Shop Smartly on Black Friday

Posted by on Nov 25, 2022 in Legal News |

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday, and a lot of people love to shop on that quasi-holiday, as stores across the country have great sales. We’ve all seen the footage from Black Friday—the fights, stampedes, and general bad behavior. In the face of this greed, you might wonder if loving to shop and obtain assets is wrong. 

It’s not, though stampeding someone to get a brand-new coffeemaker on Black Friday certainly is. There’s nothing wrong with working hard to purchase something you really want. And, when you get the item you want, you should have the tools to protect it. Asset protection is a series of techniques that legally insulates assets from creditors and civil judgments. 

Unlike Black Friday stampeders, asset protection follows the law to a T. In this article, we’ll talk about different asset protection tools and how they can benefit you. 

Who Is Asset Protection For? 

Certain types of people, such as business owners and professionals, are at a higher risk of incurring a lawsuit than others. For example, dentists face a higher number of lawsuits than everyone else, and 39% of these suits are successful (Bureau of Justice). Of those awards, 21% are over $250,000 (the average is $53,000, says the BoJ). 

Right or wrong, America is a litigious society. That is why the field of asset protection has popped up as a semi-defense to these creditors seeking judgments. Here are some tools to note when it comes to protecting your assets. 

Land Trust

In Florida, a land trust separates equitable ownership and legal title of a parcel of land. The person who establishes the trust is the beneficiary, and they are the ones who contribute or borrow money to buy the property (i.e. the economic owner). Land trusts provide you with privacy of ownership of this real property, and they are a great asset protection shield. 

Business Structures 

Some business structures, such as a corporation or LLC, provide asset protection from creditors. An LLC in particular is the most popular tool for holding real estate. 

Corporation

Corporations can help protect assets, as they work as a limited liability tool for officers, directors, and shareholders. This business structure can protect your assets from those coming to collect corporate debts or other claims. It can even serve, sometimes, in the right conditions, as a barrier to a breach of contract judgment (something many business owners experience).

LLC

An LLC is not only a fantastic way to hold real estate; it also is a great protection tool for stock market investment portfolios. A Limited Liability Company has the same asset protection benefits that a limited partnership does. A creditor cannot take your interest in an LLC, and a judgment usually cannot take your personal assets in the event of a business dispute. 

Equity Stripping 

Equity stripping reduces the amount of equity you hold in a property, making it unattractive to creditors. Unfortunately, this tactic, which became widespread in the 2000s, has also been used by predatory lenders who want to take advantage of homeowners who are facing foreclosure. Though equity stripping can be successful, it does not always work. Tax liens, for example, will always trump whatever lien you levy against your property, wrecking chances you have at protecting your assets.

Offshore Trust 

This conventional trust is formed under the laws of an overseas (offshore) jurisdiction. This estate planning tool, essentially, grants an individual some jurisdiction outside of America. The individual’s assets are transferred overseas, where they are generally placed under the supervision of estate plan/financial managers. An offshore trust is asset-protective, but it is expensive to set up, generally costing between $12,000 and $25,000. 

As you can see, there are multiple ways to protect your home, some of which are not included on this list. Talk to an estate planning attorney today if you feel that asset protection fits your financial situation.

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It’s Almost Thanksgiving: What Are You Thankful For?

Posted by on Nov 23, 2022 in Legal News |

Well, we can tell you right now what we’re thankful for: being experts at drafting estate plans. Thanksgiving is around the corner, and, just from the name, we all know that this holiday is a season to be grateful for what you have. This year, Thanksgiving (AKA Turkey Day) falls on Thursday, November 24th.

This annual national holiday celebrates the “harvest” and blessings of the past year. Most Americans consider their holiday to be based on a harvest feast in 1621 that was shared between the Wampanoag Native Americans and the English colonists (Pilgrims). Thanksgiving also takes place in Canada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, and Grenada, and there are similar festivals in Japan and Germany, too.

If you think of your assets as a Thanksgiving dinner, what’s the “turkey”? Chances are, your home is your “main course,” as, if you own your home, it is probably the most expensive, largest asset you have. In this article, we’ll talk about different ways you can protect your abode through estate planning. 

Home Protection Strategies

You’ll want to contact an estate planning attorney to discuss these home protection strategies. Deciding what you want to do with your home is a financial, emotional, and logistical decision that you’ll want to talk to your family about before going ahead. 

Some of the main options for home transfer include: 

  • Co-Ownership
  • A Will
  • Revocable Trust
  • Qualified Personal Residence Trust 
  • Through A Sale 

Below, we’ll go through each tool individually. 

Co-Ownership

This is a pretty simple method. A lot of people put their kids as co-owners on their house deed. If the deed lists another person as a joint tenant, that joint tenant can become a co-owner when the deed is changed. When the original owner dies, the child can automatically take ownership of the house. Note: you’ll have to think about taxation when considering this approach.

A Will

Of course, you can always use a will to pass your home to someone. The owner can put the home as an asset in the will, though you will still have to pass through probate. Probate can be time-consuming and expensive, and there are privacy concerns, as wills are, generally, public documents. 

Revocable Trust

This legal structure allows the trustee or grantor to retain control over the assets during their lifetime. They can specify when and how their assets are passed to beneficiaries. The house can be placed into this trust, and, upon death of the creator, the assets will be quickly, private distributed with no need to go through probate. The homeowner will have control or use of their home throughout their lifetime, and efficient distribution will occur upon their death. 

Qualified Personal Residence Trust 

A QPRT, as it’s known, is a way to move a primary/vacation residence out of your estate using a reduced gift tax cost. The home is transferred to the trust right away, though the owner retains the right to live there during the QPRT term. They are still, during this term, responsible for all aspects of ownership. The QPRT will have an end date, upon which the home will transfer to a beneficiary. 

Note: a transfer on death deed is permitted in some states, but Florida does not permit this. In Florida, there has been no adoption of the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act. 

Through A Sale

Of course, you can always sell the home to transfer it. If you don’t think your kids will want your home, consider selling it and, later in life, renting a place to live. Maintenance, lifestyle, and health are all factors in whether this will work for you, and you’ll also want to consider the tax impacts of your decision. 

Your home is likely your largest, most expensive asset, and you will want to make sure that you distribute or dispose of it in the way that works for you. If need be, contact an estate planning attorney to talk about transferring your home, and have a safe, happy Thanksgiving! 

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Thoughts For Veterans’ Day

Posted by on Nov 11, 2022 in Legal News |

This Friday, November 11th, we’ll celebrate a holiday that calls on us to remember our veterans and what they have sacrificed to keep us safe. Veterans’ Day has been observed for sixty-eight years, and it is a federal holiday, which means a lot of people have the day off to reflect. 

While you’re reflecting, consider focusing on what truly matters in life: your family. Estate planning can be an excellent way to protect your family after you pass on. Estate planning, in a nutshell, is the process of arranging and anticipating, during your life, for the management and disposal of your estate when you pass away. It can be a gloomy topic, but we choose to look at estate planning as a celebration of life and a way for your legacy to live on. 

Protective Estate Planning 

The thing about estate planning is that it doesn’t work if you drag your feet. If you’ve been thinking about getting an estate plan but haven’t done it yet, consider this your wakeup call to meet with an attorney. There are five main components to an estate plan, though there are a lot more tools you can use besides these main five. 

Here are the five main components of a solid estate plan: 

  • Wills And Trusts. Though they’re in the same section in this article, wills and trusts are two different things. A living trust is a legal document that is established during your lifetime. It transfers assets to a trustee to be distributed upon death to your beneficiary. A trust bypasses probate court, which makes it an attractive option. Wills, on the other hand, are last expressions of your final wishes for your assets. They go into effect after you die, and they must pass through probate court.
  • Medical Or Healthcare Power of Attorney. This power of attorney is a trusted individual who you appoint to make your financial or healthcare decisions if you are too incapacitated to do so. This PoA acts on your behalf and having such a designation can be very important for your wellbeing. 
  • Durable Power of Attorney. A PoA is a written document that designates another person as your agent to make decisions on your behalf. The Durable Power of Attorney covers a wide range of business and legal matters. 
  • Living Wills/Advance Directives. Living wills/advance directives are legal documents that specify the medical treatments you would or wouldn’t want to be used to remain alive in the event of a medical emergency. It can also detail your decisions on pain management and organ donation. As you can imagine, this document is very personal to the creator. 
  • Beneficiary Designations. A beneficiary designation lets you transfer assets to individuals no matter the terms of your will. These designations are usually used when a retirement account, life insurance policy, or financial account are established. Your beneficiary gets the proceeds of the account when you die.

Asset Protection vs. Estate Planning 

Estate planning is an excellent way to manage your affairs and ensure things are in order when you die. Estate planning is different from, though no less important than, asset protection. 

Asset protection consists of a body of legal techniques, which abide by the law, that protect the assets of individuals and entities from judgments and creditor claims. Asset protection planning insulates assets from creditor claims without committing tax evasion or perjury. Insurance, transferring assets, retitling assets, creating a trust, and more are all legal, useful ways to insulate your property and money from civil judgments. 

Both estate planning and asset protection are necessary for those who want to ensure that their assets are distributed in the best way possible. Contact a WFP estate planning attorney today to learn more. 

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Preparing for The Scary Moments In Life

Posted by on Oct 22, 2022 in Legal News |

halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and it seems as though everywhere you look, there are fall festivals, pumpkins, scary costumes, and stores full of festive décor. For a lot of us, it is our favorite time of the year. However, horror movies and haunted houses are one thing—the real scary moments in life are another. 

Estate planning can help you through life’s scariest moments, such as illness and injury, death, divorce, and even happy-scary times like marriage, new births, and other major changes. This article will walk you through how estate planning can help you prepare for huge events in your life.

Illness and Injury

Illness and injury are perhaps the two most common items on this list of life changes, and that’s a shame, as neither are very pleasant. Luckily, estate planning can help you through these tough periods of your life, even if you’re not well enough to handle them yourself. Here are some legal tools that can aid you if you’re sick or injured:

  • Financial Power of Attorney. This trusted individual is someone that you handpick and appoint to manage your financial affairs in the event that you’re too incapacitated to do so yourself. 
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney. Much like the financial power of attorney, this person is someone you trust with decision-making. Except, instead of financial decisions, your healthcare PoA helps you with healthcare-related issues, talking to doctors, nurses, long-term-care facilities, and more on your behalf. 
  • Healthcare Directive. A healthcare directive communicates your wishes to doctors and nurses in the event that you’re too sick to do so yourself. This is an intensely personal document, often consisting of DNR orders, religious views and preferences, and similar requests. 

Death

Alas, death comes for us all—as the old saying goes, death and taxes are the two unavoidable burdens in life. One of estate planning’s primary goals is to distribute assets responsibly after you die, and having documents like a last will and testament can help you do so.

A last will and testament is a final expression of your will. This legal document appoints an executor and lets the court know where your assets should be distributed and to whom. A trust, on the other hand, does not have to go through the probate process, as it is an immediate transfer of property title to a trustee for the benefit of a beneficiary. 

Whichever legal document you choose, you don’t want to DIY it. Hire an attorney to draft your estate plan in order to ensure no technicalities are missed and all documents comply with the law.

Divorce and Marriage

When you get divorced, you will want to immediately revise your estate plan. You won’t want your ex-spouse listed as a beneficiary on any legal documents and changing that in your plan is a must-do. On the reverse side, the same goes for marriage. You’ll want, in this case, to add your spouse into your estate plan wherever applicable. Both of these major life events require you to take a second look at your estate plan. 

New Births 

When new members are added to the family, that is a cause for celebration. It is also a cause to call up your estate planning attorney. A new birth might mean a new heir, and you don’t want him or her to feel left out in your will.

The rule of thumb is that you should update your estate plan every three to five years or after a major life change like the ones listed above. Life can throw curveballs at you, but estate planning will help you keep your eye on the ball. Call WFP to draft your estate plan today. 

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Cryptic Crypto? Crypto Assets Shouldn’t Be A Mystery

Posted by on Oct 17, 2022 in Legal News |

crypto currency

Cryptocurrency has really taken off in the past ten years, and coins like Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and many, many more majors, minors, and exotics have become mainstream as a form of digital currency. Crypto assets are assets, and that means that they have a purpose and a place in your estate plan, if you own them. In this guide, we’ll talk about the basics of cryptocurrency in estate planning. 

Legal Developments

Cryptocurrency is far newer than, say, money or stocks. These assets have been around for centuries, and land and property have been around for even longer. Crypto, by comparison, is very, very new. This means that crypto laws, protocol, and regulations are changing every day, and this changing nature is why it is important to contact an attorney to handle your digital asset affairs. A licensed attorney will ensure that you are properly following the law and not missing anything unintentionally that could get you in trouble later. 

There are a lot of advantages to crypto, though the digital coins come with their downsides, too. Crypto can offer protection from inflation, and it is decentralized, self-governed, and private. Currency exchanges are easy to conduct and, depending on what you are buying, crypto coins are often the most cost-effective way to transact and conduct business. This guide will walk you through some of the basics of estate planning and cryptocurrency. 

Providing Access

One of the most important things to consider when you are estate planning with crypto is to ensure that your executor (the person distributing your assets after you die in accordance with your will and other documents) knows what crypto assets you hold and how to access them. Forbes released a report recently that said that accessing crypto is the “most difficult component” to this entire process.

Investors need passwords, access codes, digital keys, and more to access their assets. They are notoriously private about these personal codes, but that privacy should not be overdone; otherwise, you risk losing everything when you die, your tokens going permanently un-invested and unused.

Writing down, on paper, your crypto keys, passwords, and all the information about how to access your tokens in a must-do. Explain the type of assets, access controls, and key locations for this digital currency. PINs, multi-signature, passphrases, time-lock requirements, and more should all go on this document. When you’re done, make copies. Store these papers in a lockbox at your bank or somewhere equally as secure.

What is Recommended? 

Crypto experts in this emerging field have come up with some recommendations for estate planning with digital assets. These include: 

  • Making two copies 
  • Storing the copies in separate secure locations 
  • Keeping your list updated frequently 

Many states have enacted laws that allow executors to manage crypto and other digital assets in the same way (or similar to, at least) that traditional assets are managed. This can help executors, who often feel the urge to sell off crypto quickly. Executors won’t feel as much backlash from heirs if currency values drop, as they won’t have sold the coins.

But again, all of this is moot unless crypto keys and other access instructions are given. A court order is impotent if you cannot access the digital assets. If you do not leave clear instructions for your executor to access your keys, you could be setting your heirs up for legal ramifications, such as a lawsuit. 

This new field might be a little confusing to you, as laws change every day. Contact an attorney to learn more about how you can protect this asset in your estate plan. 

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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted by on Oct 12, 2022 in Legal News |

In addition to being “Spooky Season,” we mustn’t forget that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. The fight against breast cancer is still ongoing all around the world, and research is ongoing every day to find new treatments and, hopefully, a cure for this illness. Around 288,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed by the end of 2022, according to the American Cancer Society. Sadly, in 2022, around 43,250 women will, unfortunately, die from this life-threatening disease. 

Around one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, underscoring the importance of getting regular mammograms to stay ahead of the disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us to think about the people we love. Luckily, there are legal tools to help us do just that. 

Estate Planning and Illness

Estate planning is very important, especially if you have a chronic or acute illness. Estate planning allows you to protect your assets and transfer them to designated heirs after you die. But, that aspect is just one small part of this expansive legal field. There are also useful tools and documents that can help you if you are incapacitated and/or sick. Here are three main ones below, but this list is far from extensive. 

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a trusted individual (whether part of your family or not) who you appoint to manage your financial and/or healthcare affairs in the event that you become too incapacitated to do so yourself. Your power of attorney will make key decisions relating to your healthcare, and they will communicate with doctors, nurses, banks, and whoever else in order to keep your affairs in order. 

Some traits of a good power of attorney include: 

  • Understanding. Your power of attorney should understand what their duties are and how to execute them. He or she should know when to ask for help when necessary. You want a PoA who knows what they don’t know.
  • Communicative. You want a power of attorney who can communicate and collaborate constructively and effectively with lawyers, accountants, medical staff, and others. If your “trusted individual” is notoriously belligerent or hard to deal with, they won’t be the best choice. 
  • Trustworthy. You’re entrusting this person with major life decisions. You want to know that they have your best interests at heart at all times. 
  • Logistics. You’ll want a power of attorney who lives nearby or, at least, who is able to be a constructive presence when needed. 

Healthcare Directive

Much like a power of attorney, your healthcare directive comes into effect when you are too incapacitated to voice your own wishes yourself. That said, this directive is its own document, far separate from a PoA document. The directive outlines your wishes to doctors and nurses when you’re not able to tell them these on your own. Examples of wishes can include Do-Not-Resuscitate instructions, religious views, and other personal, important orders. 

Guardianship

If you have minor kids, you do not want to forget to include guardianship papers in your estate plan. If you die, who will take over your parenting duties? Your proposed guardian should, first of all, be on-board with their appointment. They should be someone you trust, who can take care of your kids’ day to day needs and nurture them. 

The Main Goals 

The main goals of estate planning include minimizing expenses legally, distributing assets responsibly, and maintaining control while living. It is this third goal to which this article references: the ability to keep as much control as you can over your life, even if ill. 

Though we never want to think of the worst-case scenario, Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us that we have to keep our estate plans in place in order to ensure that, in the event of illness, our loved ones are protected. Contact an estate-planning attorney today to help you set up your plan.

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