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Monday, August 21, 2017

It’s Never Too Early | The Importance of Estate Planning at Any Age



Summary: When people think about estate planning, they often think about it as being something relevant and important for seniors or people who are “established” in their lives, with homes they own, spouses and children. This isn’t a complete picture of the reality of estate planning. The truth is that, given all the important things that a complete estate plan will do, and can do, most people of just about any age can benefit from planning and should pursue getting a plan right away.

Many younger people (and some older ones) may look at their life circumstances and conclude that they don’t need an estate plan. They may say, “I’m single, have no kids and rent a 1-bedroom apartment. I don’t even have a retirement account yet. Why do I need an estate plan?” Even if you don’t have a spouse or children or even a home that you own, there are still lots of reasons why an estate plan could be vitally important. Below are just a few examples of ways that a plan can be essential to your goals.

(1)  You have “digital” assets. Some people, including an increasing number of younger “Millennials,” may live a significant portion of their lives – maybe even the majority of their lives – online. They may have a job where they telecommute using email and Skype. Away from work, they may socialize and fellowship with friends and family with email, Facetime, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Instragram and other types of social media. They may do their banking online and pay bills online. Anyone with even a small online presence (and especially those with large set of online accounts,) should be very cognizant of estate planning. A full and comprehensive estate plan, including a plan for your digital assets, can allow you make sure the person you choose to manage your financial affairs can access your online accounts, as well as making sure the people you desire can easily and seamlessly access your other online accounts, in order to engage in necessary communication with both personal and professional contacts alike.

(2)  You have pets. For people of any age, including young people, pets occupy an important part of our lives. They’re not just companions; they’re part of the family. Making sure that your beloved “fur baby” has a proper home with someone you trust implicitly is likely very high on your priority list. Estate planning is the way to help make sure that your preferences are known and carried out. This is especially true if you also have money that you desire to earmark for the care of your pet after your death. The law in all 50 states now allows for “pet trusts” which, as the name implies, allows you to put wealth into trust for the care and benefit of your pet. Any person who has a cherished pet -- but especially those with animals who have more specialized needs (like, for example, horse owners) – should take the time to get an estate plan without delay.

(3)  You have collectibles. Some young people enjoy maintaining collections. Maybe yours is comic books, vinyl records or vintage toys. If you don’t have an estate plan, then all of your possessions will pass according to your state’s intestacy laws. If you’re single, in many states, that could mean everything goes to your parents. While your mom and dad might not have any interest in, or use for, your set of Supergirl and Wonder Woman comic books, maybe your old college roommate would love to have them. With a proper estate plan, you can make sure that your favorite collections go to people who will continue to cherish them, not just box them up and take them to Goodwill.          

These are but a few example of how, even if you are just starting out in life, an estate plan is important. Even without a spouse, children or a house, chances are you have things, whether they’re alive or inanimate, tangible or virtual, that matter to you. With an estate plan, you can take control to ensure that your vision for all of those things is realized, and not just left to some corporate or governmental bureaucracy to decide.


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, August 17, 2017

Divorce and Estate Planning | The Top 5 Things You Need to Consider after the End of Your Marriage

Summary: Whenever you experience a major life event, the aftermath of that event is often a good time to take a step back and take a look at your estate planning. The changes in your life that this event has brought about may mean that you need to make changes in your estate plan, as well. By making sure that your plans are updated, you can be sure that your plans reflect your life and goals as they now exist.  

The best estate plans often are the result of an ongoing process. For most people, a truly optimized estate plan isn’t a “get it and forget it” process. Even after you’ve created your comprehensive estate plan, you may still need to alter or replace some of your documents later. This is especially true if you’ve experienced a life event like divorce. Divorce is one of those types of events that can have wide-ranging impacts due to the fact that it often impacts you both personally and financially, just as your estate plan reflects a mixture of personal and financial goals and desires. With that in mind, here are a few estate planning thoughts to consider after you’ve experienced a divorce:
(1)  Do I need to modify my distribution plans? Almost certainly yes. Outside a few extremely narrow exceptions in some states, the law says that you are required to leave a distribution to your spouse so, whether your plan called for your spouse to get everything or only a fraction, now that your spouse is now your ex-spouse, a review is in order. Depending on what and how much you planned to leave to your now-ex-spouse, you may have to give some thought to who will get the things you’d previously intended for your spouse. Additionally, some states automatically invalidate any estate plan involving a spouse who later becomes your ex-spouse. So, if you and your ex are still close post-divorce and you still want to include your ex in your plans, you definitely need to consult an estate planning attorney about updates.
(2)  Do I need to modify my fiduciary or agent designations? Probably. Most people give their spouses fiduciary duties and agent roles within their estate planning documents. A spouse may be named as a successor trustee, an executor, an agent under powers of attorney, or all of the above. Failing to update these fiduciary/agent designations could mean that your ex still holds these powerful personal, end-of-life and/or financial decision-making powers or, if your state automatically invalidates these provisions upon divorce, that you have no one named in these roles.
(3)  Do I need to modify my plan based upon tax planning concerns? Possibly. The tax laws give married people certain advantageous treatment that unmarried people don’t get. There’s a possibly that your shift from a married person to an unmarried one could open the door to possible estate tax liability, if your total estate is big enough. If that happens, there are certain steps you can take to reduce or even eliminate your potential estate tax liability exposure. One example is the purchase of life insurance and the utilization of an irrevocable life insurance trust. Whether or not you use this technique, you may want to review your plan to check on how your divorce has impacted your tax planning needs. 
(4)  Besides my will or trust, what other planning documents do I need to review after my divorce? Basically, all of them. As noted above, you should check your powers of attorney and your living will. If they assign duties to your ex that you no longer want him/her to have, then you’ll need to explore making changes to those documents. Beyond just wills, trusts, powers of attorney and living wills, there’s still more to check, as you also need to review your non-probate-transfer assets. This includes your life insurance, annuities, qualified retirement accounts, stock accounts, bank accounts, real properties with transfer-on-death deeds… basically any asset with a death beneficiary designation on it. Some (but not all) states say that a divorce automatically wipes out certain estate planning provisions involving a spouse who later becomes an ex-spouse. Even in those states, though, that may not apply to non-probate assets. In some circumstances, the law says that the person named on the most recent death beneficiary designation form attached to an asset gets that asset upon your death, regardless of what that person’s legal relationship to you is at the time of your death.
(5)  I don’t yet have a plan. What should I do? Get one, and get it without delay. There are many reasons for this. If you have minor children, then you’ll want to make sure that you have a will that designates the person you want to serve as your kids’ guardian. If you have no children at all, you’ll probably want explore having a plan. Intestacy laws seek to distribute the deceased’s assets to the closest living relatives. If you have no living parents or siblings (in addition to no spouse and no children,) then your assets could possibly all go to some distant relative with whom you have little or no relationship. Also, as noted above, an ex-spouse is considered a legal “stranger” to you. If you and your ex have remained close, even after the divorce, and you still want to include him/her in your estate plan, or have him/her serve in an agent and/or fiduciary capacity, you’ll need to have plan documents that state these intentions clearly. These are but a few reasons to get a plan in place after your divorce.  



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, August 14, 2017

How Trust Planning Can Help you Provide for, and Protect, your Children

Summary: Proper and complete estate planning can do many things. It can help you take control over the legacy you leave behind and it can help you do so in a way that helps your loved ones avoid the stress and pain of not knowing your wishes. Your plan can, in addition to providing clarity, also provide protection. Properly established trust provisions can allow you to erect an extra layer of protection for your children and other beloved beneficiaries to ensure that the distribution you intend to go to your loved one ends up in their hands, not the hands of someone who took them to court and obtained a money judgment.

From the time you take them home from the hospital, you, as a parent, fuss, fret and sometimes obsess over protecting and providing for your children. You worry if your baby is eating enough. You labor over picking a new house that will be in a good enough school district to meet your pre-teen’s academic needs. You stress over the choices your teen makes in terms of friends… and dating partners. Even once your children become adults and take on independent lives of their own, you, as a parent, don’t just automatically stop worrying about them and stop wanting to protect and provide for them.

One of the clearest ways that you can protect, and provide for, your loved ones is by taking steps to protect the financial legacy you desire to leave behind for their benefit after you die. Using one or more trusts in your estate plan can be a very helpful way to do that. You can insert provisions in your trust that act as safeguards for the wealth you ultimately want your child to enjoy.

These provisions are often called by names like “spendthrift trusts,” but the benefits that these trust devices can provide to you and your family is actually much more broad-based than the name implies. Judging solely by the name, you might think that these planning tools are only useful for families where a beneficiary is extremely irresponsible or otherwise bad at handling wealth. You might find yourself saying, “All of my children are upstanding, responsible adults with stable lives and careers, and strong moral/ethical foundations. Our family has no spendthrifts, so this doesn’t apply to us.”

That’s not necessarily true because, as noted, this tool helps more than just families with a spendthrift child, a child with a gambling addiction or a gullible child who is notoriously poor with money. One area where this protection is evidence is when it comes to litigation. Without the proper protections in place, the distribution you’ve planned for your child could be in jeopardy if he/she finds him/herself under a court order stating that he/she owes an amount to another person.

There are two common ways this can happen. One is divorce. Even your most upstanding, responsible child could, one day, find him/herself being sued for divorce. A divorce judgment could dictate that your child is obligated to pay his/her ex-spouse a sum of money. The ex-spouse could potentially be entitled to pursue your child’s inheritance you gave him/her and take it to fulfill this court-ordered obligation.

Another way this can happen is a lawsuit. Maybe a guest or a service provider got hurt while on your child’s property, or maybe your child was in an auto accident that the police determined was legally your child’s fault. These scenarios could lead to personal injury lawsuits where your child is the defendant. The case could then possibly end up with a verdict in favor of the person suing your child and a large money judgment in that person’s favor. If that happens, it may be possible that the wealth you had intended for your child to enjoy could end up in the possession of this other person in order to satisfy this legal judgment.  

Your estate plan can help guard against this. A properly drafted and executed spendthrift provision can potentially block your child’s creditors, including civil plaintiffs or ex-spouses, from going after the assets you’ve put into that trust for your child’s benefit. With this barrier in place, you will have once against served as protector and a provider for your child.   


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, August 10, 2017

A Real Life Story | The Potential Pitfalls of Non-Probate Transfers of Real Estate

Summary: For some people, transfer-on-death deeds can be a quick, low-stress and inexpensive way to transfer a property and avoid probate. They can also, though, create pitfalls that can trap and harm an unwary person. While these types of deeds can be a useful part of some estate plans, for others, there may be better ways of avoiding probate with other techniques.  

Today, more than ever, state laws allow people to transfer more assets than ever through the use of pay-on-death and transfer-on-death beneficiary designations. Laws allowing for transfer-on-death designation deeds, which were rare just a decade ago, exist in many states now.

These deeds can be helpful. They can also be problematic. A case from Missouri showed this in action. A man and a woman acquired their home in 1946, taking title as husband and wife. In 1989, Missouri’s Legislature enacted a “Nonprobate Transfer Law” that allowed for the creation of beneficiary deeds (a/k/a transfer-on-death deeds) in that state. Four years later, in 1993, this couple took advantage of the new law and created just such a deed, naming a nephew as the beneficiary.

So far so good. However, less than a year later, in 1994, the couple decided to transfer their home to the wife individually. This deed, unbeknownst to them, would create substantial legal issues later. “Later” came in 2009 when the wife, who had outlived her husband, died. The administrator of the wife’s probate estate sought to include the property in the woman’s probate estate. The nephew contested this action, arguing that the 1993 deed and the couple’s deaths made the property his outright.

The question left for the courts to sort out was, in essence, what effect did the 1994 deed have on the beneficiary designation created the year before? Ultimately, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that, when the couple transferred the deed from both of them to the wife alone, that transaction triggered a termination of the beneficiary designation they’d created the year before. This meant that the property went into the woman’s probate estate. It didn’t go to the nephew and it didn’t avoid probate.

We don’t know what the couple’s intentions were toward the nephew when they created the 1994 deed. Maybe they did intend to wipe away the beneficiary designation. Or, maybe, they created this deed as some sort of attempt at Medicaid planning and never intended for it to have any negative impact on the nephew or the probate-avoidance plan they set up in 1993. At best, their assets went where they wanted, but only after an arduous, time consuming and probably expensive court case. At worst, their home went through an arduous, time consuming and probably expensive court case AND the home failed to go where they wanted it to go.

One possible way to avoid the pitfalls that can sometimes come with transfer-on-death deeds is with a revocable living trust. Like a transfer-on-death deed, a properly executed and funded living trust will avoid probate and allow for the relatively swift and typically inexpensive transfer of assets. Your living trust can help you to avoid unintended consequences that come with transfer-on-death deeds like unintentional disinheritance, unintentional distributions to ex-spouses or, as was the case here, a potentially unintentional termination of a beneficiary designation.

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, August 7, 2017

Paperless Estate Plan | It May Not Be As Futuristic As You’d Think



Summary: The law can be slow to change and respond to technology, but change is often inevitable. Today, some states have passed, or are considering, laws that would allow citizens to make electronic wills. The emergence of a paperless option in estate planning may be a benefit to many. This emerging change is a reminder of the importance of making sure you plan for your digital assets (and digital documents,) as well as the need for occasional estate plan reviews to make sure your plan is still up-to-date in light of any new laws created in your state.

The law is sometimes very slow to respond to, an catch up with, technology. Some legal experts might argue that, in some ways, this “is a feature, not a bug.” The law’s resistance to change can, in some aspects, be a valuable component of the stability that is essential to any system of laws.

Sometimes, though, change is good (and inevitable,) even in the law. The change brought about by technology has even reached estate planning. Earlier this year, two bills were presented to the Florida Legislature that would make electronic (a/k/a paperless) wills valid in the Sunshine State. Similar bills are pending in other states. Nevada has already passed a law recognizing electronic wills there.

These laws contain various provisions dictating what’s required to make an electronic will valid. In Florida, for example, the will must “exist in an electronic record” and be electronically signed by the testator and the witnesses. The law would also include details about what constitutes a valid electronic signature.

The emergence of an electronic option for your will (or, depending on the evolution of your state’s laws, other estate planning documents,) is a strong reminder of a couple of important rules of thumb about estate planning in the 2010s and beyond. The first of these is the ever-expanding role electronic and digital technology plays in all aspects of our lives, including our estate plans. Many people bank online, manage investments online, pay bills online, keep up with friends and family online, seek (and apply for) employment online, or even meet their future spouses online.

The internet and digital technology are a bigger part of our lives than ever before. Keeping that in mind, it is more essential than ever to make sure that you include a plan for your digital assets in your estate plan. If you become incapacitated or die, the loved ones whom you’ve chosen to handle your affairs will need a way to deal with the things that require usernames, passwords and online interaction, in addition to the things that require paper documents and face-to-face interaction. In the near future, your digital planning may include, not only a plan for your digital assets but also leaving instructions to your executor regarding how to access your electronic will, as well.   

Another thing that this evolution reminds us is that the laws, while sometimes slow to change, do change with some frequency. That is but one of many vital reasons why periodic estate plan reviews are essential to the maintenance of your plan. A change in the law may have a direct impact on your plan. It may mean changing or replacing documents in your law to avoid newly created potential pitfalls. Alternately, it may mean making changes to take full advantage of new opportunities created by the new law. Either way, your estate plan review can help you spot these issues and take the action your plan needs.       

Summary: The law can be slow to change and respond to technology, but change is often inevitable. Today, some states have passed, or are considering, laws that would allow citizens to make electronic wills. The emergence of a paperless option in estate planning may be a benefit to many. This emerging change is a reminder of the importance of making sure you plan for your digital assets (and digital documents,) as well as the need for occasional estate plan reviews to make sure your plan is still up-to-date in light of any new laws created in your state.


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, August 3, 2017

Your Living Trust | Protecting You Against More Than Just the Costs and Delays of Probate



Summary: Your living trust, if it is properly created and funded, can do many things for your family after you pass away. Your trust can help you avoid probate’s potentially high costs, long delays and public nature. Additionally, though, a well-crafted living trust may also provide a vital safeguard against possibly harmful court actions like unwanted conservatorship, guardianship or elder abuse actions launched by people who goals do not mesh with your own.

If you read or hear a discussion about the benefits of a revocable living trust, you may hear most of this discussion focusing on how probate can be expensive, can be time consuming and can create public exposure of your private matters, and how a proper living trust can help your family avoid all that. This is all definitely true and, depending on your circumstances, can be a huge factor in favor of obtaining an estate plan with a living trust. These discussions do not, however, tell the whole story. Your trust can offer other vital benefits, too. One of the biggest of these additional benefits relates to unwanted elder law actions. A lot of times these actions involve an unwanted conservatorship or guardianship. In one recent real-life case, though, the unwanted court action was a charge of elder abuse.

The senior in the case was 88-year-old Eileen. Eileen had taken action and obtained an estate plan that included a living trust. In fact, Eileen and her late husband set up various trusts. Over the years, Eileen, the husband and three of the couple’s four children served as trustees.

Then, in 2013, Eileen’s fourth child, Belinda, filed an elder abuse lawsuit against her three siblings. She claimed in her lawsuit that the siblings’ actions in managing the trusts were so badly out-of-line as to constitute financial abuse of a senior. The siblings asked the judge to dismiss the case.

Eileen did not sick back passively. She hired her own lawyer who joined the three siblings’ argument in favor dismissal. The siblings and Eileen all argued that the law did not give Belinda the legal right to pursue an elder abuse action on behalf of her mother. Eileen and the three children won the day in court, as the judge dismissed the case and the appeals court upheld that ruling.

Part of the reason that Belinda lost was because her mother had an estate plan in place that expressed her interests. Eileen’s trust was clear that Belinda was neither a trustee nor a beneficiary under the trust. These were some of the key facts in finding that Belinda lacked what the law calls “standing,” or a right to take legal action. The appeals court, in upholding the ruling against Belinda, stated that Eileen named Belinda as her agent under a valid power of attorney or named her as a trustee, then the motion seeking dismissal would have failed and Belinda could have gone forward with her suit. However, Belinda clearly was neither with Eileen’s plan, so Belinda’s suit failed.

Eileen had planned and her plan had made her intentions known. By making clear whom she wanted to be her beneficiaries and whom she wanted to act on her behalf (and whom she did not,) Eileen’s plan helped her defeat a legal action seeking to take an action on her behalf of which she did not approve. This is a clear example of an estate plan at work and how a living trust does more than just avoid probate administration after your death.

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