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

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

Just Like You Need a Medical Checkup, Your Estate Plan Needs a Checkup!

Whether or not you currently have estate planning documents, one important item to add to your calendar is getting an estate plan checkup.

If you don’t already have an estate plan, then getting one in place should be at the top of your to-do list.

Why?  Because without an estate plan, you and your property may end up in a court-supervised guardianship if you become incapacitated, and your property and your loved ones may end up in a time-consuming and expensive probate proceedings after you die.

Worse yet, if you don’t take the time to have any estate planning done, then the state where you live at the time of your death will essentially write one for you. It most likely won’t divvy up your property the way you would have and certainly will not protect your heirs the way you would.  Read More

Is Your Estate Plan as Stale as Last Week’s Ham Sandwich? 5 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan

Estate plans are almost magical: They allow you to maintain control of your assets, yet protect you should you become incapacitated. They take care of your family and pets. And, if carefully crafted, they reduce fees, taxes, stress, and time delays. Estate plans can even keep your family and financial affairs private. But one thing estate plans can’t do is update themselves.

Estate plans are written to reflect your situation at a specific point in time. While they have some flexibility, the bottom line is that our lives continually change and unfold in ways we might not have ever anticipated. Your plan needs to reflect those changes. If not, it will be as stale as last week’s ham sandwich and may fail miserably when needed the most. Read More

Small Business Owner? Know What Can Happen to Your Business If You Become Incapacitated or Pass Away

Preparing your company for your incapacity or death is vital to the survival of the enterprise. Otherwise, your business will be disrupted, harming your customers, employees, vendors, and ultimately, your family. For this reason, proactive financial planning — including your business and your estate plan — is key. Below are some tips on how to protect your company and keep the business on track and operating day-to-day in your absence. Read More

After the Heart Attack: Get Your Estate Planning Done

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone in the U.S. has a heart attack every 40 seconds. That means approximately 790,000 people have a heart attack each year. If you have recently been hospitalized for a cardiac condition or other near-miss medical event, then you may be feeling a strong sense of urgency to get your estate planning done to protect your family, your business, and your legacy. Act on that feeling before you go back to your routine. Here’s how. Read More