What Surviving Spouses Must Be Prepared to Do Immediately After Losing A Loved One

Does your estate plan tie in directly with that of your spouse? This is one of the most common approaches to estate planning, but it can have dangers if you haven’t considered individual plans beyond both of you. While it’s natural to have an estate plan that passes on assets to the other person when the first passes away, there’s a lot to consider when you lose a spouse. Many people have also reported it’s one of the most challenging things they’ve gone through in their life. Having a plan can make this difficult experience a bit easier.

Make sure that you understand the important and difficult role that you may have to play immediately after losing a spouse. Being a surviving spouse is one of the most difficult roles to fill, but there are certain tasks that must be taken care of immediately. As soon as you are able to do so, you need to prepare your legal documents and plans to protect both yourself as well as your heirs. The sooner you can reach out to your estate planning attorney and probate lawyer, the easier this process will be. After a spouse passes away, most of the attention is typically diverted to administering the decedent’s estate.

This means that very little time is spent addressing the legal needs of the surviving spouse. However, there are important legal steps that must be taken during this time to protect the survivor. Legal documents must be reviewed immediately to ensure what will happen after the death of the second person and to verify that the surviving spouse is still protected during the course of his or her lifetime. 

The surviving spouse should always have their own trust and will reviewed at this time. Many of these documents have an automatic provision that will apply to the treatment of the spouse that has now passed away, whereas others may address the treatment of the heirs.

A consultation with a lawyer is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have done enough in the estate planning process. It can be very difficult to sit down and talk specifics with an attorney, but many lawyers who are very familiar with this process approach the concept with care and consideration. The support of a lawyer is instrumental in helping you through this otherwise very difficult time, and the services of an attorney should be retained immediately.

How Can Better Financial Literacy Assist You with Your Estate Planning?

Do you have your finances in order? Do you know where you’d start if you wanted to make this a goal for the future? Most people get confused by the prospect of financial literacy and choose to put it off entirely. Others are not sure what financial literacy encompasses and get overwhelmed when they look into the basics. The good news is that foundational financial literacy doesn’t have to be difficult, but engaging in the process can have positive and far-reaching consequences for you.

Most people put off the process of estate planning to begin with, due to the belief that it doesn’t affect them or that they are not at risk of a sudden incapacitation or death. However, financial literacy development now can benefit you in numerous different ways. In order to be independent financially and to have a long-term plan that considers your retirement, long term care and estate planning needs, you must be financially literate. It’s never too late to improve your knowledge about financial issues. Searching the internet, taking a financial literacy class and reading magazines and newspapers can also help you get a better understanding of money matters.

Financial Literacy. Closeup Pen, calculator, cash and glasses.

Purchasing financial tools will also assist you with determining where in your financial life you are maybe falling short. For example, a financial calculator can help you to determine interest rates, loan payments, cash flow and percentages. A financial dictionary can give you a better understanding of many of the most common terms used in relation to financial advice. Starting an investment club or asking for expert advice can also be instrumental in giving you a better method of understanding critical financial issues. When your financial literacy improves, you would better understand not only how to protect yourself now and well into the future with your retirement but also how to support your loved ones and beneficiaries if something were to suddenly happen to you.

Most people wrongfully assume that estate planning is only about assisting your loved ones after you have passed away. However, the truth is that estate planning also serves an important purpose in the process of planning for incapacitation. Incapacitation documents should be drafted by an experienced estate planning lawyer.


Make a Plan to Manage Your Loved One’s Digital Estate

Within an estate, some of the most important assets you want to list might be physical. But they also could be harder to tap into, especially if those assets are digital in nature.

Social Media Networking Global Communications Connection Concept

Think about your own digital presence- how many accounts do you have online, and how many of these have personal or sentimental personal information stored there? Do you have a way for your personal representative or executor to get access to these materials, and quickly? If not, you need to consider incorporating the digital aspects of your estate in your overall planning process.

More estate planning lawyers are including digital assets, passwords, and instructions in overall estate plans. These help to ensure your appointed persons can take action and quickly if something were to happen to you. Preserving or memorializing your digital accounts might be very important to you.

The process of closing out someone’s estate can be overwhelming or even confusing if you’re not fully prepared but digital assets can further complicate this situation. The emotional and taxing process of settling a deceased family member’s estate is already difficult in and of itself. Visiting probate court, sorting through personal possessions, distributing assets, and notifying agencies are just a handful of the tasks that must be completed. However, you must now also consider what to do with a person’s digital estate as far as determining which personal memories and photos to keep and how to store critical financial information. Some people who have already gone through the step of establishing a digital will can make this process much easier for an executor.

However, far too many people who pass away do not have a digital will established already. Email providers and social media companies may have their own means of assisting an executor to settle someone’s digital estate. Examples of companies that have done this already include Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Yahoo.

Make sure that you keep a recorded copy of what you wish to do with your digital assets and the various storage information necessary for an executor to tap into this quickly. In the event of an emergency situation, such as an unexpected loss of a loved one, being able to find these critical documents can make this difficult process that much easier. The support of an experienced estate planning attorney is strongly recommended to verify that you’ve considered all critical issues in closing out a loved one’s estate.


Care for Your Pet Can Be Incorporated into Your Estate Planning

Most people care a great deal about their furry friends and consider them family members, which is why estate planning for your pets is so important. One of the easiest ways to accomplish your planning needs around your pet is by using a pet trust. 

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An estate planning attorney can help to draft this for you, and this is particularly important if you have animals who you suspect may outlive you. Birds are an excellent example of a type of species that can outlive their human counterparts, and the trust drafted by an estate planning attorney can be tailored to you and your pet’s needs. The trust operates in the following manner. You are responsible for putting money in the trust for the care of your individual pet or multiple pets.

You might need to identify relevant sanctuaries or people to care for the animal on your behalf. Put sufficient funds inside the trust in order to compensate the person or a sanctuary for veterinary care and food. You can also specify who is eligible to receive any money that is left inside the trust when the pet passes on. This can give you a great deal of peace of mind that your loved one will continue to be cared for.

It can be an unfortunate situation when your beloved pets cannot be cared for by your family members, putting your furry loved ones at risk of having to go to a shelter or an area they are unfamiliar with. Putting together a pet trust can allow you to earmark funds specifically for your pet’s individual care, and also specifies if the animal passes away before those funds are needed, who is eligible to receive those assets.

This gives you confidence and peace of mind that even if you are no longer able to care for your furry friends, someone else will.

Everyone can be included when it comes to the right estate planning tools- talk to our lawyers today about how to create trusts that consider all your unique needs.

Should I Put My Child on My House Title?

Are you thinking about estate planning and real estate and planning to add a child to the house title? Many people may miss out on the possible property tax increases associated with this. A parent usually would add a child to the title of the parents’ home for estate planning purposes, which means that the parent wants the property to go to a specific child after the parent has passed away. 

However, failing to consider all of the various estate planning aspects associated with this as well as the tax implications can be especially confusing. It can be very difficult for parents to handle their estate planning this way since the unintended tax consequences may affect everyone involved. There are other ways to ensure that the title of a person’s home passes down to the children wanted without adding those people specifically to the title.

Equality among children seems like a good idea on the surface, such as when a person wants to add multiple children to the title, but there are flaws in this kind of logic. First of all, parents cannot necessarily assume that a child will outlive them. A joint ownership of the home could lead one child to become the sole owner of the home. There are often smarter ways for parents to own the property, such as putting the home inside a living trust and determining who will become the owner of the home when the parent passes away.

A living trust takes into account various changes in life that can occur from the day that the trust is structured through when the parent dies. Furthermore, the parent might also put together a will that designates the beneficiaries of his or her estate by naming the individual who will get the home upon the parents’ death. In other cases, you may be eligible to use a transfer on death instrument that designates who is able to receive the home when the parent passes away. Future tax issues should also be considered. A real estate taxing body or your local tax successor officer should certainly be contacted to discuss the relevant issues involved and how to avoid unintended tax consequences that can follow your heirs for years to come.      

Aretha Franklin’s Death Highlights Estate Planning Concerns

Every time that a celebrity passes away, it provides an important opportunity to understand their estate planning dos and don’ts. All too often, even those celebrities who have access to the most professional resources and could certainly benefit from the tax opportunities associated with estate planning, far too many of these people make mistakes that leave their loved ones behind to suffer the consequences. 

When Aretha Franklin passed away in August from advanced pancreatic cancer, it appears that she left no trust or will, despite the fact that the estimated value of her estate is around $80 million, and this includes the rights to several of the songs that became famous under her name. Her four sons have listed themselves as interested parties associated with the estate, but one of those sons indicated that the decedent passed away without a will.

The estate’s personal representative might be Franklin’s niece and more information is likely to emerge regarding her estate planning or lack thereof it. The entertainment lawyer working for Franklin said that for years, he had tried to get her to put together a trust, since it would have kept matters of her estate private and kept the family out of probate.

Furthermore, he said that it would have helped to expedite things if she were to suddenly pass away and the lack of a will or trust can lead to a much higher chance of contest and disputes surrounding estate planning. Franklin was known for being extremely private, which makes the fact that she did not engage in traditional estate planning processes that much more confusing and unexpected.      

Tips for Sorting Through Finances After You Have Lost A Loved One

Resolving finances of a loved one who has recently passed away can be especially complicated, particularly if you were not looped in on that person’s individual plans well in advance. Thankfully hiring knowledgeable professionals such as an estate planning attorney can help you to resolve finances after a loved one has suddenly passed away.

If your loved one made it difficult to find the relevant documents or store these with a code, it could take you months or even years to figure out what they intended. First of all, it can be difficult to move through this process while also coping with grief if you do not have the support of outside professionals.

Don’t make any emotional decisions when you are in the immediate aftermath of coping with a loved one’s death. You can ask for help from a financial advisor or an estate planning attorney who should be knowledgeable about the probate process. 

Stressed Businesswoman Looking At Document At Desk In Office

If your family member already had a financial advisor or an estate planning lawyer, this individual should be the primary point of contact. This person can be significantly helpful in tracking down hard to find accounts or coordinating with other professionals while you sort through your emotions.

It is recommended that if you are serving as the personal representative or helping to close out the estate, you get multiple copies of the death certificate. The funeral home handling arrangements can help you with this and it is recommended that you ask for at least a dozen but preferably 20, since you will need to provide these original death certificates to insurance providers, financial institutions and more.

The human resources department of the person’s employer should be notified if the deceased was working at the time of his or her death. Ask whether or not there are any life insurance policies that were active or whether any benefits coverage could continue for family members. The name of the company that administers the retirement plan should also be discussed at that point in time. The original will and trust, where applicable, should be identified as soon as possible because this can help to address many of the most common questions surrounding the probate administration process and closing out the estate. The support of a lawyer will help you during a time when you already have enough to worry about and when you are concerned about being able to address all of these issues effectively.

Does it Really Take a Year to Settle an Estate?

Understanding how long it could possibly take to settle an estate is an important issue that must be taken under consideration by anyone who is chosen to serve in the role of personal representative. A personal representative could even be held accountable for issues of personal liability if he or she is not careful in the way that they approach this individual role. 

Real estate agent working in the office and piles of paperwork, model house on the foreground and mortgage loan documentation

The support of an experienced estate administration or probate administration attorney is recommended for anyone appointed as a personal representative. Before you name your own personal representative, you should inform this individual about the responsibilities associated with it and the potential issues that he or she might face when handling the end of an estate.

Closing out an estate requires many different administrative duties and some of these can be overwhelming or confusing without the insight of an attorney.

When there are many different assets included inside an estate, even if appropriate estate planning has been done, there are many different aspects of closing out an estate and verifying that all relevant issues have been addressed. This includes creating an inventory of all of the assets, reviewing the necessary documents, notifying creditors, paying off taxes and then distributing the remaining assets to the loved ones.

A proposed executor will also have to file all necessary paperwork and ensure that the relevant details have been recorded appropriately. If he or she fails to do so or is accused of violating existing laws, that person could be held personally accountable. You deserve to have the insight of an attorney who is thoroughly experienced in this area of the law, and who can advise you about what to anticipate so that you can minimize the personal representative’s issues and concerns about serving in such a role. A personal representative is an important role, but it is also one that must be handled with careful detail and organization. A person chosen to serve in this particular capacity must be comfortable with doing so.     

Women Are Now Taking A More Prominent Role with Financial Planning

A new study has found that younger wealthy women are taking on a big role in terms of family financial planning. Among younger women recently surveyed, nearly 72% said that they were the primary financial planning decision makers in their individual households. That’s a result of a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit. They looked at perceptions around wealth by speaking with more than 1,000 individuals who had at least a million dollars in investments. 

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Those respondents were sorted into three specific categories; baby boomer women, millennial women and men of all ages. Young women with money are far more idealistic and entrepreneurial than their mothers’ generation and they have more control of the family estate than ever before, according to the results of the study. A number of different areas yielded clear differences of opinion. For example, younger women were most interested in directing their wealth to social causes, even if this meant minimizing their children’s inheritance.

Approximately 22% of older women were more inclined to keep investment and charity decisions separate. Only 7% of younger women who responded to the study would say the same. They chose to invest based on their principles and younger women were more likely to bequeath some of their wealth to charities. This reflected a bigger sense of obligation to society as a whole.

Younger women were more likely to claim ownership of making the financial decisions within their household in direct comparison to older women. Many of the women who were included in the study amassed wealth prior to meeting their spouses, which led many financial advisors to comment on the study to state that this seemed natural that those women will want to maintain some control over their finances. Approximately half of the time, older women self-identified as the key decision maker. However, they couldn’t name any particular area where they had more influence than their spouse. If you’re interested in estate planning, financial planning and retirement planning, you need the support of an attorney.     

Top Reasons to Consider Using A Living Trust

Have you ever thought about using estate planning tools including a living trust to protect your loved ones and your own future? If so, scheduling a consultation with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney is strongly recommended because a living trust has to be properly drafted and funded in order to be valid. People often assume that trusts can do everything, however, not every problem is solved by having a trust. 

A trust can address many different issues, particularly when you have an experienced estate planning lawyer on your side who is very familiar with trust language. Here are some of the most important and valuable things that clients often choose to do with a living trust. These include:

  •      Protecting minor children by holding money in the trust until they are responsible enough to manage it themselves.
  •      Reducing estate taxes, particularly if your state assesses their own taxes as well.
  •      Keeping assets inside the family if you are concerned about potential divorce for your beneficiaries.
  •      Protecting your grown-up children from not being able to manage the money due to alcohol, drug related issues or mismanagement, allows a trustee to hold the money for the lifetime of the child and distribute it as necessary.
  •      Avoid probate. If you place assets inside your trust during the course of your lifetime rather than relying on your will, you can avoid the probate process and make things easier for your loved ones.
  •      Ensure privacy within the family. A will that is probated becomes matter of public record along with personal details about you, such as an inventory listing of your assets and the value of those assets. Using a living trust can help to guard against this.
  •      Protect you while you are still alive. If the trust is funded during your lifetime and you later develop an incapacity, a successor trustee is eligible to manage the trust assets on your behalf. This important for those people who do not have children and those people who are single.

Schedule a consultation with an estate planning lawyer today.