An Easy Three-Step Review for Your Estate Plan “Helpers”

While putting together an estate plan is important for you and your loved ones, it is equally important for you to understand the role of the trusted individuals who will be carrying out your wishes when you are unable to. When it comes to estate planning, these helpers are key. They generally include a trustee, guardian, executor, agent under a power of attorney, and healthcare proxy, among others.

Reviewing Your Key Helpers: Determining who will handle your affairs when you are unable or once you are gone is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Here is an easy three-step guide to help you that you can use when reviewing your estate plan. Read More

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

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

Who should I pick to be successor trustee?

When you create a living trust, you usually need to choose who to name as your successor trustee. It is crucial that this decision is not taken lightly and that the right person is selected for the job.

If you become incapacitated, your successor trustee will step into your shoes and take full control of your trust assets on your behalf. This means he or she will have full authority to make financial decisions — including selling or refinancing trust assets. In fact, as long as the act does not interfere with the instructions in the trust document and does not breach any fiduciary duty owed, your successor trustee is given broad authority over your trust assets. The authority is very helpful in many circumstances because it avoids costly, time-consuming court proceedings, like guardianship, conservatorship, or probate. Read More

Five Considerations When Selecting a Guardian for Your Children

There is no question that having children changes everything — and estate planning is no exception. If you and your spouse pass away or become legally incapacitated, and arrangements were never made in the event of such an emergency, your minor child or children will have to be placed with a new family. Not surprisingly, such a drastic change can be a disruptive process for minor children — even if they are placed with members of your family. If you choose a guardian for your child in your will or other estate plan documents this difficult time can go much more smoothly. Read More