Your Estate Plan is Your Decision, Not Your Lawyer’s

Decisions
A counselor-at-law helps you understand the consequences of your options; only you can make the decision.

Have you ever noticed that some attorneys refer to themselves as “Joe Smith, Counselor-at-law,” instead of Attorney or Attorney-at-law? And, in court, the judge and opposing attorneys refer to attorneys as “Counselor.” When you get in trouble with the law, you’re advised to seek legal counsel. And large companies have “In-house Counsel.” Do you notice a theme there?

We attorneys ARE counselors. That’s our primary job – to advise people of their rights and options, counsel them on the pros and cons of the various options, and then do the best legal job possible once the client has chosen his or her course of action.

Yet, I occasionally talk with people who want me to TELL them what to do. “The attorney I met with ten years ago – I can’t remember his name – asked me a bunch of questions and told me I needed xxxxx. Thirty minutes later I was out the door. Then four weeks later I came back in to sign the documents his paralegal put in front of me. I never even read them until about a year ago when I got sick. I figure it’s probably time to update them. So, tell me what I need.”

Or, after I’ve spent hours explaining the pros and cons of various options, the person looks at me and says, “Tell me what to do.”

No, no, no. That’s not what an attorney is supposed to do. As long as you have the mental capacity to understand what I’m explaining to you, and the ability to make a rational decision, YOU must decide what you’re going to hire me to do for you. Again, I can and will explain the consequences of different options, but ultimately the decision is yours.

You hire attorneys to give you advice and counsel, not to make your decisions for you. Step up and be an adult.

Other articles you may find interesting:

A Health Care Surrogate’s Powers

How To Disinherit A Child

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Get a Damn Prenup!!

In this video, Cindy discusses why everyone who remarries after death or divorce should have a prenup for estate planning reasons.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Should Your Attorney Keep Your Original Will?

Durable Power of Attorney: What You Need to Know

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Estate Planning Checklist, Especially for Procrastinators

Many people don’t think of themselves as having an “estate.” However, a house, car, savings account, life insurance, and all the possessions you own are an estate. If, after years of procrastinating, you finally did the right thing and had an estate plan created with an experienced estate planning attorney, is there anything else you need to do? Yes, says Federal News Network in the article “Good at putting things off? Here’s the last checklist you’ll ever need!”

Where should you keep your estate planning documents? These documents need to be kept in a relatively secure location that is known to the people who will need access to them. An original Will might be kept at home in a fire and waterproof safe, or at your attorney’s office. Each estate planning attorney has his or her own process and can make recommendations. A Will placed in a safe deposit box may create huge headaches if the box is sealed upon death. Remember that people will need easy access to some documents, like a Living Will or a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, so they should be stored somewhere in the home where they can be grabbed in an emergency.

Who should have a copy of my estate plan? This is a personal preference. Some people give a copy to all heirs and to their personal representative (executor) and successor trustee. Others prefer to keep it private. It’s essential that the persons who will be your personal representative and successor trustee knows where your Will and Trust are and can get access to them quickly.

Update beneficiary designations. Many assets are governed not by the Will or Trust, but by the beneficiary designations on the accounts. That may include retirement accounts, annuities, IRAs, life insurance, and possibly bank accounts and investment accounts. Check them every few years, especially if there have been divorces, marriages, deaths, or new members added to the family.

Review how your assets are titled. If there are assets owned as “joint with right of survivorship,” they will not pass through probate and will become owned by the joint owner upon death. Sometimes this works well for large accounts, but sometimes it backfires. Talk with your estate planning lawyer.

How long does my estate plan last? An estate plan does not have an expiration date and must be reviewed periodically.

When should I amend my estate plan? Anytime there is a large change in the law, such as the passage of the SECURE Act at the very end of 2019, the estate plan should be reviewed. The SECURE Act has changed the rules about IRA distributions for heirs. Anyone with a sizable IRA should review their plan.

Any time there is a large event in your life your estate plan should be reviewed. Those events include a death, birth, marriage, or divorce. If the person you had named as your personal representative or successor trustee, or who had been given Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy is no longer in your life or is no longer trusted, you also want to review and change these documents.

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

What’s the Big Deal About Supreme Court Reform?

In this video, Cindy discusses why the current President’s election promises regarding “Supreme Court reform,” as well as his recent statements and Executive Order, are a big deal.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

How Much Money Is Needed for Long-Term Care?

Mind Your Business

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Probate Even When There’s a Trust

funding a trust
Trusts aren’t magical – it takes some work to make sure they work properly.

I came across this article the other day and thought it was worth sharing and discussing because the situation comes up A LOT!

Here’s the beginning of the article:

Dear Len & Rosie,

Mother died and my sisters and I are her co-executors and co-trustees. We were told by the bank that we are unable to open an estate account to access any of her funds unless we put the estate in probate. Why did we have to have a trust if the estate still has to go through probate? When my mother made her trust she was assured that there would be no probate and that she wouldn’t put her children through what she went through when my father died. Are there any banks that will honor the will and trust as she made them?

I don’t want to ask her attorney because it costs so much. Where are my civil liberties if no matter what mother wanted done with her hard earned money, the court gets to make the final ruling? Why are lawyers telling people to set up living wills and trusts if they do not protect our personal rights?

Mimi

The lawyers in the article discuss CA law, not FL law, so disregard any specifics they gave. FL probate laws are very different – if you die with more than $10,000 in your individual name, your estate will likely need to go through the probate process.

But Mimi’s letter shows the confusion that arises when the assets of someone who spent the time and money to create a trust end up in probate. As the lawyers said, we don’t know what was said between Mom and her lawyer. We don’t know what kind of trust she had – was it a cheap 8-page boilerplate trust that a paralegal prepared after a 15-minute conversation with Mom, or a 90-page custom trust that a lawyer spent hours creating just for Mom? Did the lawyer explain the importance of funding the trust (retitling all assets into the name of the trust)? Did Mom think Dad was going to take care of that, but he didn’t? Did Mom understand what she was supposed to do?

Who knows.

The lesson to be learned is that if Mimi had sat down with Mom and her estate planning or elder law attorney, this issue could have been discovered and corrected before Mom died.

As with most everything in life, if you’re not being proactive, you’re going to be forced to be reactive.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Shorter Isn’t Always Better

Why Would I Need a Durable Power of Attorney?

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Are Bump Stocks Legal Again?

In this video, Cindy discusses the current state of bump stock law. On the day after Christmas in 2018, the ATF reversed its previous rulings that bump stocks were not covered under the National Firearms Act, and passed a rule that made thousands of people who had purchased a legal gun accessory felons. Lawsuits fighting that rule have been bouncing around the courts. Here’s where things stand now.

Oh, in Florida, the federal rule really doesn’t matter at this moment since our legislators included a bump stock ban in the atrocious knee-jerk reaction known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act. If the federal rule is eventually overturned, maybe someone will be able to overturn Florida’s law, but the courts generally allow states to be more restrictive than the feds when it comes to gun laws.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

You Can’t Have Your THC-Infused Cupcake and Eat it Too

Why You Might Not Get What’s in Mom’s Will

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Workshops Discontinued as of April 2021

We’ve been offering free estate planning and elder law workshops for months – even during the COVID pandemic. But we’ve decided to stop offering workshops to the public at this time (we will still work with financial advisors to give private workshops to their clients).

Why? Basically we realized that offering a generic workshop was really just a way of trying to squeeze every unique individual and family into a “one-size-fits-all” box. And we hate classifying people into discrete boxes.

Each one of you is different and has unique situations and needs. We realized we were forcing people who had absolutely no interest or need for trusts or Medicaid to sit through a lengthy presentation that didn’t apply to their situation. That’s a waste of everyone’s time.

From the beginning, our law firm has been focused on providing customized estate plans (done by a lawyer, not a paralegal) and excellent customer service. We provide hours of our time for each family so we can truly understand your situation. We don’t advertise as “affordable” or “cheap,” and we don’t provide our clients with minimal 2-page Durable Powers of Attorney or 8-page trusts. Our plans and our documents are very thorough – we consider them your instruction manuals for when you’re not around.

So, we’re going back to basics. New clients who call us will be scheduled a free 15-min phone call with Cindy to briefly discuss their situation. Cindy will then discuss possible next steps and give a rough idea of pricing (we provide flat fee pricing for most of our estate planning services). If it seems like a good fit for everyone, then a phone, Zoom, or in-person meeting is scheduled to provide more education pertinent to your particular situation, gather more information, and finalize the terms of engagement.

You are unique and so are we. No more “one-size-fits-all.”

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late

In this video, Cindy discusses why you should regularly review your estate planning documents. You may discover you don’t have what you think you do.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Gun Trusts Are Not a Shield

Don’t Put Money into Property You Don’t Own

Ready to make sure everything’s in order for your loved ones in the event you become incapacitated or die? Give Manasota Elder Law a call at 941-444-5958. We’ll help you determine whether you’re all set, or whether there are still some things that need to be done to protect what’s most important to you … your family.

Should Your Attorney Keep Your Original Will?

Original Will
Some lawyers will store your original Will, others won’t.

When I was a newly-minted lawyer, I sought and welcomed advice from more experienced estate planning attorneys. I still do. Over and over again I heard “Keep your client’s original Will.” When I asked why, I received many answers, among them:

  • Clients lose them;
  • Clients write on them (can make the Will invalid);
  • We’ve always done it that way;
  • Clients expect us to keep them;
  • When the client dies, the family will have to call us for the original Will (for probate); and
  • We can sell all of the Wills to another lawyer when we want to retire.

Some of the answers seemed reasonable, but then I also heard about the costs and problems of keeping all of those Wills. You see, they have to hold onto them because they have no way to know who’s still alive, who’s dead, or who did a new Will with another lawyer. So they pile up. And as lawyers change firms or retire, and as firms buy each other out, the storage problems get worse. Some records are stored on paper, microfiche, and even old floppy disks. Boxes and boxes are stored offsite (not in fire-proof safes) incurring more expenses for the law firm. And the new administrative assistant can’t find a particular Will when someone is looking for it.

So, while I did keep some of my clients’ original Wills when I first started out, I stopped pretty quickly. I do keep a PDF copy for a few years, but I send all of my clients’ original documents home with them. Who better to protect their important documents from fire and hurricanes than the owner of those documents? And it’s so much easier for families to find an original Will in a safe or file cabinet than to try to track down the lawyer who drafted it 20 years ago and hope someone knows where that Will is stored. I don’t believe in holding Wills hostage in the hope that the bereaved family will call my office when probate is needed. I want people to call me because they want excellent service.

So, should your lawyer keep your original Will? In Florida, there’s no requirement that he or she does. It’s really up to your lawyer … and you.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Whose Estate Plan Is It, Anyway?

What is an Antilapse Statute?

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***

Mind Your Business

In this video, Cindy discusses why you need to take your business seriously, maintain all the appropriate documentation, and disclose your ownership interests and any requested documents with your estate planning attorney to avoid potential future problems.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Preparing to Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

***Want to learn more about how to protect your family from the government, lawsuits, accidental disinheritance, or nursing homes? Click THIS LINK to book a seat at one of our upcoming fun and educational workshops.***