Women and Wills

All my single ladies come get your Will done!

We are in a new age. One where women are waiting longer to get married and have children. This is in large part because women are now obtaining advanced degrees and they want to focus on their careers. As a result, women are now more financially independent then in years past. Women no longer need to get married to obtain financial security. They have obtained it all on their own.

According to AARP nearly 2/3rds of Americans do not have a Will. I am encouraging all my single ladies to get their estate plans done now! Don’t wait until you get married someday to get your estate plan done. We don’t know what the future holds and you need to be prepared in case something happens to you.

We all plan and save for our retirement, investing our money wisely. But the one piece of the financial puzzle often left out is getting an estate plan done.  Having a proper estate plan can often save you money, by limiting the amount of estate taxes paid at your death. Besides the fact that you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing your wishes are being fulfilled. You don’t want to leave a mess for your loved ones to sort out after your gone. Plan for your future today!

Is Your Estate Plan Up To Date?

Do you have an estate plan that is over three (3) years old?  If so, you should consider having it reviewed to ensure that it is still up-to-date.

The Law is constantly changing and it is important to keep your estate plan in line with current laws.  Not only does the law change, but also you change. What you wanted to happen three (3) years ago or even ten (10) years ago may not be what you still want today. Or maybe the value of your estate has changed and you need to revise your estate plan as a result.

New Year’s is the perfect time to start thinking about having your estate plan revised. Contact an experienced estate-planning attorney today and mark this task off your New Year’s resolution list!

New Year’s Resolutions – Get Your Estate Plan Done!

Well, it’s that time of year again and New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. I’m sure you are all busy writing out your New Year’s resolutions for 2012.  That is why now is the perfect time to hire an attorney to draft your Will.  I know you have all been meaning to get your Will done for ages, but keep putting it off. New Year’s is a great time to finally take care of your Estate Plan.

So, call an experienced Estate Planning Attorney today and finally get your Will taken care of.

When Your Child’s A Spendthrift?

Recently, I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding what to do if your child is a spendthrift.  I recommend everyone check it out, it is a great read! It was from the September 19, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, page R3, Author: Jennifer Hoyt Cummings. I’ll summarize for you the main points of the article:

 1.    Create an investment firm.  Families, who have children that are bad with money, may want to consider creating a family investment company that controls the children’s inheritance. To help the children learn to be better with their finances: put them on the board of the investment company, have the children interview the investment advisors, hold regular strategy calls with kids and advisors, have the children attend financial literacy classes.

2.    Pick the right trustees. Parents could pick two trustees instead of just one trustee. The first trustee would be a corporate trustee who would be in control of spending. The second trustee would report to the corporate trustee on the child’s progress in improving their financial skills. It’s probably best to assign this role to a friend of the family and not an immediate family member. This is to avoid family conflict.

3.    Think about the trust rules. Really think about the clauses you put into the trust for your child. What do you want the trust to do, what is its purpose?  Some trusts include clauses that hold money back if the child’s behavior is poor. And yet others have language allowing the trustee to pay the child’s bills.  If you want to encourage your child to work and lead a normal productive life and not simply live off of the trust property. You may want to consider putting language in the trust that says this.

This summarizes the article, which contains some great suggestions on ways to help protect your child if they are terrible with their finances. Read over the suggestions carefully and talk with a qualified estate-planning attorney to determine if any of the above suggestions are right for you and your families needs.

What Documents Do You Need in Your Basic Estate Plan?

I recommend that people of all ages have a basic estate plan at a minimum.  What documents should be included in a basic estate plan?

  1. Will – This tells everyone who your heirs are and how you want your belongs split up among them.  This document ensures that all of your wishes regarding your estate are fulfilled.  It also ensures that your loved ones do not have to go through the Probate process, which can be costly and time consuming.
  2. Durable Power of Attorney – This document is important because it allows you to choose who you want to take care of your financial affairs, like paying your bills, if you become incapacitated and are unable to take care of them yourself.
  3. Healthcare Proxy – This is the person that you nominate to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in case you are incapacitated and cannot make them for yourself. You should give a copy of your Healthcare Proxy to your PCP and your nominated Proxy.
  4. Living Will/Advanced Directive – This document is not legally binding here in Massachusetts, but it is a necessary thing to have because it lets your Healthcare Proxy know what your wishes are for your healthcare. Do you want life support? Do you want heroic measures? Do you want a feeding tube? These are all things your healthcare proxy will need to know in order to make the right decision for your health care.
  5. Declaration of Homestead – Costs only $35 dollars to record at your local Registry of Deeds.  It protects up to $500,000 in your home’s equity from creditors.
  6. HIPAA Release – This authorizes your PCP to give your medical records to you Healthcare Proxy. This can be helpful to them in making decisions regarding your care.

The Importance of Speaking With Your Family About Your Estate Plan.

You’ve finally worked up the courage to contact your attorney and prepare an Estate Plan.  Now, the next step is for you to talk to your family about your wishes.

It is difficult for many people to sit down with their loved ones and have end of life conversations, but it is so important. Your family needs to know what your wishes are for your estate. They also should be aware of your wishes for your end of life care and where your Estate Plan is located. Having a Will is all well and good, but if your family doesn’t know that you have one or even where it is, what good is that? Make sure your family knows the location of your Will.

It is important to explain to your family what your wishes are so that they understand what you want to happen and your reasoning behind it. There can often be jealousy between family members.  It can make it easier if you’ve decided to give the family home to your son and not your daughter, for them to know now while they can talk to you about it.

No matter what you have decided to do with your estate, get your Estate Plan done today, then call your family and let them know what you have decided to do.  You’ll be glad you did!

 

 

Help! I Own Property in Two Different States and I Need an Estate Plan?

Last week, July 4, 2011, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly published a great article on the Ins and outs of multi-state estate planning and probate, 39 MLW 1843.  These days, more and more people own real property in multiple states.  This can lead to some confusion when it comes time to prepare your estate plan. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced attorney. Before you choose your attorney here are a few things to be aware of:

First, make sure the local attorney you hire to prepare your multi-state estate plan is licensed to practice law in both states, Massachusetts and the alternate state. Second, if he is not licensed to practice in both states, make sure your attorney plans on hiring out-of-state counsel to prepare and process any out-of-state estate planning or probate documents.  This will ensure that all of your estate planning documents are properly drafted.   Lastly, be aware that it is unlawful to practice law with out a license in a state in which you have not been admitted to practice law. So watch out for any attorney that says they can prepare your out-of-state documents with out being licensed there.

Follow these simple tips and your well on your way to finding the right attorney to draft your multi-state estate plan. Good luck!

Heirloom Properties: What Should I Do With My Families Vacation Home?

Does your family have a vacation home or special real estate property that has been in your family for years? Do you want to ensure it remains in your family, long after you are gone? If you answered yes, then you should consider doing some preparation for the future of your family’s vacation home or “heirloom property”.

You should first consider transferring the property to an LLC or a Trust that:

  • Lays down the rules for future co-ownership of the property;
  • Provides protection against current owners and future owners ownership risks;
  • Is funded with an appropriate amount of money, usually from life insurance proceeds.

The major ownership risks you are going to want to protect the property from are debt, divorce, disability or dissipation, meaning squandering of the properties assets. You’ll want to consider buy out terms, in case one of the heirs wants to get rid of their share of the property. You’ll want to provide a way for them to do that. Then the next thing you want to do is to provide for equal ownership of the home among all your heirs so there is no fighting. Be sure to retain management in the property in 1 or 2 heirs maximum so that you do not have to worry about your heirs not being able to agree. Also, be sure to require usage fees and dues for use of the property. This will ensure that you always have money to keep up the property when the initial insurance money runs out. Finally, allow for rental, sale and even mortgaging of the property in case times get tough and your family can no longer afford to keep the property. As much as you want to protect your families cherished property. You also do not want your loved ones going bankrupt to keep it.

Do You Have a Child or Loved One With a Disability? Why a Special Needs Trust Might Be Right For You.

Do you have a loved one who suffers from a permanent disability and relies on SSI and Medicaid as their sole source of income? Have you been worrying about what will happen to them once you and your spouse are deceased?

If you have a loved one who suffers from a disability and relies on SSI or Medicaid for their income, you may want to consider a Special Needs Trust. A Special Needs Trust is used to enhance your loved one’s quality of life while at the same time preserving their eligibility for government support. The funds from the trust are used to pay for things not covered by SSI and Medicaid. Because your loved one has no control over how the money in the trust is spent the money is not counted as a resource.

A few examples of the type of things the Special Needs Trust can pay for are:

•Out-of-pocket medical expenses.
•Trips and vacations.
•Computer or electronic equipment.
•Cosmetics.
•Professional services.
•Entertainment.
•Home furnishings.

Before you decide to get a Special Needs Trust, make sure that you consult an attorney experienced in drafting this type of document. If drafted properly, the Special Needs Trust can be a great way to benefit your loved one!