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Category Archives: Estate Planning

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Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I do not want to sound the alarm, but the recent spread of the novel coronavirus has made estate planning all the more important, especially during the pandemic declared by the AWHO.

Time will tell whether it will get worse and who is most affected, but the ease with which the coronavirus spreads and its potential mortality rate are something to consider when you are over 65.

This is not medical advice, but common sense for caring for and protecting elderly relatives who want to leave behind a stable future for their beneficiaries.

Details from the CDC

The mortality rate is hard to determine because it’s still so early in the course of the virus’ spread, but seems to be between 2-3% of those infected.

However, in places like Italy, the shrinkage rate and spread among Europeans is 13 times higher than in China, where the outbreak began and the first case was diagnosed.

The mortality rate seems to increase with age – and children seem to be the least vulnerable. Most people who die from the coronavirus are over 60 years old and already suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. In these people, the probability of dying from it is 5 to 10% higher.

Unlike other modern viruses (SARS etc.), this virus seems to spread very easily, for example through the air and through surfaces that can harbour the virus for hours, in some cases even days. It is reported that a simple sneeze has a radius of 10 feet, in which the infection could potentially spread to other people in your environment.

Of course, you won’t get much reliable information about the corona virus online, but instead contact the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the latest information.

Here is why this global pandemic is dangerous.

We are always in danger of becoming unable to work or dying – even without the coronavirus pandemic. It is unlikely, but possible, to be hit by a bus, to get infected with E. coli, to be bitten by a snake, or to be trapped inside a building when it collapses.

However, in addition to daily threats to our existence, a global pandemic like this also threatens our ability to work, the stock market, how we are spending time with loved ones, the economy, and our sense of “normalcy.”

WHO Stats for comparison

Did you know that the World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die from influenza every year?

About 1.25 million people die each year in car accidents, averaging 3,287 deaths per day. In the United States alone, an estimated 37,000 people die in car accidents each year.

These figures make it clear that we are always at risk of being unable to work or dying. But the risk becomes especially great in times like these, when a globally communicable disease receives enough media attention to create chaos and frenzy around basic daily tasks, like going to the grocery store.

In other words, nationally publicizing our collective fear is going to make things more difficult, and stressful. Ultimately this kind of chaos will lead to more drastic measures (ie, $1.5 trillion capital injection from the federal government to help stabilize the economy).

Some economists believe this could lead to the next great depression.

In times like these, estate planning becomes a big priority.

Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Similar to stocking piling imperishable foods, or canned goods – estate planning is a preventative measure.

It is always good to look at things from the perspective of if/then scenarios. In other words, it is a good idea to look at things from a “what if you died tomorrow” perspective.

Some may consider this a paranoid perspective, but the truth is, elderly people are dying from this new virus and we don’t know how widespread or damaging this will be in the long run.

Preparing for the Worst

In the United States, the stockpiling of food and medicine is already common practice during a pandemic.

If you go to a local Publix in Florida, you will probably find that there is no longer any toilet paper, sanitizer, or bottled water available. You will probably receive notices from your manager, the HOA of your subdivision, or the local chamber of commerce asking you to stay home to avoid contraction and spread of the virus.

You may get emails from your favorite local restaurants telling you how they are altering sanitation standards to lower the risk of spreading the virus at the establishment.

Finally, your children may be told to stay home from school and town hall meetings, concerts, seminars, and other public events might be cancelled.

But what can you do from a legal perspective to protect yourself?

These are some other things you want to think about here:

  • Do you have a life insurance policy?
  • How much liquid cash is in your estate, and what kind of estate tax will your heirs be expected to pay?
  • Do you have creditors looking for you? Or any outstanding debts?
  • First of all you should check your will.
  • Does your revocable trust meet your requirements?
  • Have you determined who is going to get power of attorney over you if you are stricken with the virus?
  • Are all your named beneficiaries still alive? Do they have children or dependents you would like to include?

Trust financing:

In your revocable Living Trust, are your assets set to be moved into your trust?

Most of your assets should be set to be transferred to your trust to avoid direct inheritance on your death. Direct inheritance could get messy if there is any feuding between your children, exes, and other dependents.

With a revocable living trust your assets will go through probate when you die, and then they’ll be given out according to the legal stipulations of your estate.

Who will assume power of attorney over you if you become incapacitated?

Filing these documents is very important in the event of your incapacitation, especially during a global pandemic. The documents should be drawn up by a good lawyer, and notarized. They definitely should not be downloaded from the Internet. Internet template documents may not be upheld in court, if they have even the slightest error in wording or grammar.

Nomination of Beneficiaries:

Now would be the time to check the beneficiary names of your IRA/401k/pension and life insurance policies to ensure that you have named the proper beneficiaries at your death.

Make sure nothing has changed, and you have if/then scenarios worked out in case multiple members of your family become ill simultaneously. With an unpredictable and uncontainable virus like this, you can never be too careful.

Preparing Your Estate for the Coronavirus

Realistically, the best time to prepare for illness was years ago.

However, the second best time is now. If you need legal help with your estate plan, we offer next day virtual consultations via phone or email.

No lawyer is going to want to put their self, their own family, or staff at risk by exposing someone to a coronavirus patient.

However, that doesn’t mean you’ll struggle to get all the necessary help you need.

If you contract the coronavirus without proper preparation, there’s still a chance to take care of your estate planning while in isolation/quarantine. Just don’t wait until you’re weak and incapacitated to handle the important paperwork, such as power of attorney designation.

Only time will tell if the coronavirus will worsen and spread.

Currently, Its affecting almost every corner of the world.

There are no cures or vaccinations for it, and there’s no place to hide. We don’t exactly know where it began, and there’s no end in sight. Good news is, it seems to be less aggressive in warmer climates. According to SilverstoneLawFL.com, this means that some US residents have more time on their side to contact a probate lawyer in say Florida, California, etc.

A Final Note

The coronavirus is affecting older people, and populations with the highest average age of its citizens. But that doesn’t help anyone sleep at night, especially when most of the world’s wealth is in the hands of senior citizens.

Remember, if you get sick, you may forget to seek legal counsel until it’s too late.

You might also find it difficult to meet with an attorney, as you would be exposing others to the virus.

Best case scenario, you outlive the virus and your relatives are taken care of when you finally do take your last breath.

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When Estate Planning Really Matters

Estate planning is a complicated field of law that requires the experience of an attorney that is backed by a law firm capable of providing the requisite expertise. Specifically, an estate planning attorney should be contacted if you are seeking to protect your assets. It is important that you schedule a consultation with an attorney if the following circumstances apply:

If you have a large portfolio of expensive assets

If you have accumulated a large number of real estate holdings and other valuable assets during your lifetime, you should seek the advice of an estate planning attorney in your area. For example, those in Southern California should contact the Lawyer in Blue Jeans estate planning law firm in San Diego. Each asset should be held in a separate entities’ name to avoid personal liability in the event of an accident. An estate planning lawyer will ensure this is done correctly.

Beyond that, the attorney will instruct you as to whether or not a will or a trust is the appropriate instrument to achieve your goals. The attorney will require copies of all deeds in possession of the testator along with copies of bank account statements with account numbers to include in the last will and testament. All of this information is vital since the more information that is provided the easier it will be to protect these specific assets.

If there are a number of beneficiaries in the will

Individuals that are married and have a number of children should certainly consult with and retain an experienced estate attorney to prepare their estate documents. It is important that the attorney is advised of who will be included in the will and who will be excluded.

All of the last known addresses for any beneficiaries listed must be provided to the attorney. This is because, at the time of probate, the executor will need to list all of the beneficiaries with their last known addresses so that they may be contacted by the court. If any of the beneficiaries cannot be contacted, the court may require a good faith effort to be made which might include publication in newspapers.

To consider avoiding inheritance tax and probate

A revocable or irrevocable trust are sometimes used by individuals who are seeking to avoid probate and/or inheritance taxes. Trusts are complicated legal instruments that only experienced attorneys are capable of drafting on behalf of a client.

Individuals that have numerous real estate holdings may want to place those holdings into a trust so that at the time of their death, probate is not necessary. However, this is not as easy as it sounds, which is why consulting with and retaining an experienced estate attorney is crucial should you wish to avoid probate and inheritance taxes.

If you believe it is likely your estate will be contested

The family dynamic in many families is unfriendly. The testator knows better than anybody else if any potential beneficiaries to his or her estate will challenge their last will and testament. An attorney who has handled such matters in the past will advise the client to include language in their will that recognizes the existence of an individual but excludes them for reasons known to the testator and potential beneficiary. The attorney can also include a clause that states anyone who contests the will is immediately cut out of the will. Finally, it must be known that only contests to the will based upon lack of capacity and undue influence are recognized by the courts.

These are only a few of the linchpin reasons that Testators should consult with an estate attorney in their area should they believe that their last will and testament may come under contest from a potential beneficiary

If you have been married multiple times

Individuals that have been married numerous times may certainly encounter issues at the time of their death from not only their prior spouses but from any children of those marriages. It is unfortunate that families fracture at the time of the death of a testator and those that have been married multiple times have any number of potential beneficiaries who will “come out of the woodwork“ if they believe that they may be entitled to receive a bequest.

All in all, it is in your best interest to consult with an estate planning attorney in your area should any of the aforementioned circumstances exist. Protecting your assets should be a priority since it has taken you a lifetime to accumulate them. Do not leave anything to chance and consult with and retain an experienced estate attorney in your area today.

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A Guide To Locating An Estate Planning Attorney In Your Area

The ideal attorney is one who can help you draft a good estate plan; however, this can be a daunting task.  Not only is drafting an estate plan difficult but finding the best estate planning attorney can be complicated.  With some help, you should be able to locate several qualified attorneys from which to choose.  This article will provide information for locating an estate planning attorney in Spokane.

#1:  Ask Financial Advisor For Referrals

Financial advisors are a great source of information when searching for an estate planning lawyer in your area.  Most advisors view estate planning as a necessity when dealing with a client’s financial goals. As such, financial advisors have one or more estate planning lawyers “on the books” and for a referral.

If your financial advisor has not discussed the issue of estate planning, it is recommended that you bring the issue up yourself.  Do not be afraid of asking an advisor about estate planning and, potentially, who they use as an estate planner.

#2:  Ask Your Accountant For Referrals

The majority of estate attorneys will consult accountants when dealing with trusts, estates and income tax issues.  Based on this, it is likely that your accountant can make at least one decent referral. Moreover, an accountant can locate an estate planning attorney for their clients.  This is useful as accountants have direct access to a person’s financial information which warrants the need for estate planning.

#3:  Consulting Other Attorneys

It is likely that at least one attorney you have dealt with in the past will have contacts with estate planning lawyers.  Most lawyers are willing to share referrals to other attorneys who do not practice in their specific legal niche. This is often done because a referral can always lead to promotion from the referred lawyer.

Aside from consulting attorneys for referrals, you can ask the lawyer who performed their personal estate planning.  In most cases, a lawyer not specializing in estate planning will use a colleague with experience in this area. Using the same estate planning attorney as your personal lawyer can be beneficial.

#4:  Consulting The Local Or State Bar Association

All states and counties have bar associations which list all registered attorneys.  Consulting the association can result in referrals to certified referral services in the region.  Bar associations can be contacted via telephone or online.

#5:  Consult Different Advertisements

Most attorneys, including estate planning attorneys, will advertise their services using different platforms.  While print advertisements are not as popular as they used to be, a printed placement can help promote the attorney.  Advertisements can also be found on the radio or on television. Of course, the advertisement must pass strict regulations from the bar association to be allowed.  This ensures the lawyer is not making any false claims or promising unachievable results.

#6:  Contacting The Local Probate Court

While this may not work for individuals living in large cities, contacting a local probate court can help you find an estate planning attorney in Spokane.  The court clerks have a list of local lawyers, as well as first-hand knowledge of which attorneys the judges prefer. Small towns allow people to build relationships with judges and court clerks, thereby earning reliable referrals for estate planning.

Final Words On The Matter

Locating a suitable estate planning attorney in Spokane  or anywhere in Washington State for that matter can be difficult, but the tips above can help you find the best lawyer for your needs.  Of course, this list is merely a beginning point and does not attempt to address the amount of information available on the internet. However, too much information can sometimes be detrimental making a person very confused.  In these situations, it may be best to adhere to traditional methods of locating an estate planning attorney.

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What Should I Know When Estate Planning in Daytona Beach, FL?

There are many things that you should know when you plan how your estate will be divided following your death. For example, an individual may wish to leave funeral instructions in their will for how they want their family to pay for the funeral ceremony. Thus, this article aims to enable you to understand how to do your estate planning.

Many solutions allow for a limitation of the inheritance tax. Remember, inheritance tax is a tax that will be due upon the transfer of an estate to the new owner following the death of an individual. After the passing of one of the family members, a surviving spouse will frequently become the owner of the estate.

Each situation is different from a legal perspective, and the precise level of inheritance tax that the heirs will need to pay will depend on the structure of the estate. Hence, you need to make sure that you conduct your estate planning with the assistance of a fully qualified legal professional. You should consider all of these facts when you search for estate planning attorneys in Daytona Beach.

Therefore, you should make sure that you fully understand the legal stipulations that will apply to your specific circumstances before you hire an expert lawyer to help you with your estate planning. When drafting a will, you can customize the way that your estate planning scenario will function. But you will also have to take into account the minimum share of the estate that you will want to bequeath to certain qualified heirs, and these heirs frequently include your children.

Following the death of the individual, the succession will often consist of handling both the individual’s assets and also those assets the individual holds in joint ownership with other parties. However, you should understand that there will be no shortage of adverse consequences if you do not hire a fully qualified legal professional to help you with your estate planning. As an illustration, the level of inheritance tax is something that you may be able to reduce if you plan your will correctly.

Your children will appreciate being able to inherit more of your assets rather than having to pay the government a more substantial sum. Thus, you should proceed through your estate planning carefully to figure out how to best protect your assets and make sure that your family members can get access to your funds after your death. According to the legal statutes, one can also choose the individual who will be the executor of the will.

For example, the executor may be the surviving spouse, and then this individual will be able to benefit from a legal ability to complete the succession. Each family may have some different laws which may apply to their specific estate planning situation. As an illustration, exceptionally wealthy individuals may be covered by different rules when compared to people who are only moderately well off.

Therefore, individuals of all ages should consult an experienced lawyer about the laws in force in their particular estate planning situation. The specifics of each estate planning scenario will differ according to the variables that apply for a specific individual who died. For example, particular rules may apply if the deceased had children or if the dead individual was not legally married to their significant other.

Frequently, the estate will belong to the children, or their descendants if they have themselves died. In the event of a serious disagreement between the heirs, it may be necessary for each heir to hire a lawyer to defend their interests, which may lead to additional legal costs and delays.

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What Physicians Need to Consider About Estate Planning

There comes a time during a physician’s career when they will need to consider estate planning. Death is never a comfortable subject, but it is a necessary discussion. Most physicians are on a career path that will lead them to higher than average income. Many will have property, retirement accounts, other types of assets as well as minor children and more. They will need to make certain their loved ones will be protected and able to maintain the lifestyle that’s been established for them.

Beneficiaries

One of the first things involved with estate planning is determining beneficiaries. It is possible to determine primary as well as contingent beneficiaries. It does not matter how it is determined who is a beneficiary. The important thing is to have it explicitly stated in writing. This will avoid confusion.

Executor

The next step is to identify an executor for the estate. This will be the designated personal representative for a physician’s estate. They will pay the debts of an estate, distribute assets to beneficiaries and more. It is not required for them to be an attorney or legal expert. An executor should be a person the physician knows well. It should be a person a physician can trust to fulfill their personal wishes.

Determine Net Worth

Proper estate planning involves reviewing all of a physician’s assets and determining what they want to happen with them upon their death. A physician’s assets minus their debts will equal their net worth. The amount of assets that exceed a physician’s debts is the money that can be distributed among the heirs.

Attorney

The next step is to hire an attorney. This is especially important for the size and complexity of a physician’s estate. They will understand a physician’s time spent in the planning process must be maximized. This will save money with legal fees.

Review

Once a physician has an estate plan in place, it is a good idea they regularly review it. There are certain things in everyone’s life that change. Liabilities and assets often change. There are also life events to consider. Physicians often get married, divorced, have children and more. When these life events occur, it may be time to change or update an estate plan. Keeping an estate plan current insures all of a physician’s last wishes are in writing.

Will Not Enough

Many physicians may have a will, but it won’t be sufficient for effective estate planning. There are often many types of assets that can be transferred using a living trust. There should also be a health-care directive and more.

Health Directive

This will provide what treatments a physician will want in the event of an emergency. They can list what treatments they refuse. A health directive is a legally binding document. It provides a way to instruct medical personnel what to do in case a physician isn’t able to tell them.

Living Trust

This is a document created when a physician is alive. It manages specific assets should the physician become incapacitated. A living trust enables a person’s assets to be available to them until their death.

Pets

Pets can be considered part of estate planning. It can be made to cover the costs of a physician’s pets if anything happens to them. This will require designating a guardian for the pets.

Estate planning for physicians is understood to be delicate. Most physicians have a high income but may also have high student loan amounts. With proper estate planning, a physician can protect their assets, loved ones and make certain their liabilities are addressed The legal professionals as Judy Ann Smith Law Firm understand the estate planning needs of physicians. These legal professionals have important experience and knowledge when it comes to estate planning. They can make certain all of a physician’s end of life goals are addressed and more.

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What is an Estate Plan: The Only Guide You Will Need

More than 55% of surveyed Americans reported they don’t have a will. The process of estate planning is emotionally and physically draining, which is discouraging. Yet, you need to have a plan on how you want your loved ones to handle your estate upon your demise.

Contrary to what many people perceive, your estate goes beyond your real estate assets. It involves all personal property, bank accounts, life covers, and stocks. Failure to have an estate plan can lead to chaos.

Are you wondering what is an estate plan? If so, then read on to learn everything you need to know.

What is an Estate Plan?

Estate planning encompasses plans for estate transfer after death. Estate planning isn’t only for the affluent. If you want to provide for your loved ones adequately, you need to plan how your beneficiaries will handle your property.

Your estate is all you own from your home to other possessions, such as jewelry. With an estate plan, your lawyer will ensure that your heirs follow your instructions to the letter.

An estate plan has several facets that apply before and after you die. Some of the instructions include the care you’d want to receive when you age and can’t perform optimally. Besides, you can incorporate some of your values in the plan, such as hard work and education to guide your heirs.

A good estate planning ensures that you provide sufficiently for your loved ones with special needs and minors. It further incorporates guardians, who are responsible for minors’ inheritance. You need to keep updating your estate plan to include the changing financial situations and family structure.

One of the terms that you might come across in estate planning is power of attorney. It refers to an organization or a person that handles your affair when you’re incapacitated. Your appointed representative is an agent or an attorney-in-fact.

You might also come across the term trust. It is an arrangement that involves entrusting a property to an organization or an individual on behalf of your beneficiaries. Understanding the terms is crucial in estate planning.

Why do I need an Estate Plan?

You don’t have to wait until you are in your old age to plan for your estate. In fact, estate planning should start as soon as you hit 18 years. You can keep updating your plan as you accumulate more wealth.

Get a qualified team of lawyers in estate planning. The benefits of planning your estate legally are worth pursuing.

1. Reduction of Estate Tax

When you have an estate plan, you won’t be subject to heavy state inheritance taxes or federal estate taxes. What’s more, a couple can eliminate these taxes by establishing ABC Trusts to be part of their revocable living trusts or their wills. People have been embracing several techniques for advanced estate planning to reduce the taxation burden.

2. Avoid Probate

Probate is an expensive and long nightmare you would want to avoid at all costs. When your estate is subject to probate, your family can’t access cash immediately. It can be draining to have to scramble to pay for bills when your estate is worth millions.

Besides, probate exposes information about your beneficiaries, assets, personal representatives, and liabilities. Anyone can access your information easily. If you’ve been keeping your financial details private, probate will undo the effort.

An estate plan will save your loved ones the headache of probate. Ensure that you work with a recognized attorney. You don’t want to leave your family conflicting with the law.

3. Protect Beneficiaries

In the US, Massachusetts has the highest number of homeless families with children, which is about 1,959. Your loved ones can be victims of homelessness if you don’t have an estate plan. Malicious people can evict minors upon the demise of an adult.

Estate planning protects minor beneficiaries and adults who might be prone to uninformed decision making. A guardian can act on behalf of a minor. By the age of 18, a minor has the legal age to take over an estate.

If you understand what is an estate plan, you’ll make it a priority because it will address many family discords. With the inherent selfishness notable in humans, an estate plan ensures that every person gets the inheritance that a deceased person deemed appropriate.

4. Asset Protection

You need to protect your assets from lawsuits and other creditors. An estate plan is one of the strategies that will make your property inaccessible to creditors. Transfer your assets to your beneficiaries even when you don’t have a pending case.

Trying to have a plan in place when creditors are on your neck is too late. ABC Trusts can be ideal for spouses. You can also consider lifetime trusts for other beneficiaries.

Steps to Take in Estate Planning

When you’ve identified an accredited estate planning attorney, you can start the process of estate planning immediately. Writing a will and estate planning are inseparable. The first step involves making a will, where you specify your heirs and guardians for minors.

You can also consider a trust to avoid probate. You need a power of attorney for your finances. The trusted person can handle your affairs and finances if you lack the capacity.

Estate planning will also involve making healthcare directives. When you’ve advanced in age, you might need assistance in making healthcare decisions. This information should be on the plan.

Your end-of-life wishes should also involve funeral arrangements and expenses. Having life insurance is a decision you would want to consider.

Store your documents securely. Your agent will need access to documents such as trusts, wills, deeds, insurance policies, and any finance-related documents that can help in estate management.

Take the Necessary Steps to Get an Estate Plan

An estate plan is one of the crucial resources that your loved ones will appreciate in your absence.

You ought to have the right information before contracting a lawyer. Get a qualified estate planning attorney to guide you on the viable options.

Don’t wait until you are too old to have an estate plan. Your attorney will guide you through even as you create or update your plan.

Have you understood what is an estate plan? Do you need an estate planning attorney? Our online directory will assist you in finding the right attorney.

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The Reasons Behind Estate Planning Is Important

Life in the 21st century has many ups and downs and sometimes it throws you a curve, knocking you off balance. It is why estate planning is so important – getting your possessions under control. The sooner you start planning the better, because nobody knows what the next hour will bring, let alone tomorrow.

If you were to die today, how are your assets going to be distributed, and to who? How are your assets currently being managed?

Your assets are all the things you own – your cars, your home, your insurances and your jewelry. The most basic aspect of estate planning is having a will. The will stipulates who gets what. The law office of Stanton D. Goldberg knows that estate planning provides peace of mind because you’re providing for your family after you’ve passed on.

Always look for reputable lawyers. With Stanton D. Goldberg estate, planning is far more than drawing up a will, and they provide their very able help with all kinds of estate planning so that the future remains bright for your family.

If you die without a will, you’ve died intestate. It means that the intestacy laws of the state will decide how your property is distributed after your death according to whether you were married, single, had kids or not.  Most times your property is split among your so-called heirs – uncles, aunts, etc. Without a will, some of your possessions might land up in the hands of some distant family members you couldn’t stand.

There are a few reasons why estate planning is so crucial-

1. Good Education for your Children

Imagine your young, intelligent children not being able to study and to reach their dreams? Estate planning can see that your children have a good education when you’ve passed away. If you don’t make provisions for your children’s future, they could end up as adults without a job and without a goal. If you don’t have sufficient assets to secure your children’s financial future, you could buy a term life insurance policy – an excellent choice for protecting your children’s future.

2. Family to get Assets

After you’ve died, would you like to think that all you’ve worked for is going to land in the hands of your spouse’s new partner?  Estate planning will ensure that your assets go to your children rather than to your spouse’s new husband or wife.

3. Offshore Assets

If you’ve got offshore assets, it means your foreign estate will need to be administered. Your will might not meet with the legal requirements of the country where your assets are situated and you may need to execute a separate Will dealing with those assets.

4. Living Will

If you have no intention of being kept alive on life support while being brain dead, a living will stipulates what your wishes are regarding the medical care you receive or prefer not to receive.

Without estate planning in place, your family could crumble financially. Good estate planning will make sure that your family is provided for so that they can continue to live the life they’ve been used to, and not left to face financial ruin once you’re gone.

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The Role of an Investment Lawyer in Estate Planning

People must do estate planning to ensure that their assets fall in the right hands after their death. Estate planning helps to express your wishes about the distribution of your assets when you are no more by specifying who gets what and in which manner.  When you do estate planning, it becomes a legal record of your wishes that start functioning after you pass away and gives you the satisfaction of allocating your assets in the way you want. Some people might look upon estate planning as an exercise for the rich, but the truth is that everyone must do estate planning regardless of their net worth.

Not having a plan about the manner of distribution and utilization of your assets after your death can have far-reaching and costly implications on your loved ones even if you do not have too many valuables, a pricey home, and valuable art and large IRA to pass on. To create an estate plan, you must seek the guidance of a lawyer like the Investment Lawyers & Attorneys – Costello Law Group to ascertain your desires and goals and then put it together in the form of an estate plan. The plan should help to realize your goals and objectives. 

How an investment lawyer helps in estate planning

Besides protecting your assets after your death, estate planning also helps to protect your independence during your lifetime that the estate planning lawyer who is also an investment lawyer can guide you. The role of the lawyer is very important to ensure that your plan has legal validity and recognized under the current laws of the state. The plan will ensure that your estate is in order after you pass away so that it can provide your family and the loved ones when you are there no more. The lawyer can help in estate planning that covers the aspects of wills, the formation of trusts, tax planning, estate and probe administration and guardianship as well as estate litigation. The most basic form of estate planning constitutes of wills, power of attorney, advance directives, health care proxy, and a living will.  

To have more clarity about the role of investment lawyers in estate planning, you must get familiar with the various aspects of estate planning.

Power of Attorney

When you want some other person to manage your financial affairs, you must issue a legal document to empower that person in handling your finances, and this document is the Power of Attorney. Power of attorney is of two types – general durable power of attorney empowers the person with immediate effect without any condition attached, and the other is the springing type of power of attorney that passes on the power to that person only when you are incapacitated physically or mentally. In the absence of power of attorney, it can be very costly later to initiate the conservatorship process that would also take a long time and prove frustrating in case you become incapacitated any time. Staying prepared with a power of attorney is always a smart move to take care of any eventualities.

Living will

If you have heard about the term advance directive, then you should know that it has another name for a living will. The will helps to express the desire of the person executing the document about the use of extraordinary measures in case the person reaches an end-stage of life due to certain medical conditions.  The document specifies whether the person intends to avail any medical care or does not want it in a situation when the person is unable to communicate his or her wishes. If the person remains unconscious due to some medical condition doctors and healthcare providers would refer to the living will for determining the permissible actions that they should or should not take for life-sustaining treatment.  In the absence of a living will it becomes the responsibility of the spouse, family members, and any other third party to make decisions about the future medical assistance of that person. 

Last will and testament

A last will and testament is a legal document by means of which a person can identify the person/s or charities that are to receive his/her property and assets after his or her death. The will helps to prevent the distribution of your property and children under the statues of intestacy of the state. The individuals and charities mentioned in the will are the beneficiaries in the eyes of the law. It is not enough to create a will, but you must also nominate an executor who will ensure proper administration of your estate and the distribution of your property among the beneficiaries as stated in the will. 

On the death of the person who creates the will the executor whether an individual or an institution will petition the court for formal appointment as an executor of your estate. After appointment by the court, the executor starts managing the financial affairs of the deceased and ensures proper distribution of property and other assets as stipulated in the will. It is also possible to nominate a guardian for adolescent children within the provisions of the will in case there are any children less than 18 years at the time of the person’s death who would require some guardian to take care of them.

Health care proxy

The health care proxy is a legal document that allows a person to appoint another person to make medical decisions in case they are unable to in the future. The person entrusted with the health care proxy can make decisions regarding the use or non-use of life-sustaining medical measures for medical support that the affected person receives.  In case you become incapacitated and need someone else to decide about your health care needs then the health care proxy is the only document that records the wish you had consciously expressed when you were fit enough to do so.

Estate planning helps people to take advance decisions to fulfill their wishes about property, assets, finance, and healthcare when they become incapacitated or pass away.

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Is an online will the same as a will kit?

There are many reasons why we avoid getting a will done. We are all busy balancing the bills, work and the kids, it is easy to bypass preparing a will, notably because it can cost hundreds of dollars. The subject of dying is also not something that many of us like to think about. These are just some of the reasons why some opt to use a will kit.

It is widely known however that lawyers love will kits. Will kits can only cater for a limited number of scenarios, and because of this, they may not be suitable for everyone. There have been unfortunate cases where users have tweaked the printed text of a will kit only to leave their estate at risk of legal challenges.

And this is why lawyers love will kits.

Digital Lives

The world has gone digital, and humanity is rapidly moving online. In some cases, the concept of ownership has changed. Our music collections are online, our bookcases are online, and we even have more friends online than we do in real life.

So what happens to all of that when we die?

Social media companies like Google and Facebook are adding functionality that caters to the dearly departed, but the legal industry has also been pretty slow to adapt. Lawyers generally avoid new technologies, and they do not offer succession planning for digital assets like social media profiles and digital currencies.

What About Online Wills

Technology has improved pretty much everything it has touched.  LegalTech has already offered solutions for improved billing, document storage and even case management. Soon the use of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) will enhance the industry and make justice more accessible.

So what about moving wills online?

Not being restricted like a printed will kit, online wills can cater for more scenarios. The Uber or Airbnb gig model suggests that lawyers will also be more efficiently available and at arm’s length.

OneWill, for example, offers social media and digital asset estate planning as well as the ability to capture audio and video messages which will allow users to communicate their wishes more clearly reducing the risk of confusions.

Mic Drop?

It is important to remember that online wills are not for everyone. There are scenarios where you shouldn’t choose an online estate planning solution.

An online will is not necessarily the best option if you are a high net-worth individual, if you have a blended family or if you own a company or a trust.

One thing is for sure, and that is that as the LegalTech industry grows is certainly is not a good idea for lawyers to assume that technology can never do what they do.

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Estate Planning Documents by Roger Levine, Esq.

Every senior should have five documents in his or her estate plan.  For financial concerns, A Will (Trust) and a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) are a must. For health concerns, a Health Care Proxy, Living Will and HIPPA agreement are necessary.

 A Will is a document that directs how any assets in your name alone, whether real estate, personal property or money (in all its myriad forms, such as stocks, bank accounts, CD’s, etc.) is distributed upon your death. By making a will (or a Living Trust) you can determine who gets what (or doesn’t get what), according to your wishes. If you die without a Will, the State will make these determinations for you. A Will ensures the choice will be yours.

 The second financially based document your estate plan should contain is a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). If through mental and/or physical infirmity, you become what is considered “legally incapable” of handling your own affairs, the DPOA pre-appoints somebody of your choice to make decisions for you in your interest on your behalf. If no DPOA is in place and you become legally incapacitated, your family, friends, or whoever is close to you, must go to probate court and petition the court to become your conservator, a time consuming, expensive, and nerve-racking experience. By having a simple DPOA in place, this potential crisis may be completely avoided. 

 A Health Care Proxy is a document that appoints an agent to act on your behalf should you be physically and/or mentally incapable of doing so. Without such a document appointing an agent (and usually an alternate), your friends and/or family would be forced to go to Probate Court to get a Guardianship for you, a time consuming, expensive and nerve-racking experience. With a valid Health Care Proxy, the agent should be able to act on your behalf without having to pursue a Guardianship.

A Living Will, a companion document to a Health Care Proxy, is a direct statement from you yourself, stating if you should be on life sustaining equipment, in a vegetative, comatose state, with no chance of recovery, that you would not want to be kept alive by mechanical means in those circumstances. Although a Health Care Proxy appoints an agent to make this decision, the agent (or the medical institution) is under no legal obligation to make the decision you want. A Living Will helps insure that your agent (and the medical institution) will follow your wishes.

 A HIPPA release agreement is a relatively new document (2003) which evolved in response to privacy of health records legislation. Such agreement insures that your health care agent has access to your medical records if needed. Without such a document, a medical institution will often not give your agent your records for fear of violating privacy laws.  

 Trusts can be valuable tools for estate planning purposes but are often misunderstood.  Much confusion exists as to what kind of Trust does what. So, here is a brief overview.

 A Revocable Living Trust can be useful for maximizing the amount of money a husband and wife can leave estate tax free. It can also be useful for avoiding probate if properly administered. Contrary to popular opinion, however, it does not protect assets against potential nursing home costs. An Irrevocable Trust may protect assets against nursing home costs (depending on the amount of time that has passed since establishing the Trust). However, since only the income (and not the principle) is available to the Trust maker, you must be able to live on the income generated. A Testamentary Trust is a Trust established in a Will that can be useful for certain nursing home situations and also for Will bequests you might want distributed over time (instead of all at once).

Trusts can be useful for specific purposes you might have but tend to be more complicated than basic estate planning documents (Wills, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Wills and HIPPA release) If you think a Trust might be relevant for your situation, it might be useful to talk with an estate planning attorney.

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