Merry Christmakwanzakah: Everyone’s Included—Like Your Estate Plan Should Be

Posted by on Dec 21, 2017 in 529 Plan, estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

Merry Christmakwanzakah: Everyone’s Included—Like Your Estate Plan Should Be

One of the best parts about the holiday season is the many, many different celebrations that take place. From Christmas to Kwanza to Hanukkah, the holidays are a time for everyone to see their family and engage in celebrations. And, while you’re with your loved ones, it’s time to think about one of the best gifts you can get them—an estate plan that includes everyone.

Sure, estate planning doesn’t sound quite as exciting as a new Xbox or a car, but, in the long run, it ends up being even more valuable (trust us). Estate planning is the process by which your assets, debts, and estate are assigned and distributed after your death.

The Toolkit

Think of your estate plan as a legal toolkit. If you open the kit, you will see many different documents, all of which pertain to a different aspect of your life. However, these tools all have the same goal: avoiding probate.

Probate court is what happens if you do not have an estate plan. The court takes charge of your estate, dividing up assets and debts and winding down the estate in a way that is time-consuming and difficult for your family. A mere last will and testament is not enough. There are many different documents in an estate plan. Listed below are a few of the main ones.

What’s in your legal toolbox?

  • Power of Attorney. Your power of attorney is a trusted individual who you pick to manage your financial and healthcare decisions if you are sick or incapacitated to the point where you cannot make these decisions yourself. We all have that relative who we wouldn’t trust to babysit a rock, let alone make life-changing choices for others. By picking your POA yourself, you ensure that you are choosing someone who is competent and responsible.
  • Living Will. Also known as an advance healthcare directive, a living will specifies what a person wants to have happen in the event of certain medical emergencies. This way, if you can’t tell a doctor or hospital yourself what you want, your directive will have the plan laid out for you.
  • Living Trust. A trust is a three-party relationship. This relationship is of a fiduciary nature. The first party, known as a trustor, confers assets or property to a second party, the trustee, for the benefit of a third party, the beneficiary. The living trust allows for this fiduciary relationship to take place upon your death, when your trustee confers to your beneficiary the property with no probate court acting as middleman.
  • 529 Plan. This 529 plan is for people who have kids who are going off to college—if not now, then in the future. The 529 allows you to set aside funds for your kid’s college funds. You may also know a 529 as a “qualified tuition plan.”
  • TOD Sheets. TOD—Transfer on Death—sheets do just that: upon your death, property is transferred in the form of a deed. Morbid though the name is, this legal tool is really helpful and operable in many states.

Estate planning also needs to include everyone you want. When you schedule a consultation, make sure that you have a thorough discussion about those you want to include. Don’t forget that you can—and should—make updates and changes to your plan whenever necessary. The above legal tools are just some of what can help you wrap up your estate quickly and efficiently when the time comes.

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Be Thankful and Be Careful

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in estate planning, Wills |

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That title might sound a little ominous, but it’s not, we promise. Thanksgiving is coming up and the time-honored tradition is to go around the table with everyone saying what they are grateful for. However, don’t just be thankful this season: be careful as well.

You may have an estate plan already, but did you know that you should continuously review and update it? It’s not just about documenting it and slamming the drawer shut. You need to update your estate plan and keep it current for it to be most effective. In this article, we will discuss the need for updates, as well as the misconceptions surrounding self-written and online wills.

Keeping it Current

Your Turkey Day list of what you’re grateful for probably changes yearly based on what happened in the past 365 days. Similarly, your estate plan can change too, depending on changes in your life (marriage being the main one) or family. While you may think, “Oh, I’ll get to it eventually,” regarding changes to your estate plan, that’s not always the case. Forgetting to update and review your estate plan can be disastrous.

For example, if you get married and do not update your estate plan before passing on, your plan will not reflect the changes in finances and property that come from marriage. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t think you need to make any changes to your estate plan, review it ASAP, just to be sure.

Online and Self-Written Wills

There are different services that allow you to write an online and/or self-written will. These services promise the convenience of being able to sit at home on your laptop and just get it done inexpensively. That sounds nice, but, unfortunately, these services often don’t give you a finished product that includes everything you may want your family to have. DIY-willmaking often skips important steps that would otherwise allow you to avoid probate. If you want to do anything complex with your will, your self-written document will likely not contain the proper language, particularly surrounding land (land-based contracts must be very specific in their phrasing). Your relatives might end up having to go to court and spend thousands to contest your will and figure out what it means.

Forgetting simple things is easy on self-written wills because, to someone without legal training, the legal language is not easy to get right. Even if your relatives don’t contest the will, courts won’t follow the provisions if they are not properly written, meaning that your self-written or online will has all the effect of a notarized shopping list.

Keeping an updated, regularly-reviewed estate plan is really the only way to properly and effectively prepare for your future and the future of your family. Self-written and online wills generally miss the important elements, so scheduling an appointment to have it done properly by lawyers is the best way to ensure that you’re not only thankful this Thanksgiving: you’re careful, too.

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Protecting Your Children Is Protecting Your Legacy

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in 529 Plan, Trusts, Wills |

Child safety and protection is a major concern this month, with officials and teachers giving many different tips on keeping your kids safe from all types of dangers. However, one piece of protection advice you may not have heard is estate planning.

Estate planning allows you to designate where you want your property to go after you pass on. There are many different estate planning tools that benefit your children because, as stated in our title, protecting your children is protecting your legacy. In this article, we will discuss these major legal devices that will protect your children’s inheritance and honor your wishes.

Wills, Trusts, and 529 Plans

There are many different ways in which you can leave your property to your children, but wills, trust, and 529 plans are three of the major ones. Here is a brief overview of each:

· Wills. A will is a legal document by which someone designates how they want their property to be distributed after they die. Wills also contain instructions as to who will execute the requests in the will (that person is known as the executor). Note that wills do NOT get you out of probate court, and just having a will is insufficient.

· Trusts. These are more complicated than wills, and they take more time to manage and create. Trusts do ensure that you won’t wind up in probate court, dealing with that expensive and time-consuming nightmare. Trusts are fiduciary agreements. The trustor gives a trustee the right to hold the trustor’s property or assets for a third party’s benefit. This third party is known as the beneficiary. Trusts take effect as soon as you create them, whereas wills take effect after you die.

A living trust is revocable, meaning that the trustor can make changes and modifications as they so choose. This is beneficial, as situations and circumstances tend to change as time passes. An irrevocable trust, by contrast, means that it cannot be altered without the beneficiary’s permission.

· 529 Plans. A 529 plan is an excellent way to invest in your child’s education. These plans allow you to set aside money for your child’s college education. The name 529 comes from § 529 of the IRS Code. 529 plans have been around since the mid-1990s. There are special tax benefits that come along with this type of plan and, usually, your child’s choice of school does not matter in order for them to get the 529.

There are usually two types: prepaid and savings. Prepaid plans allow you to pre-pay all or some of the cost of college education. Savings plans work like a 401k; you invest your

contributions, and the account varies based on the performance of the investment option you chose (mutual funds or something else).

Protecting your children by making sure that you have a plan for your property after you die might not be broadcasted among the many child safety tips, but it is certainly important. By scheduling an estate planning consultation, you can ensure that you are preserving the best

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Are You Digging Your Own Financial Grave?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

When you think of October, you might think of witches, warlocks, pumpkins, and cooler weather. However, what you may not know is that October is also Financial Planning Month, during which you can make a commitment to getting your affairs in order and tidying up your finances.

You can dig your own financial grave by doing nothing. You don’t even have to pick up your metaphorical shovel. Simply sit back and make no estate plan, and you will have dug your own financial grave, along with your family’s. In this article, we’ll talk about how you can commit to financial peace this October.

Estate Planning: The Horror Movie Antidote

The real monsters are taxes, creditors, and the government, and they all are lurking at probate court. If you die without an estate plan, your case will go to probate court. Probate will pay off your creditors and saddle your family with estate taxes in the event that they distribute your property to them. The process is lengthy, time-consuming, and expensive. October may be the month for scary surprises, but let’s avoid the unwelcome surprise that is your family having to go to probate court.

Estate planning will safeguard you against the horrors of probate court. Here is a brief overview of estate planning:

What to Know about Estate Planning

An estate plan allows you to decide where your assets will be distributed. It also gives directives on how to manage your care and finances if you are incapacitated. Here are the main documents included in an estate plan (though by no means is this list exhaustive).

  • A living will. If you become incapacitated, chances are you don’t want the state to make your decisions for you. The government might not make the right choice when it comes to pulling the plug or not. A living will gives the hospital healthcare directives and information on your care that doctors can follow. Even if you are unable to give these directions yourself, the living will tells them how to manage your care.
  • A financial power of attorney. If incapacitated, you will also want to ensure that your finances are managed appropriately. Appointing a financial power of attorney means you can pick someone you trust and know is responsible to be in charge of your money when you are unable to do so.
  • A power of attorney for healthcare. A power of attorney for healthcare will also help you make healthcare decisions when you are unable. If your living will doesn’t cover something, this person (who you also pick), will be assist in making these decisions.

While estate planning isn’t the most Halloween-ish topic to discuss, it certainly is spooky to think about what happens if you don’t have a plan. Hopefully, this brief overview helped you to get a sense of what estate planning is and the many benefits that come with it.

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Estate Planning Is A Women’s Issue

Posted by on Sep 25, 2017 in estate planning, Probate, Wills |

            As Beyoncé told us, girls run the world! And Business Women’s Day is one of several holidays reminding us of that fact. Women have come a long way in the workforce. In 1950, one in three women were part of the labor force. By 2016, that statistic was three out of five, and, today in 2017, even more gains have been made in women’s leadership. While we still have some ways to go to make sure that the workforce is equal, particularly for women of color, there have been a lot of improvements. We don’t want to squander what our foremothers gave us, and estate planning is a women’s issue because it allows us to protect our hard-won assets.

Estate Planning and Women

To understand why estate planning is a women’s issue, it’s important to realize how little of an “estate” women were historically “allowed” to have. Even just up until forty years ago, women were still not given the abilities men had to control their own money. It wasn’t until 1969 that a U.S. court definitively ruled that labor jobs couldn’t not only be given to men, and firing women from factory work simply because of their gender was illegal.

Estate planning allows you to direct where your assets will go and how your healthcare decisions, financial choices, and other important directives are to be made in the event of incapacitation or death.

Here are some of the ways in which estate planning benefits women:

  • Agency and Control

Things happen, and you want to be able to keep your property and assets where you want them, without being forced into a decision that would cause a loss of property. Estate planning gives you agency over your healthcare choices and financial decisions. There is no better way to be secure that what you’ve worked hard for won’t be for nothing.

  • Peace of Mind

In the event of incapacity or death, the documents contained in an estate plan will give you a trusted person to make decisions for you. Your living will also contains directives that will tell the hospital and other personnel how to manage your care.

  • Longevity

If you want, you can ensure that your money and property are invested or put into a trust fund that will keep them around for a long time to benefit your daughters and granddaughters.

Estate planning is a women’s issue, and, this September, make sure that you retain control over your assets and finances by creating an estate plan.

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Plan For A Bright Future

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in estate planning, Trusts, Wills |

back to school, conceptual, creativity

It’ll be time to go back to school soon, and, while you’re buying pencils, notepads, and books, you should also consider giving your children something more long-lasting than a shopping cart full of school supplies: a trust fund.

What is a Trust Fund?

A trust fund is a legal construct that holds property (money, land, possessions, etc.) for another person. The state legislature controls the trust, and some states allow for perpetual trusts, which last forever. There is often a “spendthrift” clause in the trust that prevents the grantor from using the fund’s money for their own gain.

There are three main parties to know when it comes to trust funds: the grantor, grantee, and trustee. The grantor establishes and donates the property to the fund. The grantee is the beneficiary of the fund, and the trustee is in charge of managing it.

Aren’t They Just for Rich People?

Trust funds have been mischaracterized. People think of the “trust fund babies” from movies: the blond, rich kids who always end up being the villain. However, kids who receive trust funds do not often fit this stereotype, and the benefits of trust funds don’t include being able to stick it to the other kids at a summer camp in an ‘80s movie. There are a lot of important advantages to trust funds that help kids have a bright future.

The Benefits of Trust Funds

Trust funds hold property until you feel that your child is ready to handle the responsibility. As you can imagine, teenagers and college kids aren’t exactly paragons of financial stability. By putting money away in a trust fund, parents know that their kids won’t end up in dire straits if worst comes to worst.

Trust funds have tax benefits as well, particularly when it comes to estate tax savings. They also protect assets from the beneficiaries themselves, if you don’t feel that they are responsible. For example, you can leave the profits of your business to your children, without the children being able to control the business. Trust funds are also great options for grandparents seeking to help their grandchildren pay for their education or other expenses, long after the grandparents are gone.

There are many different types of trusts, all of which have different specifications, but, as you can see, the phrase “trust fund baby” is misleading. They’re not just for rich people. They’re for anybody who wants to plan for a bright future for their children or grandchildren.

If you would like more information on how Wild, Felice and Partners, P.A can help with protecting your asset, providing plan for your family and building your estate plan,  please call 954-944-2855 or visit us today at www.WFPLaw.com.

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