Probate Court: How Can You Communicate With The Beneficiaries?

When someone you love dies without having his or her estate plan and other affairs in order, there is a possibility the estate will have to go to probate court. No one likes dealing with a probate. It is a long and difficult process to go through; it is also highly frustrating.

Can you imagine if every one in the family is not getting along or if the communication is not up to par? Things will be even more complicated and frustrating. Documents will need to be signed, you will have meetings and hearings, and valuables will need to be distributed. If there is no communication, there will be no proceedings.

If you are representing someone or if you are one of the people receiving property, you should do your part by making sure you communicate with everyone else involved.

If you are responsible for coordinating the entire estate, you need to inform everyone of the hearings, documents, and everything else that is going on. You need to have full communication with everyone. You should establish more than one method of communication with everyone.

If you cannot find the necessary contact information you need for the beneficiaries, below are some tips that may help you find the information you need to reach them:

  • Search social media networks
  • Ask other family members and friends
  • Look through phone books (online or in print)
  • Ask their current or former employers

You should make sure you have complete information of the people you are trying to reach. You should also make notes of who you talked to, when you talked to them, and the information you found.

Hiring a probate attorney can make this situation easier and better for all parties involved. The attorney can potentially help you find those family members who you are unable to communicate with. If an attorney contacts them, they may be more willing to talk. If family issues and arguments are making things hard, a probate attorney can be someone who can step in and not take sides.

If you are ready to discuss probate, you should not hesitate to ask for additional information or request a consultation. Contact us today.

A few tips on avoiding probate.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Will Rogers

Just to be clear, no one knows if Mr. Rogers included the above wish in his ‘will’ or not. But the quote may serve to illustrate the importance of having an overall estate plan, one with clear instructions on the final distribution of assets…including who should get the family dog.

In short, savvy investors seek professional advice on how to avoid probate.

Naming Beneficiaries…

We’ve all been conditioned to cringe at the very mentioning of the word probate. And well we should. After all, if we don’t want our assets, or any claims against our estate, listed as part of the public record upon our death, we need to have a will that is part of an overall estate plan.

Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship:

The term refers to property owned jointly, for example, and when one dies the other ‘inherits’ without the bane of public record announcements.

It’s the simple things, like naming beneficiaries to bank accounts, or retirement portfolios: POD or TOD.

Maybe, after meeting with your estate-planning attorney, you decide a trust doesn’t fit your needs and a Last Will is all you require.

Payable on Death (POD)

Upon death, the transfer of your money to named beneficiaries is easy and without the delays normally associated with probate proceedings.

Ask the bank or credit union for The Form to create your POD accounts. Usually, this is a free service that will ensure that all of your checking, savings, CDs, and savings bonds, for example.

Transfer on Death (TOD)

Picky-picky, for sure, but there is a distinction between the two. The main difference is that a TOD agreement names beneficiaries who will receive your stocks, bonds and mutual funds…and, yes, that secret hedge fund.

To begin the conversation about estate planning contact us today.

Estate Planning: Will The People You Choose Honor Your Wishes?

In the event you are no longer able to handle your medical needs and your finances, who will be the person responsible for handling those affairs? What about when you pass away? You want to make sure your estate plans will reflect your wishes. However, the person you list responsible for carrying out those plans is also important. You want to name someone who will honor those wishes because this is a big responsibility.

When you are estate planning, there are some important documents that you need to include, and they include:

  • A Will
  • A revocable trust
  • A power of attorney

When you include those documents, they need to answer some important questions:

  • Who will have the responsibility of unwinding the estate?
  • Who will have the responsibility of carrying out your financial affairs?

In these documents, you will give someone else the authority to make decisions on your behalf. How can you be sure you are choosing the right person?

The Person’s Lifestyle

If you are considering one of your friends who is not known as the responsible one or if he/she does not pay bills on time, then that person may not be the one who should take care of your financial matters. If you are considering one of your friends who does not have children and likes to make travel plans, that person probably should not have responsibility over your children.

You will want to avoid appointing someone to a particular role if they are hesitant about taking on the responsibility. You should also have a list of people just in case things change with the person you asked first. It is important that the people you are considering are all on the same page.

It is also important to communicate your thoughts, your concerns, and your questions. It may help to write letters that will clearly express your wishes and concerns.

You may feel overwhelmed with putting your estate plan together, but these plans are essential. Whatever you put in your documents will be better than letting someone in the court system decide for you and your family.

If you are considering estate planning and you are unsure of what you should do, feel free to contact us with your questions.

Estate Plan Considerations: Do You Want to Age in Place?

One of the considerations you need to make for your estate plan is whether you want to continue living at home, well into old age or even until you pass away. A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures states that in a 2010 survey conducted by the AARP, 90% of respondents over 65 hoped to stay at home for as long as they could.

There are many reasons seniors prefer their own place, including the fact that they find their homes familiar and comfortable, and that they enjoy a greater feeling of independence. Furthermore, living at home might be less costly than staying at a nursing home.

If you want to age in place, the following are some issues you need to consider as part of your estate plan:

  • Calculate the costs, including the possible need for a visiting or live-in caretaker or nurse, along with any renovations you’d undertake to make your residence more friendly to changing health and lifestyle needs (such as accommodations for more limited mobility and ways to minimize the risk of falling).
  • Make plans for who would take charge of your medical decisions and manage your home in the event of your mental or physical incapacitation. If you want to lower the chances of going to a nursing home, you need to entrust your care to someone who understands your needs and will try as much as possible to keep you in your home environment.
  • Consider the implications of each financial decision. For example, if you opt for a reverse mortgage to help finance your continued stay at home, would your beneficiaries have to sell the home to pay off the mortgage after you pass away? (Meaning they might not inherit the home as you intend them to?)

Be sure to discuss your determination to age in place when you contact an estate planning attorney. Your attorney can review a wide variety of options with you and help you make the best decisions for yourself and your beneficiaries.

What You Should Know About Estate Planning At Any Age

Estate planning is often something we put off because we feel the topic of our deaths is uncomfortable, or we feel we are too young to deal with the subject. We may even feel estate planning isn’t necessary because we aren’t wealthy enough to have an estate. The truth is, though, that we all have estates; we all want to have a say in how our assets will be divided, no matter how few they are. Besides, death may be an uncomfortable subject but it can come at any time so it is never too early to think about estate planning.

There are several things that should be included in any estate plan. You should begin thinking about who your beneficiaries are, what you want to leave them and when you want them to receive the gift. For instance, small children might not inherit money until they reach a certain age.

One of the first things to address in an estate planning document is your own care, should you become disabled. You should also discuss funeral arrangements and let your family know if you have a pre-arranged and pre-paid funeral.

Include instructions about the guardianship of minor children. If you want someone besides family to raise your children, you need to state that in your plan.

Planning ahead allows you to think about issues. For instance, even though you may be well-meaning a lump sum gift may disrupt the services special needs relatives are receiving because of financial qualifications. Thinking the issue through may help you decide alternate ways to provide for the relative.

Estate planning can make passing on your possessions easier. Anticipating problems and dealing with them in the document is like giving another gift to your loved ones, especially at a time when they might be overwhelmed. It is important to understand the language and intent of the document, though, to avoid unintended complications.

For more information on this important subject, contact us. No matter what stage of life you are in, we can help you plan to leave your legacy to the ones you love.

Guardianship: Are We Protecting Our Parents?

As our parents become older, there will be several issues that will begin to come into play. Many of those issues will be legal issues. Our parents will want to remain independent, and they will want to be able to take care of themselves. They want to do all of this without someone placing them under guardianship.

Sometimes the kind of independence older adults will want is not always possible, especially when they have serious illnesses that are debilitating. There will be healthcare decisions that will need to be made, as well as decisions related to the end of life. All of these issues and decisions will be complicated because many of us will be faced with taking care of our parents.

All of these things are enough to bring emotional, legal, and financial stress to everyone on both sides. A good thing is that there are plenty things parents and children can legally do so there will be no difficult hurdles to go through as the parents become older.

Talk To Your Parents

During times like these, you should really be proactive and speak with your parents. You want to find out what are the things they are most concerned about. You will also want to know what they want to happen with their assets and their healthcare needs. There are some assets that can be transferred. When you plan in advance, you may be able to pay for your parent’s expenses out of his/her personal assets.

The last resort will likely be guardianship. Many times, the main concern is mental stability and mental capacity. There will also be concerns about who will handle all of the parent’s affairs, assets, and other decisions. All of these issues are critical, and they need to be handled in the best way possible. The only person who can determine if a person is legally incapacitated is a probate judge.

It is important that families speak with an attorney about these issues. If everyone agrees to set up everything based on what the parent wants, then everyone can avoid negative situations. Contact us if you need assistance with making critical decisions concerning a parent.

Guardianship Litigation: Securing Guardianship Of Someone You Love

If you have a loved one who can not manage their own affairs anymore because of a sickness or a disability, then you or someone else in your family may want to consider legal guardianship. The person who you want to protect is called the ward.

Under a guardianship law, there has to be proof or a demonstration that the person really needs assistance. If anyone else is interested in the situation, he or she may be allowed to show up at the guardianship hearing to do the following:

  • State a claim on why he or she believes the ward does not need to have a guardian
  • If the other party thinks the ward does need guardianship, he or she may ask to be the guardian
  • Other interested parties may also challenge why they think the other person should not be the guardian

In order to represent all of your interests and the ward, you will need to hire a guardianship litigation attorney. You need an attorney who will fight for all of the rights, and the right attorney will help you take care of your loved one the way you have in mind.

Someone may not be happy with who has been appointed as the guardian over the family member. Someone in the family may have received the status of guardian or the state may have approved someone as being the guardian if there was a feeling of no family members being available.

Removing another person as a guardian is not an easy thing to accomplish. This needs the attention and assistance of an attorney who has the right experience. Contact us if you want to do what is best for the person you care about and love.