What is lifetime planning? According to a March 2017 survey by Caring.com, six out of ten Americans have no will or any other kind of estate planning. Many said they’d get around to it, eventually. When they’re old. (The survey did find that the elderly are much more likely to have some plan in place.) It’s all too clear that most of us think “estate planning” is a euphemism for “deathtime” planning. Indeed, in the Caring.com survey, one-third said that they didn’t need an estate plan because they didn’t have any assets to give someone when they’d died.

However, comprehensive estate planning isn’t just deathtime planning. It’s lifetime planning, too. It’s about ensuring that your medical and financial decisions can be made by someone that you trust. Lifetime planning can help you address potential tax liabilities, find you benefit programs you may eligible for, and protect your family from costly guardianship or conservatorship court. It can make sure that a trusted party looks after and protects your affairs, if and when you’re not able to.

Lifetime Planning Tools

As estate planners, we have an arsenal of lifetime planning tools to benefit clients, and we can custom-tailor such plans to an individual’s needs. Here are a couple of the most common (and necessary) lifetime planning tools you should discuss with us.

Revocable living trusts

When people hear the word “trust,” they may think of “trust fund babies” or think that trusts are something only for the super-rich.

However, a trust is simply a legal tool that can help almost anyone with property – not just the wealthy. In a trust, assets you own are re-titled and transferred into the trust. When this happens, technically, you no longer own your real estate, stocks, bonds and similar properties. Instead, the trust owns them all. But you still control everything in the trust: You can buy and sell these assets as if they were still in your name. In fact, revocable living trusts don’t even change your income taxes while you’re alive. You continue to file your tax returns as you always have, making them very easy to administer while you’re alive. And as the creator, or settlor of the trust, you can continue to make changes to the trust as long you’re competent to do so.

Once you die, the trust becomes irrevocable, meaning its terms can’t generally be changed. At this point, your chosen successor trustee distributes assets to beneficiaries (the people, such as your spouse, children, a church, or other charity, you named to inherit from you). In many respects, the role of the trustee is similar to that of the executor of a will. But, a trustee of a fully funded trust doesn’t have to go through the public and expensive probate process. Trusts are private unlike wills, which can also provide valuable privacy to your family.

Durable power of attorney

Durable powers of attorney come in two forms. With a standard durable power of attorney, a person is legally designated to act on your behalf, in the ways specified in the document. You can make the durable power of attorney broad in scope or quite limited, and it becomes active as soon as you sign it. Under this document, the person may sign checks for you, enter contracts on your behalf, even buy or sell your assets. What they can do depends on what you authorized in the document.

In the case of a “springing” power of attorney (POA), also known as a conditional power of attorney, the person only has this authority if you become incapacitated. At that point, the POA “springs” into action.

There is no “best” power of attorney. We’ll work with you to determine which is the best fit for your needs and goals.

Health Care Power of Attorney

In an instant, an accident can change a healthy, vigorous person into someone who can’t make her healthcare decisions. Others face a long decline in mental capacity because of a disease like Alzheimer’s. In either case, you want to empower those you trust to make medical decisions for you. Though health care legal documents vary somewhat by state, the general principle is that, through this document, you authorize someone to make medical decisions for you, if and when you no longer have the capacity to do so. You can also communicate your desired treatment and end-of-life care. However, those instructions may not be valid in every state.

A Holistic Approach

Lifetime planning is a comprehensive approach to estate planning. And while it addresses needs of the living, comprehensive planning may also improve the after-death part of your plan as well, because it can reduce family conflict and preserve assets against court control or interference in the event of incapacity.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

For insight into how to establish a trust and implement other lifetime planning options, Contact Us today to schedule a consultation.

Cuando se menciona  “la planificación de la sucesión,” quizá pensará primero sobre el papeleo.  O quizá pensará en algunos de los temas incómodos que rodean la planificación de la sucesión: decisiones de fin de vida, la incapacidad,  y el legado de su familia de generación en generación.  Estas temas son incómodos para todos.

 

Mientras estas emociones podrían sentirse como una razón para evitar la planificación de la sucesión, la natura emocional de estas decisions es de verdad un razón importante para hacerlo con entusiasmo. Aquí son algunas maneras en que el parte emocional de planificación de sucesión es beneficioso:

 

  • Planificación de la sucesión crea estabilidad en tiempos de perdido

 

Si llega a ser incapacidades mas adelante en la vida, por cierto será un tempo difícil para su familia. Pero si su plan de sucesión no incluye instrucciones detallados por su familia y una plan de cuidar de largo plazo, es cierto que será aun peor. Usted puede salvar a sus seres queridos de la confusión sobre qué hacer y la presión para tomar decisiones apresuradas si esto ocurre, lo que les permite ahorrar energía para procesar la situación.

 

  • Planes de la sucesión comprehensible mantengan privados los asuntos emocionales

 

La planificación de la sucesiones detallada y basada en los trusts dirigidos por beneficiarios de por vida mantiene sus asuntos privados fuera del ojo público. Cuando su plan de la sucesión es escasa —como un “Te Quiero” testamento sencillo—tenga el riesgo de que su heredad pasa por un proceso judicial de legalización de testamento.  Por lo tanto sus decisiones personales  puedan llegar a ser visible a todo el mundo. A causa de los requisites de notificación, la legalización de su testamento pueda invitar controversia y conflict que una transferencia privada habría evitado.

 

  • La planificación de la sucesión puede fortalecer los lazos familiares

 

Todo conocen una situación donde los hijos discutieron sobre lo que sus padres les dejaron.  Pero lo contrario también es bastante cierto. Quando su familia y otros queridos están involucrados en su planificación de la sucesión, tendrá una oportunidad maravillosa para demostrar cuánto los ama. La creación de su plan de la sucesión puede fortalecer los lazos de amor en su familia y servir como un recuerdo de estos lazos para los años futuros.

 

  • Su patrimonio es más que dinero

 

La planificación de la sucesión is más que la distribución de riqueza. Durante una sesión de planificación de la sucesión, podemos hablar de reliquias de familia significantes, su colección de hobby, y otros asuntos totalmente únicos a su vida. También podemos considerar las memorias y cosas personales que quiere que su beneficiarios recibir, como fotos, arte e incluso videos grabados o archivos de audio de historias familiares que le gustaría compartir con generaciones futuras

 

  • Un plan de sucesión significa que no vaya solo

 

No debería tener que enfrentar momentos difíciles por sí solo.  Si la finca en cuestión es suya o de un ser querido, su abogado de planificación de sucesión tendrá las respuestas. Deja a nosotros de educar sus agentes designados sobre sus deberes para que usted pueda saber que su familia estará en buenas manos si algo le sucede. La idea de establecer todo directamente en su propio puede ser un estresante, pero estas decisiones emocionales son mucho más fáciles de hacer con un asesor de confianza a tu lado.

 

Queremos que sienta la propiedad y la inversión para hacer que su plan de herencia refleje quién es usted.  Planificación de sucesión es una oportunidad de considerar a algunas de las grandes cuestiones de la vida y últimamente hace seguro de que su familia conoce su amor de ellas por medio de las decisiones que hace.  Llámenos hoy para ver cómo podemos crear soluciones personalizadas que hagan exactamente eso

When you hear the phrase “estate plan,” you might first think about paperwork. Or your mind might land on some of the uncomfortable topics that estate planning confronts head-on: end-of-life decisions, incapacity, and your family’s legacy from generation to generation. Those emotional subjects hit home for everyone.

 

But while that could feel like a reason to avoid estate planning, the emotional nature of these decisions is actually a reason to embrace the process with enthusiasm. Here are a few ways in which emotion in estate planning is a good thing:

 

  1. Estate planning creates stability in times of loss

 

If you end up in a state of incapacity later in life, it’s guaranteed to be a difficult time for your family. If your estate plan doesn’t include detailed instructions for a trusted decision maker and an actionable long-term care plan, it’s guaranteed to be even worse. You can save your loved ones from the confusion about what to do and the pressure to make rushed choices if this occurs, allowing them to save their energy for processing the situation.

 

  1. Comprehensive estate plans keep emotional matters private

 

Detailed, trust-based estate planning with lifetime beneficiary directed trusts keeps your private matters out of the public eye. When your estate plan is scant — such as a simple “I love you” will — you’re running the risk of your estate going through court in a proceeding called probate. This means that choices become visible to those outside your inner circle. Because of the notice requirements, probate can also invite controversy and conflict which a private transfer would have avoided.

 

  1. Estate planning can bring a family together

 

Everyone has heard of a situation in which siblings argued over what their parents left them as beneficiaries. But the opposite is also quite true. When you get your family and other loved ones involved in your estate planning process, you gain a wonderful opportunity to show them how much you care. Creating your estate plan can strengthen the bonds of love in a family and serve as a reminder of those bonds for years to come.

 

  1. Your estate is about much more than money

 

Estate planning is about a whole lot more than just wealth distribution and taxes. During an estate planning session, we can talk about significant family heirlooms, your hard-won hobby collection, and other matters totally unique to your life. We can even look into the memories and intellectual property you want to make sure your beneficiaries receive, such as photos, art, and even recorded videos or audio files of family stories you’d like to share with future generations.

 

  1. An estate plan means you’re not going it alone

 

You shouldn’t have to face trying times alone. Whether the estate in question is yours or a loved one’s, your estate planning attorney will have the answers. Let us take care of the nuts and bolts with regards to educating your appointed agents about their duties so you can know that your family will be in good hands if anything happens to you. The idea of setting everything straight on your own can be a stressful one, but these emotional decisions are much easier to make with a trusted advisor by your side.

 

We want you to feel ownership and investment in getting your estate plan to reflect who you are. Estate planning is an opportunity to look at some of life’s big questions and ultimately make sure your family feels your care for them through the choices you make. Give us a call today to see how we can create custom-made solutions that do just that.

It’s clear why you might want to avoid court involvement in your estate plan for financial reasons, knowing that probate can quickly get costly and time consuming for those involved. But there is an emotional component to it as well. Your assets are just that: yours. And the idea of them being discussed and deliberated on in a public forum might not be such an appealing one.

 

If you feel that the matters of your estate should be kept private and that your assets should be distributed to your loved ones rather than eroded by court fees, you’re not alone. And luckily, all it takes to get there is a proactive attitude toward planning your estate. Let’s dive in:

 

Court Interference 101

 

Two of the most common situations in which the court becomes involved in your estate are guardianship and probate:

 

Guardianship and Conservatorship

 

When someone experiences mental incapacity, documents in their estate plan can direct a trusted person to carry out that individual’s wishes for the situation. But what if no such documents have been drafted? Then their business becomes the government’s business, too. A court proceeding called guardianship or conservatorship (also known as “living probate”) will be held to appoint guardians and conservators to manage the affairs of the incapacitated person.

 

Probate

 

When an estate goes through probate, the court oversees the gathering of the probate assets, payment of any outstanding debts, determining whether a will is valid, and who the deceased’s heirs are. The proceedings ultimately determine who should receive the assets that are left after payment of debts, taxes, and costs.

 

Free your estate from interference

 

In order to avoid guardianship, conservatorship, and probate, you can work with us to keep your affairs out of court entirely.

 

  1. Powers of attorney

 

Agents or attorneys-in-fact are the individuals or entities you appoint to make decisions for you, be they medical or financial. You designate agents or attorneys-in-fact in a document known as a power of attorney. Durable powers of attorney are documents that continue in validity after the incapacity of the maker of the document (i.e. “durable” against incapacity). Since a durable power of attorney continues in validity, a durable power of attorney can help bypass the need for court-appointed guardianship or conservatorship.

 

  1. Trusts

 

Trusts are agreements that hold some or all of your assets, and trustees can be either individuals or corporate entities. Unlike wills, trusts do not go through probate. There are several types of trusts, and we can help you decide exactly which kind is best suited to your estate. By setting up and completely funding a revocable living trust, you can accomplish two important things. First, you can rest assured that your assets will be distributed to your chosen beneficiaries and won’t go through probate upon your death. Second, you also retain the ability to change or cancel the arrangement during your lifetime enabling you to adjust your plan as your financial or family circumstances change.

 

Make sure your estate plan is air-tight

 

Deciding on appropriate powers of attorney and drafting revocable living trusts are just two of the many steps we can take together to keep your affairs free from court involvement. With a solid estate plan put into place with the help of a trusted attorney, you can take comfort knowing that everything you’ve worked so hard to build and maintain will be passed along to only the people who matter most. Contact us today to learn more about interference-proofing your estate plan.

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While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a long history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, executors, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, executors, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better.

 

Trustee

 

A revocable living trust is often the center of a well-designed estate plan because it is simply the best strategy for achieving most individuals’ goals. In a revocable living trust, pick a successor trustee will be responsible for making sure your wealth is passed on and managed in accordance with your wishes after your death or incapacity. Like each of the following individuals involved in your estate planning, it’s best to have a trusted person or financial institution carry out this vitally important role.

 

It’s important to make the language in your trusts as clear as possible so that your trustee knows exactly how to handle various situations that can arise is asset distribution. Lastly, your trustee will only control the assets contained within the trust — not the rest of your estate, another reason that completely funding your living trust is incredibly important.

 

Powers of Attorney

 

Your power of attorney is the document in your estate plan that appoints individuals to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so yourself. There are a few different types of powers of attorney, each with their own specific provisions. There is quite a wide range of situations covered by various powers of attorney, and we can help you decide which types you’ll need based on your current situation and future goals. Here are two common types to cover in your estate plan:

 

  • Financial Powers of Attorney

Financial powers of attorney grant individuals the ability to take financial actions on your behalf such as purchasing life insurance or withdrawing money from your accounts to cover your costs. In most cases, powers of attorney are granted to individuals appointed as agents. However, especially regarding financial decisions, an institution like a trust company can also be named.

 

  • Health Care Powers of Attorney

Health care powers of attorney also cover a wide range of specific actions that can be taken regarding an individual’s medical needs such as making decisions about the types of care you receive. For example, a health care power of attorney can be the doctor you most trust to gauge your mental competency.

 

Executor

 

Your executor is the person who will see your assets through probate if necessary and carry out your wishes based on your last will and testament. Depending on your preferences, this may be the same person or institution as your trustee. You might also see this position designated as personal representative, but it means the same thing.

 

Many individuals pick a paid executor. This is someone who doesn’t stand to gain anything from your will, and is often the best choice if your estate is large and will be divided among many beneficiaries. Of course, family or friends can also serve, but it’s important to consider the amount of work involved before placing this burden on your family or friends.

 

Being an executor can be hard work and may have court-ordered deadlines, so it’s crucial to pick someone you know will be up for the job. They may need to hire a CPA to help sort out your taxes or a lawyer to assist in the process or to aid in dispute resolution. Therefore, choosing a spouse or someone else intimately involved in your life may not always be the wisest option, as they may not be up to the task at the time.

 

Get in touch with us today

 

Let us help you make the process of picking your trustee, powers of attorney, and executor as smooth and headache-free as possible. Once you have these choices in place, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your estate plan is in good hands no matter what life brings. Contact Us to make an appointment today.

Every one of us receives and passes on an inheritance. The inheritance may not be an accumulation of earthly possessions or acquired riches, but whether we realize it or not, our choices, words, actions, and values will impact someone and form the heritage we hand down.

— Ben Hardesty

Successful estate planning is about far more than simply passing your wealth to the next generation— it’s also about passing on your values. No matter which financial or legal structures you choose to contain and manage your assets, these instruments only preserve your wealth until it reaches the hands of your beneficiaries. What happens then? Your values enabled you to accumulate wealth and persevere in spite of obstacles and long odds. If your children and grandchildren don’t share and cherish those values, they could lose their inheritance as quickly as they received it.

But our values can be hard to capture in language. They seem second nature to us only because we live them every day. Here’s an exercise to help you identify your (perhaps) rarely-spoken moral code and communicate it to the next generation.

The Science of Surfacing Your Subconscious Values

In Chapter 3 of his bestselling book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, productivity author David Allen discusses what he calls vertical project planning— that is, identifying the “why’s” and “what’s” of any project before engaging with its details. To reveal the standards that you have regarding any task, just finish the following sentence:

“I would give others totally free rein to do this as long as they…”

For instance, if you’re planning a dinner celebration for your dad’s 70th birthday, you could fill in the blanks as follows:

as long as they created a budget for the party and got buy-in from both of my sisters to contribute;

…as long as they made sure to double check the guest list with mom;

…as long as they booked a restaurant within 30 minutes from my parents’ home.

As it pertains to communicating values, we could reword it like this:

“I would give a total stranger free rein to guide the people I care about most about how to live a great and moral life as long as they…”

…as long as they make sure to communicate my core values of creativity, compassion and integrity;

…as long as they give many concrete examples of these standards being met and not met to demonstrate exactly what I mean;

…as long as there’s some mechanism to remind my family of these values in an ongoing way, so that they don’t forget;

…as long as they make inheritance from the trust I establish conditional on whether my beneficiaries live these values.

Estate planning is ultimately not only about passing along your tangible wealth and deciding how to distribute assets. It’s an opportunity to ensure your legacy into the next generation and beyond. Clarifying your values and working to effectively pass them along can be a profoundly liberating experience.

Please contact us for insight about how to get started with this process.

I produced this video to talk about my experiences with social anxiety. I’ve discovered that social anxiety is more than fear. It can be a power to build personal strengths and talent. I believe it has helped me become a better estate planning attorney.

Weakness into Strenght: Social Anxiety and the Power to Be Your Best

If you suffer from “estate planning anxiety,” contact us and

A pet trust is an excellent way to make sure your beloved pet will receive proper care after you pass on. The problem, of course, is that you won’t actually be there to see that your wishes are carried out. It’s critical to set up a pet trust correctly to ensure there are no loopholes or unforeseen situations that could make your plans go awry. Here are 5 tragic mistakes people often make when leaving their assets to their pets.

 

  1. Appropriating more than the pet could ever need.

 

The gossip stories about such-and-such celebrity who left his or her entire fortune to a pet are the exception rather than the rule. Leaving millions of dollars, houses, and cars to your pet is not only unreasonable, but it’s more likely to be contested in court by family members who might feel neglected. To avoid this pitfall, leave a reasonable sum of money that will give your pet the same quality of life that she enjoys now.

 

  1. Providing vague or unenforceable instructions.

 

Too many pets don’t receive the care their owners intended because they weren’t specific enough in their instructions or because they did not use a trust to make the instructions legally binding. Luckily, a pet trust can clarify your instructions and make them legally valid.

 

If you leave money to a caretaker without a pet trust in place, hoping it will be used for the pet’s care for example, nothing stops the caretaker from living very well on the pet’s money. But when you use a pet trust to designate how much the caretaker receives and how much goes for the pet’s care, you’ve provided a legal structure to protect your furry family member. You can be as specific about your wishes as you’d like, from how much is to be spent on food, veterinary care, and grooming. You can even include detailed care instructions, such as how often the dog should be walked.

 

  1. Failing to keep information updated.

 

Bill sets up a pet trust for his dog Sadie, but what happens if Sadie passes away? If Bill gets a new dog and names her Gypsy, but he doesn’t update this information before he dies, Gypsy could easily wind up in a shelter or euthanized because she’s not mentioned in the trust. This is a common yet tragic mistake that can be easily avoided by performing regular reviews with your estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan works for your entire family.

 

  1. Not having a contingency plan.

 

You might have a trusted friend or loved one designated as a caretaker in your pet trust, but what happens if that person is unable or unwilling to take that role when the time comes? If you haven’t named a contingent caretaker, your pet might not receive the care you intended. Always have a “Plan B” in place, and spell it out in the trust.

 

  1. Not engaging a professional to help.

Too many people make the mistake of trying to set up a pet trust themselves, assuming that a form downloaded from a do-it-yourself legal website will automatically work in their circumstances. Only an experienced estate planning attorney should help you set it up to help ensure that everything works exactly the way you want.

 

When attempting to leave assets to your pet, the good news is that with professional help, all these mistakes are preventable. Talk with us today about your options for setting up a new pet trust or adding a pet trust to your current estate plan. We’re here to help.

 

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We understand that it feels hard to get around to estate planning; it sounds about as fun as getting a root canal. However, we also understand that we all want to make sure that our loved ones are protected and receive our hard-earned assets – regardless of whether we have $10 million or $10,000.

Don’t let these common estate planning roadblocks stop you from protecting yourself and your family:

  1. Who Wants to Talk About Death? Discussions of death, dying, and illness – money and family – will and trusts – make many folks uncomfortable. Of course, that’s normal.  But, don’t let a few minutes of feeling uncomfortable stop you from taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

 

  1. This Isn’t a Good Time. You have a lot of commitments.  We understand that, but there’s never going to be a better time. Call our office, get on the calendar, and get it done.

 

  1. I Don’t Get It. Estate planning is documented in legal papers; finances are discussed; the law is analyzed. It’s common feel uncomfortable in a world you’re not familiar with.  If that’s what you are thinking, you are not alone. We will translate complex legal concepts into everyday layman’s terms for you, just like we do for everyone else.

The truth is that estate planning isn’t really that bad. In fact, with our help, estate planning is easy. We’ll chat with you about your goals and concerns, analyze your family and financial situation, and work with you to come up with a solid plan. You provide the information, which we always keep confidential, and we’ll take care of everything else.

 

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With all the wealth accumulated by the rich and famous, one would assume that celebrities would take steps to protect their estates once they pass on. But think again: Some of the world’s richest and most famous people have passed away without a will or a trust, while others have made mistakes that tied their fortunes and heirs up for years in court. Let’s take a look at three high-profile celebrity probate disasters and discover what lessons we can learn from them.

 

  1. Tom Carvel

 

As the man who invented soft-serve ice cream and established the first franchise business in America, Tom Carvel had a net worth of up to $200 million when he passed away in 1990. He did have a will and accompanying trust that provided for his widow, family members and donations for several charities, but he also named seven executors, all of whom had a financial stake in the game. The executors began a round of infighting that lasted for years and cost millions. In the end, Carvel’s widow passed away before the disputes could be settled, essentially seeing none of the money.

 

Lesson learned: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Your trustee and executor may have to make tough decisions. Consider naming executors and trustees who have no financial interest in your estate to reduce the risk of favoritism. Also, consider have only a single trustee and executor rather than a committee.

 

  1. Jimi Hendrix

 

Passing away tragically at age 27, rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix left no will when he died. What he did leave behind was a long line of relatives, music industry bigwigs, and business associates who had an interest in what would become of his estate – both what he left behind, and what his intellectual property would continue to earn. An attorney managed the estate for the first two decades after Jimi’s death, after which Jimi’s father Al Hendrix successfully sued for control of the estate. But when Al attempted to leave the entire estate to his adopted daughter upon his passing, Jimi’s brother, Leon Hendrix, sued, launching a messy probate battle that left no clear winners.

 

Lesson learned: When you don’t leave a will or trust, the effects can last for generations. An experienced estate planning attorney can help put your wishes in writing so they are carried out after your death rather than opening a door to costly conflict.

 

  1. Prince

 

The court battle currently in preparation over Prince’s estate is a celebrity probate disaster in action. When the 80’s pop icon died in early 2016, he left no will, reportedly due to some previous legal battles that left him with a distrust of legal professionals in general. The lines are already being drawn for what will likely be a costly and lengthy court battle among Prince’s heirs. Sadly, there’s even a battle looming about determining, for certain, who his heirs actually are.

 

Lesson learned: Correct legal documentation protects your legacy. Don’t let a general distrust or a bad experience cause your heirs to fight and potentially lose their inheritance.

 

These celebrity probate disasters serve as stark reminders that no one’s wealth is exempt from the legal trouble that can occur without proper estate planning. As always, we are here to help you protect your family and legacy. Give us a call today.