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

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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Essential Importance of End-of-Life Planning with a Complete Estate Plan

Summary: Many people procrastinate estate planning. For some, the thought of these plans is uncomfortable. “End-of-life planning” can be one of the most uncomfortable areas within estate planning, but it is also one of the most important. One of the most important thing your plan can do for you is ensure that, when you are near the end of life and cannot make your own decisions, that the person making those decision for you is doing exactly what you’d want done.

There are many pieces that go into your estate planning puzzle. Most people, when they think about estate planning, they think about their will or living trust. In other words, they think about wealth distribution. Of course, there is much more that goes into truly complete estate planning. One of these other areas is end-of-life planning. It is an area that many people don’t like to think about, much less talk about and plan for, but it is an absolutely vital area of your estate plan. For most people, their end-of-life planning wishes are put in writing in either their advance directive (a/k/a “living will”) or in their power of attorney for healthcare.

Inside these documents, the law gives you the opportunity to name someone, who will be known as your “surrogate” or “agent,” who is tasked with working with your healthcare providers and making your end-of-life decisions if you are in a position where you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

Getting these documents in place is a vital part of ensuring that your end-of-life planning preferences are realized. This is, however, not the end of the process. A study recently released by the Yale University School of Medicine offers a clear representation of what else is involved, and how often people come up short. The study results showed a massive communication gap between those surveyed and their surrogates. According to a press release from the university, only around 20% of the surrogates could accurately state what the person’s preferences for life-extending treatment actually were. 

That is why communication is as important as having a plan written down on paper. In order to make sure that your healthcare surrogate actually makes the decision you wanted them to make – whether that decision is order the continuation of life-prolonging care, or that decision is to end the provision of that care or that decision is somewhere in between (such as providing only pain medication or only pain medication and nourishment) – you need to be sure that both of you are only the “same page.”

This means having an open and frank conversation about a very uncomfortable but very vital topic. Remember when you and your child had “the talk” when your child reached puberty? For some, this conversation (whether your surrogate is your child or someone else) may be no less awkward, but it is definitely no less important.

Having this talk accomplishes two major things. One, it helps iron out any potential communication gaps about your desires, which, as the Yale survey shows, occur far too frequently. Two, it allows you and your surrogate to ensure that you are both comfortable with that person acting on your behalf. If, for example, you’ve decided that you want, in certain situations, to have life-prolonging care stopped, you need to be sure that the person you’re considering as your surrogate is prepared to do that job. She may have emotional or religious reasons why making such a decision would be difficult for her. Now is the time to get all this “on the table,” to make sure you choose wisely in selecting your surrogate (for the benefit of all of 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






Thursday, July 27, 2017

How Not to Plan | Taking Steps to Avoid Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Summary: Estate planning mistakes can be easy to make. Whether that mistake is getting a plan that is ill-equipped to deal with your circumstances or failing to get a plan at all, estate planning mistakes can have dramatic consequences, both for your family and for you in terms of achieving (or not achieving) the goals you have for your legacy. By planning carefully and comprehensively, you can avoid getting ensnared by the damaging effects of an estate planning mistake.  

From 2003 to 2013, a basic cable TV network in the U.S. aired a show called “What Not to Wear.” Based upon a British show of the same name, the show’s hosts took an unsuspecting guest and helped her make over her entire wardrobe. Generally, most all of the show’s guests had fallen into making one or more common fashion mistakes that plagued their old wardrobes.

Estate planning can be like that sometimes. There are certain estate planning mistakes that are commonly made and can be easy to fall into. Some people fall victim to procrastination. Others assume they don’t need a plan. Still others, even with certain glaring estate planning needs like an unusual family situation, still don’t plan and leave their asset distribution up to the intestacy laws, even if those laws are a poor fit for their family’s circumstances.

Take, for example, a Missouri couple named Franklin and Bertha. The couple had one child, an adopted daughter. They also had a large extended family, including many nieces, nephews and one of Bertha’s sisters who survived them. When Bertha died in 2009, she was 90 and her estate contained wealth in excess of $1 million.

What ensued after Bertha’s death was a long and complicated legal case. At first, an intestate estate probate case was opened to deal with Bertha’s assets. After that, various individuals brought forward no fewer than four wills that they sought to probate. All four of them disinherited the adopted daughter completely. The extended family split into two camps, disputing whether or not Bertha’s 2007 will was valid or whether she lacked mental capacity when she created and signed it.

Ultimately, after extensive wrangling by the family in court, the judge concluded that none of the wills were valid for probate, which meant that Bertha died intestate and, under Missouri’s intestate laws, the adopted daughter got everything from Bertha’s estate. A nephew and his sons appealed, but the appeals court decided to uphold what the trial judge had ruled.

Many may read this series of events and say, “What a complicated mess.” The four wills (and the language in each and every one disinheriting the daughter) might seem to indicate that Bertha real did want to cut out her daughter or, at the least, didn’t want the daughter to inherit her entire $1 million estate, but that’s exactly what happened.

So how did this family end up in this situation? They did so because Bertha, even though she did (at various times) engage in planning by getting a will, didn’t engage in complete planning. She had a fairly large estate (over $1 million.) She had an unusual family situation (including a daughter with whom she may have been estranged and more distant relatives with whom she may have been closer.) And she had (as this case proved) a high chance of an estate plan contest.

When you’re in a situation like that, you not only need to plan, you need to plan thoroughly and carefully. There are ways of creating a trail of evidence that, if needed, can help your estate prove, after you’re dead, that you had mental capacity when you made your will. Even still, if you have a seven-figure estate and a complicated or potentially acrimonious family situation that may lend itself to will contests (and especially if you have both,) you may want to take a very serious look a going beyond just a will. A living trust may provide important additional protections that your goals need in order to come to fruition. Living trusts generally offer your plan greater privacy and they’re generally harder to contest successfully. All of this is on top of the fact that properly executed and funded living trusts help you avoid probate which, in an estate like Bertha’s, could mean a savings of considerable time and thousands of dollars.       




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, July 24, 2017

Beware the Little Things | Small Flaws Can Possibly Cause Major Estate Planning Problems

Summary: In estate planning, as with many things in life, the “devil is in the details.” The difference between success and failure may be the seemingly tiniest of specifics. Once you’ve decided to take control of your legacy and create a plan, don’t let the little things trip that plan up. Make sure that your planning covers all the details great and small in order to set your plan and your family up for success. 

Renowned author Kurt Vonnegut was quoted as saying, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you`ll look back and realize they were the big things.” That is good advice when it comes to enjoying life. Something similar is true with regard to estate planning. Make sure to pay attention to the little things in your estate plan, because you may find out later that they were the big things in ensuring your plan’s success.

To help you as you contemplate planning your estate, here is a list of a few “little” things in estate planning that can have big impacts on the success or failure of your plan.

  1. Getting all of the documents you need. Lots of people understand the importance of getting an estate plan (even if they’ve procrastinated doing so.) However, some may think that getting an estate plan means just getting a will. While having only a will is often better than having nothing at all, very few, if any, estate plans would be truly “complete” with just a will. Your estate plan likely should include your will, your financial power of attorney, your healthcare power of attorney and your living will (if that is a separate document from a healthcare power of attorney in your state.) Many estate plans will be enhanced by the inclusion of one or more trusts, including a living trust. In some states, you can also create a legal document that spells out your desires for your funeral and/or other final arrangements planning. Each of these may help you accomplish all of your goals in a way that just a will cannot.

  1. Naming the proper number of agents and/or beneficiaries. Whether it is a will, a living trust, a power of attorney, a living will or a death beneficiary designation, there are ways to make sure that your plans will not fall victim to unexpected events. Life can be unpredictable and, sometimes, younger, healthier people die early and suddenly. An estate planning document with too few people named in it can have dire consequences. A death beneficiary designation with no eligible, surviving beneficiary could cause that asset to go into your probate estate and defeat whatever plans you may have had to avoid probate. A power of attorney with no surviving, eligible agents named in it may trigger the need for an expensive, time-consuming and stressful court proceeding to appoint a guardian or conservator. These and other major pitfalls can easily be avoided simply by naming multiple alternates to serve as an agent or a beneficiary in case you #1 preferred person dies or otherwise cannot fulfill that role.

  1. Not executing your plan properly. Many states have very specific laws regarding how an estate planning document must be signed in order to be considered valid and enforceable. Maybe you need one witness, two witnesses, a notary, a notary and witnesses or neither witnesses nor a notary. Regardless of what your state says you need to create a valid, legal document, you don’t want to go to the effort of creating a plan only to have it fail because of a technical error related to execution. Your experienced estate planning attorney can help you make sure that the documents you sign are executed in a way that makes them enforceable under the law.
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, July 20, 2017

Same-Sex Couples and Real Property | Marriage Rights Didn’t Eliminate Your Need to Plan

Summary: In almost any situation, any contested estate that ends up in litigation involves an estate plan where something went wrong. Sometimes, that “something” is a flawed plan. Sometimes, it is the absence of any plan at all. If you look at most estate litigation cases, you will find that the litigation could have been avoided, or the chance of litigation at least reduced, by taking a more pro-active approach and planning more fully and properly for the distribution of one’s estate. 

Almost everyone needs an estate plan, but fewer than 50% of people actually have one. Regrettably, a lot of heterosexual couples have historically underestimated the important of planning many mistakenly believing that the laws of intestacy are sufficient to handle the distribution of their estates. They want their assets to go to their surviving spouse and their kids; the laws say that intestate estate should be divided among the surviving spouse and surviving children, so an estate isn’t necessary, they erroneously believe.

Same-sex couples, however, have been told for many years about their uniquely high need for planning. With the law in many places, prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage ruling in 2015, disallowing same-sex marriages, same-sex partners were strongly warned that a plan is extremely important as your will or living trust may be your best (or even only) way to ensure that you leave behind the legacy you want for your surviving partner. Now that marriage is an option, and is an institution to which many same-sex couples have availed themselves, proper estate planning remains very vital for many same-sex couples.

Sadly, many people in same-sex marriages or same-sex relationships have experienced discrimination and estrangement, even from close relatives, as a result of their personal lives. While planning is very useful for any gay or lesbian person, married or unmarried, it is especially so for these people whose relationships and marriages have caused rifts within their immediate family.

As an example, imagine a gay couple, Stephen and Edward, who have lived together in North Carolina for nine years. They share a home outside just outside Charlotte and got married on New Year’s Eve, 2015. Neither has an estate plan. Stephen is estranged from his parents, who strongly disapprove of his personal life and marriage.     

If Stephen were to die, Edward would be much better off than he would’ve been two years ago (when he’d have received nothing from Stephen’s estate,) but there are still problems that result from the intestacy process. North Carolina law says that the parents of a deceased person (even if he’s married) can be entitled to a sizable chunk of the estate. Specifically, Edward would get the first $100,000 of personal property. For all of Stephen’s personal property in excess of $100,000, Edward would be forced to split that wealth 50-50 with Stephen’s parents – the same people who had cut Stephen out of their lives for marrying Edward.

When it comes to real estate, it potentially becomes even more complicated. The law in North Carolina says that surviving parents gets ½ of all of the deceased’s real estate. Unless Stephen and Edward structured their home’s deed to say “joint tenants with right of survivorship” or modified their deed after they married to say “tenants by the entirety,” then the law will view each spouse as owning 50% of the house and Stephen’s parents as entitled to ½ of Stephen’s half, meaning Stephen’s estranged parents now own 25% owners of Edward’s home. This can lead to all kinds of problems, possibly including Edward’s having to pay Stephen’s parents (in order to buy out their 25% share,) or even potentially a forced sale of the home.

The way to avoid this is to take prompt and pro-active action and get an estate plan. If you’re married, you cannot disinherit your spouse, as that is not allowed by the law. Beyond that limitation, however, there is a wide spectrum of options available to you regarding how you structure your estate plan. For example, while you cannot disinherit your spouse, you can disinherit your parents, even if you live in a state (like North Carolina) where the intestacy laws would stand to give surviving parents a substantial portion of your wealth. By getting a detailed estate plan composed and executed, you can make sure you leave behind the legacy 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





     

Monday, July 17, 2017

Knowledge is Power | Get an Estate Plan so Everyone Knows Your Estate Planning Preferences

Summary: In almost any situation, any contested estate that ends up in litigation involves an estate plan where something went wrong. Sometimes, that “something” is a flawed plan. Sometimes, it is the absence of any plan at all. If you look at most estate litigation cases, you will find that the litigation could have been avoided, or the chance of litigation at least reduced, by taking a more pro-active approach and planning more fully and properly for the distribution of one’s estate.    

A recent example of planning gone wrong that led to a family going through the court system was a case from the Tampa, Florida area. Yehezkel and Tami were a couple living in Israel who married in a religious ceremony in that country in 1981. They had a son and a daughter together, then divorced in 1985.

Tami and the kids moved to Florida. Yehezkel remained in Israel, where he met another woman, Mali. By 1990, Yehezkel and Mali were living together, and remained together until Yehezkel’s death in 2013. They had four kids together, ran businesses together and generally held themselves out as husband and wife, even to their friends and family.

There was one (not-so-small) problem: Yehezkel and Mali never went through a religious marriage ceremony. In Israel, the only way to be considered married is to marry in a religious ceremony. Israel has what’s called “reputed spouses” or “Known in Public,” which means that a couple is reputedly known in public as husband-and-wife, though not actually married. This was what Yehezkel and Mali’s relationship was.

This subtle distinction was very important in this case because of one other not-so-small problem: Yehezkel had no estate plan. When he died, his daughter from his first marriage went to a probate court in Florida and opened a case to administer her father’s intestate estate. She alleged in her claim that she, her brother and her four half-siblings were her father’s only heirs at law and that, under Florida’s intestacy laws, they were entitled to split 100% of Yehezkel’s estate.

Mali contested the daughter’s claim. She argued to the judge that she qualified as a surviving spouse and was entitled to a statutory spousal share of Yehezkel’s estate under Florida law. The trial judge sided with Mali, but the daughter appealed and the appeals court ruled against Mali. The only way to be considered married in Israel is through religious marriage. Yehezkel and Mali didn’t do that. No matter how close their relationship came to approximating marriage, they weren’t husband and wife in the eyes of Israel. As a result, that meant Florida law could not extend spousal rights to Mali in this country. She wasn’t Yehezkel’s legal wife and wasn’t entitled to a spousal share.

Legal experts might agree (or might disagree, as lawyers are prone to do) regarding whether this outcome was proper in terms of applying the law. However, it feels potentially problematic on the personal side. Yehezkel and Mali shared a home, shared a family, shared businesses – shared a life – for nearly a quarter-century. Does it seem likely that Yehezkel actually desired that Mali receive nothing from his wealth after he died? In many families, the answer would likely be “no.”

Perhaps Yehezkel thought that his relationship with Mali qualified as marriage and that there was no need for an estate plan. This estate and the litigation that ensured illustrate that there’s almost always a good reason (or many good reasons) to get a plan.

Maybe Yehezkel desired that Mali receive nothing from his estate. Under Florida law (or the law of any U.S. state,) that wouldn’t have been possible if Mali had been his wife (as disinheriting spouses is not allowed,) but is allowed if the partner is a “reputed spouse” as a opposed to a legal spouse (as was the case here.) Regardless, an estate plan potentially could have resolved some uncertainties and ambiguities, thereby possibly creating at least some greater chance that litigation could have been avoided.
  

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, July 13, 2017

The Essential Important of End-of-Life Planning with a Complete Estate Plan

Summary: Many people procrastinate estate planning. For some, the thought of these plans is uncomfortable. “End-of-life planning” can be one of the most uncomfortable areas within estate planning, but it is also one of the most important. One of the most important thing your plan can do for you is ensure that, when you are near the end of life and cannot make your own decisions, that the person making those decision for you is doing exactly what you’d want done.

There are many pieces that go into your estate planning puzzle. Most people, when they think about estate planning, they think about their will or living trust. In other words, they think about wealth distribution. Of course, there is much more that goes into truly complete estate planning. One of these other areas is end-of-life planning. It is an area that many people don’t like to think about, much less talk about and plan for, but it is an absolutely vital area of your estate plan. For most people, their end-of-life planning wishes are put in writing in either their advance directive (a/k/a “living will”) or in their power of attorney for healthcare.

Inside these documents, the law gives you the opportunity to name someone, who will be known as your “surrogate” or “agent,” who is tasked with working with your healthcare providers and making your end-of-life decisions if you are in a position where you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.

Getting these documents in place is a vital part of ensuring that your end-of-life planning preferences are realized. This is, however, not the end of the process. A study recently released by the Yale University School of Medicine offers a clear representation of what else is involved, and how often people come up short. The study results showed a massive communication gap between those surveyed and their surrogates. According to a press release from the university, only around 20% of the surrogates could accurately state what the person’s preferences for life-extending treatment actually were. 

That is why communication is as important as having a plan written down on paper. In order to make sure that your healthcare surrogate actually makes the decision you wanted them to make – whether that decision is order the continuation of life-prolonging care, or that decision is to end the provision of that care or that decision is somewhere in between (such as providing only pain medication or only pain medication and nourishment) – you need to be sure that both of you are only the “same page.”

This means having an open and frank conversation about a very uncomfortable but very vital topic. Remember when you and your child had “the talk” when your child reached puberty? For some, this conversation (whether your surrogate is your child or someone else) may be no less awkward, but it is definitely no less important.

Having this talk accomplishes two major things. One, it helps iron out any potential communication gaps about your desires, which, as the Yale survey shows, occur far too frequently. Two, it allows you and your surrogate to ensure that you are both comfortable with that person acting on your behalf. If, for example, you’ve decided that you want, in certain situations, to have life-prolonging care stopped, you need to be sure that the person you’re considering as your surrogate is prepared to do that job. She may have emotional or religious reasons why making such a decision would be difficult for her. Now is the time to get all this “on the table,” to make sure you choose wisely in selecting your surrogate (for the benefit of all of 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