
  • Payable on death (POD) items
  • Transfer on death (TOD) items
  • Jointly titled property with Survivor’s Rights 

How much does probate cost? 

The cost varies depending on where you live and how large the estate is. Court filing fees generally cost $300-$400. Attorneys’ fees vary between 3% and 5% of the value of the estate, but, again, that depends on the lawyer. 

I’m confused. What now? 

It is very understandable if you are confused by the probate process, and we have only scratched the surface of all there is to know about it. If you are confused, contact an estate planning attorney to help walk you through it. He or she will be able to guide you through this process (or avoid it), reducing stress on you and your family

Hopefully, this article has helped shed a little light on the often-complicated process of probate court. The grieving process is not easy on its own, and probate often makes things even more stressful, hence why getting a lawyer is a better idea than doing it alone. 

Questions on probate? Contact WFP Law. 

 

 

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Estate Planning for Moms

Posted by on May 3, 2022 in Legal News |

mothers dayMother’s Day is coming up soon, and the holiday, as with every year, is a chance to show the women in your lives how much you appreciate them. With Mother’s Day in mind, let’s look at some important estate planning tools that will benefit mothers especially. 

Considerations 

When you’re estate planning, your first consideration should be your family. If you have kids, how will they be taken care of after you die? Will they receive your assets? Who will be their guardian? The conversation surrounding estate planning isn’t always easy. After all, it starts with the question of illness, incapacitation, and/or death. However difficult, it is still a conversation you have to have. And, if you haven’t started yet, do it as soon as possible. 

Your Kids 

As a mom, your kids are your number-one priority (sorry, spouses). Luckily, there are plenty of tools in estate planning that allow you to keep your kids safe, even after you die. The questions of what will happen to your assets and who will become any minor children’s guardian(s) are both paramount in estate planning. 

Assets

There are many ways that assets can be transferred when you are estate planning. You want your kids to have what you have after you die, and you can accomplish that through tools like: 

  • A Trust. This three-party fiduciary relationship allows you to skip probate court when transferring your assets to your kids. A trust is relatively easy to set up, and there are many different kids. people might believe that trusts are only for the wealthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These financial tools are useful for everyone. 
  • A Will. At the very least, you should have a will. The last will and testament is a final expression of what you want done with your assets after you die (i.e. transferred to your kids). Note, a will has to go through the probate process. Also, you do not want to “DIY” your will, as that can lead to a lot of expensive problems down the road. Always execute a will under the guidance of a qualified attorney. 

FYI, it is not advised that you name kids as beneficiaries of your lie insurance, as that can turn into a legally complex situation. After all, minors cannot directly receive life insurance proceeds, and the state will have to appoint a legal guardian if you have not done so. This is a lengthy, costly process. You’re better off naming your spouse as a beneficiary, or, if you have grown kids, one of them. 

Guardianship

If you have minor children, you will need to select a guardian for them. As mentioned, it can be a lengthy, costly process for the state to appoint a guardian, and they may not choose who you would choose. When drawing up guardianship paperwork, think carefully about who will best take care of your kids’ day-to-day needs. Talk with your proposed guardian before finalizing anything. 

End-of-Life Wishes

When estate planning, you also need to answer a few questions about what you want done if you are unable to communicate your wishes to doctors and nurses. Do you want to be resuscitated? Do you have any religious views that might require special care? Completing a healthcare directive will allow you to lay out these wishes in advance, making them valid even if you are too incapacitated to communicate them. 

Additionally, appointing a trusted individual to serve as your power of attorney is also a wise option. This person can make decisions on your behalf, again if you’re too sick to do so yourself. Picking a P.O.A. will ensure that end-of-life decisions, both finance- and healthcare-related, are made by someone with your best interests at heart. 

When you’re a mom, you have an enormous amount of responsibility. Don’t think of estate planning as adding to that burden. Instead, think of it as safeguarding you and your family for years to come. Meeting with the right attorney will make this process easier that attempting to do it alone. Contact WFP now: https://wfplaw.com

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Trust Fund FAQs

Posted by on Apr 22, 2022 in Legal News |

Trust funds aren’t just for the rich and famous, though they’re often what people think of when they think of wealth. Anyone can have a trust fund, as these estate planning tools provide a useful, efficient, safe way to transfer assets to heirs. In this article, we will go through the top ten trust fund FAQs and their answers. 

1. What is a Trust Fund? 

In short, a trust fund constitutes an independent legal entity. This entity holds property and assets (land, cash, etc.) for the benefit of a person or organization. Trust funds are often used in estate plans to hold businesses, property, investments, and, of course, money. 

2. Who is a Trust Fund For? 

A trust fund is for anyone you want to give assets to. Less than two percent of the American population has a trust fund, and the median amount in it is $285,000. This does not mean that people will less money cannot have a trust fund. If you want to transfer your assets to a beneficiary, that is enough to look into a trust fund. 

3. What are the Benefits? 

Trust funds have various tax benefits, and they can be an invaluable tool, giving you a lot of control over how your assets get distributed. They remain private, and they distribute cash over time. They cover assets that a will might not be able to, such as retirement plans and life insurance policies. 

4. What are the Disadvantages? 

If you choose a revocable trust, you’ll have more control, but the tax advantages, stamp duty, and estate tax will be far less beneficial. On the flip side, if the trust is irrevocable, you do not have control over the assets that you put into the trust. 

5. How Do I Set One Up? 

You’ll need an attorney to help you decide how you want to set your trust up. They will help you create the trust document, which will need to be signed and notarized, and set up your trust bank account. Then, you will transfer the assets into the trust and name your trustee and beneficiary. 

6. How do Trust Funds Pay Out? 

There are several different ways that a trust fund can pay out. They can pay in a lump sum or percentage, or the fund can make incremental payments over time. The distributions can even be made by the trustee’s assessments. Whatever you decide, you have to include this distribution method when you draw up the trust. 

7. Who Controls the Trust? 

The trustee controls the trust for the beneficiary’s benefit. Sometimes, people choose a bank, lawyer, or financial adviser to serve as trustee, as they know more about investments, money management, and taxes than the average family member. If you have a large trust or one with complicated assets in it, this corporate trustee might be a good idea.

8. What if I Change My Mind?

If the trust is revocable, as the name implies, you can alter it or revoke it at any time. The first step is to remove the assets in the trust. The procedure for trust revocation varies based on where you live. 

9. Are These Funds Taxed? 

Trust beneficiaries have to pay taxes on distributions from the trust. Taxes differ depending on the type of trust, however. 

10. I’m Confused—What Now? 

If you’re reading this guide and find yourself confused, don’t worry. Contact a financial adviser or attorney for questions on how to get this process started. 

This short guide should set you on the right path to understanding what a trust fund is and how it can help your family. Contact a financial or estate planning attorney to learn more.  

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Protecting Your Basket

Posted by on Apr 15, 2022 in Legal News |

Easter is here, and, even if you don’t celebrate, you’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t put your eggs all in one basket” before. This saying is used to caution people against putting all their effort, time, and money into one thing. For example, if you’re starting a business, you might hear that phrase as a way to warn you against relying too much on that endeavor as your sole source of income. 

As estate planners, we believe that you can put all your eggs in one basket, as long as you protect the basket. Whether it’s building a new house, starting a new business, or getting married, going for broke is fine, as long as you have the necessary precautions in place.

Ways to Protect Your Business

Estate planning for businesses is a common theme in this legal field. Businesses are peoples’ prides and joys, and they want to ensure that the company is protected long after they are gone. Here are some estate planning tips for businesses that you may or may not have heard of: 

  • Basic Will/Estate Plan. You always want to start with this. You should have your own personal will and estate plan, including important documents like power of attorney(s), before you begin planning for your business. After all, you are the owner. 
  • Tax Efficiencies. If you hire an estate planning attorney, chances are, as long as that attorney is competent, you’re going to be able to legally save some money on your taxes. That’s another reason why business estate planning is so important—you can cut your tax burden down if you do it properly. 
  • Family-Owned Issues. If your business is family-owned, you will want to sort out any inheritance or takeover issues that are present before you draft the estate plan. 
  • Succession Plan. What do you want to happen to your business after you pass away? Drafting a succession plan, which should include all of the necessary information about your business and a detailed plan for what will happen when you’re gone, provides an outline for people to follow when determining the fate of your company. You can also draft a buy-sell agreement or a different document, depending on what you want to happen. 
  • Insurance. You should purchase life and disability insurance as a failsafe. That could provide you with the monetary resources you need to keep your company afloat if something happens to you. 

Marriage Considerations 

When you get married, make sure you update your estate plan to include your new spouse as a beneficiary. If you and your spouse want children, the birth of these children will also require an estate plan update. The same goes for the end of the marriage—if the nuptials end badly, you’ll want to make sure your estate plan does not include your ex. When it comes to marriage, be prepared either way. 

Estate Planning for Your Home 

Your home is likely one of the most important things in your life. Estate planning can help minimize the tax burden on your home, and there are several different options for transfer, if you want to pass your home down. These options include (but are not limited to): 

  • Co-Ownership. You can put your heirs as your co-owners on the current deed, though this simplistic approach does not work for everyone. 
  • Will. Of course, you can also pass down your home using a will. Just note that this document will have to go through the probate process in order to effectuate the transfer.
  • Trusts. Revocable trusts, as well as qualified personal residence trusts, are two options for passing your home down that do not require going through probate court. 
  • Transfer on Death. This “TOD” deed is not offered in Florida. But, if your family owns property in other states, this could be a quick, private option for home transfer. 
  • Selling. If there is no one who wants your home, you could sell it and rent a house later in your life, though there are a lot of factors (bills, health, lifestyle, taxes, ad maintenance) that factor into whether this option will work for you. 

Essentially, you should follow your dreams, but you shouldn’t rush headlong into them without some sort of estate plan. Contact a WFP attorney to discuss ways to be daring and bold while also being reasonably cautious.

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