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For The Ladies: Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women

July 17, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning,Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 4:33 pm

For the most part, financial planning and estate planning tools are very similar for men and for women, but there are several facts that result in special planning considerations for women as well. The root of these considerations is that in later years, women may face their own set of challenges.

For The Ladies Special Estate Planning Considerations for Women
(Photo Credit: businesshangouts.net)

To start with, women tend to live longer than men do. A woman may overlook the fact that odds are in her favor for outliving her spouse. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, nearly 40 percent of women over the age of 65 are widowed. That longevity may also lead to higher medical bills. When your financial future is built on a husband’s pension or Social Security benefits, the woman can face major challenges as a widow.

Women are also much more likely to provide care to children and elderly parents. Many women tend to take on this role for older parents, which can be emotionally challenging and a financial adjustments.

Women looking at estate planning should seriously consider where their income will come from in the future and what, if any, benefits they will be eligible for. If women are looking at caring for their own elderly parents, it’s also worth a look into the parent’s planning to see whether they have made plans for long-term care or factored in the financial aspects already.

A little advance work can go a long way in helping women live long and comfortable lives. To learn more about estate planning, email info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455 to get started.

Common Reasons A Will Might Not Hold Up In Court

July 14, 2014

Filed under: Last Will & Testament,Living Will,Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , , — Neel Shah @ 3:38 pm

Especially if you have taken it upon yourself to write your will, it’s important to know that you have opened your heirs up to the risk of having your will contested in court later on. Here are three of the most common mistakes that result in a contested will.

Common Reasons A Will Might Not Hold Up In Court
(Photo Credit: 8gr.org)

Disinheriting Family Members Sans Explicit Instructions

The law tends to treat the distribution of assets relatively fairly when there are questions about intention or mistakes in the handling of the will. So, if you’re stipulating that you want to leave an individual out altogether, you need to make sure those instructions are crystal clear. You want to have this written by an attorney to reduce that chances that you have given such an individual room to argue in court.

Using Biased Witnesses During Your Will Signing

In many circumstances, you need to sign your will in front of witnesses in order for it to be valid. These witnesses may later be called I court to state that they were present and to discuss whether the person signing the will (you) had the mental capacity to sign such a document without any undue influence or pressure from other parties.

Potentially Lacking Mental Capacity to Sign the Will

One of the reasons that heirs (or those excluded) will contest a will is under the ground that you did not have the mental capacity to understand what you were doing. You must understand what property you own, your overall plan for passing on property, and who you closest family members are. Furthermore, a Living Trust, which preserves privacy, may be an option for those with a stronger likelihood of a contest in their future.

To learn more about wills and estate planning documents, contact our professionals at 732-521-9455 or info@lawesq.net.

Do You Have a Digital Fortune?

May 8, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning,Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , — Neel Shah @ 4:37 am

The estate planning landscape is changing, and it’s because our approach to determining assets is changing, too. According to a survey by McAfee, Americans believe they own an average of about $54,000 in digital assets. Curious about a digital asset? What about your big ITunes collection? Downloaded resources and books on your Kindle? What about Paypal? Bitcoins? Or even more sentimental accounts, like a genealogy archive that’s helped you to identify relatives?

Do You Have a Digital Fortune
(Photo Credit: mariopartylegacy.com)

Getting access to these materials can be difficult after a family member passes away. Your email account materials might be deleted before family members can even access the material and in the meantime, your accounts could be exposed to online theft risk.

This is where a Digital Estate Plan steps in. It will help your will executor carry out your wishes in the distribution of your assets. This can be a complex process, since many of the sites mentioned about base their service agreements on federal laws. Nevertheless, it’s an important exercise to gather up an inventory of material you might like your family to be able to access if something happens to you. At the least, your family will be aware of the information’s existence. Login information and passwords should also be included with this material.

Make sure you’re up to date with estate planning laws and trends by working with an experienced attorney. Reach out to us to get started at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

For the Furry Ones in Your Life: Estate Planning With Pets in Mind

April 25, 2014

Filed under: Estate Planning,Estate Planning for Attorney,Estate Planning For Business Owners,Estate Planning for Children — Tags: , , , , — Neel Shah @ 8:10 am

Although many people have heard about the traditional aspects of estate planning, like a will, it’s all too often forgotten that you may have others you need to include in your plans. The majority of houses across the country have pets inside, and it’s worth considering what you’d like to happen to your animals if something happens to you. Pets are treated as personal property, so it’s crucial that you do a little research about where you’d like them to go.

For the Furry Ones in Your Life Estate Planning With Pets in Mind
(Photo Credit: the-hunting-dog.com)

A pet trust, for example, can outline the type of care your animals will receive after you pass away. With a funded pet trust, you can rest assured that your animals will be taken care of no matter what. This trend is expanding in use across the estate planning industry. A first step in your pet plan is to write a description of all animals, including any distinguishing characteristics. This helps to avoid copycat pets or mistakes receiving care that you intended for your own animals. Microchip numbers, too, should be included for identity verification.

You can work with an estate planning professional to determine the cost of care for your animal. Factor in vet care, routine medications, any special supplements, pet insurance, and food, multiplied by the life expectancy of your pet. Talking this over with any family members can be helpful for establishing those who may want to care for your animals, too. Have questions about pet trusts or other planning tools? Send us an email at info@lawesq.net or contact us via phone at 732-521-9455.

EZ Legal Services: Shortcut or Risk?

April 21, 2014

Filed under: Legacy Planning — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 6:10 pm

Despite the marketing that’s attempting to penetrate just about everywhere these days, there’s a lesson to be learned from online programs that make estate planning seem so easy. And the lesson isn’t that you can save money and time by putting it together yourself. Up front, you may very well save some money and time. Just don’t be surprised when those “plans” don’t hold up in court. Just ask the family of Ann Aldrich.

stables.com
(Photo Credit: staples.com)

Aldrich used one of these easy programs to put her will together back in 2004. In the will, neither of her two nieces were actually mentioned. Jump to the present and both those nieces were able to capitalize on their aunt’s poor planning. The Florida Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the nieces because the will was missing the important residuary clause, allowing all money acquired by the aunt after 2004 to be distributed through intestacy (the same laws that govern property distribution for those who pass away without a will at all).

Aldrich’s will included statements leaving everything to her sister and then her brother. Since the sister died first, the brother argued that he was entitled to everything. Since the “oh so easy” legal form only accounted for listed items, nieces were able to argue their rights to assets not specifically outlined in the will. Although Aldrich’s intentions appear rather clear, her documentation was missing something that an estate planning attorney would have picked up at first glance. Unfortunately, this meant that her wishes were not carried out as she planned. This situation was entirely preventable with a little bit of planning. If you’d like to ensure that your estate planning documents carry out your wishes clearly, set up a consultation by calling 732-521-9455 or emailing info@lawesq.net

Showdown: Wills vs Trusts

April 15, 2014

Filed under: Trusts,Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 4:13 pm

Depending on who you talk to, your estate planning specialist might recommend wills over trusts or trusts over wills. Let’s walk through some of the differences between these two planning tools to see if one might be a better fit for your needs.

Showdown Wills vs Trusts
(Photo Credit: blogs.dallasobserver.com)

If you are planning to use a will as your primary tool, bear in mind that your assets must first go through the probate process in order to be eventually received by your beneficiaries. Some states have lengthy and cumbersome probate processes, meaning that it could take your beneficiaries a while to actually receive the assets. Probate is also very public, meaning that details about your financial situation will be shared in a less-private forum. If you’re concerned about this, a trust might be a better option.

In comparison, trusts tend to pass by the court system for the majority of the administrative process. Since these are privacy documents, there’s less public scrutiny into your finances or your plans, and some clients prefer this confidential approach. Unlike wills, which become active on your death, a trust can be rendered effective immediately. Additionally, trusts can also be used for incapacity planning, adding another layer to their usefulness.

Both wills and trusts can do tax planning for credit shelter trusts. The bottom line is that it depends on your needs. If you are not concerned about the red tape of the probate process, there are still advantages (especially regarding privacy) for the establishment of a trust. We work with clients to create a customized plan for you since we recognize that each client is unique. To talk more about the kinds of trusts we can help you establish or to begin generation of your will, contact us today at 732-521-9455 or through e-mail at info@lawesq.net

Risky Do-It-Yourself: Wills

April 9, 2014

Filed under: Wills — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Neel Shah @ 2:39 pm

Software or online programs to help you plan your estate are popping up everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they are the best choice for your needs. Many of these programs lead you to believe that generating your will is easier than it truly is. Heirs might find out too late that your self-created will doesn’t really match up with your state laws or even your own intent.

rightscale.com
  (Photo Credit: rightscale.com)

When it comes to estate planning, intent is everything. Too often, the wishes of an individual don’t come across clearly in self-generated wills. Many modern court cases have focused on the determination of the testator’s intent, but judges are hesitant to cross certain lines to clear up confusion. As a result, your heirs may discover that your wishes aren’t carried out as you planned at all. Simply put, doing your will on your own can have big consequences.

Consider the Estate of George Zeevering. Last fall, a Pennsylvania appellate court was evaluating an unclear DIY will. Since the testator had not worked with a lawyer to generate the document, which was incomplete, it was difficult to determine the true intentions of Mr. Zeevering. In one aspect of the case, property had already been titled in the names of a son and a decedent as joint tenants. Mr. Zeevering stated that “the failure of this will to provide any distribution” to his daughters was done on purpose.

The case got sticky when the residuary and residuary estate totaled over $200,000 after debt payments were made. There was no provision within the DIY will for what should happen to those assets. In the end, the court determined that when a will doesn’t provide for the disposal of an entire estate and fails to include a residuary clause, the residuary estate must be divided under intestacy laws.

This case is but one example of where estate planning on your own can go wrong. Although it may not have been Mr. Zeevering’s intention to distribute the remainder of his estate under intestacy laws, that’s what happened. Despite his wishes, the law overrides an incomplete or improper will. While online and computer programs argue that wills and estate planning documents are easily done on your own, that minimizes the true complexity of document generation and estate laws.

Estate planning can be very complicated for an individual but it’s easily done under the guidance of an estate planning attorney. An added benefit of using a legal professional “in the know” is that he or she is clued into state and federal laws about estate planning, which always have the potential to change. An estate planning attorney is an excellent resource for all your questions as well as giving you the peace of mind that your estate will be carried out in the manner you wish. Cutting corners with a do it yourself tool is your choice, but do so at your own risk. If you want the assurance of totality and legality, contact an estate planning professional today.