When you think of estate planning, a Will is usually the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, most people who contact me tell me they don’t need anything complicated for their estate- just a Will. Indeed, Wills have a reputation as the number one estate planning tool and can be seen all over TV shows and movies, from the dramatic “reading of the Will” (which rarely happens in real life) to characters plotting how best to defraud their billionaire uncle’s Will in order to inherit his lavish estate.
But although Wills are a key part of your estate plan - and a big part of the movies - relying on a Will alone won’t solve your estate planning needs - no matter what Hollywood says. Instead, using just a Will to plan your final wishes is likely to leave your loved ones with an expensive mess that won’t distribute your assets in the way you intended.
What’s more, a Will alone won’t ensure that you’re taken care of in the...
Blended families were once considered “non-traditional” families, but today, blended families are becoming just as common as non-blended families. Currently, 52% of married couples (or unmarried couples who live together) have a step-kin relationship of some kind, and 4 in 10 new marriages involve remarriage.
If you’re part of a blended family, you’ve probably recognized the extra layer of complexity that comes with planning for your family’s needs and accommodating the many relationships that exist between step-parents, step-kids, and step-siblings. Topics that might be straightforward for a “traditional” family - such as where to spend the holidays or who gets the old family car - are more complex.
Feelings tend to be more sensitive, as the person in a “step” role may feel self-conscious about their place as the “outsider” of the family, whereas on the other hand, one parent’s children may...
As the world and its laws continue to evolve, everyone needs to keep their estate plans up to date. An estate plan is a set of documents, such as a will or trust, that dictate how assets will be distributed upon death or incapacity. An individual's current legal and financial situation should be considered to create a comprehensive estate plan tailored specifically to their needs.
The primary reason to update an estate plan is to ensure that an individual's wishes are respected upon death. For example, suppose an individual has recently acquired valuable property or has had changes in family structure (such as marriage or children). In that case, updating the documents that outline how assets should be distributed is important. If the documents are not updated, this could lead to disputes between family members and legal complications when probate occurs. Additionally, if laws change at the state or federal level, those changes need to be...
As a parent, you are quite accustomed to managing your children's legal and medical affairs, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, now adults in the eyes of the law, and need urgent medical attention far from home?
The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult and has the legal rights of an adult. This means that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents, accessing medical information and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.
When sending kids off to college, it is crucial to consider the legal implications of an accident or medical emergency on your...
Q: Can I leave my 401(k) to my minor children when I die?
A: Dear Pondering:
Though you can technically name a minor child as a beneficiary of your 401(k), IRA, or other employment-sponsored retirement accounts, it’s never a good idea. Minor children cannot inherit the account until they reach the age of majority—which can be as old as 21 in some states.
If a minor is listed as the beneficiary, upon your death, your retirement account would be distributed to a court-appointed custodian, who will manage the funds (often for a fee) until the age of majority. If you want your child to inherit your retirement account, you should set up a trust to receive those assets instead.
You can then name a trustee to manage the account until your child comes of age. By doing so, you get to choose not only who would manage your child’s money, but within the trust’s terms, you can stipulate how and when the account’s funds...
If you have a current estate plan, I'll bet you plan to leave your assets to your children outright and unprotected by age 35, or maybe a little later. Go take a look at your estate plan, and see what it does right now. And, if you don’t have an estate plan, and you have kids or other people you care about, contact us today and let’s get that handled for you.
If you do have a plan and it distributes your assets outright to your kids -- even in stages, over time, some at 25, then half of what’s left at 30, and balance at 35 (or something along those lines), you’ve overlooked d an incredibly valuable gift you can give your children (and the rest of your descendants for generations); a gift that only you can give them. And a gift that, once you’ve died and left them their inheritance outright, is lost and cannot be reclaimed.
While you may think to yourself, my...
Like most people, you likely think estate planning is just one more task to check off your life’s endless “to-do” list.
You can shop around and find a lawyer to create planning documents for you or create your own DIY plan using online documents. Then, you’ll put those documents into a drawer, mentally check estate planning off your to-do list, and forget about them.
The problem is, estate planning is more than just a one-and-done type of deal.
It will be worthless if your plan is not regularly updated when your assets, family situation, and laws change. Failing to update your plan can create problems that can leave your family worse off than if you’ve never created a plan.
The following story illustrates the consequences of not updating your plan, which happened to the founder and CEO of New Law Business Model, Ali Katz. Indeed, this experience was one of the leading catalysts for her to create the new, family-centered model of estate planning we use...
You’ve probably heard you need a trust to keep your family out of court and maybe out of conflict in the event of your death or incapacity. And, if you haven’t, you are hearing it now. If you own any “probatable” assets in your name at the time of your incapacity or death, your family must go to court to access them. If you aren’t sure if your assets are “probatable” contact us to discuss.
But you may need clarification about whether you need a revocable living or irrevocable trust. More and more, we are seeing people come our way asking for a irrevocable trust, and so this article is designed to help you learn the difference and then get into an “eyes wide open” conversation about the right kind of trust for you and your loved ones.
A trust is an agreement between the grantor of the trust (that’s you) with a trustee (someone named by you) to hold title to assets for the benefit of your...
What Happens To Your Debt When You Die?
Maybe you’ve wondered about your own debt or perhaps your parent’s debt—what happens to that debt when you (or they) die? Well, it depends, and that’s part of the reason you want to ensure your estate plan is well prepared. How you handle your debt can greatly impact the people you love.
In some cases, you could inadvertently leave a reality in which your surviving heirs—your kids, parents, or others—are responsible for your debt. Alternatively, if you structure your affairs properly, your debt could die right along with you.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, an individual’s debt does not disappear once that person dies. Rather, the debt must either be paid out of the deceased’s estate or by a co-creditor. And that could be bad news for you or the people you love.
What exactly happens to this debt can vary. One of the purposes of the court process known as probate is to...
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