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

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Estate Planning Reviews | Going Beyond the Basics

Summary: Estate plan reviews are an important part of maintaining a healthy estate plan. While, certainly, anyone can look over one’s plan and identify their fiduciaries and beneficiaries, and also pinpoint whether marriage, divorce, death or a new birth has affected any of those people’s lives, there is much more that goes into a truly comprehensive estate plan review. Whether it is reviewing non-probate assets or identifying changes in the law, there are many ways that, by going deeper, your estate plan review can give you total confidence that you plan is truly optimized. 

Having a team of reliable estate planning professionals can be very helpful to you in many ways. One of the occasions where they can be invaluable to you is when you need to perform a review of your estate plan. You can certainly perform a review on your own, but your estate planning team can help you make sure that your review is a truly complete one so that you don’t miss anything.    

When you need to review your plan, you may know, without any help, that you need to review your will, living trust, powers of attorney and living will. But did you know that you shouldn’t stop there? Many people have many assets held in various forms that involve non-probate transfers on death. This could everything from a financial account with a pay-on-death designation or a piece of real estate with a transfer-on-death deed to your retirement account, life insurance or annuities… basically anything with a death beneficiary attached to it. These assets are also part of your estate plan and making sure to include these assets in your review can help you make certain that everything reflects the current state of affairs in your life and your up-to-date planning goals.

Also, you may possibly already know that, as you review all of these assets, titles and documents, that you should take into account certain life events like marriage, divorce, death or a new birth in the family. But, did you know that there are other life events that may impact your plan and create a possible estate planning need? Illnesses or injuries can sometimes alter your loved ones’ needs, which may change your estate planning goals. Perhaps you have a beneficiary who’s recently been approved for Medicaid or some other needs-based benefits program. You need to make sure that there are no distributions in your estate plan that, if you died, would go directly to your beneficiary and cause her to lose continued eligibility for those benefits.

As another example, let’s say you have a trusted loved one whom you’ve selected as the successor trustee of your living trust and the executor of your will. Let’s also assume, in this example, that this loved one has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The effects of the disease may create a situation where you need to consider naming someone else as the first person in line to handle these duties on your behalf after you pass away.             

Finally, there is also the possibility that the laws (either federal law or your state’s law) may have changed since you last reviewed your plan. Chances are, you’re aren’t up-to-date on all of the most recent changes to the laws and what those changes’ effects are on estate plan like yours (and, really, how could any busy layperson be expected to be?) Your estate planning team can help you with identifying those laws that may impact people who live where you do.

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, May 25, 2017

Choosing Non-relatives over Relatives as Your Beneficiaries?

Summary: When you decide to create a legacy that favors non-relatives over relatives, there are several possible risks involved. One is that your relatives will decide to challenge your plans in court. Another is that, depending on how you go about making your distributions, you could create possibly harmful tax implications for your estate and your beneficiaries. Proper estate planning may be able to help you minimize or avoid some or all of these risks. Your estate planning attorney can help show you what techniques will best serve your objectives. 

Calvin was a single man living in Colorado. Near the end of his life, one of the primary things on Calvin’s mind was who would own his home after he died. Eventually, Calvin decided to sign a deed that gave the property to three of his closest friends. When Calvin died, he had no estate plan -- no living trust and no will. This meant that Calvin‘s estate would pass according to Colorado’s intestacy laws.

Colorado’s intestate succession rules, like most states, seek to distribute assets to the closest living relatives of the deceased person. Calvin had no living spouse or children. In fact, his closest living relative (under the standards of the intestacy laws) was his half-sister. This was true because the statute only looks at levels of kinship, not personal relationships. In real life, Calvin and his half-sister were far from close. They last spoke at their father’s funeral, which took place more than 20 years before Calvin died. Nevertheless, the half-sister asked the probate to name her as the personal representative of Calvin’s estate, and the court granted the request.

After becoming the personal representative, the half-sister sued to invalidate the deed Calvin executed transferring his house. The deed was executed before Calvin died, meaning that the house was not part of his intestate estate. However, if the court wiped out the deed, then the ownership would revert back to his estate and would go to his sole legal heir, the half-sister.

Ultimately, the friends prevailed in the courts. The trial court stated that the half-sister’s case was “groundless” and backed up by a “dearth of evidence.”

In this case, the deceased man’s estate planning goals were upheld. His planning, as limited as it was, involved getting his home into the hands of his three friends, which was what happened in the end. Whether Calvin had executed a deed a few months before his death, or a will a few months before his death, the legal standard would have been the same: did he or did he not have testamentary capacity when he signed the document?

Nevertheless, Calvin’s approach was still less than ideal. Simply giving his home to his friends by signing a deed meant that the friends lost the possibility to receive the “stepped up basis” in the home. This loss could be costly if they chose to sell the property, as it would likely mean that they would owe a much greater amount of capital gains taxes. Additionally, simply deeding over the home could also have potentially negative gift tax implications, as well. Had Calvin merely executed a will or a living trust that directed his trust or estate to transfer the home to the three friends, Calvin could have achieved the same goal without same degree of potentially harmful tax implications.

         

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, May 22, 2017

Working with the Right Team of Professionals to Help You Plan Your Estate

Summary: Picking a service provider for estate planning assistance is often very similar to picking other service providers, whether that’s a repairman, doctor, lawyer or broker. The key is not to be fearful because some in the industry are unethical or incompetent; unfortunately, there are unethical and/or incompetent providers in any professional industry. By simply checking out your provider carefully before you pick them, and making certain you’re working with a reputable team, you can benefit from the many significant rewards that a reliable provider can offer you. 

Back in the 1990s, a young man in his late 20s, who believed he was having an allergic reaction to over-the-counter medicine, went to his physician for a diagnosis. The doctor asked the man to remove his shirt. After viewing the man and the “rash” that covered his chest, back, arms and face (and the rest of his body,) the doctor told him that he, indeed, had a drug reaction, to cease taking over-the-counter cold/allergy medications and to “tough it out like the rest of us do.” The mother of the man’s best friend, who was a nurse, diagnosed the man differently, needing only one phone call to do so. “It’s not a drug allergy. It’s chicken pox,” the nurse said, after hearing a verbal description of the “rash.” It was, in fact, chicken pox.

In recent days, several news outlets released reports regarding a Florida teen who has been arrested and charged with criminal offenses for pretending to be a doctor in Virginia.

What do these two stories have to do with estate planning? Perhaps more than you’d think. Would you say that all doctors are to be avoided or that the business of practicing medicine is a “scam” just because this teen (and various other men and women – including some licensed physicians) have engaged in fraud, or because some doctors are so horribly bad at their jobs that they cannot diagnose an obvious case of chicken pox? Chances are that you would not. Would you say that all lawyers are useless or that the business of law practice is a scam just because some attorneys are unethical and others are incompetent? Hopefully you wouldn’t.

The same can be said when it comes to people in the business of providing services related to helping you plan your estate. Without question, there are some people offering such services that are not very good at what they do. And there are others purporting to offer such assistance who are undeniably operating scams. But those facts do not mean that everybody in the business of providing these services is a dangerous scam-artist who should be avoided. Yet, many times, you might read or hear that you must avoid all companies that provide estate planning assistance simply because some in the industry are unethical, corrupt or incompetent.   

The key, when it comes to analyzing services providers who offer estate planning assistance, is, much like selecting any type of service provider, simply to make sure that you’re working with the RIGHT provider. First and arguably foremost, ask yourself if your provider’s service gives you access to an estate planning attorney who is an independent professional experienced in the law of estate planning, who will independently represent your interests and provide you with a unique estate plan specifically customized to your needs and goals? If your provider is a reliable one, the answer will be “yes.” This is an essential part of any reliable service.        

If you choose carefully, you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have a single destination, and a single team of experienced professionals well-acquainted with you and your objectives, where you can turn to whenever you need assistance. If you do your “homework” and choose cautiously, just as you would do in choosing a doctor, lawyer, stockbroker or insurance agent, you can reap the rewards of having an entire team, and the resources that come with it, on your side.    

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, May 18, 2017

Think You Don't Need an Estate Plan? Think Again

Summary: Virtually everybody needs an estate plan. Whether you are young or old, rich or broke, or you're somewhere in between, an estate plan can offer you substantial benefits. Even if you have no wealth, your plan can still be valuable to you, as it can help out when you cannot make decisions for yourself. Through the use of powers of attorney and living wills, you plan can make sure that your wishes are honored and your family avoids the arduous process of legal guardianship.    

Authoritative journals and news media reports are full of stories that say just about "everyone needs an estate plan." Perhaps you have even read one or more of these pieces. Despite these intelligent and persuasive arguments, maybe you remain skeptical. Possibly you've said to yourself, "I'm single and I'm broke. I have no assets to leave and nobody to leave them to, anyway." Maybe you're young and healthy and have concluded that you have no need for an estate plan and that you will consider pursuing one once you're much older, or at least, once you've established a career, gotten married or had kids.

This type of thinking can be a major mistake. Even if your assets are minimal and you are unmarried with no kids, there are still very important reasons why you should get an estate plan drafted and executed. One of the biggest reasons is that your estate plan does more than just distribute your assets. Your estate plan, if it is a complete one can, in fact, help you out even before you die.

Anyone, whether young or old, can possibly suffer a traumatic injury that leaves them unable to make their own decisions. Sharon Kowalski, whose guardianship case went to the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1991 and was one of the first cases addressing guardianships and LGBT people, was only 27 when an accident involving a drunk driver left her paralyzed. Nancy Cruzan, whose court case was an early major one in right-to-die litigation, was only 25 when a single-car crash left her in a permanent vegetative state. Terri Schiavo, whose court case dominated news headlines in the mid 2000s, was 26 when a cardiac arrest deprived her brain of oxygen and left her in a permanent vegetative state.

If you suffer an injury due to illness or accident, and that injury leaves you unable to make decisions for yourself, there are only two ways to authorize another person to make decisions for you. One is for a person to go to court, file a legal action, obtain a hearing and persuade a judge that the law should establish a guardianship over you and that the judge should appoint a guardian to make your decisions for you. While the judge will make his/her decision based upon your best interests, if you have no estate plan, he/she will make that decision with no input from you.

The other way is a method where you have the control over who makes your decisions for you when you cannot make your own. This method entails creating an estate plan with powers of attorney. With your financial power of attorney, all of the management of all of your assets is handling by the person you have hand-picked to carry out (and, presumably, who has willingly accepted) the task of handling all of those decisions. Your healthcare power of attorney and your living will give you the opportunity to communicate with your doctors and other medical providers regarding what types of medical care and life-extending services you want... and don't want. Your documents also allow you to name the person you want (and who is willing to handle) making your medical decisions, including end-of-life ones.

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, May 15, 2017

Estate Planning | A Gift to Yourself and Your Loved Ones


Summary: Creating an estate is one the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Your plan can give both you and your loved ones the confidence that comes from knowing that the decisions that will get carried out after you die (or after you are unable to speak for yourself) are exactly consistent with what you would have wanted. With this confidence, you and your loved ones can have the peace of knowing your legacy is the one you truly intended.

During the holiday season, many people obsess over the giving of gifts. They worry and fret regarding whether the gifts they've given are "the perfect gifts." Of course, another holiday season has passed and, with it, the time for giving holiday gifts. However, there is still one truly perfect gift you can give yourself and your loved ones, and that is an estate plan.

To yourself you are giving the giving of peace. Your properly crafted and executed estate plan can give you peace of mind from knowing that your legacy will be the one you wanted to leave. You can have confidence knowing that your wealth will be divided and distributed exactly in the manner that you want. With no estate plan, your assets are divided by a state statute enacted years ago by the legislature of the state where you reside. If you have estate planning goals that go beyond just dividing your wealth among your natural children and your spouse, then your plan can give you the peace of knowing that all of those that matter to you will be included in your plan.

Maybe you have a favorite charity (or charities.) Perhaps you have stepchildren whom you never adopted but whom you consider to be "your kids." Perhaps you have a beloved non-spousal partner, a trusty neighbor or dear friends who are important parts of your life and whom you want to be a part of your estate plan, as well. With your plan in place, you can rest easy knowing that they will all be included. 

Your plan also gives you peace of reducing the risk of your goals being thwarted. Maybe you have a child with whom you have an estranged relationship and whom you've decided to leave only a small (or no) inheritance. Even if your relationship with all your relatives is great, you could still be vulnerable to challenges by people such as someone alleging that he/she is your long-lost biological and legal child. With your plan, you can know that you've put down on paper exactly who is, and is not, supposed to receive a portion of your wealth.

This minimizing of the risk of courtroom battles also ties into another gift, which is the gift of providing for your family. You've spent most of your adult life providing for your family. Why wouldn't you want to take the necessary steps to give yourself confidence that you've continued to provide for them even after you're gone? Beyond just reducing the risk of estate litigation, your plan gives more to your family. Your plan gives them the confidence in knowing that the actions that get carried out after you've passed, from your final arrangements to who gets the house to who gets your prized collectibles, are exactly the ones that you'd have wanted.

Speaking of giving your family confidence, your plan can pass on this gift even before you die. Should you be in a position where you cannot make decisions for yourself, your plan documents can speak for you. Whether it's management of your assets or something much larger -- like end-of-life decisionmaking -- your plan, in the form of your powers of attorney and living will, can speak to your loved ones (and to others like financial institutions and doctors) for you, to ensure that your wishes get carried exactly in the way you want.     

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, May 11, 2017

Common Law Marriage and Your Estate Plan

Summary: Failing to create an estate plan can be a risky proposition. Leaving your legacy to your state's intestacy laws creates a possibility that your wealth will be distributed in a way that's different than you would have wanted. Leaving behind no plan also opens the door to risks like estate litigation from people claiming to be your legal heirs. With a complete plan that includes a will or a will and living trust, you can make certain that your specific and personal objectives are made clear in valid legal documents.     

In February 2015, an Iowa grandmother named Christine passed away at a hospital in Des Moines. According to her obituary, Christine was survived by two children, two grandchildren, one great-grandchild and "her husband of 23 years, Mike." Like a lot of people (too many, to be truthful,) Christine died with no estate plan in place. That meant that Christine's estate would go through Iowa's probate system and be distributed according to Iowa's intestacy laws.

Christine's daughter asked the probate court to name her as the administrator of her mother's estate.  In her court papers, the daughter asserted that she and her brother were Christine's only heirs at law. Sometime after that, Mike entered the case. He asked  the court to remove the daughter. The daughter fought against this removal, arguing that Mike had no legal standing to ask the court to do anything in Christine's estate. You see, Christine and Mike never obtained a marriage license. Mike's claim was that he and Christine were common-law spouses, which the daughter argued against.

Several states have passed laws eliminating the recognition of common-law marriage within their borders, but Iowa isn't one of them. In Iowa, a common-law marriage occurs when two people agree that they are married, cohabitate continuously as partners, and act like a married couple in public. If Mike met all of the legal standards for a common-law spouse in Iowa, then he potentially was Christine's legal husband and entitled a full spousal share under the intestacy laws. Following Iowa's intestacy rules, that would have meant Mike received one-half of Christine's assets and Christine's two kids split the other half.

The probate court ruled for the daughter, concluding that Mike had not proven that he qualified as Christine's common-law husband. Mike appealed but, during the appeal process, he surrendered the argument that he and Christine were common-law spouses. Without possibly qualifying as Christine's common-law spouse, Mike was what's called a "legal stranger" to Christine and not entitled to request the daughter's removal and not entitled to receive anything from Christine's estate.

This protracted litigation points several different ways that intestacy can be problematic and reasons why you need an estate plan. First, Christine's lack of a plan either frustrated her goals or else needlessly cost her family time, money and stress. Perhaps Mike was a trusted and beloved partner to Christine for many, many years. If that were true, it seems possible that Christine might want to remember him in her estate. By creating neither a will or trust, Christine ended up leaving Mike nothing. On the other hand, perhaps Christine objectives were for all of her assets to go to her two children. If she had put an estate plan in place, it is possible that her family could have avoided the prolonged litigation that ensued over her estate.

A second reason is specific to states, like Iowa, that recognize common-law marriage. If you have a committed partner whom you've never married, and live in a state that recognizes common-law marriages, it is important to realize that your partner might possibly qualify as your common-law spouse. If that's true, then your partner may have certain spousal rights regarding your estate. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you understand what your rights and obligations are, and develop an estate plan that meshes these obligations with your estate planning goals.     

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



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Living Trusts | A Look at the Positives and Negatives

Summary: Any estate planning tool available carries with it certain benefits and certain drawbacks. Living trusts have some very substantial potential benefits and also, as do all estate planning tools, carry some disadvantages in some situations, too. The key to choosing the right tools to include in your plan is looking at what plusses and minuses each option offers and the comparing them to your needs and goals. The same plan that might be right for one person might be very wrong for another. With the help of your knowledgeable estate planning attorney, you can put together a plan that makes the most sense for you. 

In any decision in life, each option carries with it certain benefits and certain disadvantages.
Estate planning works like this. There several options for planning your estate. One avenue – the use of a revocable living trust – has some clear potential benefits. It also, like anything else, has possible drawbacks.

The key to making a wise decision is looking at those “plusses” and “minuses” and matching them to your needs. Find a choice that contains the largest number of the things you greatly desire or demand, while also containing the fewest negatives that are “dealbreakers” for you and you have likely found a good option.

A properly drafted, executed and funded living trust will allow you to avoid probate administration. This can be a big benefit to you and your family because probate administration can be costly, stressful and time-consuming. If helping your family to avoid these costs and delays after your death is important to you, then a living trust may help.

Another potential advantage is privacy. Probate administration is, in most situations, a matter of public record. Settling a trust upon the creator’s death generally is not a process that is public record. If you go through probate, the contents of your estate are generally available to be viewed by anyone who goes to the court clerk and requests your file. For some people, this may not be important to them. If you are a widower, who was married once, has three living children of that marriage and owns only a $90,000 house, a $3,000 car and a couple thousand dollars in checking and saving, you sincerely may not care who sees your probate paperwork after you’re gone. However, for a lot of people, whether it’s personal details or it’s financial information, there are very important reasons for keeping information shielded from the public. If you fit that description, a living truest may provide essential value to you.     

A living trust can be helpful to you if become mentally incapacitated. If that happens and you have a properly established and funded living trust, the management of your wealth generally will transition seamlessly from you to the successor trustee your named in the trust document. If you don’t care about who manages your wealth when you cannot (and do not care if your family has to go to court to get a court-appointed conservator to manage your assets,) then this may not be a big benefit. If these are concerns and addressing them are among your planning goals, then a living trust may be worthwhile for you.

As with anything, there are possible drawbacks. A living trust often costs more to set up initially. A living trust can also take more time to set up when you factor in trust funding. For a few people, this greater up-front expense or time commitment potentially could make this option impossible, However, for a lot people, this investment of time and up-front money has the potential to save them and their loved ones much greater amounts of time and money down the road.


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