Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Business of Caring

The other day I called my paralegal on her day off. I paused for a moment and thought about that call. I am not an over barren boss, in fact, to the contrary. My staff and I work together to take care of the business of our clients. My paralegal often calls ME on her day off. Sometimes just to check in on the status of a client's situation. You see both of us look at what we do more about the PEOPLE than about a JOB. It gives us pleasure to know that we truly care about how our clients' situation is resolved or addressed. Estate planning is a business of caring. Caring about what matters most to our clients as they address their estate planning needs. The children, the spouse, the money, the dog, the money, the accomplishments, the family, the friends, the money, the companions, the money, the employees, the passions, the legacy....oh, did I say the money.....all of these things and more drive our clients and drive us to serve them well.

Many people do not get a will done or others do not address estate planning matters because they do not necessarily understand that it is business of caring. When they do see it that way through professionals who demonstrate that perspective, it moves them to do what clearly is essential for their loved ones. My upcoming book, Stop! What are you waiting for? Your essential guide to estate planning. takes on what people are waiting for and shows how to turn the inaction into action. Share your reasons now so we can cover your reason in the book. It is not too late to add something new. Blog here, now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stop! What are you waiting for?

I asked this question often and the answers vary. Just the other day the response was TIME. This couple just had not had the time to have a will done or other essential estate planning documents. This was not a unique response for just this couple. Many people THINK they do not have the time. Here is my response to this particular "excuse" for not doing what needs to be done. WRITE IT DOWN!! Yes, simple as that. Like a goal, written ones get the attention and get done!! So, as you are rushing through life, hurrying along to get this or that thing done, STOP! Take out a sheet of paper or your blackberry or your planner and make a list. List no more than 10 things (one of course is getting your will/estate planning done) you want to accomplish in the next 6 months. The order of priority does not matter. Keep the list with you or where you can see it often. As you complete an item on the list, check it off and CELEBRATE! You will look forward to accomplishing the tasks on your list and guess what, in 6 months your estate planning and 9 other essential tasks will be completed by YOU!! How will you celebrate each accomplishment? Give us your ideas so others can see how much fun they can have on this 6 month journey.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stop! What are you waiting for?

I remember meeting with a young client. Two weeks before her wedding, her fiance died of a heart attack. They had lived together and had one child before deciding to get married. She explained to me that getting a will and other estate planning done was on their list of things to do but they never got around to it. Since he did not have a will, she did not receive any of his assets that were not jointly owned with her. Their 3 year old daughter did inherit his assets. However, as a result of complications in her financial situation and some internal family dynamics, she was not awarded guardian over the assets left to her daughter. The court appointed a non-family guardian over the assets. The guardian is responsible for the distribution of any monies on behalf of the child. A will could have alleviated this complexity.

She told me, she wished she had not waited for someone to die before she got her own will. So, are you waiting for someone to die before you take action?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stop! What are you waiting for?

Yesterday, I made a presentation at a Woman's Conference. I had presented at the conference last year and the turn out was good. This year the organizers doubled the turnout. What a SUCCESS it was! It demonstrated to me that women more and more are looking to educate themselves in all areas. They are taking charge more and more of their own destiny. Now is the time for you also to STOP and access your life's journey and make that move to get your life in order.

Maybe you are waiting for a MOVEMENT to get you on track. Once everyone is "doing it", you too will get a Will or a Trust or a Living Will or a Power of Attorney. Is that what you are waiting for? Then I will just say to you the MOVEMENT is on!!! Do not get left behind.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stop! What are you waiting for?

Well, it is Friday. Even though I have been my own boss for a few years now, I still look forward to Friday. Certain things stay with you from early training. I think that is also true for our other habits. We get them early on and no matter the changed situation, our habits linger. Is there a habit that you have that keeps you from moving forward on getting your affairs in order? Is procrastination high on that list? Well, I say to my clients and those who attend my estate planning presentations, do not put off for tomorrow what you can and should do today. Tomorrow, may be too late.

I had clients who came to see me because their father had passed. His second wife (not their mother) from whom he was separated BUT still married now owned 1/2 of his estate. Their father had expressed to them that the family home would always be for them. HOWEVER, he died without a will and the laws of the state applied which made the distribution equally between the children and wife. What their father would have or could have done was now too late. BUT, it is not too late for you to grasp the importance of the simple act of doing a will or any of the other estate planning documents. Take a look at your life and make that move right now. You will be glad you did.

My upcoming book will guide you though estate planning step by easy step....coming soooon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stop! What are you waiting for?

Soon, I will be publishing my first book. The working title is Stop! What are you waiting for? With respect to estate planning what is holding you back from planning. One reason is that you, like others, may think estate planning is about death and dying. After being in this practice area for awhile, I can say it is about much more than that. Estate planning is life planning. Look at how you want to live out your life. What are your health needs? What are the needs of your business, if you have one? How do you want to live now and into the future? Who do you care about and what do you want to share? Estate planning is just as much about life and living.

We will explore your reasons over the next few days so that we can dispell the myths that surround estate planning and move you to act now. Share your reasons here and let's address them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

TENTH, you want an estate planning attorney that will save you MONEY!! How can your estate save on Federal Estate Tax and State Inheritance Tax? Your attorney should demonstrate the tax savings applicable to your circumstances and she should show how you assets can last for generations. SAVE MONEY, PROTECT ASSETS and DISTRIBUTE WEALTH are the important things you want your attorney to do for you!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

NINTH, you want an estate planning attorney who is accessible to you. You want an attorney who understands the federal as well as YOUR state laws that might impact your estate plan. Each state differs with respect to the various areas of estate planning. Intestate laws differ. Inheritance laws differ. There may be special forms available in a particular state for your living will and powers of attorney. Seek an attorney with expertise in your jurisdiction.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

EIGHTH, you want an estate planning attorney who stands behind the service provided to you. You can ask the question whether the attorney guarantees her work. You should not have to defend the work if a challenge is raised. This is where the attorney steps back in and provides the support and defense needed for you. I remember one of my clients went to the bank with her General Power of Attorney. The banking personnel told her she needed another document in order to allow her daughter access to her account. She called me and I spoke with the banking personnel who obviously did not understand the law pertaining to General Powers of Attorney. I referred them to the appropriate laws and they updated their policy to be in compliance. You paid for the expertise provided and should be able to rely on it.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

SEVENTH, you want an estate planning attorney you can trust. Trust is the number one thing to consider when appointing those who will serve as your fiduciaries, ie. executor, trustee. Trust is just as important for your attorney who serves in a confidential role as your legal advisor.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

SIXTH, is hiring someone who cares about helping you to have the best estaste plan for your family. On Valentine Day, we think about our loved ones and how to show them we care. Getting your estate planning done is an important way to let your family know that they matter most to you. The initial meeting with your estate planning attorney provides you with the opportunity to determine whether the attorney cares about your circumstances. You can use this time to determine whether the attorney is someone you can work with as well.

Estate planning is a very personal process and requires a professional with a personal approach.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

FIFTH, an estate planning attorney should also help you with your non-tangible assets. What is your legacy? What values do you want instilled in your children? What has your life represented and what would you want to see go on even beyond your lifetime? There are ways to explore and capture the essence of what your life has meant to you and what you might want it to mean to others. What about writing your memoirs? Is there a charity that supports what you believe in? You want to address your passions with someone who does understand the relevance and importance of making that a part of your estae plan. Share your passions and let's discuss how they might form a part of your estate plan.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

FOURTh, your attorney should take a holistic (overall plan) approach to addressing your estate plan. It should not be done in a piecemeal way. It is important to memorialize your wishes in a will or trust. It is important to arrange your affairs to minimize taxes. It is important to have appropriate insurance. All of these issues and more have to be addressed at the time of doing an effective estate plan. Generally, this requires that your attorney work with other professionals that you choose. This may include your accountant, insurance agent or financial advisor.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

THIRD, you want to know what role the attorney plays in keeping your estate plan current. Once you have completed your initial estate plan, it is important that it is revisited periodically. You also want to be kept apprised of any laws that may impact your estate plan. Your estate planning attorney should have a process in place to address these concerns and explain to you any costs associated with changes and updates to your plan. It is important to most people that they can make changes to their plan. Knowing that changes can be made to any initial plan helps people to move forward in getting their estate planning done. What's keeping you from moving forward with either getting an estate plan or updating an old one? Blog about it here, we can help.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things that Matter Most

Second, you want an attorney who is experienced in the field of estate planning. An attorney with specific expertise in this ever-changing field will be of value to you and your goals. Given the ever-changing nature of estate planning, you want an attorney who has an affiliation with groups or organizations in the forefront of this area of practice and who stays current by attending conferences and seminars relevant to estate planning. If the attorney writes about estate planning or serves as a presenter or organizer of conferences, seminars or presentations, then you benefit from one who not only knows estate planning but also can explain it well to others. How important is expertise in this field to you? Have you had experience with both a general practitioner who also did wills and trusts and a specialist in estate planning? Blog about your experience here.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hiring an Estate Planning Attorney - 10 Things That Matter Most

FIRST, Legal Fees are important to understand when hiring any attorney. In estate planning, many attorneys have different fee structures. Their fee structure should be explained to you before you commit to engaging their services. The different options include a flat fee for the services or documents requested, an hourly rate for the services provided or documents to be drafted, or a combination of flat fee for some things and hourly rate for other things. You want to make sure that you are advised if any estimate or quote provided will change. This can happen if additional services, not initially contemplated, become necessary. I explain to my clients any financial consequences resulting from an additional request or need that should arise. The most important thing any attorney should do as relates to fees is keep the lines of communication open and clear.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

TENTH Hot Estate Planning Topics

TENTH, given the state of the economy, it is important that banks maintain the confidence of their depositors. The FDIC continues its role in helping to strengthen public confidence in the nation's banking system by simpling rules applicable to revocable trust accounts. Two types of revocable trust accounts are insured under by the FDIC: informal trust accounts and formal trust accounts. Informal trust accounts consist of a signature card on which the owner designates the names of beneficiaries to whom the funds in the account will pass upon the owner's death. These are the most common type of revocable trust accounts and generally are referred to as "payable-on-death" (POD) accounts. The other type of revocable trust accounts are accounts established in connection with formal revocable trust agreements. Formal revocable trust agreements are created for estate planning purposes and are referred to as living or family trusts.

All revocable trust accounts (both POD accounts and living trust accounts) are insured up to $250,000 for the interest of each qualifying beneficiary. Generally, this would be the owner's spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings; but may also, include other individuals and charities.

What is your level of confidence in our banking system? What estate planning initiatives have your considered? Are you interested in exploring your options? Share your questions and concerns with us here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

NINTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

NINTH, women in the United States today control 75 percent of the total personal wealth, fill more than half the jobs and for the first time in history, account for nearly half of all substantial investors — those with more than $100,000 of investable assets. In my practice, I find that women are MORE likely than men to be the ones seeking to protect their assets with estate planning. This differs from the observation from many others.

I believe it is the way that I conduct my estate planning practice. First, women (and many men) tend to want to get to know their advisor as a person before making choices. Second, building rapport with women clients involves good listening skills which comes natural for me. Third, women want to work with someone who respects their thought processes and who does not rush to an immediate solution. All of which are the hallmarks of my practice.

I know it is equally important to focus my attention on women as well as men when working with families on estate planning. Women need and want to participate jointly in the creation of a family plan that ensures there will be enough to live on in the event of the death of a spouse.

Are you working with an advisor who values your views and makes you feel comfortable? What is important for you when choosing an attorney to handle your estate planning? Let's chat about it here.

Friday, February 6, 2009

EIGHTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

EIGHTH, charitable estate planning is a growing hot topic. Over the next few decades it has been stated that as much as 40 trillion dollars will be transferred from the parents of baby boomers to their children. Charitable giving will play an enormous role in this transfer of wealth. Although charitable giving provides many personal and tax benefits, it has a more fundamental benefit. It is voluntary giving and not involuntary giving that results from overpayment of taxes. With proper planning involuntary giving can be avoided. Individuals can give money from their estate to the charities they desire.

Many people during their lifetime engage in charitable giving activities. Gifts are made to cancer research, heart associations, educational institutions or well water projects. Many give to hospitals, churches or other religious institutions. Others have long term relationship with a charity and want to continue charitable giving upon their death. Some people have developed lifetime passions that become their legacy.

Let your giving be your decision and not a giving by default when you fail to plan and your family ends up paying more in taxes than necessary. Share your charitable giving news with us.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

SEVENTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

SEVENTH, who do you turn to for estate planning? Many people are confused with just who should handle estate planning for them. Should it be a financial advisor, insuranace professional, an accountant or an attorney. My short answer is that you need an estate planning attorney to handle your estate planning. In my practice, I use a team approach to estate planning. I coordinate the other professional advisors of a client to make sure we are addressing the client's needs consistently. It is a very confusing time for people when getting their affairs in order. One person does not have the entire picture. That is why I reach out to those professionals my clients have entrusted with their financial, business and personal affairs. If you do not know how to get started, you are not alone. A free consultation is one way I help people get started. Most people just need the process explained to them by someone who understands but more importantly has their best interest at heart. Are you confused about the process? Do you need someone to help guide you through the process, someone you can trust? Blog your concerns here or call for a free consultant.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

SIXTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

SIXTH, everyone wants to avoid probate. However, most people do not know what probate is. Though most people may not be directly involved in the probate process, many are still effected by probate. Probate means to prove the existence and contents of a will. A will is a public document that is filed when a person dies. It is not so much that you should try to avoid probate. It is more important that you understand the nature of your assets and how best to distribute it when you die. There are things that you can do to make the probate process go smoothly. First, be clear and concise in your will. Do not leave things to interpretation. Second, address potential conflicts among beneficiaries up front. If you wish to disinherit someone (other than your spouse) that is your right. State it and tell why, ie. I do not want them to receive any share of my estate. Third, inform the person you named as your Executor that you have named them and provide them with some written instructions to help settle your estate. Fourth, organize your affairs so it is clear what you do own. If you have been leery about the whole probate process, let us know why. We can help!!!

Monday, February 2, 2009

FIFTH of TEN Hot Estate Planning Topics

FIFTH, the annual gift tax exclusion amount has increased to $13,000 effective in 2009. This is the amount you can give to any person each year without it being considered a taxable gift. Gifts of the annual exclusion amount to children, grandchildren and other beneficiaries are often recommended as an excellent way to reduce your taxable estate. Everyone is always looking for ways to preserve and protect their assets. Through this exclusion amount and other estate planning tools, you can be on top of keeping what you have earned for those who matter most in your life.