What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

What to Know During the Guardianship Nomination Process

If something happened to you and you were unable to take care of yourself or your children, who would step in? Ideally, it would be someone you chose. Nominating a guardian before something happens allows you to do just that.

What Is a Guardian?

Think back to school forms asking for a parent or legal guardian. A guardian is a person who takes care of someone else when that person is incompetent to handle their affairs on their own. This could be due to a serious injury or illness. When minor children are involved, they may need a guardian if both of their parents are incapacitated or pass away.

A guardianship will generally cover similar decisions to what a parent could make for a child — even when the person needing a guardian is an adult. This may include medical decisions and, for minors, other life decisions such as where to go to school.

Guardianships can also cover managing the person’s finances, but finances are sometimes broken up into a separate conservatorship. Exactly what a guardian or conservator can do will be spelled out when the court approves the guardianship or conservatorship.

How Is a Guardian Different From Godparents?

When your children were born or shortly after, you may have appointed godparents. Godparents are often expected to step in and take charge of the children if something happens to a parent, but appointing a godparent is largely a religious or ceremonial action. Godparents aren’t directly recognized under the law.

To give a godparent the legal authority to act, and avoid conflicts with other family members who may wish to step in instead, you will need to go through the legal process of appointing the godparents as guardians, trustees, or other legal roles.

How Is a Guardian Different from a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney might grant all of the powers that a guardian can exercise. The difference is mainly timing. You sign a power of attorney when you have full mental capacity. A guardian is only appointed after you’re incapacitated. Part of the guardianship appointment process can include reviewing the wishes you specified when you still had full mental capacity. However, a power of attorney cannot be executed if you have diminished mental capacity, and it may be voided if a court finds you lacked capacity when you signed it.

Because a power of attorney can be limited in scope based on how you had your lawyer word it, it may not cover all of the actions that need to be taken on your behalf. In those situations, a guardian would be appointed to fill in the gaps.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Yourself?

Like a person dying without a complete will, the law has default rules for how to select a guardian based on relationships and willingness to serve. The court will also consider the ability to do the job of each person who wants to be the guardian. This can lead to serious family conflicts and large legal bills when two family members wish to serve as the guardian and can’t come to an agreement.

To avoid these types of problems, you can nominate a guardian. The judge isn’t bound to follow your nomination but will give it great weight and will only overrule your nomination with a strong cause. The process is called nomination of guardian, and you can select any adult of sound mind. Like a will, the judge will review your selection to ensure you were mentally fit to make the decision and weren’t under duress or tricked into doing so.

How Do You Select a Guardian for Your Children?

The process for nominating a guardian for your children is similar to nominating a guardian for yourself. The only real difference is that it’s even more important to make your decision in advance so that your children can have a sense of stability and not be left hanging during long court battles.

You should, of course, also talk to potential guardians to see if they are willing to take on this responsibility. However, being nominated does not obligate the person to accept the judge’s appointment if the time ever comes. Therefore, you probably want to select at least one alternate.

Do You Need a Guardian If You Left a Trust for Your Children?

You may have set up a trust to provide for your children financially in case something happened to you. The trustee is then able to manage their financial affairs in accordance with the trust.

However, someone still needs to take custody of the children to manage their daily lives and important life decisions. This is where you need to nominate a guardian, and your estate planning documents should lay out the responsibilities of both the trustee and the guardian.

Who Supervises a Guardian?

Once appointed, a guardian must make regular reports to the court. This includes financial information as well as other major decisions. Other family members can also go to court to contest the guardianship if they believe the guardian is doing something improper.

What If There Is a Conflict Between a Guardianship and a Power of Attorney or Trust?

There should be no conflicts with a guardianship and power of attorney or trust because the court should appoint the guardian in consideration of other estate planning documents. The guardian should only carry out duties not already provided for. To avoid confusion, you should attach your other estate planning documents to your nomination of guardianship to ensure that the judge will be aware of their existence. If a power of attorney or trustee believes a guardian was appointed improperly or is going beyond their role, they can contest those actions in court.

Are There Downsides to Being a Guardian?

Whether a guardianship is for an adult or minor children, being appointed as a guardian is a major responsibility. Like a parent, it can mean making tough choices and sometimes needing to put the other person’s wellbeing before the guardian’s own. The nominated guardian will also need to go to court during the nomination process and will need to make ongoing reports to the court as long as they remain guardian. Being a guardian is a lifetime appointment unless the judge appoints someone else.

Does a Guardian Have to be Local?

A guardian can theoretically live anywhere in the world. However, the judge will want to make sure that the guardian will be able to effectively perform their responsibilities without being unduly impacted by long-distance. For minor children, since they will often go to live with the guardian, the judge may also consider how a move would impact their lives and their access to other family members. You can and should include your wishes on these issues in your planning documents so the judge can understand the choices you made and to avoid conflicts between family members.

If you’re relying on a long-distance guardian, you should also consider who will act in a sudden emergency such as you being rushed to a hospital. You may want to have an alternate power of attorney that gives a more nearby family member the power to act until your guardian is able to step in.

Who Pays for Legal Fees During Guardianship Proceedings?

Your appointed guardian should understand that they don’t have to take on legal costs. If you have liquid assets, the court will pay the attorneys reasonable fees from your funds — just like any other of your expenses would be handled. If you don’t have liquid assets, there is a special guardianship fund established by the government. In no cases does the appointed guardian pay for court fees, although you may wish to set aside money to cover other expenses they may face while acting as a guardian.

Please note that this is separate from creating your nomination of guardian documents. Those costs would be arranged between you and your attorney just like any other legal work.

How Quickly Can a Guardian Be Appointed?

Even for a nominated guardian who isn’t contested, the court process is usually measured in weeks if not months. During an emergency situation, your family could petition the court to appoint a temporary guardian pending full court review. This person could potentially be the guardian you nominated.

In more urgent circumstances, such as an emergency room doctor needing an immediate decision, any power of attorney or living will documents that you created and are readily available will be used. Otherwise, the hospital or other entity would attempt to contact your next of kin and follow their authority in accordance with local law.

Talk to an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

To learn more about how nominating a guardian fits in with your estate planning strategy or to start the nomination process, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney at Lilac City Law today.

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The Importance of Power of Attorney During Estate Planning

The Importance of Power of Attorney During Estate Planning

Your estate planning has many different parts that all need to move in the same direction in order to be successful. A vital part of this process is how to disseminate the various powers of attorney (POA). The POA will be one of the most important estate documents that you create, so you owe it to yourself to know as much as you can about it. Let’s take a look at just how important the POA is and how it will be used during the estate planning process.

What Is the Power of Attorney?

The power of attorney is the power to organize affairs on your behalf. There are different powers of attorney for different aspects of your life. For the purposes of this text, we will focus most on the financial POA, but there are also medical POAs and others that may apply during the estate process depending on circumstances.

In most cases, a power of attorney becomes effective immediately upon document execution. Contrary to popular belief, powers of attorney are not only for when a person becomes mentally incapable. In many cases, the POA document does not completely remove the power of the principal to manage their or her own affairs. The document simply grants the agent the power to act in place of the principal if needed. If the principal remains mentally competent, he can change the POA by replacing the agent or revoking the power totally.

However, the POA document truly becomes the most important document in the estate planning portfolio if a principal becomes somehow incapacitated or otherwise unable to handle their own affairs.

What Happens Without a Power of Attorney in Place

If a principal becomes incapable of handling their own affairs and has no power of attorney document in place, the family of the principal faces a potentially contentious situation. The POA document is the document on record of the wishes of the principal. Without it, there is no direct claim to the finances that the principal was in control of. Family members may begin to fight over the right to control things, especially if the estate is especially large or there are many valuable assets to consider.

In place of a designated person with the powers of attorney, the affected parties may agree to file for guardianship of the assets and property of the principal that has been disabled. Instead of simply following the wishes of the principal as mapped out in the POA, the family must now go through an often long and drawn-out court procedure.

The Process of Guardianship

During the court process of selecting a guardian, there will usually be a lawyer who is representing the Petitioner. The Petitioner is the individual who is looking to be named as the guardian. The Petitioner and their attorney will need to face, at the very least, an attorney who is in court to represent the rights of the person who has been disabled. No matter how close the family is, this process will likely generate thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to legally appoint the guardian.

Keep in mind also that a power of attorney document that is not clear may trigger this contentious process as well. You need to have the right attorney with the right experience in order to avoid these problems — just having a POA document that is not appropriate for your situation is not enough. A properly drafted power of attorney directly from the principal, while he is competent, is always preferable to a guardianship court proceeding.

Even when a legal guardianship is in place, the court maintains a Big Brother stance over the guardian to supervise the administration of the estate. Guardians are much less free to manage an estate than someone who is appointed through a power of attorney document. Guardians must always get the permission of the court to legally undertake many important assets that involve the estate, including paying the attorney’s fees for the procedure itself.

The court will also require that a guardian file an accounting of the estate on an annual basis. On top of this, a guardian must also file an inventory of the estate so that the court knows every activity that is taking place within the family estate. Having to report everything to the court undermines the very nature of a private estate, and it is much more expensive than a power of attorney transfer of responsibility. In most cases, the oversight of the court means that a family must employ more legal services in order to stay in compliance with regulations.

If you are in this sensitive situation, we can help you through it no matter who you may be up against. Do not hesitate to call us if you believe you have a legal claim to the estate of a family member who has been recently incapacitated.

Having an Effective POA

As mentioned before, the power of attorney that is set up by the principal must be well-drafted and relevant to the current situation. Otherwise, the court may trigger the guardianship process and all of the expenses and legal hassle that comes with it.

What makes a POA document effective during estate planning? Let’s take a look at the characteristics of an effective power of attorney.

  • Listing specific powers and limitations. A good power of attorney will list out the specific actions that an agent can take on behalf of a principal. Among these actions may be paying bills from the principal’s assets; managing those assets; selling all or part of the estate; and setting up various structures to avoid estate taxes. A principal may wish their estate to be used in a very specific way, and this is what the power of attorney should spell out in clear terms.
  • Language in the POA to persuade financial institutions to accept an agent. The financial institutions that did business with a principal are under no requirement to accept an agent, even from a properly worded POA. Many of these institutions now require language that is very specific in the POA to reaffirm that there is no funny business going on. Agents should also be prepared to reaffirm their responsibility, possibly on the financial institution’s proprietary forms.
  • Listing consolidated accounts. As a principal, if all of your accounts are kept spread out, your agent will have a tough time jumping through all of the hoops of the financial institutions want. Every bank is different. Consolidating accounts as you age not only helps to organize your family finances in the estate, but it also makes it easier to manage while you maintain control over them. You may want to list all of these accounts by name in the POA so that each financial institution can be more assured of your agent’s viability.
  • Decide on the type of POA. There are two major types of POAs that you can consider: the springing POA or the durable POA. The durable POA gives the power of attorney as soon as the principal signs it. The springing POA only takes effect in the event of a certain condition, such as the death, disability or incapacity of the principal. The timing of agent powers is a vital part of a POA. Without it, an agent may try to take over a principal’s estate too early and cause contention. Keep in mind that not all states allow springing POAs.
  • Define the conditions of incapacity. The last thing that you want is for someone else to determine when you are incapable of managing your own affairs. In your POA, you can name a medical professional to certify that you are incapacitated before your agent can take any action on your estate. This puts an added layer of protection in your POA, and it also gives your agent a good check against absolute power while you are still capable.
  • Establish oversight. Although your agent may have power of attorney, you can limit this right with certain oversights. The key is to make sure these oversights are written down specifically and fully clear to your attorney, to your agent, to the overseer and to anyone else who is involved in your estate.

Get Help with Powers of Attorney Today

The points above are just a few of the important aspects of the power of attorney document during estate planning. Every plan is different based on the individual needs of the estate. Make sure that you have the right attorney by your side when it is time to draft this essential document. Give us a call or an email with any questions that you may have about the process, or to get things started with your own POA. Time is of the essence, and there is no better time than now to get your affairs in order.

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Maximizing Tax Umbrellas for Estates

You have made it your life’s work to leave your family with substantial assets to provide for them after you are gone. Legacy is extremely difficult to build, but the estate tax law in the United States does not seem to take this into consideration.

Estate tax can rip as much as 40% of your family’s assets from them, depending on the value of your estate and its location in the country.

Right now is the time to protect your estate from federal and state taxes. If you take the time to create a well thought out plan, you can protect a great deal of the wealth than you have earned for your family.

Here are some powerful tips that you need to know.

Knowing Whether Your Estate Will Be Taxed

Estate taxes are not the same everywhere. Depending on the state you reside in, you do not have to be ultra-wealthy in order to be harshly taxed. Federal estate taxes have a minimum threshold that is in the million-dollar estate valuation, but states like Washington or Idaho can very easily tax middle-class families. If you are leaving behind any sort of investments, bank accounts, businesses, property or life insurance packages, the estate tax applies to you regardless of the size of that asset.

Also note, valuation is often subjective, and it is a discussion you should have with your estate planning attorney.  When it comes to estate taxes, you do not know whether the state will try to value your real estate or businesses higher than other sorts of appraisals – you should not leave it up to them to determine a fair valuation.

Geography is also something to take into account – if you live in a premium real estate location, just a couple of properties can push your entire estate value through the roof.  Sometimes this comes as a big surprise to the family after the passing of a loved one.  For example, the children of farmers often find themselves stuck with huge tax bills upon the death of a matriarch or patriarch because of the hidden value of the land on which the farm sits.

Providing Gifts and Charity the Smart Way

If you reduce the value of your estate through gifts to your children and grandchildren, that value cannot be counted against you for estate tax purposes. Every year, individuals save on the estate tax bill by giving away tens of thousands of dollars to their loved ones.

Moreover, making donations to charitable organizations is another great way to reduce your estate tax bill. These donations may also have an additional tax deduction attached to them. Donating to charity is a great way to ensure that the money you earn is used in the way that you prefer after you are gone.

Consult with your lawyer to learn how to maximize this benefit for your present taxes, as well as the ones that will impact your family after your passing.

Knowing When to Use Your Estate Tax Exemption

Everyone has a large (multimillion-dollar) tax exemption for estate taxes that can be used at any time, not only at the time of death. Knowing how to use the exemption can be an essential tool for reducing a tax bill before passing an asset on to a child.

So, what exactly is the estate tax exemption? Let’s say that you have an asset or an account that you expect to grow exponentially in the coming years. Right now, the value of that business is less than the estate tax minimum. In the future, you expect it to grow beyond this exemption. (In most cases, this type of asset will be a business.) Because you can use the lifetime exemption at any time, if you give away the business to a child or grandchild before it passes above the estate tax minimum limit, there will be no estate tax on the asset when you pass on.

Using a Trust Structure for Your Most Important and Valuable Assets

Establishing a trust is one of the best ways to avoid big out of pocket estate tax payments. Many people may hesitate at the idea of handing over large chunks of assets to others inside of a trust. However, the rules say that the person managing a trust can be a trusted family member, or even yourself.

A trust is one of the most sophisticated tax umbrella structures available to individuals. As such, it requires careful planning and coordination of care to establish & employ correctly. The type of trust that you choose can also make a difference.

If you are serious about preserving your legacy, it is essential that you craft your trusts with the right legal help.  

Using Life Insurance to Protect Your Assets

First, this is not financial advice.  However, life insurance is a conversation we often have with clients and there are certainly a lot of tie-ins to your insurance policies and a healthy estate plan. 

Some of the best life insurance policies, for high net worth individuals (HNWIs) for example, may include provisions for paying off any estate taxes that are due at the time of death. To enable this kind of benefit, you might want to, again, set up a trust.  Regardless, these financial maneuvers and plans should be discussed with your estate planning attorney. 

In short, using life insurance smartly is a great move for HNWIs who would be concerned about the effects of estate taxes on their heirs inheritance(s).

Additional Items to Consider Regarding Your Estate Taxes

Now that we have gone over a few strategies that you can employ to shield your assets from estate taxes, let’s go over a few things that you need to know so that you can go to your attorney as informed as possible.

  • A relatively new tax law (The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) allows you to give away slightly over $11 million over your lifetime in gifts that will not be taxed subsequently on your estate. This law will only last until the end of 2025. After that, it will fall back to $5 million, meaning that anything more that you give away may get taxed by the IRS starting in 2026.
  • If you are able to get your gifts to your loved ones before 2025, the United States Treasury and the IRS are likely to allow those transfers to stay as tax-favored gifts.
  • However, depending on your situation, using the “step-up” basis may actually save your family more money. The step-up basis allows an asset to be valued at its cost basis at the time of passage rather than at the time of acquisition. Stepping up the cost basis wipes out any paper profit the asset may have generated in the past, reducing the basis for the estate tax.

What Is the Answer? Get the Help That You Need Right Now.

We are here to help you with properly managing and maximizing the tax umbrellas available to you for your estate.

Protecting your estate is an ongoing responsibility – one that will require experienced legal assistance for the entire process of establishing your estate plan and modifying it over the coming years and decades, as necessary.

If you are ready to protect your hard-earned lifetime work, contact us today!

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Medicare vs. Medicaid: What’s the Difference?

Medicare vs. Medicaid: What’s the Difference?

Do you feel confused when people start talking about the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?

If so, you are not alone. One study found that only 4% of Americans could correctly explain the basic terms of their health insurance policy.

The thought of navigating the world of health insurance on your own may seem overwhelming. This is especially true as you approach your “Golden Years” and the reality of Medicare vs. Medicaid stares you in the face.

In this post, we will look at the difference between Medicaid and Medicare so you can make an informed decision. 

Understanding Medicare

Medicare is the primary health insurance provider for Americans over 65.

It can also provide coverage for those under 65 who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Medicare is composed of 4 major parts. Here’s a brief rundown of each one.

Medicare Part A

Part A is what most people think of when they hear the term “Medicare.”

It covers hospitalization for those over 65 as long as they (or their spouse) worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years.

For most enrollees, this aspect of Medicare is free. However, you still have to pay deductibles and co-pays for certain services.

Medicare Part B

If you are eligible for Part A, you are also eligible for the health insurance benefits offered by Medicare Part B.

Part B offers coverage for services and equipment that are medically necessary. These include doctor’s visits, x-rays, lab work, and outpatient procedures.

This aspect of Medicare is not free. The monthly premiums are usually deducted from your Social Security payments.

Medicare Part C

Many who enroll in Medicare Parts A and B also sign up for supplemental coverage through Part C.

Also called “Medicare Advantage,” Part C works much like a PPO or HMO plan you likely had during your working years. It may also include dental and vision plans.

Medicare Part D

The final piece of the Medicare puzzle is Part D, which covers the cost of prescription drugs.

It includes a combination of monthly premiums and co-pays with a yearly deductible.

Understanding Medicaid

While everyone qualifies for Medicare once they reach 65—regardless of income—Medicaid is open to low-income families of all ages.

Each state has unique (and strict) requirements for Medicaid eligibility.

If you do qualify, you typically pay nothing for most healthcare services. Supplements are available for dental, vision, and prescription drug coverage.

Medicaid may also be used for long-term care funding for those who have no other way to pay for it.

Medicaid planning attorney can provide guidance and help you understand exactly what you might qualify for.

Medicare vs. Medicaid: Which Is Right For You?

In the decision of Medicare vs. Medicaid, your options depend on your personal situation and finances.

Which aspects of Medicare will you need after you turn 65? Will you qualify for Medicaid at that time, or might you already qualify for it?

The good news is you do not have to figure it out on your own.  If you are working hard to figure out the difference between the two programs, or if you qualify, we may be able to help.  Additionally, consider our Social Security disability advocacy, and estate planning services.  There is a good chance you are going to need these.

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Is Your Last Will and Testament Legally Binding?

According to a recent survey, 60% of people in the US do not have a will or a plan to make one. 

Accidents happen and you do not want to leave your loved ones with nothing. But your will must be legally binding if it is to be enforced.

You are no lawyer, though, so it can be difficult to determine whether your will is enforceable in a court of law.

Is your last will and testament legally binding? Here are 4 questions to ask yourself.

Do You Have Witnesses?

Perhaps the most important part of making your will legally binding is having witnesses. In most states, you are required to have at least 2 witnesses, while some states require 3.

Additional witness requirements include:

  • Witnesses must be disinterested parties, meaning they are not named in your will
  • Witnesses must be 18 or older
  • The lawyer who drafts your will cannot be a witness

Some states, including Massachusetts and California, allow you to invite witnesses who are named in your will. Further, some states allow you to execute a legally binding will in the complete absence of witnesses. Make sure you know what your state requires.

Are You of Sound Mind?

You must be of sound mind when you sign your will for it be enforceable by law. Being of sound mind implies that you were not coerced into creating the document. It also means that you can understand what you are signing away upon your death–and who you’re signing it away to.

Keep in mind that this requirement does not rule out individuals who currently suffer or have suffered from mental illness. As long as witnesses can attest to your lucidity during the making and signing of your will, it will be legally binding.

Have You Signed?

For your last will and testament to be legally binding, it must contain the testator’s signature. Your signature must be in your own handwriting and appear at the very end of the document. Additionally, you should date the document as the day you added your signature.

If you are physically incapable of adding your signature to your will, no worries. You can have someone else sign your will in your place. But some courts will require notarization via witnesses to prove the alternate signatory acted in good faith and with your permission.

Are You 18 or Older? 

You must be 18 or older to file a legally binding will. However, emancipated minors may file a will. Emancipation usually applies to individuals of 16 or 17 years of age and implies that you are no longer dependent on your parents. 

Other exceptions to this rule may apply to:

  • Individuals younger than 18 who are married to a partner who is 18 or older
  • Individual younger than 18 who joined the military
  • Individuals younger than 18 who are of positive net worth and own considerable assets

None of these exceptions apply to you? Then you will have to wait until you turn 18 or file for emancipation from your parents to file a legally binding will. Unless you live in Georgia or Louisiana, where you can file a will if you are under the age of 18.

Where to Make Your Last Will and Testament 

Do not want to take the risk of a last will and testament that is not legally enforceable? You need an estate planning attorney who understands your needs.

That is where Lilac City Law comes in.

Do you live in the Spokane, WA State, or Northern Idaho and need to file a will? Request a consult with Lilac City Law today to get started. 

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10 Tips to Find an Elder Law Attorney You Can Trust

There are people in this world that will take advantage of anyone for their own gain. They target people unable to care for themselves or that suffer dementia.

1 out of 10 older people experiences a form of abuse. This problem does not stop at law offices.

Lawyers know the intricacy of the law. They can use that for good, but some use it to manipulate.

Do not let a shifty lawyer take advantage of your parent or older loved one. These are 10 tips on how to find an elder law attorney you can trust. 

Ask Friends and Family

Asking family and friends for lawyer recommendations is the place to start. These are the people that have your best interests in mind. Their opinion and reviews will be honest and helpful.

How to Find An Elder Law Attorney Online

A lot of law firms are connected digitally now. They will have websites of their own. These firms will have peer reviews of their offices. 

Check sites, like Google Review or Yelp, to get a feel for a law firm. 

You can also check out Findlaw.com or NOLO.com. Both of these sites will allow you to put in your location and choose what specialty you are looking for in a law firm. You will also be able to read reviews and directly contact the law firm.

NAELA

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is an archive of lawyers that practice elder law. This committee only accepts bar-certified lawyers into their club. 

First Impressions Matter

Attorney services, much like cars, should not be purchased without a test-drive. This test-drive is a consultation. Many attorneys offer free consultations. This is your chance to take ‘er for a spin. 

Can this lawyer match your needs? How is their personality? This is an important choice; do not drive off the lot with any lawyer.

Are They Professional?

How timely are they? Are they punctual or slow on the draw? Test them.

If you are corresponding through email, they should respond within a day’s time. If you are meeting them for consultation, is the meeting on time or delayed? How do they present themselves during the interview?

Being attentive, punctual, well-dressed, and intelligible are the marks of a professional. Assess your lawyer on these, as well as their credentials. 

Do You Get Along?

You are going to be spending a lot of time with this individual. It is important to like the person you are with. 

Clashing personalities and butting heads are a detriment to winning cases. There needs to be camaraderie.

Diligent Note-Taking

There is a lot to be said and heard when talking with a lawyer. It is difficult to process everything in the moment, especially if you are not used to law jargon. 

Write down everything you can. Take notes of what they are saying, and then figure out what they mean later. They could be two different things. 

A truth-worthy lawyer will be concise. And they will not give you the run-around.

Credentials

Check if the lawyer is still a practicing lawyer. Some people lose their Bar status from malpractice or other scrupulous reasons. 

Each state has a State Bar Association. Here is Washington state’s. Search by their name. The website will reveal any past disciplinary actions against the attorney. You should avoid these guys. 

Experience Matters

Find an attorney that has helped others with similar issues. Make sure your lawyer has experience in every matter or concern. They need to have set a good precedent. 

1What Is it Gonna Cost? 

It is ok to ask this!  Getting your estate managed, 

Court Is In Session! 

Lawyers can be untrustworthy. And unlike common criminals, they will have an intimate knowledge of the law.

How to find an elder law attorney that you can trust is difficult. 

You should get referrals from friends and family and peers. Make sure they are practicing, recognized with NAELA, and are professional. Also, find a lawyer that matches your needs and your personality.

If you need any other law guidance, please reach out!

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5 Hacks for Setting Up a Living Will and Trust

Age is a slippery slope. The older you get, the more dependent you are on others. At some point, you cannot depend on yourself at all. 

Around 60-years-old, there is a 7% chance you will suffer from dementia. Two decades later, and it is more likely you will have dementia than you will not. By then, your decision-making is not trustworthy. 

Let your younger-self plan for future-you. Take the time now to decide what will happen to you and your property if the worst happens. 

These are 5 hacks to devising a will and trust.

Distinctions Between A Will and Trust

Legal jargon’s a little confusing. Layman’s terms can cause erroneous interchanging of the two meanings. A living trust and a living will are two, very separate things.

A lawyer can modify these documents when the person is able-bodied and right of mind. The ownership of these agreements transfers to the executor if either condition is not met.

A living trust documents the disbursement of your property after passing. A succeeding trustee will allocate your estate to your named beneficiaries. 

A living will deals with your health if you have been incapacitated. If you would like to be kept on support or not when you are unable to function for yourself. 

List Your Assets

Make a list of everything you own that has value: sentimental or capital. This a catalog of your assets. 

When devising your living trust, it is important to have an estimation of everything you own. Creating a trust will be easy when you can reduce this to a quantifiable number. Think of your house, your car, and everything included as your estate.

Most Americans will have around $300,000 worth of property to disperse. If your number is coming up short or high, try recalculating it. 

Your trustee will disperse your estate evenly (or how you deem fit) to your beneficiaries. 

Picking Your Beneficiaries

This part can be tough. It might be the toughest part for you. 

You have to choose who gets what when you are gone. This step is entirely dependent on your relationship with your loved ones. 

You might not have a family that you can give an estate to. Or you have a family undeserving of your property. It is yours to do what you wish; you can even donate it to charity. 

Pick who you think best deserves what you have earned in life. 

Find A Trustee You Can Trust

It is all in the name, “trustee.” Who do you trust to allocate your estate or make a life-or-death decision? 

Usually family. Most family members have nothing but loving intentions for you. 

If you do not have that, pick a trustee you can depend on. This person will decide your fate when you are gone physically or mentally. 

How to Write It

Writing a trust or a will depends on your wealth. If you are of moderate means, creating a will yourself is acceptable. But those with heavy wallets and lots of assets should hire an estate lawyer. 

Devising a will or a trust can be done through online software. Get the help of a loved one if you are uncomfortable with computers. 

A forewarning: doing either agreement incorrectly can devastate your beneficiaries. For those who err on the side of caution, it is recommended to get a lawyer regardless of your estate’s size. 

Take Care (of Yourself and Family) 

Everybody ages, everybody dies. What you do beforehand is important.

Know the distinction between a living will and a living trust. A will is health-related; a trust is for dispersing property. Make a list of your assets and decide a trustee to disperse them to beneficiaries.

You can create a will and trust yourself, but it is advised to do it with the help of a lawyer. 

Contact us if you have any other legal questions about estate planning or wills.

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Revocable Trust or Irrevocable Trust: Which One Do You Need?

No matter what happens throughout your life, you are going to leave behind assets for someone when you die. You should always leave behind a legal document to guide how to distribute those assets. Another thing you should do to protect your assets is to put your assets into a trust.

Knowing which trust to go with can be complicated. The differences between revocable and irrevocable living trusts are small, but they can also have huge impacts.

Keep reading below to learn which would probably be right for you.

A Revocable Living Trust Means More Flexibility

With a revocable living trust, you can plan for the future while adapting to the present. Situations can change after you put together a will that may affect how you want to distribute your belongings. When you get a revocable living trust, you can adjust your last wishes as you want.

Keep reading below to learn more about the advantages of getting a revocable living trust.

You Can Change What’s In It

The biggest advantage of a revocable living trust is that you can change what goes into it.

You can set up different trusts for different people, and adjust how much goes into each. That way, you have complete control over how your assets are distributed among your loved ones, without anyone interfering.

You Will Not Have to Deal with Probate Court

One of the things that can interfere in how your loved ones get the things you leave behind is probate court. This is a specialized court that handles the property and debts of deceased persons. They usually have the final say as to how things are distributed after a person dies.

With a revocable trust, you can rest assured your property will not ever be touched by the courts. Instead, it will simply go into the hands of your designated beneficiaries.

An Irrevocable Trust Is a Safeguard

Unlike a revocable trust, you have less control over irrevocable trusts. Once you put things into an irrevocable trust, you can never take them out. That means that if a situation changes, you will not be able to adapt to it or control who gets what, so make sure you are confident with what you put into one.

Yet, an irrevocable trust protects your assets from creditors. If you leave behind debt, creditors may try to pay for it by seizing assets before your beneficiaries get them. You can prevent this by storing them in an irrevocable trust.

An irrevocable trust is entirely irrevocable. Once something is in it, it is there to stay no matter what creditors or you have to say about. 

You Should Trust the Trust You Choose

No matter which kind of trust you decide to go with, make sure that you trust who you elect to be in charge of it. Whether it is an irrevocable or revocable living trust, it has to be handled by someone so make sure you trust that person to handle it honestly and carefully.

And for that, we are here. Contact us, and we will show you how we can help you establish a trust for your loved ones, and why you should trust us to help you!

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What Is Estate Planning? Here Is a Brief but Informative Explanation

Do you think that estate planning is only necessary for the ultra-wealthy? Do you question if you even have an estate

While most of us do not like thinking about the worst-case scenario, having a plan can provide invaluable peace of mind for both you and your loved ones.

If you are asking yourself, what is estate planning, it is essential to know that it is probably something you need to consider for your family.

Let’s get into what you need to know.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning refers to preparing for end-of-life issues including what happens after your death. Depending on your individual circumstances, estate planning may be complex, and mistakes can result in serious financial issues.

It is always recommended to consult with an estate planning attorney. Coordinating with a professional will ensure that you have your needs met—and that everything is taken care of legally. 

Everyone Needs Estate Planning

No, you do not need to be retired or rich to qualify. In fact, these common misconceptions prevent most people from planning appropriately. As a result, if something happens to them, their family becomes suddenly responsible for handling the mess. 

If you do not have a set plan, the state takes over what happens to you and your assets. If your name is on the title of your assets and you become disabled, a court appointee must sign for you. That means that the court—not you or your loved ones—owns control over delegating your assets. 

If you die without estate planning, state probate laws distribute your assets. Unfortunately, you may not want what the state has in mind. 

You have worked hard for your money and assets. With estate planning, you maintain the control of who receives what and when. Furthermore, if you have young children, you determine who raises them if you cannot.

The Difference Between Wills and Trusts

A will outlines your instructions upon your death. However, any assets in your name still need to pass through your state’s probate before being delegated to your heirs. That said, this can be a lengthy and expensive process.

Revocable living trusts, on the other hand, avoid probate at death. Your assets remain in your trust, and you designate the trustee to maintain the accounts. 

While setting up a trust may be more expensive and time-consuming than setting up a will, it pays for itself in the long run.

The Best Time To Plan Is Now

Of course, it is not necessarily fun to think about your own death. If you are young, it may seem morbid to think about something that may be decades away.

That said, none of us can predict the future entirely. We never know what tomorrow will bring. Estate planning avoids you or your family from being caught completely off-guard if the inevitable happens.

Final Thoughts 

What is estate planning? It is a process that supports both you and your family. It is a method that allows you to safeguard your assets and protect them for future generations.

At Lilac City Law, we specialize in legacy and estate. Contact us today to get started! 

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Estate Planning vs Will: What Is the Difference? Which Should I Consider?

Did you know that more than 50% of Americans do not have an estate plan or will in place? 

Many people wonder if they need estate planning if they are young or do not own much.

Read on as we answer that question and look at the differences between estate planning vs. wills.

What Is a Will? 

A will is a legal document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of property when you die.

A will can also include instructions regarding the care of children that are minors.

If you have a family or assets of any kind (a house, car, investments, furniture), you should make a will.

What Is an Estate Plan?

An estate is something everyone has. It is not just for the wealthy.

An estate is everything you own: real estate, the funds in your accounts, life insurance policies, personal possessions like family albums and fine china.

Rich or poor, when you die, you cannot take your estate with you. If you have a will, it outlines who inherits your estate when you die.

But An estate plan goes much further than a will. The foundation of an estate plan has three parts: a will, an Enduring or Durable Power of Attorney, and a Personal Directive.

Enduring or Durable Power of Attorney

An enduring or durable power of attorney protects the management of your affairs. This document gives someone you appoint the ability to control your finances if you become mentally incapable of doing so.

But, if you do not have an Enduring or Durable Power of Attorney, your family cannot manage your affairs. 

Personal Directive

A Personal Directive is sometimes called a living will. It allows a person you appoint to make decisions about your health care and personal needs if you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Without this document, your loved ones have no say about where you live, how you live or even about end of life care.

Minimize Your Income Taxes at Death

A lot of people wonder if they need an estate plan if their estate is modest. The fact is that those the people that need an estate plan more than anyone.

When you die, the government looks at all your assets and calculates taxes on your estate. This can be a hefty bill for your surviving family members to have to bear.

But, having an estate plan allows you to transfer ownership of your property. This reduces the taxes your loved one will have to pay.

Having an estate plan helps your family keep more of your modest estate than they would otherwise.

Estate Planning vs Will

As you can see, you do not need to choose between estate planning vs a will. Both are essential pieces in giving you peace of mind.

With proper estate planning, you can rest assured that your property and your care will be handled just as you wish.

It’s important to understand that estate planning is not a one-time document you sign and never look at again.

Your estate plan needs to be reviewed any time your family or financial situation changes.

Contact us at Lilac City Law to schedule a consultation. 

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