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If You’ve Been Asked To Serve As Trustee, Here’s What You Should Know

If a family member or friend has asked you to serve as trustee for their trust either during their life, or upon their death, it’s a big honor—this means they consider you among the most honest, reliable, and responsible people they know.

That said, serving as a trustee is not only a great honor, it’s also a major responsibility, and the role is definitely not for everyone. Serving as a trustee entails a broad array of duties, and you are both ethically and legally required to properly execute those duties or you could face liability for not doing so.

In the end, your responsibility as a trustee will vary greatly depending on the size of the estate, the type of assets covered by the trust, how many beneficiaries there are, and the document’s terms. In light of this, you should carefully review the specifics of the trust you would be managing before making your decision to serve.

Remember, you don’t have to take the job. That said, depending on who...

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Probate: What It Is & How To Avoid It—Part 2

Unless you’ve created an estate plan that works to keep your family out of court, when you die (or become incapacitated) many of your assets must go through probate before those assets can be distributed to your heirs. Like most court proceedings, probate can be time-consuming, costly, and open to the public, and because of this, avoiding probate—and keeping your family out of court—is often a central goal of estate planning. 

 

To spare your loved one’s the time, cost, and stress inherent to probate, last week in part one of this series, we explained how the probate process works and what it would entail for your loved ones. Here in part two, we’ll discuss the major drawbacks of probate for your family, and outline the different ways you can help them avoid probate with wise planning. (See what you missed in Part one!)

 

What’s At Stake For Your Family
Probate court proceedings can take months, and sometimes even years, to...

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Why Putting Your Family Home In A Trust Is A Smart Move - Part 1

If you are like many homeowners, your home is likely your family’s most valuable and treasured asset. In light of this, you want to plan wisely to ensure your home will pass to your heirs in the most efficient and safe manner possible when you die or in the event you become incapacitated by illness or injury. 

 

Indeed, proper estate planning is as much a part of responsible homeownership as having homeowners insurance or keeping your home’s roof well maintained. When it comes to including your home in your estate plan, you have a variety of different plan designs to choose from, but for a variety of different reasons, putting your home in a trust is often the smartest choice. 

 

Although you should consult with us your Personal Family Lawyer® to identify the best estate planning strategies for your particular circumstances, in this two-part series we’ll discuss how trusts work (both revocable and irrevocable), and then outline the most...

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Avoid This Major Mistake When Adding an IRA to Your Estate Plan

Some people assume that because they’ve named a specific heir as the beneficiary of their IRA in their will or trust that there’s no need to list the same person again as beneficiary in their IRA paperwork. Because of this, they often leave the IRA beneficiary form blank or list “my estate” as the beneficiary.

But this is a major mistake—and one that can lead to serious complications and expense.

IRAs aren’t like other estate assets
First off, your IRA is treated differently than other assets, such as a car or house, in that the person you name on your IRA’s beneficiary form is the one who will inherit the account’s funds, even if a different person is named in your will or in a trust. Your IRA beneficiary designation controls who gets the funds, no matter what you may indicate elsewhere.

Given this, you must ensure your IRA’s beneficiary designation form is up to date and lists either the name of the person you want to inherit your...

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Britney Spears’ Nightmare Conservatorship Underscores The Vital Importance Of Incapacity Planning—Part 1

Since the age of 16, when she burst onto the charts with her debut single, “...Hit Me Baby One More Time,” Britney Spears has been one of the world’s most famous and beloved pop stars. Yet despite her massive fame and fortune, Britney, who is now 39, has never truly had full control over her own life.

As most familiar with pop culture know by now, Britney has been living under a conservatorship for the past 13 years. Also known as “adult guardianship,” a conservatorship is a legal structure in which the court granted Britney’s father, Jaime Spears, and other individuals nearly complete control over her legal, financial, and personal decisions. The conservatorship was initially established in February 2008 after Britney suffered a mental breakdown, which resulted in her being briefly hospitalized.

A Total Loss of Control
Back in 2008, the court appointed Britney’s father and attorney Andrew Wallet as her co-conservators, as Britney was deemed...

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How “Shopping Around” for An Estate Plan Could Leave Your Family With an Expensive, Unintended Mess

 

Maybe you’ve heard that before investing in a professional service you should “get three estimates.”  This is often wise advice, but it’s actually a bad idea when it comes to estate planning. Hear me out. This article explains why and how you can ensure you get the most efficient and affordable plan possible for your family without shopping estate planning lawyers the way you may think.

Let’s begin with why “getting three estimates” for an estate plan doesn’t work to actually get you what you want.

First and foremost, this recommendation assumes that you should be shopping for an estate plan based on cost and that you understand exactly what you are shopping for and how to evaluate those estimates.

Shopping for an estate plan based on getting the lowest cost plan possible is the fastest path to leaving your family with an empty set of documents (maybe in a beautiful binder, but not worth the paper they are written on) that...

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Safeguard Your Children’s Inheritance with a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust

If you love crime documentaries and shows like 20/20 or Dateline as much as I do, then you probably remember this story in the headlines. In undergrad I dual majored in both pre-law and psychology. These types of stories fascinate me when it comes to the psychology of things like cults and how they play on a person's weakness - often to feel a place of belonging and inclusion when they have experienced loss. Though most of us are not dealing with this level of wealth, the amount of money is really irrelevant to the end message. However much you have worked to build and save, you intend to pass that on to your heirs, and the lessons of asset protection remain the same. Read below as I walk through an example of extreme wealth and one of modest inheritance and how a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust could have avoided loss of inheritance in both scenarios. 


Cults? Really??

When you create your estate plan, the idea that one of your adult children would ever use their...

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The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts

When discussing estate planning, a will is what most people think of first. Indeed, wills have been the most popular method for passing on assets to heirs for hundreds of years. But wills aren’t your only option. And if you rely on a will alone to pass on what matters, you’re guaranteeing your family has to go to court when you die.

In contrast, other estate planning vehicles, such as trusts, which used to be available only to the uber wealthy, are now being used by those of all income levels and asset values to keep their loved ones out of the court process.

But determining whether a will or a trust is best for you depends entirely on your personal circumstances. And the fact that estate planning has changed so much makes choosing the right tool for the job even more complex.

The best way for you to determine the truly right solution for your family is to meet with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® for a Family Wealth Planning Session™. During that...

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Why A Will Is Not A Suitable Option for Protecting Your Pet

Lots of people consider their pets to be members of their family; I know we do! Indeed, pets can become our closest companions. As such, it’s only natural you’d want to make sure your furry friend is provided for in your estate plan, so when you die or if you become incapacitated, your beloved companion won’t end up in an animal shelter or worse.

However, unlike your human family members, pets are considered your personal property under the law, so you can’t just name them as a beneficiary in your will or trust. If you do name your pet as a beneficiary in your plan, whatever money you tried to leave to it would go to your residuary beneficiary (the individual who gets everything not specifically left to your other named beneficiaries), who would have no obligation to care for your pet.


Wills aren’t a good option
Since you can’t name your pet as a beneficiary, your first alternative might be to leave your pet and money for its care in your will to...

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How to Preserve a Family Vacation Home with a Trust

If you are fortunate enough to have a family vacation home, you know the emotional value it holds for every member of your family.  Many cherished family memories are rooted in a special place, which makes it important for current and future generations to preserve it properly.

A trust is often a good choice when the current owners – parents or grandparents – are concerned that joint ownership could lead to disagreements or that maintenance costs may prove too great for the next generation to manage.  

Instead of dividing ownership, you can establish a trust to hold title of the property and fund an endowment to handle maintenance expenses. Minnesota is famous (in the legal world) for its cabin trusts! In addition, to avoid paying custodial fees to the trust, you can set up a limited liability company to hold the endowment within the trust. 

Once the LLC is registered in the state where the vacation property is located and the trust is created,...

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