Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family: Why You Need to Think Before You Sign

Whether you are in your first marriage or have remarried after a divorce, blended families are a common part of modern society. That being said, it is important to understand that blended families and subsequent marries create important and unique issues when it comes to estate planning. You may need to account for a prior spouse who is still caring for minor or disabled children, and also possibly make sure your current spouse and any children you had together – and any stepchildren – are also taken care of after you pass away. The good news is that estate planning can take all of these factors into account. This is true whether you are putting together your estate plan for the very first time or if you need to update your current estate plan due to a change in your circumstances. Read More

Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business

Owning your own business can be a great endeavor that takes a lot of passion and drive. Many small business owners focus on the day-to-day management and growth of the business, rather than thinking about a time when he or she may not be in the business. This is a far too common mistake.  Future plans for your enterprise are even more important when one child works in the business but the others do not. Keeping the peace among your children after you are no longer able to participate in the business requires careful balancing of your estate plan. Read More

Are Your Documents Following the Same Script? Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning

In the event of your untimely death, the manner in which your beneficiaries — or those people who receive your assets from your estate — are determined is highly dependent on how your property is titled.

Generally, property with title includes vehicles, boats, airplanes, real estate, bank accounts, savings bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and stock certificates. If you die without a will or a trust and haven’t used any beneficiary or transfer on death options, state law will determine who inherits property with a title. On the other hand, property without a title, such as jewelry, antiques, art, and even your digital assets are usually provided for in your will or trust, and if you don’t have one typically goes to your heirs at law. As you can see, who you have listed as a beneficiary — and not having a beneficiary designation at all — can have serious implications for your family after you have passed away. Read More

Not Married? You’re not alone – but you still need a plan. Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes

Approximately half of America’s population over the age of 16 is unmarried. While much of the discussion involving estate planning focuses on married couples, this topic is just as important for a single person. In fact, many times it is even more important that a single person have a well-coordinated estate plan. This is because the default laws governing estates often work poorly for people without a spouse and may not adequately provide for a significant other or unmarried partner. Having a cohesive and well-drafted estate plan will ensure that you protect and provide for those you truly care about upon your death. Read More

Wondering Whether You Need to Update Your Estate Plan? Yes, You Do, and Here’s Why

Please allow us to be candid. It’s unrealistic to think that a piece of paper you draft, reflecting your life at a certain time, will work when your life has completely changed some years later. We’ll use the Campbell family as an example.

Meet Robert and Terri Campbell. They got their first estate plan in place when their daughter, Jamie, was born 28 years ago. They updated it when their son Samuel came along 4 years later. About 10 years ago, they got a fantastic trust-based plan in place, protecting themselves, their children, their grandchildren, and their dog, Maddie.

Unfortunately,  life got busy and, as you might guess, the Campbells put their documents in their safe and never scheduled a review or update of their documents.

Here’s what’s changed in their lives in the last 10 years. Read More

Stress Test Your Estate Plan

So you have done the hard work of establishing an estate plan. Good for you! However, you still have serious work to do to ensure that the strategy you have selected will maximize your peace of mind and protect your legacy.

Estate plans should be like living, breathing creations that reflect the changes in your life. Your life can and will change due to new births, children getting older, and other shifts in the family; changes to your investment portfolio, career and business; and changes to your health, where you live, and your core values. Likewise, external events, such as new tax legislation passed in your state or the development of a novel financial instrument, can throw your plan off track or open the door to new opportunities. Read More