Estate planning attorney of Legacy Assurance Plan of America for Wills,Trust & Avoid Probate

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Don’t Forget Your Final Arrangements When Making Your Estate Plan

Summary: Many people, when they think about planning their estates, think that means dividing their wealth among their loved ones and/or favorite charities. This is one of the most important things that your estate plan will do, but it doesn’t have to be the only thing. A comprehensive plan can help you to make sure that your loved ones are protected in another way, as comprehensive planning can give your loved ones needed liquidity in order to pay the final expenses that your estate will owe.

Planning for the resolution of your final affairs and expenses should have two components to it. On one side, you can take a lot of the guesswork out of the final arrangements process, and give your loved ones peace-of-mind, by creating as part of your estate plan a written record of your preferences and desires regarding your funeral. Do you want to be cremated? Do you want to be buried somewhere and, if so, where? Do you want a funeral and, if you do, whom do you want to speak and what music would you like to play? These are but some of the pieces of important information you can impart in the funeral planning portion of your plan. The more details you can give your loved ones, the less guesswork they’ll have. Some states even have recognized legal documents that you can create (with names like “Funeral Planning Directive”) where you can state all of your intentions and desires about you funeral and related arrangements.

You also should plan for dealing with final financial matters. Many people overlook this aspect and may not have enough cash flow at their death, leaving problems for their loved ones when it comes to paying bills. Even if you don’t owe federal estate taxes upon your death, there will still be bills, whether they are final medical bills or just other debts you owe. Your successor trustee of your living trust or the executor of your estate will have to pay for the taxes, utilities and upkeep on your home. If you have any dependents, your estate or trust will have to pay for their needs. Additionally, there’s also your funeral itself.

There are several ways to make sure that you’ve planned to create the liquidity your loved ones will need. Life insurance can be a very useful part of your estate planning in this regard. Proper planning with life insurance can mean that your loved ones will have the money they need to pay bills, pay taxes and maintain upkeep on your assets requiring maintenance.

Another way to plan to ensure liquidity is through another form of insurance to deal with funeral and final expenses. These funeral and final expense costs can be substantial and, for many people, their estate may not have the liquid assets to deal with them readily. Insurance products like final expense insurance or irrevocable funeral trusts can give you peace-of-mind when it comes to knowing that there will be funds to deal with these costs. Many funeral trust products are “guaranteed issue” with “no underwriting,” which means that you can obtain these products regardless of your health and count on those funds being there when your family needs them.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan






Monday, October 16, 2017

Planning Your Estate When You Have No Living, Spouse Children or Close Heirs

Summary: The world is full of billions of people with a full spectrum of familial relationships. Some have large families. Others have none or have small ones whom they’ve outlived. If you’re in a situation where you have no living spouse or close blood relatives, your circumstance dictates that you definitely should look at getting an estate plan in place. The state laws for people like you may, if have no plan, send all of your wealth to a distant relative you don’t even know personally. With a plan, you can make certain that those whom matter the most you will be the ones to benefit from your legacy.  

Almost all of us have reasons for needing to plan our estates, with aspects of our lives that make taking control of our legacies both important and desirable. Maybe we want to ensure financial security for our children, grandchildren and their descendants. Maybe we need to make certain that a child with special needs continues to be provided for. There are many purposes related to spouses or immediately family that drive many of us.

However, what if you have no surviving spouse, or children, or siblings or parents? What if you have no close living relatives at all? Is it true that you no longer need to worry about planning your estate? Absolutely not! In fact, the opposite is often true.

In many cases, people who never marry and never have children may be able amass greater savings due to the absence of a need to spend wealth on kids, who can tend to be expensive. Many of these people, then, may have substantial wealth while at the same time having strong desires and goals for what happens to that wealth after their deaths. Maybe you want to recognize a platonic friend. Maybe you have a favorite charity. Regardless of the destination, chances are that you have a preferred one, and that is why, for you as a person with no close legal relatives, estate planning is extraordinarily important.

If you are a person with no close living relatives or spouse, do you know what happens to your wealth after you die if you have no valid estate plan in place? The answer is: the same thing that happens to everyone else’s estates when they have no plans… intestacy. Intestacy means that your wealth is distributed according to a pre-set system established by the statutes of the state where you legally reside. Generally, this means that whomever is entrusted with distributing your wealth will be charged with finding your closest living relative(s) and giving your assets to them. If you have no living spouse, children, siblings or parents, the system will continue expanding across your family tree, in search of cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents and so forth.

Eventually, if there’s no living person within a certain degree of blood relation, your assets distribute to the state treasury of the state where your reside. In other words, if you do not set up a plan, your assets could easily end up going, after you die, to a grand-niece/nephew or first-cousin-twice-removed whom you may have never met!   

So, how do you avoid this? Get a plan, and get started right away. With a proper and complete estate plan in place, you can take total control of your legacy and make sure that your wealth goes to the people and/or institutions that you want to receive them. Trust planning can be an integral part of your estate planning as a person with no spouse or close living relatives. Maybe you have a beloved pet or pets in your life whose care you want to ensure and provide for after you’re gone. With a complete estate plan that includes a pet trust, you can make certain that you’re in control of indicating whom you want to care for your beloved “fur-baby” after your death, and you can make sure that that person has the financial resources to provide that proper care.

Alternately, perhaps you have a charity whose mission is close to your heart. With proper trust planning within your overall estate plan, you may be able to direct substantial resources to that charitable organization and possible reap important tax advantages along the way, too.    

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan





Thursday, October 12, 2017

Avoiding Probate | It Isn’t All Black or White

Summary: Very few things in life, or the law, are completely black and white. Most things are shades of gray. The correct answer to great many legal questions is, “It depends.” This also holds true when it comes to avoiding probate. Not everyone needs to plan to avoid probate as part of their estate planning (although a great many can potentially benefit from such probate-avoidance planning.) Which group you belong in is something you must decide, ideally in conjunction with the advice and counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney. 

In the third “Episode” of the famed “Star Wars” movie series, one of the movie’s protagonists, Obi-Wan Kenobi, instructs that, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” (The Siths are the movie’s evil antagonists.) The point of this statement is that almost all of the world is a series of shades of gray; very little is black or white. Anyone who speaks only in terms of absolute black-or-white either is being disingenuous, at the very least, is misinformed.

Estate planning can be like this. If you research estate planning, you’ll come across a lot about avoiding probate. Some of that information will try to tell you that everyone is better off avoiding probate. While an awful lot of people can, indeed, benefit from the costs and delays that can be associated with certain types of probate administration procedures, that is not an absolute black-or-white thing. There are some situations where having your estate go through probate is better for you than avoiding it. Here’s a list of a few examples:

(1)  You have minor children. In many states, the only way you can name a guardian to care for your minor children or other legal dependents is through a valid will. In a lot of places, the courts will presume that the appointment of this person as guardian is the best interest of your children. The only way to bring that appointment to life, and the only way that a will can have legal effect, is if the will is duly probated. So, even if all of your assets were structured to avoid probate, your will would still need to have a will and for it to be probated by the court in order for your naming of that guardian to be legally recognized.  
(2)   You have “problem” people in your life. Maybe it’s a creditor. Maybe it’s a relative. Whomever they have to deal with, there are some people who have people or entities in their lives whose presence could cause problems with the execution of your estate planning goals. It could be a contentious and uncooperative child, or it could be an unscrupulous creditor. Either way, situations like this are among the group of scenarios where the much larger degree of court oversight you get in a probate administration (as opposed to, say, the resolution of a living trust,) can actually be a benefit, not a hindrance. The judge’s greater involvement in your case could keep these “problem” people from derailing or complicating your estate plan and thwarting your goals.
(3)  You have certain types of debts/creditors. The law in most all states creates a limited period of time for a creditor to demand payment of a debt from the assets of a deceased debtor. If the creditor waits too long, then the creditor loses the right to demand payment. One way to shorten this period is by opening a probate case. By starting a probate administration, you may be able to cap this “limitations period” for pursuing debts to periods as short as 6 or 12 months. Without it, the period may run for many years, even more than a decade. (For example, in Maryland, filing a probate administration case can shorten the period from 12 years to 6 months.
(4)  You have only a very small amount of probatable assets. Some people may have very small amounts of assets. Others may have small amounts of assets subject to probate. Maybe you don’t own much at all, or maybe you own a used car, a house titled under a transfer-on-death deed, a life insurance policy, a retirement account with a beneficiary designation, your pre-paid burial plan and a bank account with a pay-on-death designation on it. In either of these situations, your collection of assets subject to probate may be small enough that you qualify for your state’s most simplified variants of probate. In those situations, as opposed to those who have to go through the full probate administration, completing the process can be very brief, quick and inexpensive.    

As you can tell from these descriptions, these are all relatively specific situations. A great many people are outside all of these groups and can potentially benefit from avoiding probate with estate plans that include living trusts. The key thing to remember is that none of this is black-or-white. That is why you need an experienced estate planning attorney, who can put his/her knowledge and skill to use for you and advise on what path makes the most sense for your circumstances.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan





Monday, October 9, 2017

A 'True Crime' Story from Ohio | What It Teaches With Regard to Proper Estate Planning

Summary: When it comes to estate plan reviews, the list of events that may trigger the need for a review is potentially longer than you might think. Many things, including births, deaths, marriages and divorces may indicate that a review is in order. When you review your plan, it is important to go over every part of your estate plan, not just your will and/or trust. As part of your review, you should check your assets with death beneficiary designations on them, and ensure that they are up-to-date and have a sufficient number of contingent beneficiaries named to ensure that your desires will be met. 

One of the more popular stories on some TV "news magazine" shows are the "true crime" stories. A dark and tragic tale that recently emerged from Cleveland, Ohio, sounds like something from "20/20" or "Dateline." It had murder, intrigue and greed. The case also included an estate planning peculiarity that introduced an ironic twist into the outcome.

In the summer of 2013, a Cleveland firefighter named William Walker was a newlywed. By that fall, he was dead, having been murdered in his driveway. Ultimately, law enforcement concluded that the killing was a murder-for-hire, orchestrated by the firefighter's new wife. The wife was very deeply in debt, according to prosecutors at her trial, having run up tens of thousands of dollars of credit card and loan debt, some of which she took out in her new husband's name, the cleveland.com website reported.

The wife's way out? She asked her daughter and the daughter's boyfriend to find someone to kill her husband, so that she could collect the proceeds of the husband's life insurance policy. The life insurance was a $100,000 policy, so the wife concluded that the death payout could resolve her financial peril. The wife, according to prosecutors at her trial, pushed for a quick courthouse wedding in July 2013 and then began working toward her plan of killing her new husband, believing that her status as spouse would automatically entitle her to the husband's pension and life insurance benefits.

There was one thing that the wife didn't account for, however, and that fact is something that is relevant to almost anyone with an estate plan. The wife thought that simply because she was the spouse, she would collect the life insurance payout. The problem for her was that she was wrong.

In the case of many items with death beneficiary designations on them, the beneficiary designation paperwork trumps everything. Regardless of the legal relationship between the account/policy holder and the named beneficiary, the person named on the form gets the death benefit, unless certain exemptions (like the beneficiary murdering the account/policy holder) occur. In this case, the deceased man had never changed his paperwork on his life insurance. The last time the husband completed a death beneficiary designation on the life insurance policy, he named his wife at the time, who, by 2013, was his ex-wife.

That paperwork was still valid and still controlled the payment of the life insurance death benefit. Because the ex-wife was an innocent bystander in this murder-for-hire scheme, and her name was on the beneficiary form, she received the death benefit payout on the life insurance policy, regardless of her legal relationship to the deceased man (or the fact that he was married to another person when he died.) 

You might review this case and say, "Look! This man's delay in updating actually helped him avoid paying his killer!" That's not entirely accurate, though. Under something called the "slayer statute," the insurance company would not have been required to pay the wife once law enforcement began investigating (and later convicting) the wife for the man's murder.

While it is very likely he wouldn't want his murdering wife to receive the payout, there's no indication he wanted that money to go to his ex-wife, either. With a properly updated beneficiary form, complete with alternate (a/k/a contingent) beneficiaries named, the father of three could have been protected and could have ensured that the money went to the right person/people.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan


Thursday, October 5, 2017

5 Types of Events that Should Have You Seeking an Estate Plan Review

Summary: There are many events in life that may be indicative of the need to get your estate plan reviewed and possibly updated. While many people recognize the birth children or retirement as events that highlight the need for a plan review, your plan probably needs reviewing much more frequently than that. Events ranging from divorces, deaths, catastrophic injuries, out-of-state moves and changes in the law are all things that may mean that you need a plan update to keep your plan optimized to accomplish your goals.

An attorney from Michigan wrote a column recently for the Port Huron, Mich. newspaper. In that article, the author stated that he'd read that, according to recent survey research, "the average time between estate plan updates was almost 20 years." As the author pointed out, this result is intuitively not totally surprising. When you look at the type of life events that take place in many families' lives, they can tend to take place in roughly 20-year intervals. A couple might create a plan once they've had children. They might update their plan once their children have achieved adulthood, left home and got married and/or had kids of their own. In many cases, this latter list occurs about two decades or so after a couple initially had their kids. Roughly two decades after that, most couples have retired and update their plans accordingly.

While this is a common approach, it is, for most people, not an optimal one. Many legal experts agree that a properly maintained estate plan will need updating far more often than just every 20 years. That's because there are many things beyond just your having kids, your kids getting married, your having grandchildren or your entering retirement that may trigger a need for a plan update. Here's a quick rundown of events that might mean that an update is in order for your plan:

(1) Divorces. Sure, births and marriages are important events that may point to the need to update your plan. But they are not the only ones. If you get divorced, that would obviously indicate that a plan review (and likely some updates) are needed in order to ensure that you're not leaving wealth to someone you no longer desire to include in your legacy or (if perhaps you've remained close with your "ex") excluded someone you did want to leave something. If your child gets divorced, that may also mean that you need a review and maybe an update. Did you include your (now former) son- or daughter-in-law in your plan? Did you do so by name? If you did and you no longer want to, or if you still want to but did not name that person by name, you may need an update.     

(2) Deaths. Death unfortunately is a part of life. Sometimes people in our lives die unexpectedly and prematurely. When those events happen, they can impact your plan. If one of your beneficiaries dies before you, you'll probably want to investigate making an update. This can be especially true if that person is a child, so that you can clearly instruct what happens to his/her share. Should that wealth go his/her children, split between your other children (his/her siblings) or distributed elsewhere? Also, if one of your personal representatives or successor trustees has just died, even if that person was only an alternate trustee or personal representative, you may desire to update your plan to add someone new to your list of fiduciaries. That way, you can remain just as protected as you were against future unexpected events leaving you without someone named.

(3) Catastrophic injuries. A major injury to a loved may have a substantial impact on your plan, as it may mean you need significant changes in order to meet your goals. If you've left a distribution in your plan to someone who has suffered an injury/illness and now receives needs-based government benefits, you'll want to explore an update. Leaving your plan unchanged, and leaving a distribution outright to that beneficiary, could force him/her into the difficult position of possibly having to disclaim that distribution or, worse, losing his/her eligibility to continue receiving benefits. With a proper update, which may include a Supplemental Needs Trust, you can include that person in your plans and not risk creating a loss of benefits.

(4) A move out of state. The laws regarding estate planning are different from state to state by varying degrees. Some states' laws are very similar to others, while others are significantly different. Because of this wide degree of variability, whether or not you'll need an update (and how much of an update you'll need) depends on where you're moving from and what state you're moving to. Regardless of the states involved, it is a good idea to get a plan review. Even if you only need a very minor update (or even no update at all,) it is beneficial to make sure that the out-of-state move you've completed won't cause you any problems later on.

(5) Legal changes. Changes in the law can be good, bad or neither. The only way to find out is to have your plan reviewed. If the change is good, then an update can allow you take advantage of the change. If it is bad, then an update can help you minimize or avoid the negative impact of the new laws.

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan




Monday, October 2, 2017

Revocable Living Trust | Owning Assets in Multiple States


Summary: In some states, avoiding probate can mean avoiding extensive delays, costs and stress. In other states, laws have been updated to make the process less burdensome. Regardless of the laws, avoiding probate may still hold important advantages for many people, especially those who own property in multiple states. Going through probate in multiple states, and qualifying an executor in multiple states, inherently means multiple opportunities to encounter challenges, delays and legal hurdles. An estate plan that avoids probate can potentially allow your loved ones to bypass these potential pitfalls. 

If you've done much research on the issue of avoiding-versus-not-avoiding probate, then you've likely read or heard the main arguments. One side extols the benefits of avoiding probate. The other side says that avoiding probate is not necessary because the probate administration process in many states is not that complicated or time-consuming. That latter statement can be true, to an extent. Some states have reformed their probate laws and, as a result, the probate process in those places is a lot easier than it used to be.

But that doesn't tell the whole story. Today, people's lives are more mobile than ever before, so the likelihood of owning property in multiple states is higher than ever. Take, for example, a fictional couple whom we'll call James and Sarah. James and Sarah used to live in California until they moved to Kentucky a few years ago. They weren't able to sell their home in California for an adequate price, so now they rent the home out. Recently, they inherited Sarah's parents' beach condo property in Florida, which Sarah's mother left to them in her estate plan. The condo was paid off, so they decided to keep it and use it for vacations.

Both James and Sarah have wills. Both wills name Sarah's cousin, Lauren, as their executors. Lauren lives in Ohio but, since she's an accountant, the couple decided she was the best person to handle the executor job.

So, what happens when the couple passes away? This means that three different probate administration case files must be opened: one each in Kentucky, California and Florida. Lauren must go through the process of qualifying as an executor in each of those states in order to carry out her duties.

While it is true that some states have simplified their probate processes, others haven't. If you own property in three or four different states, your estate has three or four chances of needing to go through probate in a place where it is not modernized, simplified and streamlined. Your estate has three or four chances to encounter a state where the laws erect substantial hurdles when it comes to allowing non-residents (like Lauren would be in each of James and Sarah's states) to serve as the executor of a will. (Florida, for example, has significant limitations.)

In other words, yes, some states have reformed their probate processes but, if you own property in multiple states, probate can still potentially be a massive headache, complete with delays, expenses, stress and legal barriers. So, how can you avoid this? One way is with a revocable living trust (RLT). A RLT allows your loved to avoid worrying about going through probate in multiple states. Fully and properly funded RLTs, by their legal nature, avoid probate, so if you have all of your appropriate assets funded into your RLT, then you won't need probate, regardless of how many states your assets are situation in.

Additionally, a plan with a RLT may also allow your loved ones to escape worrying about the executor qualification problem. While many states have considerable limitations when it comes to who may or may not serve as an executor in that location, the rules everywhere related to who may serve as the successor trustee of a RLT are much less stringent. The chances that your preferred person would be ineligible to serve as a successor trustee are comparatively slim.     

So, yes, it is true that some states have changed their probate laws. It is also true that the probate process in some of those states is much easier, faster and inexpensive than it used to be. These truths do not, however, necessarily mean that avoiding probate isn't worthwhile. Depending on the makeup of your assets, avoiding probate with a plan that includes a RLT can still provide you with extensive benefits. 

This article is published by the Legacy Assurance Plan and is intended for general informational purposes only. Some information may not apply to your situation. It does not, nor is it intended, to constitute legal advice. You should consult with an attorney regarding any specific questions about probate, living probate or other estate planning matters. Legacy Assurance Plan is an estate planning services-company and is not a lawyer or law firm and is not engaged in the practice of law. For more information about this and other estate planning matters visit our website at www.legacyassuranceplan.com


This article written and published by:
8039 Cooper Creek Blvd
University Park, Florida 34201
844.306.5272 (Phone)
@assuranceplan
#legacyassuranceplan