Whose Estate Plan Is It, Anyway?

In this video, Cindy discusses why sometimes you should limit family members’ or outside influences’ involvement in your estate plan.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Naming a Family Member as Successor Trustee: Pros & Cons

How Can I Move On after a Loved One Dies?

***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.***

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

House being taken away
If you put money into property and don’t have ownership or a legal contract for repayment, you could be out of luck. And money.

A client called me the other day asking whether I could draft a Will for his brother. I explained that, if his brother asked me, I could certainly do so. Seemed like a simple thing, but then he explained further and things ended up far away from simple.

Apparently, his brother owned a house he wasn’t living in, and it had been headed into foreclosure since he couldn’t afford the payments on the mortgage. Or the taxes. Or the insurance. My client, who had his heart in the right place, didn’t want his brother to lose the house. My client had the (mistaken) belief that if the house was foreclosed on, his brother would not only lose the house, but also the house he was living in, his car, and any other pittance he had in bank accounts. So, my client took money out of his own retirement funds to pay the back mortgage, taxes, and insurance. He also then started putting money  – and his own physical labor – into fixing up the property so it could be sold.

His thought was that if they could sell the house for a decent amount, he could recoup what he spent when the house was sold, and his brother would have a little nest egg after the mortgage was paid off.

But then my client heard on the news that a very young man with no prior health conditions died of COVID-19 within days. His brother works with the public and chooses not to wear a mask. Panic set in when my client realized that if his brother died before the house was sold, he may never get his money back. His brother had no Will, and his children would inherit all of his property at his death.

I had to tell my client that a simple Will would not solve the problem. Sadly, all the possible solutions would be more complicated and costly than if my client had consulted with an attorney before spending any money.

Moral of the story? Don’t spend a single penny on property that you don’t own unless you’re okay with losing that money. Or, spend a few bucks and consult with an attorney to find out how to protect yourself.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Dying Alone and Forgotten

Death Quest: The Morbid Scavenger Hunt

***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.***

Preparing to Meet with an Estate Planning Attorney

In this video, Cindy discusses how to prepare before meeting with an estate planning attorney, so your time is used effectively.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Co-Owning Real Estate: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Deciding Who to Name as Your Personal Representative

***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.***

Gun Trusts Are Not a Shield

In this video, Cindy discusses some common misconceptions about gun trusts.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Corporation to Own NFA Firearms

Can a Person Under 21 Use a Gun Trust to Buy a Gun?

***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.***

Beware of COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

COVID-19 scams are everywhere.
Beware of scammers promising early access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Fear has a way of making people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.

The COVID-19 panic has resulted in a spate of scams exploiting and targeting the fearful – especially older Americans. First it was white-jacketed people knocking on doors promising delivery of COVID test kits. Now we’ll likely see people promising the undereducated, the isolated, and the unwary early delivery of the COVID vaccine – for a small fee, of course. Or perhaps they’ll just ask for a bit of personal information, such as your date of birth, social security number, etc. You know – to “verify” your identity or eligibility for this special deal.

This article is from a TX news outlet, but the advice applies to everyone:

  • Research carefully,
  • Check with your doctor,
  • Ignore calls for immediate action, and
  • Double-check the link (hover over it to see the address) before opening it.

Additionally, report any suspected scams to family members, neighborhood social media pages, and your state Attorney General.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Everything You Eat, Drink, Do, Don’t Do, and Are May or May Not Cause Dementia

Simple Safety Tips for Seniors

***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.***

What’s a Restatement of a Trust?

Restatement vs. amendment
Changing the terms of a revocable trust agreement is known as “amending” the trust. A restatement is essentially a complete amendment of your trust.

Many people opt to include revocable living trusts as part of their estate plan. They have many benefits, including probate avoidance, ease of administration when you become incapacitated or die, protection for surviving spouses and children, and privacy. But another plus is that they can be changed whenever you want!

Changing the terms of a revocable trust agreement is known as “amending” the trust. The document you’ll execute will generally be titled something like “First Amendment to the Smith Family Trust,” and may be as little as one or two pages long. An amendment is generally appropriate when you’re only making one or two minor changes to your trust – perhaps changing your successor trustees, or adding a beneficiary. The amendment acts as a patch to your trust; the trustees and beneficiaries must read the original trust agreement, and then understand how the changes made in the amendment affect the original trust agreement. Both documents must be kept as long as the trust is in effect.

But if you want to make more extensive changes to your trust – such as changing the way beneficiaries receive their inheritance, removing beneficiaries, adding a corporate trustee, and changing what state law guides the trust, “restating” your trust may be more appropriate. A restatement is essentially a complete amendment of your trust. Basically, you’re keeping the framework – the trust’s name, original date, and original Grantors (trustmakers) – but ripping out the guts and re-writing the trust the way you want it now. The document you’ll execute will generally be titled something like “Restatement of the Smith Family Trust,” and will be many pages long (if you have a good trust). The old trust agreement is discarded and completely replaced with the restatement.

If you’ve accumulated a collection of amendments to your trust, there’s a very good chance your trust won’t do what you think it’ll do when you die. If you think of each amendment as a patch, each patch provides an opportunity for your trust to “leak,” or result in ambiguity (confusion). Ambiguity and confusion leads to arguments and lawyers. Or, perhaps you wouldn’t like your children or grandchildren to see all the changes you made to their inheritances over the years.  At your death, your beneficiaries are entitled to a copy of your trust and all amendments. A restatement can solve those problems because now there’s just one recent document to read and understand – not two or more spanning decades of changes.

What about cost? As usual, that varies. Amendments are usually very customized and require actual typing from scratch, so they’re very time-consuming. Time = $$$ in the legal world. Restatements can be drafted fairly quickly and easily with specialized legal software – especially if the attorney drafted the original trust with that same software. So, like most estate planning work, the cost will likely depend on your situation.

But now, when you’re ready to make some changes to your revocable living trust, you’ll have a better idea of what your estate planning attorney is talking about when he or she discusses amendments and restatements.

Other articles you may find interesting:

What is an ABLE Account?

Naming a Family Member as Successor Trustee: Pros & Cons

***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.***

How Can I Move On after a Loved One Dies?

Grieving has no time limit. But sometimes doing tasks can help you move through the grieving process.

There are no rules about when you should “get back to normal” or “move on” after a loved one dies. Everyone deals with grief differently. But there are many financial and legal tasks that will require your immediate attention, and sometimes dealing with menial tasks can help you move through the grieving process.

Here are some things that will need to be done:

  • Gather important information, such as the deceased’s Social Security number, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce decree, and military discharge papers.
  • Locate the deceased person’s original “wet-ink” Will (and Trust, if applicable).
  • Obtain at least 10 copies of the death certificate. In Florida, we have both short-form (no cause of death listed) and long-form death certificates. Generally, only life insurance companies require the long-forms in case there’s a suicide, workplace death, or something else that voids the policy. Everyone else will require a short-form due to privacy laws. So, request a long-form for each life insurance policy and lots of short-forms for everything else.
  • Inform the Social Security office about the death (if the funeral home didn’t) and file a Social Security benefits claim form to qualify for the death benefit. Surviving spouses will also want to find out what will happen to their benefits due to the death of their spouse.
  • Notify the deceased person’s supplemental Medicare insurance plan of the death of the insured (Social Security will notify Medicare and Florida Medicaid, but not any supplemental health insurance companies).
  • Find the titles and registrations for all automobiles. If there’s a loan, find the loan documents. If leased, find the lease contract.
  • Print out up-to-date statements for all bank, brokerage and retirement accounts.
  • Find all evidence of debts and their balances – loans, credit cards, mortgages, medical bills, etc.
  • Find the beneficiary forms for all insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k)s, bank accounts, annuities, and investment accounts.
  • Deposit the deceased’s original Will (if there is one) with the Probate Court in the county of the deceased person’s residence, even if no probate is expected. Make a copy first because the clerk will keep the original. In Florida, there’s generally no charge to deposit a Will.
  • File a death claim with the deceased’s life insurance company, if applicable.
  • Request, complete, and submit paperwork for any accounts that named you as a beneficiary.
  • Contact the Employer’s Benefits department about survivorship pension, health insurance, unpaid salary and life insurance benefits, if applicable.
  • Change the name on the utilities, if applicable.
  • If the deceased person was a party to an ongoing lawsuit, or the beneficiary of a probate that hasn’t yet settled, gather all the pertinent paperwork.
  • Prepare a preliminary monthly budget and income summary.
  • Contact an experienced estate planning or probate attorney to determine whether a probate and/or trust administration will be needed. While trust administration is much less onerous than probate, Florida does have some legal requirements for trustees after a person dies.

Be aware that anyone convicted of a felony – anywhere, anytime – cannot serve as a Personal Representative (known as an Executor in other states) in a probate under Florida law.

Hold off for a bit before you retitle any joint accounts into your name only  – random checks made payable to the deceased can appear for a few weeks after death as things settle out and you’ll want to be able to deposit them.

Contact your financial advisor about transferring any inherited IRAs into your name and taking out a required minimum distribution (RMD), if applicable. New beneficiaries should also be named and title for any real estate previously held jointly with the deceased should be updated (your  estate planning attorney can assist you with that).

And don’t forget about taxes. A final income tax return may need to be filed, and if the deceased person was very wealthy, you may also need to file a federal estate tax return within nine months of death.

You don’t need to go it alone. Contact an experienced estate planning/estate administration lawyer for help.

Other articles you may find interesting: 

How Family Dysfunction Can Wreck Your Estate Plan

Why is This Probate Taking So Long?

***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.***

Death Quest: The Morbid Scavenger Hunt

In this video, Cindy discusses the sad, frustrating process most people have to go through after a loved one dies.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Bad Things Happen to Young People, Too

What Happens When a Beneficiary Form Doesn’t Match the Will or Trust?

***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.***

Dying Alone and Forgotten

Dying, End-of-life
If you have no family members willing and able to help you when you need it most, you’ll have to rely on strangers.

This is a difficult article to write, but it’s too important not to. Nothing in this article is intended as criticism – it’s merely a fact-based look at what can happen when certain choice are made or circumstances happen.

We estate planning and elder law attorneys preach preparation all the time. “Make sure you have your legal documents in order,” “Let your kids know what you want,” “Simplify and organize your life to make things easier when you’re not around.” But, more and more often, I come across people who want to do these things, but hit a roadblock because they have no one they can rely on to help them if they become incapacitated or die.

In some cases, it’s due to circumstances beyond their control. Perhaps they couldn’t have children, or their spouse and children predeceased them. Perhaps they were a childless only child and have no siblings, nieces or nephews. Or maybe they’ve outlived their siblings and friends. Maybe their only child is a homeless drug addict.

In other cases, it’s due to choices they made during their lives. Many people are choose not to marry, and/or not to have children. Sometimes people become estranged from their family members or even disown their children for a multitude of reasons.

Whatever the cause, the result is the same – you will likely end up alone, with strangers handling your money and your health care decisions, and deciding how and where you’ll live.

When you have no family willing and able (physically and financially) to take on the responsibilities of caring for you if you become ill or suffer from dementia, and no one to administer your estate when you die, the government will find someone and pay them a certain amount of money per hour with your money. If you have no money, the state government will pay that person a very minimal fee. Unfortunately, because we’re in a very senior-dense area, most of these professional guardians have many people they’re paid to look after.

If you have some assets (generally $500,000 or more), you can take some steps now to prevent guardianship over your finances and maintain some professional control over your assets. Search for  “trust companies” in your area and start reaching out to them to find out how they work, what their fees are, etc. Your local bank or investment firm may also have a trust company you can look into.

Proactively finding someone to make your health care decisions is quite a bit harder. It’s such a personal thing. Trust companies, attorneys, banks, etc. won’t take on that responsibility. Search for “care manager” or “geriatric care manager” in your area and reach out to them. Some will allow you to name them or their firm in your legal documents, and others can help you find someone to name.

As you can see, none of these options are pleasant or optimal. If there’s any way to mend fences with children or other family members, please seriously consider doing so. Don’t choose to die alone and forgotten.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Long-Term Care: Plan Before It’s Too Late

Unique Veterans Benefits in Your State – 2020

Would you like to learn more about estate planning, elder law, asset protection planning, probate, and Medicaid planning in an informal, no-obligation setting?

To sign up for one of our free, educational workshops CLICK HERE.

Co-Owning Real Estate: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In this video, Cindy discusses how co-ownership of real estate can affect your estate plan.

Other articles/videos you may find interesting:

Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples

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.***