Wills, Trusts & Dying Intestate: How They Differ

Most people understand that having some sort of an Estate Plan is a good thing. However, many of us don’t take the steps to have an estate plan prepared because we don’t understand the nuances between wills and trusts – and dying without either.

Here’s what will generally happen if you die, intestate (without a will or trust), with a will, and with a trust. For this example, we’re assuming you have children, but no spouse:

1. Intestate. If you should die intestate, your estate will go through probate and all the world will know what you owned, what you owed, and who got what. Your mortgage company, car loan company, and credit card companies will all seek payment on balances you owed at the time of your death.  Read More

The Silent Threat to Your Estate Plan

It is common knowledge that everyone needs to have an estate plan in place. Commonly, the focus is on assets, taxes, and any changes to legislation that may affect the security of your loved ones in the event of your incapacity or death. What many often forget, however, is that changes in family dynamics and circumstances can threaten even the most well thought out estate plan. This silent threat can easily keep your estate plan from actually working when it is truly needed. Below are several situations where updating an existing estate plan or creating a plan for the first time is necessary to protect your loved ones. Read More

Giving Thanks With Your Estate Plan

Estate planning covers more than just financial matters. Indeed, many use their estate plan to pass along their values as well as their wealth. One way to do this is to give thanks with your estate plan, by designating charitable giving or specific gifts that will help ensure your legacy. It is important, however, to balance your income and the needs of your beneficiaries with the available tax incentives.

While the general purpose of estate planning is to ensure you and your family are taken care of when most needed, you do not need to contain your estate planning to financial issues. Indeed, many individuals use estate planning to pass along family history and traditions through their giving. An estate plan may specify how a beneficiary can use their inheritance such as for studying abroad, embarking on a particular trip, or other values that are important to the giver. In addition, you can choose to give to a qualified charitable organization in your will so that the gift is distributed upon your death or incapacity. Giving to charity during your life or after you have gone can help significantly reduce federal estate and gift taxes and allows you to support charitable causes that are meaningful to you. Read More

Murphy’s Law and Estate Planning

As the old adage goes “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Referred to as Murphy’s law, this well-known saying has no mercy. Sadly, estate planning is no exception to its wrath. There is hope! Below are five-estate planning mistakes and how to fix them:

Incorrect guardian for your children: A will is a way for you to control what happens to your estate and your minor or disabled children from the grave. If you fail to put together a will, the state will decide who cares for them at a court hearing. If you do have a will, be sure to review it regularly and confirm your original guardian is still a great choice for your children. If he or she is not, then amend your will and choose another guardian. Because all family law judges are required to make decisions in the “best interest of the child”, it’s a good idea to write a letter of explanation to help the judge understand the decision you’ve made. Read More

Your Fall “Legal Affairs” Checklist

There are several reasons to review and update your legal matters, including your estate plan. Understanding how your wishes are affected by applicable law will help make you make a more informed decision and protect you and your loved ones. Below is a checklist to ensure your planning meets your needs and is up-to-date: Read More