Articles Posted in Estate Planning

Since no two people are the same, the approach you take to creating your first estate plan will not be identical to anyone else’s. The most important thing to remember is that you should take action as soon as possible. Drafting a comprehensive estate plan can give both you and your loved ones peace of mind — and there’s nothing more valuable than that.

Below are some simple steps for creating your first estate plan.

Write — and sign — a will

Once you create an estate plan, it’s easy to assume that you can keep it the same for the rest of your life.

While you hope this happens, there is no way of knowing for sure what the future will bring. You must realize that changes to your estate plan are necessary every now and again. If the time comes, don’t hesitate to take immediate action, just as you did when creating your estate plan in the first place.

Reasons to update your estate plan

Estate planning early in your life is not the same as estate planning later in life. For example, there is a big difference between creating your first estate plan in your 20s and altering your plan when you reach your 60s or 70s.

As you age, you may find it more difficult to think about estate planning. Even if this is challenging for you, it’s important to take the right steps at the right time. You don’t want to find yourself in a bad spot, such as falling ill before you have everything in order.

Here are a handful of estate planning tips to follow later in life:

As soon as one begins looking into estate planning and creating a plan to leave property to heirs and beneficiaries, it doesn’t take long to run up against the looming possibility of probate. When an estate passes through probate, the state assumes an individual’s estate and distributes it, but at great potential expense to the value of the estate and significantly increasing the amount of time that beneficiaries must wait to receive anything.

For many individuals, estate planning focuses on circumventing the probate process entirely or working to reduce the portion of one’s estate that the process affects and the amount of time it takes to resolve the matter. While avoiding probate is not always possible, it is generally better for all parties involved for anyone with significant assets to consider how they might deal with probate before the state steps in.

If you believe that your estate may have to pass through probate, it is wise to address this issue as soon as you can, with great attention to detail. You may find that you have more legal tools and opportunities available than you realize to protect your estate and your interests.

There are many different challenging situations that come up when you are creating an estate plan. For adults who haven’t had children, there are some unique obstacles that must be faced. In many cases, these individuals might think that they don’t need an estate plan, but this is far from the truth.

All adults need an estate plan. Here are some important considerations for people who don’t have any children who can benefit from the transfer of assets after you die:

You have options for heirs

Robin Williams was THE comedian if you are a Gen-Xer like me. We grew up watching Mork & Mindy. And those of us who live in Boulder have, since his death, gone by the Mork & Mindy house and said our farewells there. What do we have to criticize about Robin Williams’ Estate? First, let me make my motives clear.

They say that in the past Robin Williams had battled depression and substance abuse and that he had recently received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, which often brings treatment-resistant depression with it. As someone with bipolar disorder who has experienced serious and treatment-resistant depression, I can relate. When the doctors can’t help and everything hurts, a person reaches a point where it’s hard to believe that this horrible painful state can ever improve.

It’s hard, as someone who wasn’t in Mr. Williams’ inner circle, to imagine him depressed. As a fan, I always saw him the way his director wanted his character portrayed or, when he was doing stand-up, as his “on” self. But I also saw the kindness of spirit his actions evidenced.

Most of us think, “thick stack of legal papers”? Ugh! “No, thank you!” But when it comes to estate planning, it’s just the opposite. You see, legal problems in estates are often caused not by bad estate planning, but by Failure-To-Plan (“FTP”), even in estates where the person or couple thought they’d done everything right.

FTP is insidious and you don’t even know if you have it because it’s invisible! It’s the absence of a clause your estate plan needs after you’re gone and can’t add the clause anymore. It’s the missing Asset Protection Trust for the divorcing child. It’s the Special Needs Trust that they intended to get to but kept putting off because they couldn’t bear to truly face how serious their son’s mental illness was.

Avoidance of FTP is why our estate planning documents are so thick and why we include so many of them. I’ve heard clients say, I can’t even count how many times, “I just want a simple plan.” Sometimes I respond, “When? Simple now? Or Simple later?” There are exceptions, of course, but in general: the easier it is to plan now, the harder it will be to administer later.

Online or DIY Rather Than Professionals

There are dozens upon dozens of websites that will profess to offer you just the right discounted estate planning documents… Internet sites can provide you with documents but no actual advice that fits you in the context of your specific financial and personal life. What happens when the laws change? Does the document create an unnecessary tax if the state and federal law diverge substantially? Also, use an experienced estate attorney. Forbes.com

Cheap Documents End Up in Court

F Forbes recently shared its list of 7 Major Errors in Estate Planning. I’d like to share them, one at a time, with comments, and then add a couple they missed. Rather than swamp you with a treatise, here’s one that I really feel passionate about.

There are so many easy ways to screw up your estate plan – which can damage family relationships for life in many cases – and so few ways to make sure it’s right. I’ll share how our clients get peace of mind that their plan’s going to provide what they need and bring their family closer, not the opposite.

Not Having a Plan

When people think of technology, they think of a fast-paced, growing field. When they think of the law, they tend to think of stagnant printed volumes of laws stacked together in a library. The difference between the pace of technological development in space technology and estate planning technology is not as great as many imagine.

I visited the eye doctor today. My vision has changed a lot since I got my prescription lenses only 6 months ago. I think of optometry as a pretty unchanging area of medicine (“Is it better with one? Or two? One? Or two?”). I was surprised that they had two new tests for me today: to check the health of my areas of my eye deeper than my retina.

Your regular (annual to no-more-than-every-three-years) legal planning check up is similar to your annual eye exam. You and your attorney are searching for the changes that are particular to you (like the testing of your eye’s vision – your prescription). And you’re also looking for changes that apply to most or all patients: the new exam technologies.

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