Have You Updated Your Will Lately?

No one ever likes to think about his or her death and what it will do to the family. As devastating as the topic is, you still need to consider everything that could  happen whenever that time comes. When you think about everything that may occur, you should consider putting a will together. You will want the right people in charge of your personal belongings, finances, and other assets when that time does come.

When you update your will on a regular basis, you are ensuring yourself and your family that everything will be accounted for. All of your wishes will also be carried out when your family knows you have a will. When you have your will prepared by a professional, this ensures that your family members will be protected from having any burdens or difficulties when it comes to your finances.

Here are some things to consider when you are preparing to draft a will or update it regularly:

Consult With An Attorney 

  • It can certainly be overwhelming and challenging when you are considering writing a will. When things are a bit overwhelming people tend to put those things on hold and say they will wait until a later time. However, creating will should not be put on hold. In this case, it will be better for you to team up with an attorney. An attorney can be by your side through the entire process, and he or she will make sure every part of your will is accurate and complete.

Make Sure Everything Is Accurate And Updated

  • Make sure you have listed any valuables and assets that you plan to leave behind. Throughout the years, if you acquire additional assets, make sure you remember to update that list. You should also make sure you have a good idea of what those valuables are worth. Whenever you buy additional property, acquire additional finances, or buy insurance coverage, continue to update the list as necessary.

Whenever there is a significant change in your life, you should make changes to your will.  An attorney can provide you with the resources and tools you need in order to have a will that will make things easier on your family. Contact us when you need assistance or advice.

Have You Considered Estate Planning Being One Of Your Goals For The New Year?

The start of a new years is always a good time to take a good look at your estate planning documents. You should review these documents to make sure everything is planned according to your wishes.

Your goals and wishes for your estate planning can change over the years. Several personal reasons, such as the addition of a new child or grandchild, divorce, marriage, death or injury can affect your estate planning for the new year. When you review your estate planning documents, you should consider more than just the property you own and the assets you own, but you should also consider the people who those assets will be distributed among.

You may not want to consider planning for death at the beginning of the new year, but it is better to plan ahead or update your old estate planning documents before it is too late. You should make these documents, if you consider yourself to be youthful and even if you think that you do not have enough assets and property to leave a will. Everyone who has children, assets, and property of any type of value should have estate planning documents stored somewhere.

Creating your estate plan will give clear information to your family members on what you want to happen with your things. If a will is not left, all of your property could be passed over according to your state law. A will is of significant value and importance when a person needs someone to watch over their children and care for them until they are old enough to care for themselves. Sometimes these documents are put on hold because parents do not want to think about leaving their children to be cared for someone else.

It is unbearable for a parent to think about this, but it is necessary for your children to be cared for properly. If you do not have documents that outline what you want to happen to your children, the court can make decisions on who will care for their children, even if you have asked a friend or family member to step in.

People have different resolutions and goals for the new year, but have you considered making estate planning one of those goals? If you need assistance with your estate plans, contact us.

Four reasons you should work on your estate planning during the holiday season

It’s likely that you have many plans lined up for the holiday season. Drawing up new estate planning documents or updating existing documents will hopefully be a part of your holiday schedule. If you haven’t yet given serious thought to your estate, or if you’ve been delaying necessary changes to it, please don’t delay.

The following are four reasons the holidays are ideal for estate planning.

1) You’re meeting with loved ones. If you’re meeting up with your loved ones over the holidays, it’s a great opportunity to discuss estate planning issues with them. When possible, you should discuss your estate with people you trust, so that they can give you feedback and also be better prepared to step into any future roles you’re designating for them, such as guardian, trustee, executor or beneficiary of certain assets.

2) It’s a good time of year to take stock of things. During the winter holidays, many people reflect on the past year and how their needs and priorities may have changed (in part because of major life events such as weddings and births). Your estate planning is an expression of what you want your legacy to be and how you hope to care for yourself and your beneficiaries. Think about whether your current estate plans reflect your values and priorities.

3) You’re thinking about your taxes for the coming year. As you consider the amount you need to pay for taxes on various assets (and the amount of taxes on your estate should you pass away) you might want to make revisions to your estate planning – including the formation of certain trusts to better shield your assets.

4) You’ve acquired new significant assets. Perhaps as a holiday season gift, you now have a new car or a new home, or you’ve acquired some other valuable item. How will you include these in your estate plan?

Be sure to contact us to make the most of your holiday season estate planning. We will help make sure that your estate plans are clear and thorough, reflecting your wishes and beneficial to you and your loved ones.

Wills and Estate Advice: How Can You Coordinate Your Estate Planning with Other People’s Plans?

The Wall Street Journal recently came out with an informative article entitled, “Five Reasons for Parents to Reveal Estate Plans.”

All of the reasons discussed in the article are important to consider as you work on your estate planning. In addition to possibly preparing your children for disappointments, there are also other practical reasons for sharing your estate plan, including receiving invaluable feedback from your children and also coordinating your plan to better accommodate their estate plans, financial situation and personal lifestyle.

Coordinating your estate plan with other people

When it comes to writing up wills and other estate documents, it could be beneficial for you and your loved ones to all be on the same page. This includes not only your children but also other family members and perhaps close friends and other trusted beneficiaries.

One relatively obvious example is if you have young kids and are considering who would be their guardians should you pass away. You need to know if the people you name as potential guardians have the means and ability to raise your kids. There might also be reciprocity, where you’re named as potential guardians for their kids. In this kind of situation, it could be a good idea to sit together and coordinate at least this aspect of your estate plans.

Other elements of coordination could include various trusts. You need to work with your children and other beneficiaries to determine what trust(s) would be most beneficial for all of you when it comes to tax purposes and any financial problems you currently have. This is especially true if you have a rather complex estate in which relatives might be inheriting property jointly.

Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss these issues. Estate planning should ideally occur with the input of trusted people and in coordination with their own plans. An experienced estate attorney can provide you with invaluable advice and offer you powerful solutions tailored to your personal circumstances.

Under estate law, are you liable for your parents’ debts?

Are your parents in debt?

Statistics reported by Debt.org show that from the early 1990s onwards, seniors have made up an increasing percentage of people who file for bankruptcy. Medical expenses, job loss and poor investment decisions are among the problems that can leave people in debt; and the recession has cut into many people’s retirement savings.

One of the concerns you may have if you’re inheriting money and various assets from your parents is whether the law also requires you to take on their debt.

Are you on the hook for parental debt?

In general, you can’t personally be held liable for your parents debts. If the debts are enormous, you may get harassed by very aggressive creditors (in which case, you’d need to consult with an attorney on what to do to get them off your back). But in most cases, the only way in which you’ll be affected is that the debts would have to be paid out of your parents’ estate.

Certain assets, such as IRAs, could be exempt from creditors. But if your parents left you their home, for example, creditors might try to seize it. Every asset that creditors successfully claim from the estate means that there’s less for you and any other beneficiaries.

When could you be held responsible?

Sometimes, you may be directly on the hook for parental debt. If you cosigned on any loans with your parents or held any account jointly with them, you’ve likely taken on yourself the obligation to pay off those debts; it’s important to read the fine print of any loan or account you’re a part of.

Another situation to consider is if you’re the executor of your parents’ estate, and you fail to notify creditors and act to pay off the debts using the assets in the estate; in that case, you wouldn’t be living up to your obligations as an executor and might face legal and financial troubles.

Parents and children will hopefully have an honest conversation about any debts that are likely to remain at the time of the parents’ death. Contact us for further advice on how to handle debts as part of your estate planning and discuss possible ways to shield assets from creditors.

Can Your Child’s Student Loan Debts Turn Your Estate Planning Upside Down?

As he approaches 60, Mason’s dreams of retirement have been shattered. He’s done the math, and he will have dependent children living under his roof until he is almost 70 years old.

A recent article from CNN Money shares the story of the man described here. He and his wife suffered the death of their 27-year-old daughter. After their death, they became guardians to her three children, who were all under the age of 10 at the time. On top of that, they’ve also been struggling with the repayment of her student loan debts.

When their daughter started nursing school, her parents had been cosigners on loans taken from private lenders. The loans amounted to $100,000; and when the creditors started going after them following their daughter’s death, they also needed to deal with late fees and steep interest rates. These troubles piled on the emotional devastation following their daughter’s death and the financial difficulties of supporting three grandchildren.

They have since managed to work out a more favorable repayment arrangement with some of the private lenders; but money is still a struggle, and they’ve needed to do away with their retirement plans. Their estate planning also requires a complete overhaul.

What to consider before becoming a cosigner

For one thing, you need to look at the loan forgiveness terms any time you become a cosigner. For student loans, for example, private lenders aren’t obligated to negotiate with you; they could demand all the money back. Even if your adult child is still alive, you may still be on the hook for the debts. For instance, if your child files for bankruptcy, creditors may go after you. This is especially true if your child files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; Chapter 13 bankruptcy may offer you a stay from creditors, but it isn’t guaranteed.

Compared to private loans, a student loan from the government generally offers more favorable terms for forgiveness and repayment (especially in situations involving the death of you or your child). But it’s critical that you read the fine print and figure out how much of an obligation to repay the debts you’d face as a cosigner. For example, when it comes to student loans, who is listed as the legal borrower on the agreement – you or your child?

The same holds true for any loan where you’re a cosigner. Also, don’t forget situations where you’re a guarantor, backing someone up by agreeing to pay off a debt if the other person is unable to.

It’s crucial that you consider your status as a cosigner or guarantor when working on your estate planning. When you contact us, we can give you advice about protecting assets from creditors and also making financial decisions that are most likely to benefit you and your loved ones in the long run.

Guardianship Litigation Can Be Challenging, But Sometimes It Is Necessary

Many people have their struggles with how they are going to help an aging family member or an aging friend or neighbor who can no longer care for himself or herself, in terms of the personal welfare and financial decisions. Many people want to offer their assistance, but they may be unfamiliar on how to get the legal authority to make it happen.

The person who may need the help may have not planned ahead by signing any kind of documents that gives someone else the legal authority. On the other hand, legal documents could have been signed, but it may list someone else as a potential authority. Guardianship gives someone the legal right to make key decisions for that person you love.

If there is an issue with other family members not properly taking care of the loved one, the person is not being properly cared for at a facility, or the alleged incapacitated person doesn’t want to have a guardian, guardianship litigation will occur at the beginning of the guardianship. The adult may not have any interest or willingness to become a Ward of the state, and that person has a legal right to fight the decision. Sometimes, you will find someone who is not really looking out for the person, but they may want to do it for their own sake.

Guardianship and probate matters are not things that should be taken lightly. These matters are constantly progressing, and they can be very complicated. It is critical to have someone on your side who will be extremely focused on the matter. You will need someone who understands everything of the matter, including the seriousness.

It is very important that family members, friends, or care providers to at least try to attempt to work with someone who is incapacitated. The person should be protected from being financially exploited and abuse. If an adult doesn’t think he or she needs guardianship, there may be resistance and refusal. Guardianship may be necessary if you feel that the person you want to help could do physical harm to himself or herself, as well as financial harm.

If you are struggling with finding an answer to your situation, there are people who can help you. Contact us, and you will not have to do this alone. We can give you the help you need.