Anticipating changes to your estate after a divorce

Divorce brings about major changes to virtually all aspects of your life; as such, you’ll find yourself needing to reevaluate and almost definitely revise your estate planning.  As soon as you start going through the divorce process, make sure to look over your will and other estate documents, and consider all of your existing assets and accounts.

Proper timing

It’s important to start making revisions to your estate planning prior to your divorce getting finalized.  Let’s say your spouse is currently designated as having power of attorney for you, in the event that you become too mentally incapacitated to handle your medical or financial affairs. After your divorce, unless you specifically request otherwise, they’ll automatically lose power of attorney – in which case, you’d better have alternatives lined up.  However, if you become mentally incapacitated before the divorce is finalized, and didn’t make the relevant changes to your estate documents, your spouse will still have power of attorney.  Revoking power of attorney for your spouse is important, and it must be done in a timely and legally binding way.

Similar considerations must be given to your will.  After the divorce your spouse won’t inherit from you unless you specifically state otherwise.  But if you pass away before the divorce is finalized, they’ll still be a beneficiary in your unrevised will.

Changes to consider

Take time to consider if you want to name new beneficiaries or remove existing beneficiaries from your will.  If you’ve established a trust with your spouse, how will that be affected after the divorce? Are you happy with your current choice of trustee, or will that have to change as well? If your children are minors, or they need guardianship as adults because of special needs, you have to make sure that you lay out alternatives for guardians; ideally, you and your ex-spouse will be in agreement in matters concerning your children and their best interests.

Look over your life insurance policy and pension plan. Will you have to make modifications to them? What assets will you be left with after the divorce? Will you need to pay alimony or child support?

Changes to your estate planning can’t be made in isolation; you have to look at the bigger picture and understand how each change will affect your overall plans.  If you consult with an expert attorney about these changes, you’ll avoid an unnecessary loss of money and minimize the risk of having your wishes undermined.  Contact us to discuss your estate planning and how it will be affected by your divorce.  Although estate planning may not be a top priority for you during the difficult process of divorce, making the appropriate revisions is necessary, and a good attorney will help make it less of a burden for you.

Estate and Succession Planning for the Small Business Owner

Many small business owners are concentrating on the growth and profitability of their business, and are not thinking of what will happen to the business after they retire. Maybe you want to sell the business to the highest bidder or hand the reins over to your children. A business exit strategy means having a plan for unexpected events such as disability, death, or financial hardship, as well as transferring the business to family members upon retirement as part of the Estate.

Often, business succession plans fail because of family disagreements or the financial burden of estate taxes. With seven out of ten family businesses failing to survive the transition from one generation to the next, it is important to have a sound succession strategy in place. Planning a successful business succession or exit transition includes some important steps:

  • Insure your worth- Protect your business and family with life insurance, disability insurance, and a retirement plan that will provide income after you leave your business.
  • Develop a succession plan. A family-owned business needs to choose the right successor to carry on the business that you worked so hard to make successful.  A good resource is  SCORE’s recommended five steps to succession planning (including choosing and training a successor) can help in providing practical advice and direction for family-owned business succession.
  • Consider the tax implications. Although a family business is generally not considered a liquid asset, taxes are due when the ownership is transferred, and the tax bite can be significant.
  • Consider the family members involved and their relationship and feelings surrounding the business and its transfer. Many people are uncomfortable discussing death and family financial issues.

We can help you focus on the important issues of succession planning, including, tax considerations, business valuation, restructuring of the business, and retirement and tax projections. Our goal is to work with you to develop a well-thought out succession plan to ensure that the family business is successfully passed along from one generation to the next.

For more information, please contact us.

How to Start Talking About Estate Planning

Many people procrastinate when it comes to talking about Estate Planning. They simply don’t want to think about their own mortality or feel uncomfortable about having what they think of as a morbid conversation with a loved one. But estate planning is one of the most important things you can discuss, and it doesn’t have to be difficult to talk about.

There are a few tips to make the process of estate planning easier to talk about:

  •  Choose the right time- make sure that all parties can devote their full attention to the subject, and are not distracted or trying to do something else. You can schedule a meeting to discuss it and prepare yourself ahead of time to make sure the important details are covered.
  •  Use the experiences of others as an example- if your friend’s husband passed away without a will, you can relate what happened to her and how difficult it was to settle his estate without advance planning in place.
  •  Expect some questions about your decisions- If you are dealing with family resentments over the way an estate is divided up, it might help to explain the reasoning ahead of time why one daughter will receive her mother’s jewelry, and another will get the antique silverware.
  • Decide what is the best approach to get a partner on board- if your spouse is reluctant to discuss estate planning, remind them that you need to draw up wills for the surviving spouse or your children to avoid lengthy legal battles or probate issues.

Thoughtful estate planning can help maintain family harmony and avoid surprises after a loved one has passed away. Having that initial conversation about estate planning takes diplomacy, confidence, and a desire to do what is best for family or friends left behind.

For more information on estate planning, please contact us

Estate Planning for the Young and Poor

Lately the topic of estate planning is big over at Fox News. Even if you’re not rich and famous, or not older, you still need a good estate plan. What’s the big deal?

Estate planning can start as soon as you have something of value that you’d like to pass on to someone in the future. Even an 11-year old boy with an antique baseball signed by Babe Ruth can start planning an estate. If your older, you’ve had time to accumulate more things that you’d like to pass on if you became incapacitated or in the event of your death. This is where estate planning comes into play.

Planning your estate is something that is going to take a little bit of time and consideration. You should know that by no means are the documents set in stone as long as you live. So, as life changes, you may need to change your entire state plan, or even just parts of it.

As we stated in a previous post, a will does a good portion of this from designating who gets what in terms of property and money.  A trust complements the will in such a way that it starts long before you pass away and develops a management plan for your will, estate, and money that you’ve built up – even if it’s just a few pieces of nice jewelery.

Ford + Bergner can assist you when you contact us about up to date rulings, laws, and estate planning techniques.

When Guardianship Goes Awry- Ensuring Compassionate Care for Elders

Establishing Guardianship for an older person who becomes incapacitated mentally and physically is often a challenging, emotional circumstance for relatives. When Mineral Wells, Texas resident Denise Tighe began to experience these issues friends and family took the steps to establish guardianship for her through the court. When it was determined that no friends or family could provide the care she needed an attorney was appointed to protect her assets, and the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) was assigned to protect her personal welfare. Then, according to CBS Investigators, is when things began to unravel for Mrs. Tighe and those who care about her well being.

Formerly a Wall Street bank manager, Mrs. Tighe and her now-deceased husband had amassed an estate of high-end collectibles, jewelry, furnishings, and property- all of which was liquidated by the guardian of her estate. Even her cat, Bobby, was placed in a boarding clinic and then ordered by the attorney-guardian to be euthaniOKzed. Relatives and friends were told that they were no longer permitted to see Mrs. Tighe at her new assisted-living placement without first being on an approved list- the state said that “visitors are screened to protect her privacy and to prevent someone from taking advantage of her”.

Mrs. Tighe’s friends are saddened that their friend was taken from the community and moved to Weatherford, and further by the lack of visitation time permitted with someone they had grown to know and love. Suzanne Foley, sister of Mrs. Tighe, has been told she is no longer allowed to visit at will and was sent a letter stating that any future visits “must be pre-approved, arranged in advance and supervised”.  All who are involved are saddened to lose contact with someone that they love and feel that there has been no compassion or consideration for Mrs. Tighe.

Well-meaning judges and legal advisors often make decisions involving Guardianship for elders that lead to unnecessary or overzealous restrictions. Family members and friends should have the ability to offer support during a transition and the opportunity for continuing interaction after guardianship is established. Contact us if you have questions about court-appointed guardianship or estate planning options.