Saturday, October 31, 2009

5. Addresses Special Circumstances - continues

Yesterday, we discussed Linwood's and Jordan's special circumstances. Today, we focus on Linwood's and Jordan's son, Julian.

As a result of complications during his birth, Julian sustained permanent mental and physical limitations. Though Julian has been blind (one particular result) since birth, there is much that he can see. Through his imagination and the support of Mainstream For Life, a state funded program, Julian has created a world that works perfectly for him. At 26, he still maintains a childlike wonderment and trust for everyone he encounters in his life. Fortunately, his home and work environment support the person that Julian has become.

Linwood and Jordan (Julian’s adoptive parents) realize that they both have contributed to the stable and productive life that Julian enjoys. They also realize the importance of the routine, familiarity, and normalcy provided by the state funded programs. They often worry about not being around to keep Julian safe. However, they also realize that they will not always be there to watch over him. Their focus has turned to how to sustain what has been developed for Julian when they both die.

A part of that answer is the special needs trust which will be discussed tomorrow. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Friday, October 30, 2009

5. Addresses Special Circumstances - continues

This blog post continues from October 24 when we started to look at the 5th benefit of estate planning, addresses special circumstances.
Remember the other 4 of the 7 essential benefits of estate planning are;
(1) protects assets
(2) saves money
(3) creates a legacy
(4) distributes wealth.

Today we continue to discuss how estate planning addresses special circumstances. In the case of Linwood and Jordan who are same sex partners, they have to address their property interests through advance planning. If either Linwood or Jordan died without a will, no property would go to the other unless there was joint ownership, a trust or beneficiary designation with the partner's name. There would have to be planning to minimize the inheritance tax since the 0 rate would not apply to unmarried individuals.

What about their son, Julian? We will discuss his special circumstances tomorrow. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Crystal Ball - What's the best investment of them All

On Monday evening, I attended an annual investment briefing from one of our national banks. I always find it interesting to listen to the economic forecast from economist and investment strategist; those whose job it is to study the market. Given the bleak conditions we have experienced over the last year or so, the bank's forecast (unlike others I have reported on) predicted brighter news on the horizon as demonstrated by the rise in the S&P 500. Though the increases have not been monumental, at least it is an upward movement.

The question still remains how does all of this affect you, the consumer. Some have remained in the market because, well, what else could one do but wait it out and hope for the best. Now there is even a suggestion to be bolder in the market by engaging in alternative investments. This would be in addition to a traditional market portfolio of stocks and bonds. It would encompass private equity, private real estate, natural resources and hedge funds. For me, in such uncertain times, the low risk/some return works better than high risk/high return, maybe. How can a person (the consumer or investment advisor) carefully select any investment these days? Oops, my crystal ball has a crack....can you spare yours???

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mistakes to Avoid in Estate Planning

We continue today to recognize National Estate Planning Awareness Week which was last week. When I wrote Stop! What are you waiting for? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning, I wanted to make more people aware of what the estate planning process entailed so that more people would be encourage to plan, now.

Here are some common mistakes that we all can avoid with a little awareness:

•Lack of signatures. A will must be properly signed and witnessed, with witnesses in the same room. If not, the will can be contested.
•The will can't be found. A will needs to be stored in an accessible place. Some put them into a safe-deposit box. Another suggestion is to keep it at home in a fireproof box with other important papers. You must make sure that the executor can obtain access to the document when needed.
•Multiple copies. You may want to provide your executor with a copy of your will. But if you change it, you should be sure to destroy any original copies.
•Lack of specifics. Some people simply state they wish to leave their entire estate to their children. If there are adopted or stepchildren, it becomes more important to name or define children.
•Choosing the wrong executor. Relatives and friends are not necessarily the best trustees or executors. The right executor is someone who can be trusted, who can work well with others, who is intelligent and who is not afraid to ask for — or hire — help.

Leave your comments here or contact us at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Myths About Estate Planning

Last week, I discussed 5 or the 7 essential benefits of estate planning. I will talk about the additional 2 benefits this week. All of this information is so important and timely because last week was National Estate Planning Awareness Week, an educational program sponsored by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils.

I have taken polls and generally have found that nearly 65% to 70% of people do not have a will. There reasons range from procrastination to unawareness of its application to them. Still others fear that as soon as they write a will, they'll die. In reality, there's no evidence to suggest that creating an estate plan will hasten your death. However, if you do nothing, you could create a lot of unnecessary chaos upon your death.

My book Stop! What are you waiting for? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning adddresses how and why estate planning applies to everyone. There is an article in today's Managing Your Money that dissects five myths about estate planning and offers tips on how to make things easier for your loved ones after you're gone. Enjoy!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

5. Addresses Special Circumstances

We have been exploring the 7 essential benefits of estate planning; (1) protects assets (2) saves money (3) creates a legacy (4) distributes wealth. Today we discuss number (5) how estate planning addresses special circumstances. Let's take a look at Linwood's and Jordan's situation.

Linwood and Jordan are the same sex and have lived together for twenty-five years. They do not live in a state that recognizes gay marriages. They adopted their special needs son Julian, who was 10 years old at the time of the adoption. Julian has thrived and progressed significantly over the last sixteen years with the love, attention, and hard work of his parents. Linwood's skills as a nurse have been most helpful to Julian. Julian’s Seeing Eye dogs have helped, and his current dog is an integral part of his life. All of this has enabled Julian to live on his own with the support of state programs.

What issues will Linwood, Jordan and Julian face and how can those issues be addressed through estate planning? We will begin to look at the answer to these questions and any that you may leave here or when you contact us at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

4. Distributes Wealth - a final comment

Ria and her estate saga continues today. As a singel woman without children, it is even more essentail for Ria to plan. We discussed yesterday that if Ria died without a will, her ailing parents would inherit her entire estate and all of Ria's assets might then end up being paid to a nursing home.

Today, let's assume Ria's parents are no longer in the picture. They predecease her. Then without a will, Ria's estate would go to her siblings including her estranged brothers. Is that what Ria wants? I don't think so.

Though Ria’s brothers are her heirs, she can decide, with estate planning, who inherits and who does not inherit her wealth. It is her choice, her decision, her plan. But she must take some action and plan!!

There is something to be said about creating a plan that gives you control of the distribution of assets accumulated through your ingenuity and labor. It is within Ria and everyone’s power to take control and plan now.

Leave your comments here or contact us at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

4. Distributes Wealth - Continues

Yesterday, we introduced Ria and asked whether the State should control the distribution of her assets. The fact is if Ria does not take any action (plan now), the state will control the distribution of her assets.

Remember, Ria is not married and has no children. Her parents are not in good health and she has 2 estranged brothers. If Ria dies without a will in Pennsylvania, her parents would inherit her entire estate. However, with her parent’s failing health, this would not be a wise option for Ria.

She would probably want to leave some assets for their care but upon their death, control where those specific assets would go. Ria would not want a nursing home to be her beneficiary but that would happen if she does not plan.

Tomorrow, we will look further at Ria's estate and the potential perils. Leave your comment here or contact us at

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

4. Distributes Wealth

Over the last few days, we have discussed 3 benefits of estate planning; (1) protects assets; (2) saves money; and, (3) creates a legacy. The fourth benefit of estate planning is distributes wealth. The following is from my book Stop! What Are You Waiting For? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning.

"Ria enjoys the international travel required of her successful technology consulting business. During her extensive traveling and demanding business, her closest and dearest sibling Michelle has taken on the full responsibility of the care of their parents, whose health has been rapidly failing. Her two older brothers have remained distant from the family and provide no support or interest in the care of their parents. Though Ria never married, she is considering adopting children.

In recent times, Ria has thought about her estate and how it;might be distributed when she dies. She is especially concerned about the ramification of any adoption."

Should the state control the distribution of Ria’s assets? What would happen to all her wealth if she has no husband and no children.

Let's learn more about Ria tomorrow. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Sunday, October 18, 2009

3. Creates A Legacy - Continued

Yesterday, I stated that creating a legacy is the most important benefit of estate planning. The reason I made that statement is because all of us have a legacy. Let the estate planning process help you find yours if for some reason you do not know your legacy.

In an earlier blog, I introduced Max from my book Stop! What Are You Waiting For? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning. Max collected historical memorabilia on the American Revolution. How can he preserve this passion for the historical significance of a major event in American history? Through estate planning, he can build upon this legacy. Future generations could benefit from the knowledge these documents provide. Max can even make sure the next generation is guided by his wisdom by giving specific instructions on the use of assets. He does not want to lose the momentum of his collection through ineffective management by his spouse or children if their interests should differ from his. Professional advice and guidance now can make the difference between creating a legacy and losing an accumulated treasure of the past.

Max’s legacy can be addressed in many ways. If he wants to leave assets to his spouse or children but their interests or passions differ from his, then he can leave the collection in a trust. He can fund the trust and choose a trustee who will be responsible for preserving the assets he accumulated in a way that he may designate. If his interest is charitable, he can give in a number of ways to those who will cherish his generosity, including institutions of higher education, museums, or organizations of scholarly pursuit. Estate planning can even enable Max to create a legacy of philanthropy that can include the involvement of his spouse, children and grandchildren.

Leave your comments here or contact us at

Saturday, October 17, 2009

3. Creates A Legacy

Today, we continue our discussion regarding the benefits of estate planning. The first two,
1. Protects Assets and 2. Saves Money, have already been discussed over the last few days. This third benefit, Creates A Legacy, is, in my opinion, the most important because we all have a legacy to leave. The problem is that most of us fail to document that legacy or even more problematic fail to see the legacy worth of our life.

There has not been a single client that I have counseled who did not have a legacy worth documenting in some way. Remember, estate planning is a process as well as the tangible development and execution of legal documents. And it is that process that gives my practice its competitive edge. I may guide someone into starting a business, a foundation or a charitable organization because of what I learn about them during the estate planning process. I may suggest writing a book, journaling, speaking or putting on a photo/art/sculpture exhibit. Whether it is a financial gain to me or an Aha moment for my client, in my practice the estate planning process is always mutually beneficial.

Tomorrow, let's revisit Max and Margaret to look at their legacy and how estate planning will help. Leave your comments here or contact us

Thursday, October 15, 2009

2. Saves Money - final comment

A final comment regarding Max and Margaret. Not only can they save on Federal Estate Tax but they can save on the state inheritance tax in states with an inheritance tax like Pennsylvania.

Who will get Margaret’s extensive art collection? If she leaves it to a charitable organization or qualified non-profit, there would be no inheritance taxes. However, her sons may also have an interest in art. In order to avoid the taxes on personal property, Margaret could begin gifting during her lifetime some of her art collection to her sons. There would be no taxes if she is under her one million dollar lifetime exclusion amount for gifting.

All of this requires planning on the part of Max and Margaret. In the long term as well as the short term, the value of a little planning today goes a long way to your family's future savings and security.

Contact us at or leave your comments here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

2. Saves Money - continued

Yesterday, we were discussing how Max and Margaret could save on their Federal Estate Tax through effective estate planning.

Since we do not know who might die first, both Max and Margaret would need to have a specific trust set up to shelter or preserve the applicable tax credit of the lifetime exclusion. The lifetime exclusion is the amount of Max's or Margaret's estate that is not subject to federal estate tax. In 2009, that amount is 3.5 million dollars.

The tax savings of this amount passes to the three sons of Max and Margaret upon the death of the second spouse, ie assume Margaret in this scenario. The tax credit of Margaret will also pass tax free to the sons. As a result, 7 million dollars would effectively be saved from taxes through the single, simple act of estate planning.

Contact us with your questions at or leave your comments here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2. Saves Money - Continued

We continue today to discuss saving money through effective estate planning. We met Max and Margaret yesterday whose estate is worth well in excess of 5 million dollars. How can estate planning help them?

Well, Max and Margaret can reduce or eliminate their federal estate tax. Throughout your lifetime you, like Max and Margaret, have accumulated wealth in one form or another. Under the current federal estate tax law, individuals have an available tax credit against the ultimate estate tax due.

This tax credit is a direct dollar-for-dollar reduction of Max's or Margaret's tax liability, compared with tax deduction, which reduces Max's or Margaret's tax liability only in proportion to his or her tax bracket. Therefore, for Max and Margaret, each has a tax credit against the ultimate estate tax.

However, the estate tax is not due, for Max or Margaret, until the last one dies. This is because property left to a spouse is tax free. If Max is the first to die, he would transfer his estate to the Margaret free of an estate tax. It is not until the death of Margaret that the entire estate is subject to estate tax.

At that time, the tax credit of Margaret would be available to offset the amount of estate tax due. With advance planning, the tax credit available to the Max can be preserved and would then be available at the death of Margaret to further reduce the estate tax due.

We will continue to explain this significant benefit tomorrow. Stay tuned. Contact us at with your questions or leave your comments here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

2. Saves Money

The Second essential benefit of estate planning is saving money. Today we meet Max and Margaret whose estate is in excess of 5 million dollars. They both have high-level corporate careers at companies where they now hold highly appreciated stock options. Both of them have personal passions. For over 30 years, Max has collected historical manuscripts and other memorabilia on the American Revolution. Margaret formed a local foundation that supports women and girls in her local community. She also has a fine art collection that rivals the collection of her local museum. Max's and Margaret's three sons (two of which are sons from Max’s first marriage) are married with children and have their own successful businesses.

The federal estate tax consequences would be significant (almost ½ of their estate would be at risk) if Max and Margaret did not engage in any estate planning. Further, if they reside in a state with inheritance tax, like Pennsylvania, planning could avoid costly mistakes. Clearly, they do not want money they have accumulated over their lifetime to be depleted by taxes and other circumstances that, with advance planning, they can control.

Let's continue to follow Max and Margaret on the road to saving money. Contact us at

Friday, October 9, 2009

President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Let the WORLD take a pause to celebrate this momentous occassion. As Americans, we take great pride in the 2009 Noble Peace Prize being awarded to a sitting United States President. President Obama was noted for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and further it was stated that "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future".

On a personal note, President Obama's legacy will be something that not only his children and family can benefit but those that lived during his lifetime can also benefit.

Click on the article below for more information.

1. Protect Your Assets


Stop! What Are You Waiting For?

Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning,

we visit Eve and Bob. Both Eve and Bob inherited wealth and made a lot more money beyond their inheritance. They now breed show dogs and actively participate in charities benefiting animals. They only have one daughter, Julia, who at thirty-six still can not quite make it on her own. She has already experienced personal bankruptcy and, given her unemployment history, would be on welfare if not for her parents’ continued support.

Eve and Bob want to make sure Julia will not become destitute when they die. Therefore, instead of leaving money outright to her upon their death, their estate plan includes a trust for the money left for Julia, who is not fiscally responsible enough to manage the money herself. A trust is effective because Eve and Bob appointed a trustee to both manage and distribute the money for Julia’s benefit.

The cash left for Julia by her parents will not be subject to the claims of Julia’s creditors. Nor will the cash be subject to any further bankruptcy, lawsuits, or divorce settlement Julia may experience in the future. It is Eve’s and Bob’s legacy that is being protected. They have the right to determine who will be the recipient of their bounty.

For Eve and Bob, money represents their primary asset. How do you define your assets? Do you consider your children, your home, or the money you have accumulated over your lifetime, as Eve and Bob did, your assets? Do you consider yourself an asset? However you define assets, it is important to know that we all have assets, and they are worth protecting.

Tomorrow, we will continue to follow the legacy of Eve and Bob and the journey of their daughter Julia. Leave your comments here or contact us at

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Benefits of Estate Planning

In my new book,
Stop! What Are You Waiting For?
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Estate Planning
the 7 benefits of estate planning are discussed. Over the next few days, I will address those 7 benefits by introducing you to individuals in hypothetical situation that may resonant with you. Sometimes we can see the importance of something through the experiences of others.

Through these examples, I want to encourage, motivate, and inspire you to prepare for your future and the security of your family for generations to come. The seven essential benefits of estate planning are protecting assets, saving money, creating a legacy, distributing wealth, addressing special circumstances, insuring peace of mind and discerning needs as you age.

Using the knowledge you acquire over the next few days or by purchasing my new book will advance you on your journey to generational prosperity.

Tomorrow meet Eve and Bob as we discuss protecting assets. Contact us at

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Stop! What Are You Waiting For? Local Book Tour

It is an exciting time promoting a book that will help so many to protect their family and their legacy. The book is for those who are unfamiliar with the estate planning process and it gives
a fresh approach to those already familiar with estate and financial planning. Either way the book is for you. You can order the book here or on Be one of the first to give the book a review at
You are invited to the major launch of the book on October 15, 2009
at the David Library 1201 River Road
in Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Social Security and Your Future

I am always reading about the future of Social Security. Recently, I read that in 2016 we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes, only 7 more years. Without changes, by 2037 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted and there will be enough money to pay only about 76 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits.

Saving is even more important and in this economy even harder. But, it is essential that we save which for most of us means to stop spending. The money to save has to come from somewhere and if our economic situation does not change, then not spending is our savings program.

Give your comments and thoughts here or contact us at

Thursday, October 1, 2009