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How to Transfer Real Estate to Your Trust

Transferring Your Residence to Your Trust

Your home is likely one of the largest assets in your estate and one you will probably want to transfer to your trust.  A deed is the document that must be prepared and signed to transfer ownership of your home or any real estate (also called real property) into trust. A quitclaim deed is one of the simplest ways to do this and one that you can likely do yourself.

Warranty Deed vs Quitclaim Deed

There are two primary types of deeds used to transfer ownership.  A Warranty Deed provides assurances or guarantees to the transferee from the transferor, for example that the property is owned by the transferor and they can transfer clear title to the property. It is probable that you received a Warranty Deed when you purchased your home. A Quitclaim Deed contains no guarantees of any kind. They are common when property is placed in a trust or when an interest in real estate is received as part of a divorce settlement.

Deed Preparation

If you are using, preparation of the transfer deed is included at no extra charge in the package of documents which can be selected for creation.  If you are not using IEDS for preparation of your estate planning documents and other necessary forms, you will need to get a state specific deed form.  You should be able to find one online.  You may also find one at a local law library by checking books on real property that have forms that you can photocopy.

Most deeds require the same basic information:

  • Current Owner’s Name – If you are the sole owner or are transferring only your separate share of the property to trust use only your name. If joint owners are transferring the property use both parties’ names.  You should use the same form of your name as was used on the deed when you received your interest in the property.
  • New Owner’s Name – Enter your name(s) as trustee(s) exactly as it appears in the title of your trust agreement U/T/A (which stands for Under Trust Agreement) and the date you signed your trust.
  • Legal Description of the Property – Copy the legal description exactly as it appeared on the previous deed.

If you co-own the property with someone else and are only transferring your share, you need to state, along with the legal description that you are only transferring that share (a one-third interest, for example) or that you are transferring “all your interest” in the property.

Once completed, sign and date the deed in the presence of a notary public for the state where the property is located.  Be sure that everyone who is a current owner of the property transferring their interest signs the deed.

Recording the Deed

Once the deed form is prepared, it must be filed (recorded) with the county registrar where the property is located, and you will typically need to pay a filing fee.  Take the original signed, notarized deed and copies to the registrar’s office (may be called land registry or bureau of conveyances or similar name). The registrar will stamp and return the original with a reference number to indicate where the deed can be found in the public records.

Caution: Bad legal descriptions, improper execution formalities, and misstatements of the manner is which title is to be held are just a few examples of how a simple quitclaim deed can result in costly errors. There may also be special titling requirements to take advantage of protections afforded by specific state laws.  For example, in Hawaii the law allows married couples to transfer real estate into trust without losing the creditor protections afforded by titling property as tenants-by-the entirety. But specific requirements for the trust name, provisions and deed of conveyance must be met in order to receive those protections, HI Rev Stat § 509-2.  Bottom line here is that even if you decide to do the transfer yourself, you may save time, money and trouble in the future by having your deed reviewed by a knowledgeable local attorney.

Mortgage Due-on-Sale Clauses

Transferring your real estate to your trust should not affect your mortgage.  In most cases, lenders are forbidden by federal law from invoking a “due-on-sale” clause when property is transferred to a living trust.  The borrower must be a beneficiary of the trust and the transfer must not relate to a transfer of rights of occupancy in the property, 12 U.S. Code § 1701j-3(d)(8).


Be sure to check on your title insurance (if you have any) though. It may be possible to simply transfer it to the trust, or your title insurance company may require that the trust buy a new policy. Once the property is transferred, you may need to change your homeowner’s insurance to designate the trust as owner of the property. If you receive a real estate tax or homestead exemption, you’ll want to make sure it is properly applied by providing documentation of the trust to the taxing authority, such as a certificate of trust (which is one of the documents created with each document package from

This article on How to Transfer Real Estate to Your Trust is provided by Interactive Estate Document Systems – The web’s leading resource for Do It Yourself Estate Planning Documents. Find out more about

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please consult a lawyer licensed to practice in your specific jurisdiction.

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10 Things Estate Planning Lawyers Don’t Want You to Know

  1. You don’t need an attorney to do your own Last Will & Testament.

We’ve all seen the fear mongering articles usually written by estate planning lawyers or their friends in the mainstream money rags magazines that equate doing your own estate planning documents with doing your own oral surgery or disarming a ticking time bomb.  And to be fair, sometimes they do make a good point because most of the time when you first undertake any project you’ve never done before, You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know.  If you are unwilling or unable to invest some of your own time and money in acquiring the information and tools necessary to do the job right, you should hire a professional.  Remember, what you are doing is substituting your time for the attorney’s and his staff. There are hundreds of web sites containing a wealth of information you could consult about documents needed to create everything from a basic to a comprehensive estate plan.  A list of everything included in each of our estate planning document packages can be found here.

Continue reading 10 Things Estate Planning Lawyers Don’t Want You to Know

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New Year’s Resolution – Make an Estate Plan – Protect Your Family in 2019

Well, 2018 is almost over and we get to start fresh in 2019  a few days from now. Each year many of us make New Year’s resolutions. We think about weight loss, eating better, reducing stress in our lives or maybe getting back to that one thing we put off last year. May I suggest you start by protecting your most valuable asset, your family!

Interactive Estate Document Systems ( understands why people put off estate planning. It can be daunting when facing it alone. It comes with complex paperwork and a confusing language all its own. Please watch our 3-minute introductory video here to learn about estate planning and the cost-effective solution.

Many people put off estate planning until it is too late. You already know that a life-changing crisis can happen at any time, leaving your family vulnerable to losing the benefit of your life’s work.  You always have a choice between leaving a legacy of peace or one of chaos.

All states have a legal system in place to handle your estate should that you die without your affairs in order. That system, called probate is costly, public, and rarely matches your wishes. You’ve probably heard from friends, family, or worse yet been involved in, a probate horror story.  Avoiding probate is a very good thing and easily achieved by taking some simple steps.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is the process of creating a plan detailing how your assets will be managed during your lifetime, who will receive your property when you die, when they will receive it, and under what terms. You may think that you do not have enough to plan for, but regardless of the dollar value of your estate, every adult over 18 needs a comprehensive estate plan.

What is a Comprehensive Estate Plan?

  1. Revocable Living Trust:  This is the foundational document of your estate plan.  It provides for assets owned by the trust to avoid probate and contains directions for who receives your property and the terms and conditions under which they receive it after your death.  The Revocable Living Trust can provide lifetime asset protection for your spouse and loved ones so that the legacy you provide cannot be touched by their creditors or by a future ex-spouse. Protection is provided should your spouse remarry or if a child gets divorced or from a bankruptcy court if a surviving spouse or a child files for bankruptcy.
  2. Pour-Over Last Will and Testament: If this was your only estate planning document, it would be where you name the people or charities that would inherit your assets after your death.  In a Revocable Living Trust based plan, the Pour-Over Will typically directs that any property you did not retitle into your Trust during your lifetime is directed to the Trust after going through probate.  If you have minor children, you also need a Will because you nominate people in the Will who you want to be the guardian(s) of your minor children should something happen to you.
  3. Durable Financial Power of Attorney:  If you are in a coma, incapacitated or suffer mental impairment, advanced Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who will handle your financial affairs?  This document sanctions one or more people you select to handle your finances if you become incapacitated.  If you have not signed a Financial Power of Attorney your family may spend thousands of dollars to get a court order that appoints someone as your conservator with the legal right and power to act on your behalf.  Without this document no one will be able to write checks on your bank account and pay your mortgage or other bills.
  4. Healthcare Power of Attorney:  This document is critical because it appoints people who you choose to make decisions about your medical care if you can’t.  If you require medical treatment, but cannot communicate with the doctor, who will decide on your treatment?  If there is a disagreement on treatment between family members on proceeding with risky surgery or other medical procedures the doctor or hospital may require the family to go to court and spend significant dollars and waste precious time to get a court order that says operate or do not operate. With a Healthcare Power of Attorney your doctor will follow the instructions of the individual you name in the document.
  5. Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will and Organ Donation:  You have the right to give instructions about your own health care and especially “end of life” decisions. You also have the right to name someone else to make health care decisions for you. This document lets you do either or both of those things. It also allows you to choose whether to donate your body or organs upon death and the purposes for which those donations may be used.
  6. HIPAA Authorization:  This is a document that authorizes your healthcare providers to give information about your health and medical condition and treatment to the people you name as your healthcare decision makers in your Healthcare Power of Attorney and others you choose to name.
  7. Digital Assets Inventory: More and more of our lives revolve around our online presence.  How to deal with the disposition of our digital assets and persona is an ever-changing area of the law but one thing is clear, it is critical that we provide our survivors a starting point which details our digital footprint.  This document provides a place to record URLs, passwords and other login information that might otherwise be lost upon your death.
  8. Document Locator:  Use this document to tell your family about the existence and location of your important documents, including life insurance information.
  9. Final Disposition and Authorization Instructions:  Designates the person who is authorized to make decisions regarding the final disposition of your body. Also used to make your wishes known and to indicate any “pre-need arrangements” you may have made.
  10. Last Wishes:  This is a document that you can use to plan your funeral or memorial  service and tell your family how you want to be remembered.

Stop Procrastinating – Protect Your Family Before It is Too Late

If you have procrastinated up to now, and do not have an estate plan you have likely left your family at risk.  If you do not take the next step right now to design your own estate plan, the sad reality is that you will most likely continue to procrastinate for many years to come and probably will die without protecting your family. That’s OK if you want your State to decide who inherits your property and if you don’t care about the problems and expense your family may suffer if you die without a comprehensive estate plan in place.

Isn’t your family your most valuable asset? Don’t you want your family to have the protection that a comprehensive estate plan can provide? If the cost is preventing you from making an appointment, compare the cost of an estate plan against money you have spent on things for yourself such as a giant screen TV, furniture, swimming pool, computer system, surround sound system, new car or SUV, boat, country club membership, jewelry, art and other “toys” or expensive items. Don’t spend more on “stuff and things ” than you do to protect your family when something eventually happens to you. has made it very easy and affordable to do the right thing in 2019. Click here to get started.


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Why Your Trust Should Always be the Beneficiary of Your Life Insurance

If you’ve ever contemplated establishing a Revocable Living Trust as part of your Comprehensive Estate Plan you probably considered avoiding probate as one of the principal benefits. While it is true that, properly structured and funded, living trusts do indeed avoid probate there are many more important reasons to make it the centerpiece of your dispositive plan.

In fact, avoidance of probate, especially with life insurance, seems like a belt and suspenders approach at best and a completely unnecessary complication. Anyway, we’ve all been taught that assets that pass by beneficiary designation don’t go through probate, right? Well, more about that later. For now, let’s focus on the top reasons your Trust should always be the beneficiary of your life insurance.

1. Protecting the Inheritance for Certain Beneficiaries
One of the most important yet least discussed reasons for making the Trust the beneficiary of life insurance, is that in many cases the intended beneficiaries are simply unable to handle the inheritance. When most of us think about planning our estate we intend to give our property to our husband or wife and our children.

Surviving Spouse as Beneficiary:
Naming a spouse is a common practice. However, if your spouse is or becomes unable to handle financial matters, or you and your spouse divorce, then you will need to review your beneficiary designation to make sure that it is still appropriate. More about whether this is ever a good idea later.

Minor Children as Beneficiary:
While you may name your minor children as your designated beneficiary, we will be unable to pay the life insurance proceeds to your children until the earlier of:

• The date that your children reach the age of majority (usually age 18 or 21, depending on applicable state law).

• The date that a legal guardian of the minors’ estate has been appointed by a court. This appointment process can be costly, and state laws may limit who may be named a guardian of an estate. Generally, a guardian of the minors’ estate will hold the money for their’ benefit until they reach the age of majority, usually age 18 or 21, depending on state law.

We all cringe when we hear stories about the 18-year-old that receives a large sum of money, immediately heads out to buy a new expensive car and goes on a two-month party binge with a dozen of his closest friends.

But it’s not just the newly minted adults that lack the skills to properly handle large sums of money. Some may just be spendthrifts that have never been financially responsible. Others may be in a less than rock solid marriage or going through bankruptcy at the time the insured departs this mortal plane. Unfortunately, the grieving widow is often prayed upon by less than honorable suitors leaving her and the insured’s children high and dry after the money’s all been spent. Then there are those who have special needs or are currently receiving some form of government benefits that would be disqualified by receipt of an outright inheritance.

Perhaps an example here would provide some clarity.

Let’s imagine a scenario where a husband and wife are in a car accident in which the husband is killed and the driver of the other car is seriously injured. Further assume that the wife was at fault and the other driver sues and receives an award of $500,000 in excess of the auto insurance policy liability limits of the husband and wife. If the couple had a $500,000 life insurance policy on the husband to provide for his wife’s and their children’s living expenses with the wife as the primary beneficiary, all those funds would be immediately available to satisfy the wife’s judgment creditor potentially leaving the family penniless.

Or consider this fact pattern. Let’s assume you have an only child, a 19-year-old daughter who is a sophomore in college. Both husband and wife die. If you are like the vast majority, you’ll want your daughter to receive all your property. But the question is, is it wise to sell everything and write her a check for let’s say $750,000.

Wouldn’t it be prudent to create a trust for her benefit, properly structured to ensure that her educational expenses would be taken care of along with her general living expenses and any other items that you specify in the Trust. The Trustee which could be a trusted friend, family member, attorney, CPA, local bank, financial adviser or some combination, who would manage and invest the trust.

The Trustee would hold the funds for your daughter’s benefit until she reached a more mature age say 25 at which time all or a portion of the inheritance would be made available for withdrawal. It may be your desire to permit a series of withdrawals available at various ages, for example 1/3 at age 25, 1/3 at age 30 and the remainder at age 35.

Dependent upon your personal financial philosophy you may even determine that it is best to keep the property in trust for her lifetime while providing the flexibility for the trustee to purchase property to be used by her as a family home, and living expenses or even investing in a business, providing for lifetime asset protection for your daughter against future creditors or the claims of a divorcing spouse.

Trusts have been used to protect property this way for hundreds of years. Asset Protection is arguably the primary reason to establish and utilize one today.

2. Stuff Happens
Unfortunately, life doesn’t typically bend itself to your planning. People don’t always die in the order that we expect and when that happens the typical primary beneficiary, contingent beneficiary designations that many advisors recommend simply don’t work.

For an example consider the following fact pattern. John Doe has a $1,000,000 life policy with his wife, Mary Doe as the primary beneficiary and his 3 children as contingent beneficiaries who are to receive 1/3 each. The oldest son Matt, age 25, is killed in an automobile accident along with his mother Mary Doe. He leaves a wife and two children ages 2 years and 9 months and is survived by his younger brother Tim and sister Ruth ages 21 and 17 respectively.

John dies 1 year later but never thought to change the beneficiary designations on his life insurance. What happens? Stuff happens! and it is probably stuff that John, had he thought about it, wouldn’t have wanted.

Tim receives a check for $500,000 immediately.

Ruth’s $500,000 is held in a guardianship account for a year until she reaches age 18 at which time she receives a check for $500,000 plus earnings outright.

Matt’s widow receives nothing!

3. Blended Families
“Modern Family” is a TV show that is typical of many blended families today. Jay has two grown children and four grandchildren. Jay and his second wife Gloria have a son together and Gloria has a son from a previous marriage. Oh, and did I mention that his new wife is close in age to his children.

Once you have been through a divorce you understand that “till death do us part” may not be how the story ends. You want to take care of your spouse, children, and grand-kids but leaving it to them to work it out or counting on your spouse to be fair, is both unfair to the surviving spouse and potentially a recipe for disaster.

The biggest issue for blended families is that your spouse may, over the years, decide not to leave anything to your children from a previous marriage.

Additionally, in the case with a much younger new spouse, it’s quite possible that he/she could live for as long or longer than their age contemporary step-children. Life insurance proceeds left in a well thought out trust can avoid the very real conflict that could easily, and probably will, ensue with a simple beneficiary designation dispositive plan.

4. Probate

The Estate as Beneficiary
If life insurance proceeds are payable to the decedent’s estate, the beneficiaries of the estate won’t receive the proceeds until a legal process called “probate” is completed. By naming a beneficiary other than the estate, the life insurance proceeds can be paid to a designated beneficiary almost immediately after a claim for life insurance benefits has been filed and without having to go through the probate process.

In addition, naming the estate as the beneficiary of life insurance proceeds may subject them to the claims of the decedent’s “creditors” (i.e. people and institutions to whom they owe money). This means there may be less money to distribute to the heirs under the Will.

Life insurance proceeds payable to a designated beneficiary other than the decedent’s estate will generally not be subject to the claims of his/her creditors.

Estate Planning 101 teaches us about the various ways property passes upon death. Probate is typically not necessary if property is passed by operation of law, i.e. joint ownership of property with rights of survivorship. Probate is also not required if property is passed by beneficiary designation. Life insurance, qualified plan proceeds, annuities, Pay on Death or Transfer on Death accounts are a few examples. These are all typically seen and often used in implementing a dispositive plan for a decedent.

However, all these methods of property transfer on death have one thing in common – they are all unrestricted outright transfers. At the moment of death, all rights in the property are vested in the beneficiary or the joint tenant and likewise subject to the recipient’s creditor’s claims or to the whims of a spendthrift beneficiary.

They are also potentially subject to probate! Unless the recipient of the life insurance proceeds take affirmative steps to do their own planning the proceeds will be subject to probate on their subsequent death. While there are certainly actions that can be taken to avoid the subsequent probate, payment of the life insurance proceeds into a trust would have made those actions unnecessary.

5. Estate Taxes
Federal estate taxes must be paid if the net value of an estate at death is more than the amount exempt at that time. Currently the federal exemption is $11,180,000, adjusted annually for inflation. Some states also have their own estate or inheritance tax, so it is possible that the estate could be exempt from federal tax but have to pay a state tax.

If the estate will not have to pay estate taxes, naming a living revocable trust as beneficiary of the policies will give the trustee control over the proceeds. It also ensures that the court will not be able to control the proceeds if a beneficiary is a minor, incapacitated or no longer living when the insured dies.

If the estate will be subject to estate taxes, it would be better to set up an irrevocable life insurance trust and have the trust own the policies. This will exclude the value of the insurance from the decedent’s estate, resulting in reducing the size of the estate and any estate taxes owed so more can be left to the beneficiaries.

Consider the restrictions on transferring existing policies to an irrevocable life insurance trust. Should the owner die within three years of the transfer date, the IRS will treat the transfer as one made in contemplation of death and the value of the insurance will be included in the estate for purposes of calculating the estate tax. There may also be a gift tax. These restrictions, however, do not apply to new policies purchased by the trustee of this trust.

6. Inheritance Taxes
As the saying goes: The exception makes the rule. At this writing (2018) there are still six states the impose an inheritance tax.
New Jersey

It is possible that life insurance proceeds paid to a trust may not qualify for the inheritance tax exemption provided by some states for insurance payable to a named beneficiary. Check with your tax adviser, run the numbers and then weigh the many advantages of naming the Trust as beneficiary of the life insurance policy against the potential tax hit.

7. What About Community Property States
If you live in a community property state – (Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington or Wisconsin) your spouse may have a legal claim for a portion of the life insurance benefit under state law. If you name someone other than your spouse as beneficiary, payment of the life insurance benefit may be delayed until your spouse’s claim is resolved. If you make the beneficiary someone other than your spouse, including your revocable living trusts, it may be a good idea to get a signed statement from your spouse waiving his or her rights to any community property interest in the benefit.

8. But I Don’t Have A Trust
One of the chief reasons that people don’t name their Trust the beneficiary of their life insurance is they don’t have a Trust. A valid, legal trust must exist at the time of your death to be the beneficiary. Life insurance proceeds which are distributed to a living trust will avoid probate. Testamentary trusts are drafted as part of a will and take effect after the death of the grantor. Proceeds distributed through a testamentary trust pass through the “probate” process after the grantor’s death because the trust is included in the will.

That leads us to the next logical question of “why no trust?” It is estimated that 64% of Americans don’t even have a simple will and 90% do not have an up to date comprehensive estate plan.

When asked why they haven’t put a plan in place 27% said there wasn’t an urgent need and 15% said they didn’t need one at all. Most said they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet but that isn’t all. Most people don’t like to think about death and quite a few believe that by planning their estate they may be hastening their own demise. Think about the saying, “I’m so far behind I’ll never die.” A significant number falsely believe that estate planning is only for the rich with a multi-million-dollar net worth.

For those that acknowledge the benefits of planning, cost and complexity top the list of reasons for not having their essential documents in place. And when you consider that sitting down with an estate planning attorney for hours discussing their personal finances, intimate personal relationships, health concerns and their own ultimate demise, knowing that they will probably end up spending thousands of dollars for a pile of documents they don’t really understand, can you blame them.

Interactive Estate Document Systems ( was created to address those concerns. The goal was to provide the highest quality estate planning documents and client education to enable our clients to fully understand the options available to them as they move through the estate planning document formulation and creation process.

While the entire IEDS process is simplistic, easy and intuitive, the questionnaire is dynamic, state specific and attorney drafted to ensure the completed assembled document set is accurate and fully legal. It utilizes highly intuitive, context sensitive, question and answer dialogs for the preparation of quality customized documents.

This is the same document assembly software that I utilize in my private law practice and is constantly kept up to date with changes to state and federal law.

Pricing is straightforward and reasonable with a Couple Revocable Living Trust Package available for $750 and a Single Revocable Living Trust Package available for $495.

What’s included?
A Custom Law Firm Quality Probate Avoidance Living Trust
Declaration of Trust
Certification of Trust
Assignment of Personal Property Instructions for the Distribution of Personal Property
Durable Power of Attorney Advance Health Care Directive, (which includes a Living Will)
Last Will and Testament (including guardian nomination if needed)
HIPPA Authorization and Waiver Final Disposition Instructions (i.e., “Burial Instructions”)
Instructions for Transferring Assets to the Trust
The Completed Transfer Document Templates
One Year of DocuBank Online Document Storage with 24/7 access to Advance Health Directives
Unlimited Revisions for the First Year (with an optional maintenance plan for $9.00/mo)

Making your Trust the beneficiary of your life insurance provides tremendous advantages in structuring your estate plan and should always be considered as the preferred choice when naming your life insurance beneficiary. If you are in need of a Comprehensive Estate Planning Document package, we’d love to help. Click here for more information.

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Critical Estate Planning Tasks After Baby Arrives

Congratulations! You’re having a new baby. What an exciting time for new parents. The many months of anticipation are now over, and you’ve arrived home with your new and precious cargo. Recognize and acknowledge that you have been entrusted with a wonderful but sometimes daunting responsibility and that this can be a stressful time for parents.

As baseball great, Yogi Berra, once said “it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yet, that is the essence of estate planning – making predictions about the future. While your dreams and aspirations for a bright and wonderful future should be your primary focus, as new parents you also have the responsibility of planning for the unlikely possibility of your premature death or incapacity.

While the thought of leaving a child without a parent can be depressing, it’s still your responsibility to make sure your child is well provided for, even in the event something unforeseen happens to you. As a newly minted parent, now is the time to review your Estate Plan to ensure everything is in place to provide for your new child and your family.

The first area to address is that of your child’s Guardian.

A guardianship is a legal order that gives someone other than you as the child’s parent the right to make child care decisions and take care of the child. The laws governing guardianship differ between states, but only a court can grant someone guardianship rights for a child. Who is your choice to take care of your new baby should something happen to you? While that is a simple question, answering it can be difficult. If you don’t nominate a guardian, the Court will be flying blind when they appoint someone to care for your child personally and financially and it may not be who you’d want. Think about who is best suited for caring for your child and ask yourself if that person is up to the task. Remember, while you get to state your recommendation for your choice for Guardian of your child the Court makes the ultimate decision so don’t choose someone the court would not approve such as someone with a history of alcohol or drug abuse or a criminal record.

There are two types of Guardians.
1. Guardians of the estate
2. Guardians of the person

The Guardian of the Person is the individual(s) who become the substitute parent(s) for your child if both you and your spouse become incapacitated or die. They are charged with the responsibility of determining where the child will live, their education, and medical care. They are also responsible for the child’s overall environment, including their lifestyle, religious beliefs, values and parenting style. Depending on state law it may be necessary to get Court approval to move the child out of your resident state. Appointment of the Guardian of the Person is made by the Court by its determination of what is in the best interests of the child, but your recommendation will carry great weight with the Court.

The Guardian of the Estate manages the money or assets held by a child on the child’s behalf and in the child’s best interests. The Primary duty is to treat the child’s assets with care and manage them honestly and responsibility. The Guardian of the Estate pays the debts and expenses of the child including general care and provision, medical care and education. The Guardian of the Estate is answerable to the Court and required to make an inventory of estate assets including their values and locations. They are also required to file annual or more frequent reports showing the value of the estate, the way the assets are invested and the income and expenses of the estate. Management of the estate is to be handled in a reasonable and conservative manner so no risky investments are allowed.

While the Guardian of the Person and the Guardian of the estate can be the same individual(s) they need not be. If you choose different people for those roles they will have to work together. This will require good communication skills, the ability to collaborate and a willingness to work together in the best interest of your child. You may wish to consider:

• Do the individuals have an existing relationship or will their relationship be limited to serving as the child’s guardians?
• If they have a current relationship, how do they get along? Do they share values? Do they have a shared vision for the child?
• If they don’t have a current relationship, do you think they would work well together?
• Would they each be able to understand both the authority and the limitations of his or her role, and respect the other’s role?

When deciding whether to name separate Guardians of the Person and the Estate of your child consider the skill sets of your potential choices. For example, your CPA sister-in-law may be a great pick as the Guardian of the Estate, but her single lifestyle and frequent travel may make her a poor choice for the Guardian of the Person.

If this is a second or third child, you may wish to revisit the topic with your potential guardians and ensure that they are prepared to now care for multiple children. If not, you need to revisit and revise existing guardianship nominations.

Should I discuss all of this with the potential guardians?
It is typically a good idea to discuss your selection with the person(s) you are considering serving as guardian. There may be reasons unknown to you why they would be unwilling or unable to serve and it is better to find out early while you can still make another choice. It may also be advisable to name one or more alternates.

Your Last Will and Testament is the legal document used to nominate your child’s guardian so even if you have decided to use a Revocable Living Trust you still need a Will.

Create or Update a Revocable Living Trust

A Revocable Living Trust is one of the best tools for parents to control the inheritance for your child avoiding the expensive, time-consuming and public probate process. Your Revocable Living Trust document states who gets the property when the trust creator dies, the ages at which principal distribution are permitted, and what type of expenditures the Trustee can make on behalf of your younger beneficiaries. You and your spouse are usually the initial Trustees and upon death, the successor trustee or trustees that you choose take over. Revocable Living Trusts can be amended or altered in response to life’s changes, which makes it a flexible and versatile tool for providing for your child’s future.

Estate Planning Documents Create or Update.

When you have a new baby, it’s time to review all your estate planning documents to confirm they’re up-to-date. If you haven’t done any estate planning, now is the time to put your affairs in order! With the new baby here, it’s time to create or update:

Revocable Living Trusts
Financial Powers of Attorney
Health Care Powers of Attorney
Advance Health Care Directives/Living Wills
Digital Asset Inventory

and other important legal documents. Safeguard your family’s security by implementing a comprehensive estate plan. See how can help.

Buy or Increase Your Life Insurance Policies

Life insurance is a great idea when you’re married, and it’s indispensable when you have a child. Life insurance gives you the ability to provide your family with essential financial resources should anything unforeseen should happen to you and/or your spouse. Review your life insurance coverage amounts with your new baby in consideration. While it might be tempting to have a specific dollar amount of insurance in mind, you may find it helpful to tie your coverage amount to a specific goal like paying off a mortgage, paying for college or providing a replacement income in the event you die unexpectedly. For a young family just starting out, Term Insurance can provide significant coverage for a small premium.

Consider insuring both parents even if only one works outside the home. The costs of replacing the service of the stay at home parent can be considerable. If both parents work and contribute to household expenses and child care, the loss of that second income could be financially devastating. Now may be the perfect time to buy more and make sure that your Revocable Living Trust is listed as the beneficiary.

Designate Beneficiaries for Retirement Accounts

Many people neglect to name beneficiaries for retirement accounts, or to update beneficiaries when life changes occur. Revisit your retirement accounts, and make sure your spouse, a trust, or possibly even your children are listed as a beneficiary of your retirement account. Consider using an Qualified Retirement Asset Trust to provide distribution instructions to protect a tax-deferred or tax-free account.

Consider Trustees for Minor Children

Leaving financial resources and property to minor children is typically handled through a Revocable Living Trust. To administer the Trust, though, you must appoint a succession of individuals who you know to be honest, responsible, and good with spending decisions who you trust to administer a trust for your minor child. Talk with this person or persons before nominating them, and make sure they understand your wishes and plans in establishing the trust.

Use a §529 Plan or Other Investment Accounts to Fund Your Child’s Education

The birth of the child is the perfect time to start making contributions to §529 plans or other investment accounts. College costs keep rising; annual tuition today averages anywhere from $20,000 for in-state colleges to $70,000 for private universities, and those numbers have been climbing at a stunning rate. Now is the time to start making contributions to accounts and investment plans to assure your child gets the education he or she desires. There are many choices available, although some of the “easier” choices may have some significant disadvantages. Discussing options with an experienced financial professional before you invest can assist greatly.

Planning for your new baby’s future gives you the peace of mind of knowing that he or she will be well provided for no matter what happens to you. Take time to confirm your legal affairs are in order and to guarantee that your child will have both the financial resources and personal support and guidance he or she needs to get a great start in life.

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It’s Always Best to Start at the Beginning

Getting Started

As the good witch Glinda said in the Wizard of Oz, “It’s Always Best to Start at the Beginning.”  So, in this first post we will attempt to do just that.  Interactive Estate Document Systems, was born with the objective of bringing together world class document assembly software with an Estate Planning Language Library used by practicing lawyers in their own firms and making that technology available to anyone at a very reasonable price.

One of the biggest problems with DIY Estate Planning is a serious lack of information.  Estate Planning properly done can be incredibly simple or unbelievably complex depending on your personal situation and your individual choices. Smart people know what they don’t know.  Then they make a choice.  Either they hire an expert or they gain that knowledge through self study.’s mission is to bring specialized knowledge of Estate Planning to you, empowering you to be your own Estate Planning expert.

Let’s be honest here.  if you Google the term “Estate Planning” which I did a few seconds ago, you will get about 7,140,000 results in .66 seconds.  Much of it is very good.  Much is not. So one of your first challenges as neophyte Estate Planner is cull through the mountain of information and separate the wheat from the chaff.  But wait, you’ve still got a mountain of wheat.  More information than you possibly process and then you are still left with a herculean  task.

How do you write your documents in a way that captures your dreams and desires, accomplishes your goals and communicates your values, while doing so in compliance with your resident state law requirements without spending thousands of dollars?  Even after you’ve done the heavy lifting of assembling the lists of what you have, located the deeds, titles, account statements, life insurance policies, beneficiary designations and the rest; even after you’ve faced the psychological trauma of imagining the worst case scenario of you or your lifelong partner dying or becoming disabled or those you care for now still being dependent on you for support; even after all that work, you still need to put it in words.  The written word is the only way you have to make it all happen.

Is a Simple Will the answer?  In my experience as an estate planning attorney, I would give you an emphatic no 99% of the time.  Yet the most recent surveys tell us that over 70% of Americans don’t even have this most basic starting point document. But if you only have a Will you are almost guaranteeing your heirs will have to deal with Probate.  More about Probate later but the general rule is you do not want your estate settled in the Probate Court.  So generally speaking a Simple Will is not the best solution.

What about a Revocable Living Trust?  Most estate planning professionals agree that this should be the cornerstone to your planning documents.  For most people it will be your main dispositive (how you provide for who gets your stuff) tool. It becomes effective immediately upon signing and placement of your property into the trust.  For the assets placed in the Trust, it avoids Probate and can be written in such a way that all of your objectives can be addressed.

What other documents are frequently seen or used in an estate plan?

  • Power of Attorney
  • Pour-Over Will
  • Advance Health Care Directive
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • HIPPA Authorization or Waiver
  • Pet Trust
  • Special Needs Trust
  • Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust
  • Charitable Trust
  • Firearms or Gun Trust/NFA Trust
  • Business Buy-Sell Agreement
  • Digital Assets Inventory and Instructions
  • Qualified Retirement Assets Trust
  • Dynasty Trust
  • Asset Protection Trust

It is important to remember that your Estate Plan is unique because you are unique.  No one has exactly the same set of circumstances, the same family issues, the same assets or the same values.  Your plan should be designed to consider all of these and reflect you and your family as one-of-a-kind.’s software allows you to do just that.  It is powerful – but user friendly.

The document drafting system’s true power will be unleashed, however, by coupling it with the educational Estate Planning Concepts provided by in our Estate Planning Training Academy.  With training, from basic concepts to digging deeper into advanced planning techniques our objective is to give you all the tools you need to become a DIY estate planning guru. We will share real life examples to assist you in playing the “what if” game that is crucial in drafting your comprehensive estate plan.

While no one can plan for every contingency, we will equip you so you can be confident that you have done your best and have peace of mind and a greater sense of security you have done right by your family.

Your comments and suggestions on what you would like to see and learn about are welcomed.  Just like your estate plan is not once and done, this website and blog are a work in progress.  Help us help you.  Destination Emerald City.