Saturday, January 31, 2009

FOURTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

FOURTH, the General or Financial Power of Attorney serves a critical function in estate planning. As many realize, estate planning is not just about organization your affairs in preparation of our eventual death. Estate planning is about life planning and preparedness. When you need to have someone act on your behalf, you want to have all the documents in place to allow them to do so. When you are in need, it is too late to prepare documents. The cornerstone document that is on everyones' mind is the General Power of Attorney. It allows you to name your agent and provide for the powers such agent will have if you become incapacitated. Without it, your affairs will be devastated. That is why everyone if being encouraged by their love ones, friends, colleagues, brokers, bankers, attorneys, realtors, butcher, baker and candlestick maker to get their affairs in order now, starting with the General Power of Attorney. Have you been told? Just as important, have you told someone? Here is an opportunity. Blog here to encourage someone to act today!!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

THIRD of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

THIRD, a Trust is an important document to have. A Trust serves many purposes. First, you can avoid probate since it is an alternative way of transferring property at death. Second, if you are concerned about privacy, a Trust works well. Unlike a will, it is not required to be filed when a person dies. Third, if you have property in multiple states, you can avoid probating in all the states where property is located if your property has been placed in a Trust. Fourth, it is an excellent vehicle for disability planning. You place your business in a Trust and if you become incapacitated your business trustee can continue to operate your business until you regain capacity.

Across the country, the topic of whether to have a Trust or not is discussed at length. Those who want to protect and preserve the assets they have acquired during their lifetime see a Trust as the most effective estate planning document. Share you thoughts here!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SECOND of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

SECOND, hot topic for discussion is the Healthcare Power of Attorney. Have you or someone you love been to the hospital recently? What are all those forms that you have to fill out? For many procedures these days, the hospital wants to know your preference regarding any life support procedures or whether you want to be resuscitated. They may ask do you have a living will (discussed in our first hot topic) or DNR (do not resuscitate) order. This is not the same as euthanasia which, for many, continues to be another hot topic. The Healthcare Power of Attorney at least allows you to appoint an agent to address these issues for the hospital or doctor if you are unable. You and your agent must know the answer to these types of questions before asked. That is why it is important to have documents like the Healthcare Power of Attorney in place so that you give some thoughts to these questions BEFORE a medical emergency. We need to open this topic up to broad, continuous and lively exchange. Provide your views HERE!!!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The TEN Hottest Estate Planning Topics

First, in order to be a hot topic, people, lots of people, have to be talking about it all the time. Remember, the 2005 Terri Schiavo case which received national attention. Living Wills, an estate planning document, received front page notoriety and was the topic of discussion around "water fountains", coffee shops, chat rooms, you get the picture. It was all a buzz!! So, given that a Living Will which pertains to whether a person would want life support if terminally ill can get that type of sustained attention, I do believe we can create just such a buzz for the rest of estate planning.

As the First hot topic, I begin with the potential elimination of the Federal Estate tax. Under the current law, there will be no Federal Estate tax in 2010. It was anticipated that Congress would have addressed this issue before it was upon us. But, only one year away and we are looking at the elimination. As a result, people, lots of people have been talking about Estate Tax. Just a few days ago on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the headline was "Obama Plans to Keep Estate Tax". Some members of congress want to act quickly to prevent the estate tax scheduled repeal. This has been a debut among the wealthy since this federal tax currently affects estates in excess of 3.5 million. If your estate is under that amount, it is not an issue for you at this time. Since the tax is 45% of the estate, this is not a small issue for those impacted. For now, this is a hot topic and we will be discussing it along with our other hot topics. SHARE YOUR COMMENTS!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The TENTH of TEN reasons to have will

TENTH, a will captures the distribution of assets that did not pass by other means. When a person dies, property will pass to another person by different means. These include:
(1) beneficiary designation. This is a form that is required to be filled out when you have life insurance, a 401K, or certain investment products. In the form you state who you would like to get the insurance, 401K or the investment product proceeds. A will does not change that designation.
(2) joint ownership. If someone is named jointly with you on real estate or other property, the will does not change the ownership rights of that person. At your death, that property becomes the other persons if the ownership is joint with rights of survivorship or tenancy by the entireties if husband and wife.
(3) trust. If property is owned by a trust, the terms of the trust will determine who gets the property. A will does not change the terms of the trust.

However, no matter how hard one may try to get property to pass by either of the 3 methods mentioned above, there are situations that can be missed. This includes proceeds that the estate may be awarded if your death was a wrongful death, ie. an automobile accident caused by another person. Who will get those proceeds? If you become incapacitated before your death and acquire property, you may be unable to use other methods to assure such property is distributed in accorance with your preference. A will is the MOST IMPORTANT document that you can have!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The NINTH of TEN reasons to have will

NINTH, a will helps plan for non-traditional families, same sex couples and other special circumstances. Without a will or other advance estate planning, the intestate laws would apply. These laws, which apply to those who die without a will, only provide for distribution of your assets to individuals that are related to you by blood or marriage. Without a will you also miss the opportunity to appoint your own executor or trustess that would serve to protect your interest and desires.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The EIGHTH of TEN reasons to have will

EIGHTH, your will allows you to appoint your executor, guardian, trustees and others. You appoint individuals to serve as your fiduciaries under your will. This means that you get to pick people you trust to handle your affairs when you die. Otherwise, appointments are made by the probate court and, in many cases, will be people you do not know or people you never would have picked if you had made a will. So, tell me what are you waiting for?

Friday, January 23, 2009

The SEVENTH of TEN reasons to have a will

SEVENTH, a will protects your assets from creditors. Any property that you leave your heirs can be protected from bankruptcy, lawsuits, divorce settlement and other creditors by creating a trust in your will. Dynasties have been established this way. Small estates can grow without being subject to the claims of creditors of your heirs. Your money benefits only those you want to benefit. It's your money and you are in control if you plan!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The SIXTH of TEN reasons to have a will

SIXTH, TAXES - You want to avoid or, at least, reduce death taxes. In many states, there is an inheritance tax on your property. The amount of that tax depends upon whom inherits your money. At the Federal level, estates in excess of 3.5 million are subject to taxation upon death. Almost 1/2 of your property could be paid over in federal estate taxes without proper planning. At present, the federal estate tax law is in flux. You should consult an estate planning attorney regarding a will and make sure your money is not depleted by taxes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The FIFTH of TEN reasons to have a will

FIFTH, having a will gives you Peace of Mind. I remember a young couple coming into my office. An upcoming vacation would be the first time the couple would travel together without their young daughters. If something ever happened to them, they knew who they wanted to be the guardian of their children. Without a will, they knew the uncertainty their children would face. As they took flight on their trip, they did so with that Peace of Mind a will provides.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The FOURTH of TEN reasons to have a will

FOURTH, you need to have a will because you can't take it with you. Some have tried just to have their treasures stolen for the personal benefit of the thief or for placement in museums for others to enjoy. Is that your intent? In ancient Egypt forays by individuals or even large-scale pillaging of tombs occurred. In modern times, we have heirs who appear seeking inclusion in the distribution of whatever you have when you clearly would not have provided for them in your will, if you had done one. Don't let another form of tomb robbing occur with your estate.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The THIRD of the TEN reasons to have a will

THIRD, it is important to have a will is to avoid interference by the state. Without a will, you are subject to the state's plan for your assets. Something we all want to avoid and can avoid with a will. Who is in the best position to determine which family members will get your property when you die, the state or YOU? Without a doubt, you know what is best for YOU!! A simple act by you today puts you in charge of your life and your property when you die.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The SECOND of the TEN reasons to have a Will.

SECOND, it is important to have a will to pass on your legacy. Yes, we all have a legacy worth passing on to our children or others who may benefit. What have you done with your life? What is important to you? You may have tangible assets to pass on or you may have wisdom or other intangibles to pass on.
I have helped people share their life in a meaningful way even when they thought (wrongly) that they had nothing to pass on!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

10 Reasons Why you should have a Will.

You should get your estate planning done now for many reasons. Over the next 10 ten days, I want to discuss with you the top 10 reasons you should have a will and get your feedback and thoughts on these reasons.

First, it is too late to make a will when you die or even if you become incapacitated. Yes, it is true that the only things guaranteed are Death and Taxes!!! That is why planning ahead of time is so important. I have seen families torn apart because of the death of a family member who did not make their wishes known. A family home lost, children displaced, money wasted, feelings hurt are just the beginning. A generation of opportunity is lost if your will is not done.