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Friday, October 28, 2016

Estate Planning | Protect Your Loved Ones and Express Your Values


Summary: A complete estate plan spans lots of areas. in addition to planning for wealth distribution, a thorough plan will also address issues like planning for incapacity and end-of-life planning, among other things. With a well thought out plan that includes a healthcare power of attorney and an advance directive, you can be sure that your objectives and your values are respected and honored in the way that end-of-life care is provided to you.  

Most everyone associates estate planning with "the distribution of all my assets when I die." While this is an essential objective and a central aspect of any estate plan, but a complete estate does more than that. Your properly structred plan will not only allow you to state your goals regarding your wealth, it will also communicate your desires regarding your end-of-life care.  

Chances are, you have spent a lifetime looking after the well-being of your loved ones. Your end-of-life planning within your estate plan is one more opportunity to do just that. Specifically, the healthcare power of attorney and the advance directive documents in your plan allow you to take control and to express your end-of-life wishes to your loved ones and to your medical care providers. In some states, these declarations are covered in these two separate documents, in other states one document covers both. This document (or documents) can allow you to state the circumstances under which you would like life-extending medical provided or withdrawn, and also allows you designate a person, your "proxy," who holds the authority to make medical decisions for you when you cannot speak for yourself.  

With a complete plan, you can have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have communicated your values and your objectives in valid, legal documents. With these clear instructions in place, you can also save your loved ones from having to make potentially heart-wrenching decisions about your care with no input from you. Making these decisions without knowing your preferences can lead to both severe disagreements among family members, as well as the potential of guilt on the part of the person who ultimately becomes the decision-maker. 

Perhaps one of your goals is to avoid being a "burden" to your family. Your plan can make it clear to family and doctors alike the exact criteria under which you desire to continue receiving care, and when you would like that care to be withdrawn. You can also dictate the specifics regarding your care, such as whether or not to continue receiving things like painkillers, hydration or nutrition. On the flip side, perhaps your closely-held personal feelings or religious values dictate that doctors should continue doing everything possible to prolong your life regardless of your condition. For people in this position, a plan can be an important helper, again making sure that loved ones and doctors all know how you would like your care managed.  

When you are experiencing your final illness, it will certainly be an extremely painful time for your loved ones. Nothing is going to stop that pain. However, a complete estate plan with detailed end-of-life planning can at least make things a little easier for your family in a time of great stress.

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






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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Estate Plan Review | Dealing With a Marital Separation


Summary: If you have separated from your spouse but have not divorced, this lack of a divorce judgment does not mean that you should not review and consider updating your estate plan. The lack of a divorce doesn’t mean you can’t change your plan; as long as you are mentally competent, you can update your plan. There are however, certain limitations that the law imposes on the way you construct your plan when it comes to distributing your wealth, but updating your plan right away may still create certain significant advantages.

Before the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states, same-sex couples launched multiple court challenges to the laws banning the recognition of such marriages. In many cases, the couples challenging these laws in court sought not to marry, but to divorce. They had married in a state (like Massachusetts) where the practice was legal, then moved to a state (like Florida) that did not recognize these unions and therefore could not get a divorce in their new home state. Whether you were in a same-sex marriage that was previously caught up in this legal limbo, or are in a heterosexual marriage that has functionally ended but you have not legally divorced, there are many reasons why couples separate but do not divorce for extended periods of time. If you’re in that position, it is important to understand the estate planning impacts of being “married but separated.”

The law in every state requires a spouse to provide for a surviving spouse in his/her estate. Every state has what’s called the “spousal share” or “elective share.” Generally, depending on whether you have surviving children, this means that your spouse is entitled to anywhere from one-third to all of your estate. So, even if you create an estate plan, it must comply with these laws. If you create a distribution plan, whether in a will or a living trust, and you try to leave your spouse $100 and a case of domestic beer, your spouse can simply go to court and decline this inheritance and instead “elect” to receive his/her statutory spousal share.  

In spite of the existence of these laws, it may still benefit you to review and possibly update your plan after you and your spouse separate, even if you’ve not divorced. Chances are high that you named your spouse as your agent under your powers of attorney and your advance directive. A review after your separation gives you the chance to check these documents and possibly replace them with new ones naming different agents who would act on your behalf if you were unable to do so for yourself.  

Another area where a review can help is if you and your spouse have separated amicably. As mentioned above, couples who are separated (but not divorced) and have ended their relationship may have certain planning needs. On the other hand, couples who have separated and divorced, but maintain an ongoing relationship, may also need to review their plans. A divorce could substantially alter your plan, even if you expressly make no changes and do not desire to make changes. In many states, the issuance of a divorce judgment by a court automatically wipes out any provision in a will that would benefit the now ex-spouse. So, if you created a will that contained a distribution for your spouse, and you still want to leave something to him/her, even after the separation and divorce, you may need to amend your plan to ensure this goal gets accomplished.

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






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Friday, October 21, 2016

Intestacy Laws | Chaos Surrounding Prince’s Estate and the Risks

Summary: Legal and financial experts agree that everyone needs an estate plan. The chaos that has unfolded this spring in a probate court in Minnesota, surrounding the estate of famous singer Prince, helps to highlight why. With a carefully crafted plan, you have benefits of enhanced privacy and greater control over the distribution of your wealth. Chances are, you’ve worked hard to maintain your privacy and control over your affairs during your lifetime; your estate plan is your opportunity to continue to do so even after death. 


In April 2016, famed rock musician Prince died in suburban Minneapolis. Several months later, there is still no indication that the singer left behind a will or any sort of estate plan. Assuming that no will is found, that means that singer’s estate, which is valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will be distributed according to the intestacy laws of Minnesota.       

Intestacy laws do serve some useful purposes. In the case of Prince’s estate, dozens of people have filed claims in the probate court staking a claim to part of his wealth. Seven people placed claims based on allegedly being the descendants of the sister of Prince’s great-great-grandfather. Intestacy laws help give order to this process. Even if the seven distant cousins’ kinship claims are verified, the law says that they will not receive distributions. Intestacy laws look for the closest group of living relatives, and then stop. Prince had no surviving wife or parents, and no known surviving children. However, he did have at least one known sibling, a sister. The existence of the sister means that the cousins have no claim. 

These laws, though, have numerous pitfalls. A big one is privacy. Intestate probate, like any probate, is usually a matter of public record. Whatever amount of wealth you’ve accumulated, it is often part of the record. If you’ve amassed substantial wealth, that could be a motivation for someone to attempt a phony claim based upon a false assertion of a biological kinship. If you’ve had relationships in your life that were kept private, perhaps even from your family, the administration of your intestate estate could bring them to light.

With a plan in place, it is clearer who will and who won’t receive a distribution from your estate. There is less motivation to go to court claiming to be your long-lost love-child or other relative, as merely having a blood kinship is not necessarily enough to stake a claim to a piece of the estate. An estate plan with a living trust has even greater privacy, as the process of settling a living trust, unlike the process of estate administration, usually is not a matter of public record. 

Another potential drawback of intestacy is the lack of control. If it turns out that Prince had a child with one of his former partners, that person could potentially receive a distribution in the hundreds of millions of dollars, even though the singer maybe never knew this child existed. If you leave your estate up to intestacy laws, you could end up enriching people you barely know (or don’t know at all,) while cutting out people who matter deeply to you.

A carefully crafted estate plan can avoid all of the “long-lost-relative” chaos like what’s occurring in Prince’s case. Your plan can state exactly who will receive a distribution from you, and who will not. Other than restrictions against disinheriting a surviving spouse, you are free to make your distributions to whomever you want and then say that you are intentionally disinheriting everyone else, regardless of their biological or legal relationship to you. 

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






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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Estate Plan Review | Your Plan May Be Bigger Than You Think


Summary: What comprises the pieces of an estate plan today is often more complex than ever before. A few generations ago, most estate plans consisted only of simple wills spanning no more than one or two pages. Today, the totality of estate planning spills out onto a wide spectrum of documents. Perhaps you have a will, a living trust, powers of attorney and an advance directive. However, depending on your situation, the documents that are part of your overall estate plan may be more than just those. Whether you are creating a plan, updating your plan or reviewing your plan, it is important to take stock of all of your estate planning goals, assess all the documents that are needed to carry out those objectives and then review all of them to make sure they are working together harmoniously.

100 years ago, in many instances, estate plans were simpler. People our great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents' ages, as they entered their twilight years, composed brief wills that distributed their assets to their loved ones and that was the total extent of their plans. Today, the accomplishment of estate planning goals may be contained in many places beyond just your will. Certainly, if your have a living trust, then that document is a key item in achieving your objectives. However, as laws change and planning strategies become more sophisticated, your goals may span across more than just your will and living trust. Many states have have laws allowing people to place transfer-on-death or pay-on-death beneficiary designations on wide range of assets, from bank accounts to houses, for example. 

One recent court case from Florida shows just how far-reaching this can be. A South Florida man, Andrew Shaw, died in 2012. His will called for the distribution of testamentary gifts to his wife of three years, Natalia, that were worth approximately $103,000. The man also had an IRA. That account named Natalia as the sole death beneficiary, and she received a $480,000 payment as a result. The wife ended up suing the personal representative of the husband's estate, though, claiming that the representative improperly refused to issue to her an additional half-million dollar payment that she was owed upon the occasion of her husband's death. 

This payment obligation was not contained in the husband's will, nor in any trust. Instead, the document that was at the center of this lawsuit was the couple's prenuptial agreement, which stated that the wife was entitled to a $500,000 payment from the husband's "estate" when he died as long as neither spouse had filed for divorce. In this particular situation, the wife lost because of the way the prenuptial agreement defined the word "estate." While, in some areas of the law, an "estate" may mean only a person's probate estate, this prenup specifically defined "estate" in a way that it included distributions from wills, trusts and non-probate accounts with death beneficiary designations. Because the wife had already received $103,000 of assets through the husband's will (the testamentary gifts) and another $480,000 from a pay-on-death account (the IRA), and because of the way the prenuptial agreement defined "estate," the courts decided that she had already received considerably more than $500,000 from the man's "estate," and wasn't entitled to anything additional.

In Shaw's case, his prenuptial agreement affected his estate planning documents, and vice versa. The Shaw case serves as a clear reminder of one of the biggest benefits of routine estate plan reviews. Whether you've experienced a change in the form of a major life event, like a divorce, marriage, birth or death, or you've made a personal decision to alter your planning goals, the changes you make to your plan can have a "ripple effect" across multiple different legal documents. Through a careful review, you can ensure that any changes you seek to make are done in a way that will allow all of your legal documents to continue work together as they should.

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






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Legacy Assurance Plan YouTube Channel

Friday, October 14, 2016

Digital Estate Planning | Why You Need a Plan and Should Review It Periodically


Summary: In today's world, the array of assets we own spans a much broader spectrum than ever before due to the advancement and proliferation of electronic technology. 50 years a person might own a personal library of books, a collection of photographs, a shoebox full of personal letters and a banker's box of bank and investment account statements, whereas today a person might instead possess an e-reader, a laptop and smartphone that contains a gallery full of digital images, and apps for email and online banking. With so much of our lives online, it is important, not only to have a plan for these electronic accounts, but to review this plan just as you would review the rest of your estate plan, to ensure that it is properly maintained in an optimal, up-to-date condition. 

Many estate planning experts have, for the last several years, been extolling the benefits of having a digital estate plan. That's because a plan for your digital possessions can offer you huge benefits, including avoiding of the massive hassles that can arise in the absence of a plan. News sources have covered numerous horror stories of people who died without a digital estate plan. Whether it is a bank or an email service provider, many entities have steadfastly refused to grant access to their accounts without the user's username and correct password. This can be true even if the person seeking access is the executor of the estate and has firm proof from a court of his/her appointment to the executor position, as well as proof of the account holder's death.

There are several steps that go into a digital estate plan. First, list all of your online accounts, from Pinterest to Instagram to email to online banking. With that list, also record your username and password for each account. Obviously, given the highly sensitive nature of this information, it is essential to make sure that you place this record someplace extremely secure, whether the list is electronic or a hardcopy. Finally, you must make sure that the person whom you have asked to handle your online accounts after you die has all the tools he/she needs to access that information when the time comes.

Digital estate plans, like other aspects of your estate planning, should be reviewed routinely. Just like a "regular" review can help you take stock of changes in your life, such as marriages, divorces, deaths, births, relocations, etc., a review of your digital plan can accomplish a similar task for events in your "electronic" life. Did you change the password on the laptop where you store your list of usernames and passwords and, if yes, did you notify the person who will be handling your online accounts of this new password? Did you switch banks and open a new online banking account? Did you establish a new email account? Did you finally decide to give in and join Twitter? All of these things may trigger a need for you to take some sort of action in keeping your digital planning updated and a review can help you identify these events and target necessary actions.

Another thing a review can do is help you address systemic changes. In a "regular" review, this might mean making adjustments to your plan to address changes in the laws of your state. With a digital plan review, the changes are not necessarily to the law but perhaps to the rules governing your online accounts. As one example, earlier last year, Facebook made a change to allow Facebook users to name someone to be their "Legacy Contact." Under the newly created Legacy Contact option, you can name another Facebook user to be your contact, and that person, after you die, can add certain information to your Facebook timeline, update your profile picture and respond to friend requests, but cannot compose new posts. A digital plan review can be a worthwhile chance to assess which of your online accounts has created new options like Facebook's "Legacy Contact," and then take action as needed.     

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






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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Revocable Living Trusts | 4 Things You May Not Have Known

Summary: Over the last several decades, revocable living trusts have become much more familiar to an ever-increasing percentage of the public. Many people have become educated about living trusts' benefits when it comes to avoiding the time, stress and expense involved in probate administration. Others may also be aware of living trusts' possible advantages when it comes to protecting your privacy by keeping the specifics of your wealth out of the public record. But living trusts have the potential to do much more than that. Properly drafted, executed and funded living trusts can offer a wide array of positives to the person who includes it in their estate. 


(1) A living trust may help protect you if you become mentally incapacitated. If you experience a medical event, whether it is a degenerative condition like Alzheimer's disease, a massive trauma like a stroke or some other event that renders you mentally unable to make decisions on your own behalf, it may be necessary to go to court and ask a judge to appoint someone, known as a "conservator" or "guardian of the estate," to be responsible for managing your wealth and making your financial decisions for you. If, however, you have a properly funded living trust, this court process may be unnecessary. With a properly funded living trust, your trust holds your assets and, upon the onset of your mental incapacity, your trust would dictate that your successor trustee would take over the duties of managing your wealth, which could avoid the need for a conservator at all.

(2) A living trust may protect your family if you leave behind minor or young adult children. If you have minor children, the person you want to care for them until they reach adulthood may not necessarily be the person you want to manage your child's inheritance. In a similar fashion, you may be less than comfortable with your 18, 19 or 20-year-old having unrestricted access to, and control of, his/her inheritance. In either circumstance, your trust can help. Instead of having a judge appoint a conservator to manage your minor child's money, or leaving your young adult child to manager his/her own money, you can place that inheritance in your trust and empower your successor trustee to manage that wealth, including delaying certain distributions until the child passes certain life milestones like college graduation or marriage, or reaches certain ages, like 21, 25 or even 30. Even if the bulk of your child's inheritance will come from the proceeds of your life insurance, your trust can still help if you name the trust as the beneficiary and then place instructions for distribution of that money inside your trust document.

(3) A bank account owned by a living trust may have greater federal insurance protection than one held by an individual. If you own a bank account in your own name, it is insured by the FDIC up to $250,000. With trusts, however, the FDIC insures bank accounts at a maximum amount equal to $250,000 per beneficiary. That means that, if your living trust calls for your wealth to be distributed to your three children and two of your grandchildren, the FDIC will insure your trust's bank account up to $1.25 million!   

(4) A living trust is not a complete substitute for a will. While a properly executed and funded living trust can offer you the benefit of avoiding probate, it does not mean that you should avoid preparing a will. A companion will for living trusts, which is often called a "pour-over" will, should still be part of your estate plan. Your pour-over will protects you in case you have assets that you forgot, obtained shortly before your death or otherwise did not get funded into your trust (for whatever reason.) Your pour-over will also protects you if you have minor children, as it can be used to indicate to the courts who you would like to be appointed as the person responsible for caring for your child until that child reaches adulthood.

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






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Legacy Assurance Plan on Facebook

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Estate Planning | To Ensure that You are in Complete Control

Summary: Family relationships today are more complicated than ever. According to recent statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control, more than 40% of new births in the US are born to unmarried mothers. With fewer children than ever being born to married parents, the importance of NOT relying on intestacy laws is higher than ever. Whether you are worried about illegitimate children (or illegitimate children of your children) "coming out of the woodwork" after your death, or you want to ensure that your estate provides for someone who is like a child or grandchild to you (but with whom you do not have a biological relationship,) a detailed estate plan can give you the control over your legacy that you need to ensure that your wealth goes to the people who matter to you.    

Dianna Allen was one such of example of illegitimacy and the estate planning near-catastrophe her circumstance caused. Ola Irene Tucker, mother to three children, died in 2010. Two of Tucker's children died before her, with the third passing mere months after she did. Tucker died with no estate plan in place, meaning that her estate would be distributed according to the intestacy laws of her home state of Tennessee. In September 2010, two of Tucker's grandchildren asked to be appointed co-administrators of the estate, which would mean that they would handle distributing their grandmother's wealth. They informed the court that Tucker had five grandchildren, including Allen. 

The complication with Tucker's estate emerged when a third grandchild challenged Allen's right to receive any portion of their grandmother's estate. While Allen claimed to be the biological daughter of one of Tucker's sons, and had provided to the court evidence to show that she was an out-of-wedlock child born to Tucker's son, she had a problem. As the opposing grandchild pointed out to the court, Allen's mother was married to another man when Allen was conceived and born. The other grandchild argued that, under Tennessee law, this meant that Allen was not a child born out of wedlock at all, but was the legal daughter of the other man (the husband of Allen's mother.) This would mean Allen had no legal relationship to Tucker's son or to Tucker and, because of that, had no right to receive anything from Tucker's estate. Based on the state of Allen's mother's marriage, the trial court agreed and ruled in 2014 that Allen could not pursue a claim to part of Tucker's estate.

By the summer of 2015, the Tennessee Court of Appeal overturned that ruling and sent the case back to the trial court. While the law creates a strong legal presumption that a child born to a married woman is the child of that mother and that husband, this presumption is not irrefutable. With enough proof on her side, Allen could possibly overcome this presumption and establish that Tucker's son was her biological father.  

While the appeals court's ruling clears the way for Allen to receive a portion of her grandmother's estate, it points out many pitfalls of failing to plan. First, this case started in September 2010 and, by the late summer of 2015, was once again pending before a trial court in Loudon County, meaning that the administration of Tucker's estate ultimately took five years or more to resolve! 

Additionally, the facts of Tucker's case point out just how few situations in today's world fit into the tidy, clear-cut parameters of intestacy laws. Sometimes, one has children who have children of their own outside the bounds of marriage. Without an estate plan, one's wealth is potentially in jeopardy from one's long-lost illegitimate children or the illegitimate children of one's own children. The case of the estate of rock singer Prince is such an example, with numerous individuals coming forward claiming that the dead musician is their biological father. 

The same is true in reverse. The greeting card aisle in your local store has an entire selection of cards conveying love and affection to someone who role is "you're like a mother to me." Similar relationships exist between people who have grandparent-grandchild type relationships despite having no biological connection. In any of these circumstances, proper and careful planning is a must. A well thought out plan will allow you to dictate the terms of the distribution of your wealth. Within certain legal limitations (like the prohibition against completely disinheriting a surviving spouse,) your plan gives you the freedom and control to direct your wealth to all of the people who matter most to you, and to ensure that only your true loved ones take from your estate.

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






Click Below To See Other Legacy Assurance Plan Related Sites:

Legacy Assurance Plan on Facebook

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Legacy Assurance Plan on Blogspot

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Legacy Assurance Plan on Pinterest

Legacy Assurance Plan on LinkedIn

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Legacy Assurance Plan YouTube Channel