Six Reasons Why You Need a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust affords many different benefits for the people who choose to use it.

There are six primary reasons why a living trust can be extremely beneficial for you. These include:

  •    Protecting property for certain beneficiaries who may be unable to control receiving such a large inheritance. This is very beneficial for anyone who has a spendthrift adult child.
  •    Minimizing or eliminating estate taxes. Depending on the size of your gross estate, transferring property into a trust can help to shield it from your estate when it is time to calculate the estate taxes.
  •    Avoiding probate. Many individuals see the benefits of avoiding probate as keeping their beneficiaries from having to go through the frustrating and sometimes expensive process. Probate is also extremely public, meaning that anyone can learn more information about your estate if you choose not to take advanced steps.
  •    Managing property after incapacity. Although there are other solutions such as a durable power of attorney, the most comprehensive solution is a revocable living trust. This allows a successor trustee to take over in any situation in which you become incapacitated or when you choose to resign. There are many different ways that a revocable living trust can benefit you in this manner.
  •    Avoiding will contest. Wills are much easier to contest than a revocable living trust. Since a revocable living trust contest requires that the individual arguing that you have been unduly influenced or were incompetent has to prove that you met those criteria every single time that distributions were made or property was transferred into the trust as well as when you created the trust to begin with.
  •    Privacy. Many individuals dislike the process of probate because it is extremely public, but a revocable living trust is extremely private and information is only given out in the event that a trustee or the grantor allows it to be so.

To Trust or Not to Trust

You’ve heard it before and we’ll say it again: money doesn’t grow on trees. You’ve earned those assets with years of hard work, and you’ve also earned the right to leave them, upon your passing, as you choose.

Proactive asset planning, such as creating an inheritance trust, is the only way to ensure that your hard-earned assets are protected after your death. Guarantee that your assets are passed on to those you intended, rather than those you didn’t. Creating an inheritance trust is one of the best ways to do so.

Morton Law Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

What is an Inheritance Trust?

If you are looking to leave assets for a beneficiary such as your child, grandchild, niece, or nephew, the best way to ensure doing so is with an inheritance trust. Setting up such a trust can be beneficial to you and your loved ones for a number of reasons, including:

  • The assets can be protected from their spouse, even in the event of a divorce.
  • The assets can be protected from creditors, such as a lawsuit.
  • It ensures the assets are given to your preferred people, rather than in-laws or whoever else.

Let’s say you’ve decided to leave $250,000 dollars to your daughter upon your death. While you love her dearly, you always recognize that she doesn’t always make the best financial decisions. You’re concerned that within a year the money will be gone, as she travels around the world.

An inheritance trust allows you to parcel out the money to your daughter as you see best. This includes giving the money a little bit at a time, or setting up certain criteria that must be met in order to inherit the funds (such as graduating from college).

We recommend How to Leave an Inheritance to Your Kids for more guidance on how to communicate inheritance expectations effectively.

Benefits of a Trust

Depending on how the trust is set up, other general benefits include:

  • Avoiding taxes
  • Avoiding probate
  • Protecting your assets & estate
  • Restricting funds for particular purpose (like education)
  • Giving generously to charities

Make the Best Decisions for You

Putting an inheritance in place before it’s too late is the only way to ensure your hard-earned assets go to the right place at the right time. We recommend sitting down with a professional who specialized in Estate Planning.

~ Ronald Morton

 

These Four Childfree Prospect Tips Will Grow Your Business – And They’re Not What You Think

Child-free individuals and couples often face choices, decisions, and questions, which you are uniquely qualified to address.  Like many allied financial professionals, you may focus on helping clients pass the maximum amount of wealth to their beloved children.

Along with buying a house and doing better than your parents, handing down your accumulated wealth to your children is a long-held tradition that many consider the cornerstone of the American dream.  But what about those individuals who do not have direct descendants?

For a myriad of reasons, childfree individuals and couples are a steadily growing percentage of those seeking planning and financial services today.  You may assume that counseling and guiding childfree clients has less opportunity or is more difficult than working with clients who are parents.  If so, you’re not alone.

However, in actuality, childfree clients are not so different than your parenting clients.  And, the fact that most professionals think they’re different creates your opportunity.  The opportunity is to market directly to your ideal childfree client, make her feel important, and communicate that you are uniquely qualified to empower her.

Four Key Takeaways
Childfree individuals and couples are often left out of marketing conversations and made to feel as if they’re second best.  By ignoring them and focusing solely on parent clients, marketing messages send notice that something is wrong with being childfree.

To grow your business, keep in mind:

1.      Being childfree is not second best.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with not having children and it’s none of your business why a client doesn’t have children.  Don’t ask.

2.      Childfree clients may have had children who have predeceased them.  Be sensitive to that fact.

3.      Childfree clients likely have someone they love and would like to benefit, such as grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, friends, partners, and pets.

4.      Childfree clients have many of the same goals and fears that your parent clients have.  Those goals and fears may or may not have the same emphasis and priority and, thus, create your opportunity to distinguish yourself through counseling and service.

Dealing with childfree clients is more about positioning than substance.  Unless your client cares about no one and doesn’t want to stay in control of his or her finances, health care, and life, she needs an estate plan, financial plan, insurances, and tax advice just as parent clients do.

What You Need to Know:
Childfree clients may need all of the services their parenting counterparts need and when you acknowledge them as valuable, worthwhile, and important, you, your planning team, and your clients all win.

Actions to Consider:
1.      Add a marketing message, speaking directly to childfree prospects.

2.      Don’t assume that your childfree client isn’t interested in planning traditionally sought by parent clients, such as educational   planning, educational trusts, 529 plans, life insurance, and beneficiary trusts.

3.      Show your client how you, along with your allied professional team, can help to ensure that she can:

o   Create and build her ideal business
o   Create, equalize, or liquidize an estate
o   Avoid running out of money, even if she gets sick
o   Get the health care she needs
o   Appoint trusted helpers, empowered to make good decisions
o   Reduce the risk of audit
o   Minimize or eliminate assets lost to taxation and lawsuits
o   Fund the buy-sell agreement for her business
o   Gift to charities she believes in
o   Protect her assets both during her lifetime and after they pass to beneficiaries
o   Care for those whom she loves
o   Live with peace of mind, while raving about you and your team to her friends and family

There is no shortage of insurance, financial, tax, charitable, asset protection, disability, long-term care, pet, and estate planning for childfree clients.  Your business will grow when you pull your team together and let childfree individuals and couples know that they are important to you, while showing how you can empower them with smart planning.

Why Probate?

Probate is the process of transferring title from a deceased person to their heirs.  The primary purpose of Probate is to give the deceased person’s creditors the opportunity to be paid and to ensure that legal title to the assets is clearly established.  If the deceased did not set up a trust, then there is a very high chance that probate will be necessary. Probate is also important because it ensures that all heirs have a full and fair opportunity to know about the assets of the estate, and to ensure everyone is treated fairly.

During the probate process, the deceased’s property needs to be accounted for, a responsibility that usually falls to a person appointed by the court, which is called an “Executor” or “Administrator”, depending on if there is a Will or not.  This is where a probate attorney will help the family member or other appointed individual by directing him or her in how to do this accounting.

Here are some general guidelines to follow when it comes to Probate:

  • Real estate, personal possessions, and some bank accounts need to be accounted for and go through the probate process.
  • Life insurance generally does NOT go through probate, as there is a named beneficiary.
  • Many retirement accounts do NOT go through probate, either, for the same reason.
  • Some bank accounts do NOT go through probate, if the deceased set them up as “Pay-on-death” or “in trust for”.
  • Living trusts do NOT go through probate, which is one of the main reasons for creating them in the first place.

Most people believe that “I have a Last Will and Testament, so I don’t have to go through Probate”, this is most definitely not true.  Keep in mind that simply having a will does not necessarily ease the probate process along either.  While this document is helpful in determining how your estate is to be distributed, the courts will still have to determine its validity and pay any outstanding debts from the estate.  What is left can then be distributed according to the wishes outlined in the will.

There are some complaints with the process that lawyers hear regularly.  For one thing, it can be costly.  It also takes a considerable amount of time for the estate to go through probate.  Finally, the process is public, which means that pretty much anyone can have access to information regarding the value of the estate and how it is distributed.  In many cases, these are simply unavoidable annoyances.  If these are major concerns for you, then give our office a call so we can plan in advance so you can determine how best to protect your assets in a way that avoids probate altogether.

Probate in Mississippi requires the services of an attorney.  At the Morton Law Firm, we assist many families each year through the often frustrating and tedious probate process.  For more information click here.

Information to Give the Trustee of Your Estate | Mississippi Trust Lawyer

One of the jobs of a Mississippi trust lawyer is to help clients choose the person who will be responsible for a trust that has been set up.  The trustee has several very important jobs, and things will go smoother if he or she is aware of these responsibilities up front.  Here is some good information that should be shared with a trustee in order to administer the trust with as little difficulty as possible when the time comes.

One Reason “Trust” Is So Important in the Word “Trustee”

In order to ensure that the trust administration goes according to plan, the trustee should review the document that set it out in the first place.  It makes sense to do this while the person creating the trust is still alive so that you can talk about the true intentions behind the trust.  Both parties may choose to sit down with the Mississippi trust lawyer in order to talk through any confusing points.  When it comes time to administer the trust, the trustee will have valuable insight on what was originally intended and how to bring those goals about.

Along those same lines, it is the trustee’s responsibility to make sure that he or she is acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries.  If there is a question about how best to manage the assets, the attorney can be brought in for advice and to make sure that decisions being made are in line with Mississippi state and federal laws.  For this reason, it’s imperative to choose a trustee who not only has good business sense but who is also extremely trustworthy.  He or she should understand that the trust is not for personal gain and be able to withstand temptation to use the trust for his or her own benefit.

Keeping Track of the Trust

The trustee’s main focus should be to manage the assets of the trust in the most effective way possible.  This may mean investing money in smart ways and also includes distributing funds to beneficiaries when appropriate.  One of the easiest things the trustee can do to keep track of funds is to open a checking account for the trust.  Any money that comes in or goes out of the trust can go through this checking account, creating an easy-to-see method for tracking income and expenses.

As an added safeguard, the trustee should provide an annual accounting of the trust to the beneficiaries.  This allows them to understand how the trust is being managed.  It may also be appropriate to provide this information to your Mississippi trust lawyer or other legal entity. Keeping in regular contact with the beneficiaries ensures that they are benefiting appropriately from the funds and also develops a relationship of trust between the parties involved.

Hinds, Rankin and Madison County Estate Planning Tips for New Mothers

When you have a new baby, a visit to the estate planning lawyer isn’t usually very high on your priority list.  Really, though, it should be.  Estate lawyers in Hinds, Rankin and Madison County are very aware of how your needs shift with the addition of a new little one in the mix.

At its heart, we think of estate planning as a tool to provide for those who come after us.  When you bring a new baby home, your thoughts and desires immediately move toward figuring out how to care for him or her.  While that means things like weighing the pros and cons of using a pacifier or choosing between disposable and cloth diapers, there are some other “big picture” concerns that you should consider now.

If you are still in the “expecting” stage and your baby hasn’t been born yet, then this is a great time to start getting all of your documentation lined up and ready to implement.  We all know that things get pretty hectic once the new baby arrives, so it’s not a bad idea to meet with your Hinds, Rankin and Madison County estate lawyer while you’re still pregnant.

For those whose little bundles have already arrived, however, it is not too late.  (It’s almost never too late to start your estate planning, really.)  Once you’ve got your bearings and can take a deep breath, pick up the phone and call an attorney who has good knowledge in the area.  If you live outside of the Hinds, Rankin and Madison County area, we are happy to refer you to another firm who can help.

When you meet with your estate planning lawyer, you can expect to cover several topics that are very relevant to being a new mother.  For example, you may be advised to consider acquiring a life insurance policy.  This type of policy can provide financial means for your child should you die unexpectedly.  By putting together a trust, you can even create a plan for how you would like the money to be used.

Estate planning doesn’t just have to be about you dying, either.  A good lawyer in Hinds, Rankin and Madison County can help to direct you on topics such as how to prepare for retirement and how to set up a college fund for your new baby.  These are the types of things that are always better to set up in advance because they will have more time to accumulate funds for later.

Finally, the most important reason to set up a meeting with your Hinds, Rankin and Madison County estate planning attorney is to name a guardian for your child.  Should the worst happen, you want to know that someone you trust will be raising your precious little one.  This is not something that should be put off, because it is the only way that you get to have a say in who that important person will be.

If you are ready to get started creating a plan that ensures your family will be protected no matter what happens, please feel free to give our office a call at (601) 925-9797 and ask to schedule a FREE Legacy Planning Session with the mention of this article ($300 value!)

Questions for a Probate Attorney in Mississippi: Does All Property Go Through Probate?

Probate attorneys in Mississippi are charged with the responsibility of helping a deceased’s loved ones through the probate process.  This is the court procedure that closes out a person’s estate when he or she has passed away.  If the deceased did not set up a trust, then there is a very high chance that probate will be necessary.

During the probate process, the deceased’s property needs to be accounted for, a responsibility that usually falls to a person appointed by the courts.  Again, the probate attorney will help the family member or other appointed individual by directing him or her in how to do this accounting.  One of the biggest questions at this time is what property goes through probate, and what property is exempt?

Laws can differ from state to state, so it’s important to meet with a Mississippi probate lawyer to ensure you have all of the relevant information.  That said, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Real estate, personal possessions, and some bank accounts need to be accounted for and go through the probate process
  • Life insurance generally does NOT go through probate, as there is a named beneficiary
  • Many retirement accounts do NOT go through probate, either, for the same reason
  • Some bank accounts do NOT go through probate, if the deceased set them up as “Pay-on-death” or “in trust for”
  • Living trusts do NOT go through probate, which is one of the main reasons for creating them in the first place

Keep in mind that simply having a will does not necessarily circumvent the probate in Hinds County.  While this document is helpful in determining how your estate is to be distributed, the courts will still have to determine its validity and pay any outstanding debts from the estate.  What is left can then be distributed according to the wishes outlined in the will.

There are some complaints with the process that probate lawyers in Clinton hear regularly.  For one thing, it can be costly.  It also takes a considerable amount of time for the estate to go through probate.  Finally, the process is public, which means that pretty much anyone can have access to information regarding the value of the estate and how it is distributed.  In many cases, these are simply unavoidable annoyances.  If these are major concerns for you, then talk to a probate lawyer in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, or Canton in advance so you can determine how best to protect your assets in a way that avoids probate altogether.

Should Facebook Play Into Estate Planning For Mississippi Residents?

Estate planning lawyers in Mississippi have always had to keep up with the times, and this is just as true in Mississippi as it is anywhere else.  Oftentimes these changes include things like new legislation, but there are other factors that need to be considered, such as differing lifestyles and advancing technologies.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what happens to your Facebook when you die?

It’s a question that even the legal world is starting to address.  Of course, Facebook is only one of the social networks out there, and it’s likely that more will emerge, with some taking over the spotlight.  For now, Facebook is certainly one of the most talked about, as Facebook has reached a billion users.  As of November of 2012, Twitter had 500 million, Google+ had 400 million, Skype had 280, and LinkedIn had 175 million.  And this represents only a fraction of the social networks that are out there.

New York, Oklahoma, and Nebraska were some of the first states to start taking a look at how estate planning attorneys might assist clients in designating personal representatives to take over their social media accounts should the original owner become deceased or incapacitated.  Some people are referring to this as an “online executor,” and it’s even being suggested to officially name this person in the will or trust.

What About Facebook?

While it still remains to be seen how things will play out, especially as newer technologies become part of the Mississippi estate planning landscape, Facebook (as well as many other social media networks) already does have a system in place for dealing with the death of a user.

When someone passes away, Facebook allows another person to notify them.  They will need to be able to supply the individual’s full name (used on the account), email address used to create the account, and the URL of the deceased’s profile.  This is done through a form.  In addition, the person must report their relationship with the deceased.

At this point, Facebook will ask what should be done with the profile.  Some families prefer to take the entire thing down.  Others choose the option of “memorializing” the page.  When this happens, Facebook allows only those who were already confirmed as friends to see and post on the page.  Many friends do this as a way to leave memories or express condolences to those left behind.  If the account has been memorialized, it is removed from the general search function.

Another common option is for people to create their own pages in memory of a friend or family member.  This can even be done in conjunction with the memorializing of the original page.  The benefit is that this allows those who were not confirmed friends on the original account to leave messages, post photos, etc.

So, do you need to get a Mississippi will lawyer involved when it comes to your Facebook account?  The answer to that is “maybe.”  If your account is part of your business strategy, for example, you might find it to be even more imperative.  Even for those who just use Facebook and other social media for personal communication, naming an online executor is something to consider.

Our Mississippi wills, trusts and probate law firm can help you get started in creating a digital asset protection plan that best meets your personal or business needs.  We have offices in Clinton, Flowood, Hattiesburg, and Southaven Mississippi, and also serve the cities of Madison, Ridgeland, Pearl, Brandon, and Jackson, Mississippi.  For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please give our office a call at (601) 925-9797.

Estate Planning and Divorce in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County

When a divorce—also called a dissolution of marriage—is imminent, meeting with an estate planning attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County is likely not at the top of anyone’s list of things to do.  But, it very well should be.  Keep in mind that divorces can take a fairly long time (months or even years) to complete.  It makes sense to consider what would become of your assets, or even your physical self, if you should become incapacitated or die before the divorce has been finalized.

If you do not take steps to change your estate plan in light of an impending divorce, then your soon-to-be ex may still be entitled to everything that was agreed upon when it was originally drawn up (or as the courts deem appropriate if no estate plan is in place).  This means that if he or she has your medical power of attorney, all of your medical decisions will be in the hands of someone who may not have your best interests in mind.  Likewise, if you are incapacitated and your spouse has power over your finances, it’s possible that you will not be happy with the outcome.

Another concern comes up if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or other accounts.  Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property that you would not want him or her to have access to.  This becomes a real worry when you realize that this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.

And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises.  Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life.  Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them.

In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.  A qualified will attorney in Hinds, Rankin or Madison County can offer advice on where you may be vulnerable.  You may need to work with him or her quickly in order to revoke the appropriate documents, and keep in mind that you might need to contact various institutions personally to ensure they are aware of the revocation.

Once a divorce has become final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes.  An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Mississippi is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after a dissolution of marriage.

Keeping Your Wills and Trusts Updated | Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison Trust Lawyer

It’s always a great feeling when a new client meets with a wills and trusts attorney in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison to get started on his or her estate planning.  Every day, people in Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison recognize the importance of putting a plan into place to prepare for their own futures as well as those of their heirs.  Wills and trusts are two very important tools that the client and lawyer can create to protect that future.  As important as that initial meeting is, however, there is still a need to follow up regularly to keep your wills and trusts updated and reflective of your current situation.

There are some times when it is obvious that your wills and trusts should be updated, but there are other times that are easier to overlook.

Major Life Changes

When there is a major change in your life, it’s time to call your Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison wills and trusts lawyer.  These types of changes, such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child may dramatically affect who you want to name as beneficiaries.  For example, if you’ve been divorced but your ex is still named in your wills and trusts, he or she could still benefit after your death.

Health situations are also another big indicator that it’s time to update your wills and trusts.  Medical care can be incredibly expensive, and you may need to rearrange your plans to accommodate the costs.  If dealing with a terminal illness or potentially life-threatening treatment, it also makes sense to ensure that your plans reflect your wishes.

Many Purchases Should Trigger Updates

Wills and trusts lawyers are able to help clients lay out a plan based on what the client has at the time.  When your situation changes through major purchases (or sales) of real estate or other valuable assets, you should update your estate plan to reflect those changes.  You want to ensure that the asset is included in your will or protected by your trust.

Purchases of, or changes in insurance policies, will likely also lead to a call to your Clinton, Brandon, Flowood and Madison attorney.  These purchases will affect what you have to leave behind and will need to be reflected in your estate plan.

Annual Review

While you may not need to make changes with your wills and trusts attorney every year, it’s still a good idea to do an annual review of all your estate planning materials.  In addition to refreshing yourself on what is there, your lawyer will also be able to advise you on any laws that have recently changed that might affect decisions you’d previously made.  Just reading over the documents may be enough to notice a change that needs to be made.  Not only does this give you an opportunity to make sure your plans still fit your needs, but by keeping them up-to-date, you are strengthening your will against being invalidated later.  After all, if you’ve worked with an attorney to keep the wills and trusts fresh and in accordance with the most recent life changes, they are likely to reflect your true intentions.