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Estate Planning Awareness Week: The Importance to You and Your Family of Having an Estate Plan

In 2008, Congress recognized the need for the public to understand the importance and benefits of estate planning by passing House Resolution 1499, which designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Nevertheless, according to a 2019 survey carried out by Caring.com, 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust despite the fact that 76% viewed them as important. Many of the respondents said this was due to procrastination, but many others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets.

Why should you have an estate plan?

An estate plan can provide significant peace of mind by ensuring your assets are protected, plans are in place in the event you become ill, and your property is passed down according to your wishes.

What key topics should you consider?

  • Do you have a last will and testament and/or a trust? If you do not have these important documents, state law will determine who will inherit your property—and thus it may not occur in the way you would have chosen. In addition, someone appointed by the court, instead of a trusted person of your choosing, will be in charge of caring for any children or pets. Spelling out your wishes in a will or trust will also prevent unnecessary confusion, anxiety, and expense for other family members when you are gone.
  • Have the proper powers of attorney been prepared? A financial power of attorney will allow you to designate an individual to make financial and property decisions for you should you become unable to handle your own affairs. A medical power of attorney enables you to designate a person you trust to make medical decisions for you when you are otherwise unable to speak for yourself.
  • Make sure that you have an advanced directive, also called a living will, which memorializes your wishes concerning your end of life care, such as whether you would like to receive life support if you are in a vegative state or terminal condition.
  • Do you have insurance? If you become incapacitated or die, it is important for your family or loved ones to have information about your insurance (such as life, health, disability, longterm care, etc.) so that claims can be filed.
  • Compile a list of all of your accounts and other important information, including bank and investment accounts, titles to vehicles and homes, credit card accounts or loans, digital accounts (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and passwords, Social Security cards, passports and birth certificates, which may be needed to manage your property when you are incapacitated or settle your estate once you are gone. This information should be kept in a safe place and shared only with trusted family members or loved ones.
  • A list of legal, financial, and medical professionals who have performed services for you is also important. The list should include their contact information so your family can easily reach them in the event their help is needed if you become disabled or die. If desired, you should also ensure HIPAA authorizations are in place with medical professionals to ensure your family members are able to obtain needed information.

How should you encourage your family members to create an estate plan?

Estate Planning Awareness Week is a great opportunity not only to take steps to make sure your own estate plan is in place, but also to talk to your family members, especially elderly parents, about creating an estate plan. Estate planning is often a difficult topic to broach, as it brings the unpleasant topics of aging and death to the forefront of our minds. Here are a few tips to help you start the conversation.

  • Be sensitive to your family members’ feelings. Put yourself in their shoes, and keep in mind that few people are eager to dwell on the subject of their own death. One way to begin the conversation is to talk first about the need to plan for an illness and to provide instructions in the event they become too ill to communicate with doctors or handle financial matters for themselves. The conversation can then naturally progress to the importance of having an estate plan that will enable their assets to be transferred in the way that they wish, provide for the care of any dependents or pets, and minimize any taxes, court costs, and legal fees. Communicate that you are not trying to control their decisions, but only want to ensure that their own wishes regarding their medical care and their property are known—and that all their instructions are in writing to guarantee they are carried out.
  • Involve other family members in the conversation. If you are planning to speak to your parents about the need for an estate plan, it is important to try to include any siblings in the discussion to avoid giving the impression that you are trying to influence or control your parents’ choices. You and your siblings should emphasize to your parents that none of you are asking about what you will inherit, but just want to make sure that their wishes are carried out if they become ill or pass away.

Consult an estate planning professional. An experienced estate planning professional can help you and your family members create an estate plan tailored to meet each of your unique needs and carry out your wishes—or help you update a pre-existing estate plan. We can provide each family member with guidance and information about the options available to them. We can help each of you put a plan in place that will prevent unnecessary stress, legal expenses and taxes, uneven inheritances, disputes between family members, and delays in passing life savings on to loved ones. In addition, it will provide you and your family members with the peace of mind that comes with knowing there are plans in place for your care if any of you become ill and that your wishes will be honored once you pass away.

Visit us at https://ieds.online to get started today.

Shared by permission from Wealth Counsel

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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. https://ieds.online/contents-of-every-ieds-estate-plan/

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 (IEDS.online) 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 IEDS.online 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. IEDS.online has made it very easy and affordable to do the right thing in 2019. Click here to get started.

 

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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:

Wills
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 IEDS.online 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, IEDS.online 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.  IEDS.online’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. IEDS.online’s software allows you to do just that.  It is powerful – but user friendly.

The IEDS.online document drafting system’s true power will be unleashed, however, by coupling it with the educational Estate Planning Concepts provided by IEDS.online 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.