Revocable Living Trusts- What You Must Know

Before determining that a revocable living trust is the right fit for you, you should evaluate several factors. The term “living trust” may be exchanged with “revocable trust”. This means that you create it during your lifetime and that you can change it during your lifetime as well. The living trust, when used properly, can help you manage assets or protect you in the event that you become ill or disabled. Since you have the power to revoke or change them, you should be aware that the tax advantages available with some trusts are not the same in this scenario. These trusts, however, can help you avoid probate. shutterstock_195183704

The use of irrevocable living trusts, however, does allow that you can gain asset protection or tax advantages because you are not taking over the power to revoke or change the trust.

 More than likely, you’ll be the trustee of the trust while you are still alive, and those powers will transfer to another trustee in the event of your death. This second trustee might either distribute the property or continue managing the property for the beneficiaries. A living trust can allow for distribution of your property at death, but it is not the same vehicle as a will. Unlike a will, a living trust gives you the power to manage property while you are still alive and gives a trustee power to manage it in the event you become incapacitated. To learn more about the different types of trusts, please contact us at (601) 925-9797.


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.

Including Your Service Providers In Your Estate Plan | Clinton Will and Trust Lawyers

A Clinton will and trust lawyer’s job is to make sure that you have all of your ducks in a row so that if you become incapacitated or die, your loved ones will know how to manage your estate and follow your wishes.  Laws in Mississippi vary from those found around the country, which is why you want to work with an attorney who is skilled in understanding your specific needs.  One area that should be considered is your service providers.

“Service providers” covers a wide range of individuals involved in your life.  Should you be unable to communicate with them, you want to ensure that your trustee, executor, guardian, or other responsible person is able to communicate with them on your behalf.  Having them all listed in one place will make this job much more manageable.

Household Providers

This list should include all of the people or companies that you deal with when it comes to the maintenance of your home.  If you are incapacitated, your home will need to continue to function in your absence, and your representative will need to be able to contact these people to make sure things keep running smoothly.  In other cases, whether you are deceased or incapacitated, there are certain services that you may no longer need, and the person in charge needs to be able to contact the service providers and cancel with them.

Some examples of household providers that you will want to list might include:

  • ·         Computer support
  • ·         Food or water delivery
  • ·         Gardening
  • ·         Housekeepers
  • ·         Heating/Cooling system maintenance
  • ·         Heating oil delivery
  • ·         House sitters
  • ·         Pest control
  • ·         Pool or spa maintenance
  • ·         Utilities
  • ·         Vehicle maintenance

Basically, anything you have performed on a regular basis should be noted, along with contact and payment information.

Medical Service Providers

You should also provide your Clinton will and trust lawyer with contacts for your medical service providers.  This information could be very valuable should you need medical attention but be unable to reach out to these providers on your own.  Additionally, if you have standing appointments with these providers, it will be helpful to have them canceled so you don’t accrue charges for service you’re not using.

Some of the medical service providers you may want to include on your list are:

  • ·         Chiropractor
  • ·         Counselor
  • ·         Dentist
  • ·         Massage therapist
  • ·         Ophthalmologist
  • ·         Physical therapist
  • ·         Primary care physician
  • ·         Psychiatrist
  • ·         Specialists

Personal Service Providers

There are other types of regular services you may use, and you’ll want to include these as well for the same reasons already mentioned.

Some personal service providers to keep in mind for inclusion:

  • ·         Childcare provider
  • ·         Hairdresser
  • ·         Home care provider
  • ·         Meal preparation
  • ·         Transportation
  • ·         Tutors

Additional Information

Along with the contact information for these service providers, it’s a good idea to make notes about when they are expected, and you may even want to include service agreements and contracts.  For example, if you have a standing arrangement to have your sprinkler system blown out each fall, make a note of that.

Your Clinton will and trust lawyer may not include all of this information directly in your estate plan, but he or she will want to be able to make a note of where it can be located when the need arises.

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!)

Estate Planning for Women | Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area Will and Trust Lawyer

Will and trust lawyers in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to estate plans.  Every situation is different, and each person needs individualized attention.  While there are services that offer cookie-cutter forms that will supposedly allow you to set up a decent plan, there is no comparison to working with an actual estate planning attorney who can work with human understanding to meet your real needs.

For example, the needs of women have been changing dramatically over the past several years.  Gone are the days when a woman was expected to stay home and live on an “allowance” if her husband chose to give her one.  Instead, so many women today have their own jobs, their own finances, and their own desire to protect their assets.

Older Women and Widows

In addition, women typically live longer than men.  So, even if the husband was originally in charge of working with the will and trust lawyer, once he has passed away, the widow has an entirely new set of needs.  She needs to make sure that her estate is able to support her as costs continue to rise, as well as to determine what she would like to have happen to her assets after her own death.

Not all estate planning lawyers in Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area are current with the times, either.  There is still a tendency to create trusts that will “take care of them” without them actually having any say over the contents of the trust.  Today’s women are often quite capable of managing their own finances and are better served by having flexibility to grow their funds rather than being restricted by the trust.

Younger Women

There are plenty of reasons that a younger woman should to meet with a Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area will and trust lawyer, too.  In the case of a single mother, assigning a guardian is critical in case of the mother’s death or incapacitation.  If a guardian is not legally named, the courts will step in and choose a guardian for the child without taking the mother’s wishes into consideration. An estate planning attorney may also advise younger mothers to consider setting up a trust for their child(ren) and maybe even to look into life insurance policies that could be used to fund the child(ren)’s future.

Whether married or not, many younger women have careers and would benefit from retirement planning in this earlier stage of life.  By being proactive early on, a woman can set up her 401k and other accounts to make sure she realizes her long-term financial goals.  Looking to retire young, to pay for your kids’ college, or to travel the world?  A Clinton, Flowood, Brandon, Madison and Metro Jackson Area will and trust lawyer can help put things in motion now to make that a reality later.

If you have a significant other in your life, it makes sense for the two of you to work together with the estate planning attorney to make sure that your goals align and that your plans are compatible.  Your attorney can help you properly deal with “his, hers and ours” to ensure that your assets are titled properly and that your financial house together is built on a solid foundation.

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.

How to Contest a Will in Clinton

Despite the best efforts of wills and trusts lawyers in Clinton, there are times when a will is challenged.  There can be many reasons why this happens, and it is up to the courts to determine what is appropriate in these situations.  Some of these include:

  • The will wasn’t signed
  • The person creating the will didn’t have the capacity to legally sign the will
  • He or she was unduly influenced into signing it
  • The will is fraudulent
  • The person challenging the will feels that a different personal representative should be chosen

None of these reasons for challenging (or contesting) a will is to be taken lightly.  In order to prove that the will is invalid, one of these reasons needs to be proven in a court of law.  The idea of simply challenging a will because you don’t like the contents may seem reasonable; but if you can’t prove one of the above factors for invalidating it, you may very well be wasting your time and resources.

Clinton Wills and Trusts Lawyers

If you do wish to challenge a will, you will want to take your concerns to a lawyer who has experience in Mississippi wills and trusts administration.  He or she will give you some insight into whether or not you have a case.  Be sure to choose a reputable attorney, so that you don’t end up wasting your money on a no-win case.

The lawyer will help you determine if you are a person with “standing.”  That means you need to be someone who actually has a financial stake in the outcome of the will.  Someone in that position would include a child who stands to receive considerably less than siblings (or who has been cut out altogether), a potential beneficiary who believes too much of the estate has been given to a third party (such as a charity), or someone who was included in an earlier will but finds that the new will treats him or her much more unfavorably.

Challenging the Will

In order to challenge a will, the person in question needs to file the contest with the Hinds County probate court, and there is a set time limit for doing so.  Because estate law changes frequently, you should consult a Clinton wills and trusts lawyer to be sure of what the current timeframe is.  He or she will help you decide if you want to pursue the case and to file the appropriate paperwork with the courts.

After reviewing the will, the courts will determine if all or part of it should be considered invalid.  If the whole document is found invalid, then the estate will be distributed according to the laws of Mississippi probate, unless there is an earlier version of the will that the court finds to be valid.  Keep in mind that these may not actually be more favorable than the original contents of the will and will take a considerable amount of money from the overall estate before it is dispersed.

Contact A Clinton Will and Trust Attorney

If you have questions about how to contest a will in the greater Clinton and Jackson Metro area, please feel free to contact our Clinton will, trust and probate attorneys at (601) 925-9797 to schedule a free phone consultation with the mention of this article.