New Retirement Study Shows Importance of Getting Financial Help

A new study has found that the retirement savings rate significantly improves when employees and workers get help with the bigger picture of their financial life. Employees who had access to ongoing coaching and insight for all aspects of their financial lives saw a retirement plan contribution rate increase up to 9.4% of their pay in 2018 when compared with 2013 numbers of 6.3%.

The words Retirement Plan circled in red with a list of saving and debt obligations surrounded by graphs, charts, books and pencils.

Those who reported being on track to achieve their retirement planning goals also jumped from 21% in 2013 up to 57% in 2018. This makes it even more important for workers to understand how to get advice about all money related matters. The study looked at more than 2,400 employees who had access to coaching. Financial wellness also improved during the five year period that they received personalized assistance.

The employees with the greatest levels of financial stress have foundational level issues, such as building an emergency fund, issues like cash flow and debt management. Having a bigger and better perspective on your entire financial life and including estate planning and other important provisions can help you to feel more confident about your future. Schedule a consultation today with an experienced estate planning lawyer to talk more about how retirement plan is a part of your overall estate plan and what it can mean for you as well as your beneficiaries.      

How Can I Tell If A Will Was Revoked or Replaced?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will does not expire but identifying different versions that replaced an older one or finding a will that at some point was revoked can be very important to heirs and beneficiaries.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.  

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.       

Did You Do Your Part for April’s Financial Literacy Month?

According to Schwab’s 2017 Modern Wealth Survey, plenty of people are simply uncomfortable talking about their finances with their family and friends. However, if any of these people play an important role such as personal representative, executor, trustee or beneficiary in your own estate plan, it could be a big mistake to skip out on these important topics.

According to the study, nearly 60% of Americans would rather discuss politics with their friends and family than finances. Starting the conversation about money with your entire family could help to lay the ground work in the event that any of them play a role in your financial future.

Many children report wishing after their parents have passed away that they would have known more about their parents’ intended estate plans so that they could effectively honor the loved one’s wishes or understand the decision process that got their family member to that point.

But many people skip over the process of talking about financial matters, keeping beneficiaries and other key stakeholders in the dark. As retirement planning and estate planning become more immediate financial concerns as you get older, it could be beneficial to discuss your estate planning options and plans with your loved ones, family and friends. Talking with your estate planning attorney can help to get this conversation going and assist you with understanding some of the best ways to approach this topic.         

Will Deferring My Social Security Payments Really Make A Difference?

Research shows that people who have average health and moderate levels of wealth will be better off deferring their Social Security benefits until age 70, when they can. However, approximately 90% of those who are eligible to get those benefits, claim them before the full benefit age of 67.

Of course there are many different reasons why you might choose to take Social Security early, including limited financial resources, considerations having to do with a spouse, poor health or even concern about the possibility of social security’s general survival. However, many people are not fully optimizing this decision and setting themselves up for success with their financial future in retirement. Academic research suggests that psychology could be behind why so many people are electing their Social Security benefits early.

This involves the human preference to take an immediate reward over a future one. Deciding what other aspects you could use or tap into as you get older could be an important component of deciding when it makes sense to take Social Security. Sitting down and calculating out the various resources to pull from in your older years could help you make an informed decision about what is truly best for you.      

You Do Have an Estate!

Many people are under the impression that if they do not have significant assets that meet the estate tax laws in their country that they do not have an estate. But no person is exempt from having a complicated, large or even messy estate. Even people who assume that they have very little still have a home, digital accounts, possessions, a car, bank accounts and important sentimental items. Unfortunately, with a busy day to day life, it can easily seem like estate planning is not a top priority but you still must make one to make things easier for your heirs.

Business person standing near a blank billboard

Some of the most important things you can do to begin the estate planning process are to review the people who you’ve already named to carry out specific duties and to review the names of those people who will receive benefits if something were to happen to you. Any key decisions you’ve made in the past regarding your estate planning could even include listing beneficiaries on retirement plan accounts or life insurance policies. These have significant potential consequences for the future.

Your estate plan can also benefit from regular and routine maintenance accomplished by sitting down with a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer to discuss whether or not changes in your life should prompt you to update materials and documents that are no longer in line with your family situation or your goals.     

Solving the Password Problem with Digital Estate Planning

In the digital stage, estate administration requires going one step further and ensuring that you have an appropriate strategy to share the passwords to your email and online accounts as well as your computer. Things can get complicated for your personal representative, estate executor or family members if you haven’t thought this process through.

cryptocurrency. bitcoin with us dollars and calculator

Many people today receive financial statements electronically. Increasingly, plenty of people have dozens of online accounts as well and many of these have different passwords in order to decrease the chances of identity theft or being hacked. Having online access to investments and other financial details is a convenience of living in the modern age.

However, many of these sites now require complex and comprehensive passwords to access these online details. This can create unintended consequences and difficulties for an executor who must be able to gain access to each individual account in order to distribute those assets to trustees or heirs based on the language listed in the decedent’s will.

This even played out recently in a news story when the CEO of a Canadian cryptocurrency exchange passed away suddenly without having ever shared the password to the cold storage locker for that exchange. This meant that the nearly $200 million in crypto currency assets were completely inaccessible and investors might never be able to see those funds again. Sharing your passwords and documenting them in a safe and secure manner is an important component of the estate planning process.     

Are Baby Boomers Overconfident About Long Term Care Planning?

Too many baby boomers have looked ahead to plan for their retirement but have neglected how long term care expenses could influence their ability to have a comfortable life after their working years.

A recent Banker’s Life study found that 74% of baby boomers felt confident in their ability to handle future health care costs, and yet the government estimates that the average cost of long-term care for a retiree in total is $138,000. Up to 80% of respondents in that same Banker’s Life study said they had no money set aside for the retirement health care needs.

For those who did have long term care savings earmarked, the median amount was just $40,000. While most people are familiar with the person who has needed long term care in retirement, and many know that they cannot count on family members or friends for around the clock care, this raises the question of whether or not baby boomers are overconfident.

The misplaced confidence that baby boomers have about their health care costs has led to many of them investing more in estate planning rather than long term care planning. Just one-third of survey respondents had less than a $1000 set aside for emergencies and half of the respondents had less than $5000 in their emergency fund.

The overwhelming confidence that baby boomers have in their ability to plan for the future could be misplaced and could expose them to serious risks in the future. Schedule a consultation with an estate planning and long term care planning lawyer to learn more about how strategies and tools can help to protect you.

Could Last-Minute Will Changes or Death Bed Gifts Cause Problems for Your Heirs?

The themes of making a last minute change to your will or changing a gift on your death bed might seem interesting or a great storyline for a movie, but these can cause many more families to end up in a state litigation which could potentially decimate the value of your overall estate you intended to pass on to heirs.

Young pair quarrel in park

Incorporating plans at the last minute might be a necessity because your circumstances could have changed significantly in that period of time. However, if you fail to properly explain or carry out these estate planning changes, your loved ones could end up in court, battling over the validity of your will.

These problems won’t be ones that you’ll be around to deal with, but extended litigation could mean that your estate administrator ends up probating and dealing with many of challenges of these problems, while draining the value of your overall estate.

It’s a much better idea to schedule regular consultations with your estate planning attorney in which you can discuss potential issues and decide what is most appropriate for your individual situation. On an annual basis or as regular changes in your life occur, you can sit down with your estate planning lawyer and walk through what to anticipate and how to approach this process by making updates that will reduce the chances of estate planning litigation.

What to Remember When Selecting a Minor’s Guardian

A major concern for parents of minor children is who will be appointed in the will to take care of the child if the parents pass away. If both of the parents play a relatively equal role in raising the child together, whether it is through the participation of both, or in the case of divorce or separation, individual time with each parent for the child. Your will is the best way to plan ahead for this potential situation.


The primary concern for both active parents is what happens if both of them were to pass away. In situations in which only one parent is active, it is equally important to ensure that an individual is named in the will so that the child is well cared for.

Major issues associated with who will raise the child and who is responsible for supervising property left to the child come up in the estate planning conversation and process you discuss with an attorney.

Make sure you think about the person who is the best choice to serve in this role, someone who is comfortable serving in the job, and whether or not there are any potential conflicts that could emerge in this or other situations.

Estate planning is often complicated and can heighten emotions and increase the potential for conflict if you have not chosen the person who is comfortable serving in this role because he or she does not understand all of the true implications of what is being asked of them.