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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Legacy Assurance Plan Article | Getting Married and its Impact on Estate Planning


Summary: Everyone who makes the decision to enter the institution of marriage should be aware of how that decision will impact his or her estate plan. Marriage can offer certain new estate planning opportunities to couples, but can also introduce possible new complications that your estate plan can address. This important life event should be viewed as a welcome opportunity to get your estate plan established, or to get your existing plan reviewed.  

Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples across the country have the right to get married. With this decision, the pool of people contemplating marriage in the near future has almost certainly increased significantly. Regardless of your sexual orientation, the decision to marry can have substantial impacts on your estate plan, especially for older couples. It is important to consider these effects as you go forward with your plans to marry.

Becoming married opens up additional options for you. You and your spouse can choose to own property as a tenancy by the entireties. In this arrangement, the surviving spouse automatically takes full ownership of the property upon the death of the first spouse. This type of ownership is only available to married couples.

While tenancy by the entireties offers several significant advantages, such barring creditors from taking the property unless both spouses are named parties to debt in question, your individual situation may indicate that a better option exists for carrying out your estate planning goals, such as a revocable living trust. 

Marriage also carries with it additional obligations. If you or your new spouse die intestate (in other words, with no valid estate plan,) then the law says that your spouse gets a statutorily-dictated portion of your assets. Depending on your circumstances, this could dramatically unravel many of your estate planning goals. For example, perhaps your are an older couple and one or both of you entered the marriage with substantial wealth. You and your spouse may decide that your prefer to leave your assets to other loved ones instead of each other. An estate plan is very important for you, because the law's intestate plan would result in a very different distribution. 

In some states, the intestate laws split your wealth between your spouse and close blood relatives. Perhaps you are estranged from your children and desire to leave everything to your spouse. Again, getting an estate plan is vital to ensure that this distribution is carried out, rather than what the intestate laws would do.

Your estate plan can provide other assistance, regardless of whether you and your partner are married. Just because you and your partner become married does not mean that your new spouse would be able to make financial or healthcare decisions for you in the event that you lost the able to make them yourself. Your estate plan's inclusion of financial and healthcare powers of attorney can accomplish this objective for you. Similarly, an advance directive can make certain that the person you desire to make your end-of-life decisions will have the authority to do so. These can be very beneficial in families where tension exists between your spouse and your other relatives.

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

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Legacy Assurance Plan Article | 6 Events that Should Lead You Get an Estate Plan Review


Summary: Estate planning is an ongoing process. Rather than a one-time task you complete and put away, proper planning includes giving your plan regular reviews to ensure that your plan continues to be structured in a way to best address your needs and accomplish your goals. Whether there's been a change in the law, the economy, your life or simply an extensive passage of time, an check-up is the ideal way to ensure the well-being of your estate plan. 

One of the worst errors you can make in estate planning, short of never getting any estate plan at all, is mistakenly believing that estate planning is a "once and done" process. Proper estate planning is about more than just creating and executing a plan; it is also about maintaining that plan once it is in place. With that in mind, here are six top reasons why your estate plan should undergo a "checkup," if it hasn't already.   

1. Life event changes. These types of events typically involve births and deaths among your loved ones, and marriages and divorces (either yours or those of your loved ones.) This checkup, especially in the event is a divorce, is extremely important and entails reviewing your entire plan, not just your will or trust. Failure to review your plan after one of these events occurs can create some dramatically unintended (and probably undesired) results. In a 2013 case, the US Supreme Court allowed a man's ex-wife to receive a $124,000 life insurance payout when he died. The man had updated most of his plan after the divorce, but had never updated the death beneficiary form on his life insurance policy, leading to the unintended outcome.      

2. Legal changes. Whether it is to take advantage of new benefits or to avoid potential new pitfalls, changes in the law require a review, as well. Your state may have just begun recognizing transfer-on-death deeds on real estate, may have changed the content of its power of attorney or living will templates or may have made changes to death tax rules. These changes might mean you need a new document prepared, or might mean an alteration to your lifetime gifting strategy. Regardless of the exact change, a review can help you be confident that you are best positioned to deal with the new rules the new law dictates.

3. Economic changes. These changes can be global or personal. A shift in the economy might lead you to alter your financial plan, and that alteration might mean making changes to your estate plan. Perhaps an economic downturn has led you to move wealth previously funded into your living trust into an annuity account that is outside the trust. Your review will help you ensure that all of these new pieces continue to work well together and the totality of your legacy is still distributed to those you want (and in the proportions you want.) Also, purchasing or refinancing a new home, taking on significant new debt or receiving a large influx of new wealth (like an inheritance) should also trigger a review to make certain that your plan is equipped to reflect your new personal financial situation. 

4. Major travel or medical procedures. If you are planning on taking an extensive trip, or are staring down the likelihood of surgery, a review is a good idea. If your trip will take you away from home for a long time, your agent under your financial power of attorney may need to handle your affairs while you're away. Similarly, your agents under either (or both) of your financial or healthcare powers of attorney may need to act on your behalf while you're recovering. A review can make sure that these documents are optimally structured to give your agents the powers they need, and only those powers you want them to have.

5. Changes to your (or a loved one's) health. These events can cover a range of possibilities. For example, if you've been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, that does not make you mentally incapacitated. However, it does mean you should have an estate plan review, so that your plan is properly prepared to deal with the possibility of incapacity, should your condition worsen. Also, if a close loved one is incapacitated and has become dependent on you, a review is in order. A review can make certain that the proper preparation and planning is in place to deal with your loved one's care should you no longer have the ability to handle it yourself.

6. Passage of time. Even if you've experienced none of these life events, you should still have your plan reviewed annually. The law may have changed without your knowing, or perhaps a discussion with your team of estate planning professionals may reveal an event or issue that you overlooked. An annual review allows you and your team the opportunity to ensure that everything about your plan remains ideally structured to protect your family and your legacy.



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






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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Understand Legacy Assurance Plan Of America | How a Living Trust May Help You Maximize Your Incapacity Planning Protections


Summary: An complete estate plan from Legacy Assurance Plan involves more than just planning for what will happen after you die, but also protects you in the event of your incapacitation. In many situations, a plan that includes a revocable living trust can offer special benefits in ensuring that the person you want to manage your assets is free to do so in the manner you would want. A living trust, working together with your financial power of attorney, can give you the protection you need if you were to become incapacitated.

With your favorite football team, each player has a specific job. For example, in pass protection, interior linemen protect against rushers coming up the middle, tackles might block edge-rushing defensive ends and a running back might be tasked with picking up a blitzing safety. Your estate planning team is like that, where each member has a specific role suited to that person's expertise and qualifications. Your estate plan documents also can work together as a team to protect you, such as the event of your incapacitation.



If you desire a plan that will help you plan for the possibility of your becoming incapacitated, an estate plan that includes a will, powers of attorney and a revocable living trust may be very beneficial. Some people believe that the only planning you need to protect against incapacity is a power of attorney for financial matters, but this is not always true.

Certainly, a power of attorney for financial matters is an essential component of a complete plan, and serves a vital role if you become incapacitated. Certain assets, like your Social Security income or some retirement accounts, cannot (or should not) be funded into a revocable living trust. Additionally, you may have some assets that you forgot to fund into your trust before your incapacitation occurred. Your power of attorney offers necessary benefits in that it authorizes your agent to continue to manage those assets even after you've become incapacitated.



With many other assets, however, it is worthwhile to utilize the advantages of a revocable living trust. A carefully drafted trust may be able to give your trustee greater flexibility and discretion in how he/she manages the assets in your trust than an agent would have under the authority of a revocable living trust. Many banks and other financial entities may balk at accepting a power of attorney and allowing your agent to act under the powers assigned by that document. A person acting as the successor trustee of a revocable trust may encounter fewer roadblocks to exercising the authority you want him/her to have.

   

Your power of attorney provides many essential and unique benefits, including possibly protecting your family from needing to go to court and seek the appointment of a guardian or conservator. However, a living trust can also offer many vital advantages when it comes to incapacity planning. Through careful planning and working with reliable estate planning professionals, you can be sure that, when you cannot speak for yourself, your plan can be your voice.  



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






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Understand Legacy Assurance Plan Of America | How a Living Trust May Help You Maximize Your Incapacity Planning Protections


Summary: An complete estate plan from Legacy Assurance Plan involves more than just planning for what will happen after you die, but also protects you in the event of your incapacitation. In many situations, a plan that includes a revocable living trust can offer special benefits in ensuring that the person you want to manage your assets is free to do so in the manner you would want. A living trust, working together with your financial power of attorney, can give you the protection you need if you were to become incapacitated.

With your favorite football team, each player has a specific job. For example, in pass protection, interior linemen protect against rushers coming up the middle, tackles might block edge-rushing defensive ends and a running back might be tasked with picking up a blitzing safety. Your estate planning team is like that, where each member has a specific role suited to that person's expertise and qualifications. Your estate plan documents also can work together as a team to protect you, such as the event of your incapacitation.



If you desire a plan that will help you plan for the possibility of your becoming incapacitated, an estate plan that includes a will, powers of attorney and a revocable living trust may be very beneficial. Some people believe that the only planning you need to protect against incapacity is a power of attorney for financial matters, but this is not always true.

Certainly, a power of attorney for financial matters is an essential component of a complete plan, and serves a vital role if you become incapacitated. Certain assets, like your Social Security income or some retirement accounts, cannot (or should not) be funded into a revocable living trust. Additionally, you may have some assets that you forgot to fund into your trust before your incapacitation occurred. Your power of attorney offers necessary benefits in that it authorizes your agent to continue to manage those assets even after you've become incapacitated.



With many other assets, however, it is worthwhile to utilize the advantages of a revocable living trust. A carefully drafted trust may be able to give your trustee greater flexibility and discretion in how he/she manages the assets in your trust than an agent would have under the authority of a revocable living trust. Many banks and other financial entities may balk at accepting a power of attorney and allowing your agent to act under the powers assigned by that document. A person acting as the successor trustee of a revocable trust may encounter fewer roadblocks to exercising the authority you want him/her to have.

   

Your power of attorney provides many essential and unique benefits, including possibly protecting your family from needing to go to court and seek the appointment of a guardian or conservator. However, a living trust can also offer many vital advantages when it comes to incapacity planning. Through careful planning and working with reliable estate planning professionals, you can be sure that, when you cannot speak for yourself, your plan can be your voice.  



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






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Friday, June 10, 2016

Legacy Assurance Plan Article | Moving to a New State and Its Impact on Your Estate Plan


Summary: Moving to a new state doesn't mean that you have to scrap your estate plan and start over from scratch. However, it also does not mean that you should simply make your move, do nothing with your plan and cross your fingers that the variations in the laws between your old state and your new one won't cause you or your loved ones any problems. You should use the occasion of your move as an opportunity to discuss your plan with a qualified estate planning professional in your new state, who can help you decide what changes with help your plan continue to function at its best.

Today, more than ever, we live in a mobile society. Regardless of whether you're young and single, married with children at home or reached your "empty nest" years, you may encounter the possibility (or need) to move to a new state, whether for your job, your family or for that beachfront (or mountain top) retirement you've always wanted. If you do find yourself moving, and you've already put an estate plan into place, there are certain steps you should consider taking in order to make certain that your estate plan continues to function as well as it should.

You should talk to a legal professional in your new state about your will. Almost every estate plan includes a will and the laws governing wills can vary from state to state. Generally speaking, if your will was validly executed in your old home state, then your new home state would recognize it if you died and it were admitted to probate. However, the variations in the laws between your old home state and your new one may mean that your new state may interpret some provisions of your will differently than your old state. This is especially true if your old state is a "community property" state and the new one is not (or vice versa). 

The differences in the law between the states may mean that your plan may benefit by having certain parts of your will revised. This can be done through a document called a "codicil." In some cases, though, your lawyer may determine that it is easier and more beneficial simply to revoke the old will and replace it with a new one.

If your plan includes a revocable living trust, your should have it checked, too. Unlike wills, the laws governing living trusts do not vary as much from state to state, but there can still be issues that your move has created. If your trust requires updating to optimize it in light of your new state of residency, this is generally achieved by executing a trust amendment. It is much less likely that your move would necessitate revoking and replacing your trust, as opposed to your will.

Of course, your plan probably includes more than just your will and/or living trust. A complete plan generally also has documents like an advance directive and powers of attorney that plan for your incapacity. With these documents, many people benefit by obtaining new documents created in the new state. Even if your old documents are valid in your new state, you would want to give your loved ones the least stressful experience when they have to present these documents and deal with medical professionals. One way to expedite the process is to make sure that the documents your doctors see are ones with which they're familiar, so you'll want to give serious consideration to obtaining new versions of these documents when you move.



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






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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Legacy Assurance Plan Article | How Pocket Deeds Can Impact the Effectiveness of Your Estate Plan


Summary: Pocket deeds are one type of technique for avoiding probate, but they can be risky and unreliable. An estate plan that includes a pocket deed (or deeds) that creates one outcome and a will or trust that intends to create another can be ambiguous and leave your loved ones in a state of uncertainty as to your goals, and possibly force the courts to become involved to sort it all out. Working with reliable estate planning professionals can help you ensure that you have an estate plan where all of the pieces work together effectively.

For many years, people have sought out various means to avoid probate. While some methods like revocable living trusts and death-beneficiary deeds or account designations can, depending on your circumstances, provide reliable and effective means for avoiding probate, there are other methods that are often much less reliable. A "pocket deed" is one such risky method.  

A "pocket deed" is a nickname given to a deed that is validly executed by the owner during his/her lifetime, but not recorded until after he/she dies. This planning technique allows the transferring owner to maintain control of the property for the remainder of his/her life, and allows the property to pass outside of probate.

In a recent Michigan case, the state's courts were forced to resolve the estate of Vivian Hornak, an 87-year-old widow who lived in Saginaw County. When the woman died in the spring of 2010, she left behind two sons and several grandchildren. The woman also had an estate plan that included a will. Hornak's will left her 80-acre piece of property to a grandson, Keith Amman. The rest of her wealth she split among her two sons and the children of her two deceased daughters.

After the will was already admitted to probate, one of the sons, Kenneth Hornak, presented to the court four deeds. In the two 2004 deeds, the widow deeded all of her real property to herself and Kenneth jointly. In the two 2010 deeds, she transferred all her real property 100% to Kenneth. All four deeds were validly signed by the woman, but none had been recorded at the county Register of Deeds office. 

In this case, Kenneth lost his claim to all of the property that the deeds covered for a somewhat unique reason. Back in 2007, he filed for bankruptcy. At no time during the entire bankruptcy process did Kenneth disclose any of the ownership interests he held under these unrecorded deeds. As a result of his failure to disclose his ownership of the properties during his bankruptcy, the probate court invalidated the deeds.

Kenneth appealed, but lost. As the Michigan Court of Appeals court noted in its ruling, the estate plan the woman undertook when she signed the deeds in favor of her son seemed to be in distinct conflict with the estate plan she created under the terms of her will. It will always remain unclear which "plan" represented Vivian's true goals. That's why having a reliable estate planning team, to whom you can consistently turn for your planning needs is so important. Your planning professionals can help you make sure that all of your estate planning pieces work together in synergy to yield a plan with a single, consistent and clear set of objectives representing your true wishes for your legacy.



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






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Friday, June 3, 2016

Legacy Assurance Plan Article | Ensuring Proper Execution of Your Estate Documents in Order to Protect Your Plan

Summary: Little things can have big consequences when it comes to estate planning documents. In some cases, improper witness signatures can lead to the complete invalidation and nullification of the estate plan you carefully laid out in your will. Each aspect of your estate plan, whether during the creation process or the execution phase, must be carried out with utmost care. That's why, whether you're creating your plan or executing your plan, it's important to work with an estate planning team that you trust. 

There are many steps that go into estate planning. You must decide how you would like your wealth distributed after you die. Of course, you also have to make the decision to go out and procure an estate plan (a step which slows many people down due to simple procrastination). Once you've overcome all the hurdles and decided which loved ones to whom you will provide distributions, and once you've decided to take that plan and memorialize it on paper, there is still another step: making sure that the plan documents you sign are legally enforceable. 

This step might seem obvious or simple, but sometimes it is not. Recently, an appeals court in Tennessee ruled on an estate plan contest case related to the execution of a will. The father had created a will before he died in July 2011. The father's will was admitted to probate later that month. The will named two of the man's children as Co-Executors. 

The man left behind four surviving children. A fifth child, who had four children of her own, predeceased the man. The man left distributions to two of the children (the two who were also named as Co-Executors), as well as three of the deceased daughter's grandchildren. The other two children, along with the deceased daughter's fourth child, were not mentioned in the will. 

When the man had executed his will back in 2008, two unrelated people had signed the document as witnesses. The son, in his will contest, argued that the witnesses did not sign the will validly under the rules of Tennessee law. Although he lost in the trial court, the Court of Appeals ruled that he was correct. 

The problem was that the witnesses signed what's commonly referred to as a "self-proving affidavit," but did not sign the will itself. (Self-proving affidavits are affidavits attached to the end of wills that allow the executor to prove that the will was properly witnessed without requiring the witnessed to come to court and testify that they witnessed the will.) 

So what did all this ultimately mean? It meant, in the opinion of the appeals court, that no one legally signed the man's will as a witness. That, in turn, meant that the will did not meet the witness requirements established by Tennessee law, and so, the man had no valid will and died intestate. As a result, each of his children, as well as each of the children of his deceased daughter, were entitled to the portion of his estate established by Tennessee's intestacy laws.  

While we may not know with absolute certainty what this man's true goals were for his estate, his intended objectives almost certainly were not the same as the plan contained in the state intestacy laws. All of this happened simply as a result of how the witness signature areas were prepared on his will.



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






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