How Can I Tell If A Will Was Revoked or Replaced?

Creating a last will and testament is an important component of estate planning, but it can also be one of the most confusing aspects of probating or administering an estate.

A will does not expire but identifying different versions that replaced an older one or finding a will that at some point was revoked can be very important to heirs and beneficiaries.

Finding a binding and valid will years after another one was really created, could revoke certain provisions and lead to different estate circumstances.

Whether or not a will is valid could alter over time based on the property and the assets of the estate owner. The estate owner might have to create a new will with updates to ensure that an agent will execute the wishes of the person after he or she passes away.

Terminal patient talking with notary about his last will

A revocation or a replacement will could be used to alter plans significantly. Once the new will is created and valid, the previous will is no longer viable.

Plenty of estate owners will make updates to their will based on changes in the estate that occur over time, such as bank account, property holdings, investments and other assets within the estate. Others might put liabilities in the will. It is important to understand that as the writer of a will, you have a responsibility to be directly involved in revoking the previous will. You can explain your intention to revoke the will or revoke it physically by destroying it. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer could be the first step towards figuring out what to do when you have an existing will in place and intend to change it.

Preparing Your Online Accounts for What Happens When You Pass Away

If you’ve already taken the diligent step of getting your general estate plan in order, is it possible you have neglected your online accounts? Today it is easy to feel like you’re adding new online accounts every week, trying to keep track of all of the passwords and related information.

Senior couple working out their bills at home in the kitchen

The problem is that when you pass away, you might not have taken the right steps to close those accounts out. This means that there can be a whole range of problems, from a loved one who unexpectedly sees an annual friendship reminder and is affected by grief all over again to the possibility of ghosting, which is what happens when someone steals your personal information after you’ve passed away and uses it for identity theft purposes.

You’ve put a lot of time into curating and collecting your online accounts. You might want loved ones to be able to download pictures or other materials, or perhaps you’d like your account closed altogether. If you have any opinions about the future of your online accounts, you should consider writing these down and checking with the individual policies with each account to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

For loved ones who don’t have the passwords, it might be difficult or impossible for your accounts to be closed down after you pass away. It might seem concerning to create a list of all your usernames and passwords, but rather than keeping this at home, you might store it with your final will and other instructions you want your family to see right after you pass. This can be stored in a safety deposit box or somewhere similar for safety and this can still give you the peace of mind that someone can step in to manage or close your accounts if you wish.

If you need help adding your digital estate to the rest of your documents, schedule a time to sit down with your lawyer today to talk options.

Are You Falling for This LTC Myth?

Whether you’re concerned about your own health issues in older age or are now taking care of parents with issues, you might be under the impression that Medicare is in place to cover the vast majority of needs. This is not true, and it can come as an unwelcome surprise when you’ve already counted on it in your mind.

Long Term Care Word Cloud on White Background

LTC expenses can be significant. And if you don’t know how they’ll yet affect you, it’s easy to push that off as something to worry about in the future. But by the time the future arrives, most people haven’t done any planning and instead are self-funded.

Self-funding with LTC means that any income or savings you personally own gets tapped into first as a means of paying for your care. Given that the expenses for LTC can run from $50,000-100,000+ per year, this can be a substantial portion of your savings.

If only one spouse needs LTC, this also means that the other spouse is at risk of not having enough assets left behind to care for themselves. This can turn into a downward financial spiral that is difficult if not impossible to stop without some Medicaid crisis planning.

But you don’t have to wait until someone is in need of a nursing home to plan ahead for the possibility. Instead, you can set aside time to speak to an estate planning lawyer today to learn more about your options with LTC and to discover strategies you can put into place today to make a big difference. Talk to a lawyer today to learn more and get started.

I’m a Single Parent. What Do I Need to Know About Estate Planning?

Being a single parent puts you in a position of power and responsibility that makes it all the more important that you tick off those important adulting activities like estate planning. These are some of the most important decisions that an adult can make and they can have a clear impact on your minor loved ones.

Good looking woman teaching her little cute girl to cook with some cookware in the kitchen

In deciding how to pass on your assets, your parental expectations and your evaluation of the child’s potential to meet these expectations can determine whether or not you might decide to limit access to funds and under what conditions those limitations can be removed. For single parents who have a minor child, this means that the parent must step into a leadership role to accomplish estate planning. When one part of a couple passes away, the child or children typically do not have to leave the school, home and community. However, things are different when a single parent passes away.

A child can leave that city to live the former spouse or with a different relative, leaving behind friends and familiar locations. This makes it even more important to understand your approach to these other adult relationships and who might be put in a position of authority should something happen to you and you need support for your minor children.       

What is a Letter of Intent?

If you’ve ever thought about estate planning before or even put together some of the key documents, you might still have questions about how to minimize the chances of an estate planning dispute after you pass away.

Writing letter to a friend.

One popular tool for addressing this issue is to put together a letter of intent. Along with your other estate planning tools, writing a letter of intent can help to reduce the chances that anyone in your family or estate administration process does not understand the purpose of the tools you’ve selected.

A letter of intent is a document left behind for your beneficiary or executor. The purpose of the letter is to clarify what you want to happen with a certain asset after you become incapacitated or pass away. Other letters of intent provide details about funerals or other special requests you might have about the management of your estate.

This document might not hold up as valid the way that a will or trust does, it can help to explain to a probate judge what your intentions are and this could help in the distribution of your assets if the will is determined to be invalid or if there are challenges regarding what’s inside the will.

If you are passing down various assets of different levels to your family members, a letter of intent could also be your opportunity to explain why you made the decisions that you did. Your letter of intent should always be written with the support of your estate planning lawyer.

Could My Loved One Bring a Will Challenge?

You start your estate planning process with the best of intentions, thinking carefully about who you want to include and what you’d like them to have. But what happens when your family members don’t agree with your decisions? Since you won’t be around to help explain your intentions, how can you work ahead to prevent the possibility of will challenges?

Will challenges can be brought when someone things you were affected by undue influence, did not know what you were signing, or did not have appropriate mental capacity to decide what to do with your estate.

More often than not, a will challenge is brought by a disgruntled family member who expected more from your estate. Although a will challenge can be initiated by a family member, this does not always mean this will succeed. Being frustrated with the provisions inside the will alone is not enough to succeed with a claim. Instead, the person bringing the suit must also show evidence regarding why the will should be classified as invalid. This is not an easy argument to make, although the very act of filing a will challenge can add delays to the proper administration of your estate.

Most estate planning attorneys know about the common reasons behind a will challenge and are prepared to prevent it during the process of drafting the will. If you are concerned about taking precautionary measures to minimize this risk, talk to your NJ estate planning lawyer today about how best to avoid the possibility of will contests with the drafting language in your document.

Yes, Estate Planning is for You

For years, estate planning has been plagued by the perception that it’s only for the rich. As plenty of news stories show, even the rich and famous often neglect their estate planning at the risk of their loved ones.

But smart future-focused people know that estate planning goes far beyond just protecting the assets of the wealthy. Estate planning accomplishes goals that affect you during your lifetime, too, especially as it relates to disability and incapacity planning.

Some of the other things you can accomplish with estate planning include:

  • Protecting those who depend on you financially
  • Naming a guardian for your minor children
  • Naming the loved ones and organizations you want to support with your assets when you pass away
  • Avoid probate to make things easier for your family
  • Minimize your estate’s exposure to taxes
  • Appoint a trustee and executor
  • Document the kind of care you’d like to receive when you need support, including whether or not you want medical care that prolongs your life
  • Express your wishes about any funeral or memorial arrangements

All of these are important considerations that allow you to exercise some level of control over the management of your affairs. Making things easier for you and for your family members allows for more peace and grieving if something does happen, but it also gives you confidence that if you become disabled or unable to care for yourself that you have documented the kind of care you want to receive.

Does a Will Distribute All of My Assets?

If you’ve printed out a basic will, signed it, stored it, and then forgotten about it, this could set your loved ones up for challenges and frustrations if something happens to you. A will is a crucial document for your basic estate planning, but the work doesn’t end there for most people.

Hanging file folder labeled with Estate Plan

Although a will does provide for how many of your assets will be passed along, it does not cover every kind of asset you own. Furthermore, plenty of people leave many aspects out of their will in this modern age, including what happens to the accounts and information they own online.

The truth is that a will does not cover everything. There are some assets, such as a life insurance policy, that will be overridden by company-specific forms you’ve filed. These include all accounts with beneficiary designations. Make sure that you’ve filled out these forms and updated them on an annual basis or after any big life event to make sure that you are protected and that your loved ones are cared ford.

Your will enables you to name a personal representative in the form of an executor, who oversees your property being distributed and assisting you through the probate process. In addition to your life insurance policy, however, certain other assets fall outside of the management of your will. These include your qualified retirement accounts and those items that fall under a transfer-on-death designation.

One common situation when people overlook updating these key forms is after a divorce. It’s likely your plans have changed after getting a divorce, but you need to make sure that your will and other paperwork reflect your new situation.

Ready to talk options? Set up a meeting with an estate planning lawyer today.  

Proposed IRA Stretch Law Which Could Cost You & Your Kids Lots of Money

Congress has a way of keeping things interesting, don’t they? HR 1994 is also known as the SECURE act. SECURE stands for “Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement”, but as is often the case-it may have you feeling a little less than “secure.”

It has support on both the Democratic side as well as the Republican side and there are similar bills in both Senate and House of Representatives. There’s a lot to take in on the proposals, and it is just a proposal but a few things to keep an eye on:

  1. the required minimum distribution age would be raised from 70 1/2 to 72 (not that big of a deal),
  2. IRAs which are inherited may need to be completely distributed within a five-year, or a 10 year window (a pretty huge difference from now where a beneficiary is able to stretch – and therefore not have to pay the taxes – over their life expectancy.)

The consequences can be huge. Imagine being forced to take income (and therefore have to pay higher income taxes) on income which you don’t need now, and could’ve possibly deferred under the existing law.

There are planning opportunities now, and on our legal planning, tax planning and financial planning practices we are having conversations regarding the same. Again, it is not law yet-but when you have both Democratic and Republican support (very rare), it does increase the odds that something is going to go through.

Do I Need to Update My Will If I Move to A New State?

If you previously prepared a will in your old state of residence and it was valid there, it is most likely valid in your new state. This is because many states across the country have laws that explicitly say that. However, out of state wills could pose serious problems and could at least prompt you to think about generating new will. One of the most important of these is marital property rules.

For example, if you married and have moved from the community property state to common law state then the rules about what your spouse and you can own might change. For community property states, spouses typically together will own anything together that is acquired while they are married. In other states, each spouse will typically own whatever is in his or her own name. Moving to a community property state means that the state could treat your property as if it had been acquired within the community property state and this might not be what you and your spouse wanted.

Another aspect of updating your estate plan when you move to a new location has to do with your executor. Your executor might also be called your personal representative but this is the person who you name in your will to wrap up your estate administration after you pass away. This person could pay the bills, collect the property, make tax payments, and distribute what remains for people named in the will. Some states have clear restrictions about who can serve as your executor, so even if your will is still valid, you might want to generate a new one, naming a different person as an executor. You can ask all of these questions with your experienced estate planning lawyer.     

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Does the State Get Everything If I Pass Away Without A Will?

There are plenty of different reasons to use an estate planning lawyer to help you write a will, but worrying about the state claiming entitlement to all of the inheritance you leave behind should not be one of them. The legal term for passing away without a will is known as dying intestate.

State law does kick in and each state has unique rules about who inherits what. But many people are under the false impression that the state claims all of the property and either sells it or distributes it based on their needs. In some states, a surviving spouse and minor children will share the assets of a deceased parent, but this depends on your individual state laws. Typically, a spouse and children are first in line to inherit.

One of the most important things you can do is to write up a will. Even if the state doesn’t get your money regardless, you still want to have a say over who does. Do not leave that decision up to state law and interpretation from a third party who is not familiar with you and your unique family dynamics.

Work together with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer to discuss how a will can help address many of the common concerns related to the closing out of your estate.     

If You Have Children, You Need A Will

You might have heard in the past that it is extremely important to put together the most basic of estate planning tools; a will if you have children. If you pass away without a will, the state is responsible for making many of the decisions about your property and who will take care of your kids.

Superhero children against summer sky background. Kids having fun outdoors. Boy and girl playing. Success and winner concept

Putting together your own will after sitting down with an estate planning lawyer gives you more of a say about the property that you will leave behind to your kids and who is appointed to take care of them. There are five primary reasons you need to consider using a will in your estate planning. These include:

  • A will enables you to name a guardian for your minor children if something were to happen to you or to you and your partner. This opinion can be extremely important if there are differing opinions in your family about who the guardian should be.
  • A will allows you to name a guardian for the finances of the children. A person will also have to be appointed to take care of your children’s finances if you pass away.
  • You can decide who will wrap up your estate and serve as an executor.
  • You can use your will to set up long term management for the property that you pass on to your children.
  • A will determines who will receive what and who should get nothing. If you have specific wishes about how your property is to be passed on to your children, a will is the most appropriate way to do this.

Your executor will have to make judgment calls about certain types of your property but hiring an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you to address many of these questions and concerns promptly.    

Billionaires Are Living Longer: What Does This Mean for Estate Planning?

Tom Benson passed away in 2018 at age 90. He left behind a significant empire that included multiple car dealerships and two professional sports teams out of New Orleans. Sadly, however, many of the last years of his life were spent with his heirs arguing over who is entitled to receive what. The legal battle was sparked by claims that Benson was not mentally competent when he made significant changes to his existing estate plans.

venality businessman or banker in black costume throw open one’s shirt packed heap gold money

Two of his grandchildren and his daughter argued that he was acting under the guidance of his third wife. The claims were rejected and the Louisiana court agreed. This kind of complicated battle could face a growing number of people established as billionaires in the United States. At least 15 billionaires passed away in 2018, leaving a collective amount of assets of $60 billion behind. This could come with complicated asset nature such as sports teams, properties, business interests, planes, yachts, and more. The number of US billionaires has grown as of late, and the rich are living longer than ever, adding further years of asset accumulation. The fight over an estate can prove especially difficult for loved ones who wish to grieve and move on from the loss of a family member. Scheduling a consultation with an estate planning attorney can help you identify some of the points of conflict that could emerge in your estate plan.