Do Not Forget Fido: What to Know About Including Pets in Your Will

Did you know about 85 million families own a pet in the United States?

It is no wonder that with so many fur babies people are looking at ways to make sure their pets are taken care of in case of sudden death.

A common question from pet owners can you include pets in your will?

What happens to my fur baby when I pass on?

Keep reading to learn all about including pets in your will.

What to Know About Including Pets in Your Will

Pets have shorter life spans than humans which is a reason not many people plan in case of sudden death, or illness from the owner. What if you end up with a sudden sickness and pass away before your fur baby? 

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead will give you peace of mind just in case something were to happen you have them taken care of and cared for. If your pet is not in your will or estate planning, they might be left without a loving home or might suffer.

While a pet owner does not consider their pet a piece of property that is what the law recognizes them to be. Some people do a verbal agreement, but this might not assure you that it will be followed through.

Include Your Fur Baby in Your Will

Legally drafting specific instructions on your will is the only assurance that your fur baby will be taken care of. The first thing to know is that since pets are considered property you cannot leave any money or property directly in your pet’s name. You should leave funds to the person you choose to take care of your pet with specific instructions that the money is to be used to care for your pet.

You can choose a sum amount to give the person along with a request to please use the funds to take care of your pet. Keep in mind that even with requests to please take care of the pet the person will not be under legal obligation to take care of the pet. For this reason, make sure you select someone you trust.

Pet Trust

Every state in the United States including Washington DC has a law for establishing a trust for their pet. A trust will allow for monitoring pet owners requests and enforcing those requests.

You would create a trust where you establish who the trustee and the beneficiary are. The trustee will be the person that you give the assets to care for your pet and the beneficiary will be your fur baby.

Make sure you consult an attorney that deals with estate planning to make sure you fill the paperwork out correctly and also for their advice on the amount you choose so that other family members do not request to modify the trust if they feel it is too much.

Have Peace of Mind

Setting up your will while you are still healthy and including your pet will give you peace of mind. You will be grateful in the event of a sudden terminal illness that you have one less thing to worry about.

Are you looking for help from an attorney knowledgeable in estate planning? Contact our office today for a consultation and more information

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Living Trusts vs Wills: What is the Difference And What is Best for You?

You have worked hard to secure your future and those of the people you love. You want to control what happens to your assets after you die.

There are several approaches to making sure your assets are dispersed consistently with your requests.

Maybe you have heard of these two legal instruments, but no one ever explained how they are different to you.

So, what is the difference between a living trust vs. will

Read further to find out which approach to estate planning is best for your situation.

What Is a Trust?

These tools are sometimes called living trusts because they provide both before and after death asset management.

A living trust allows you to specify where your assets go and when your heirs can access them. You can also use a living trust to manage your property in the event you become injured or disabled and cannot do it yourself.

Living trusts are categorized as either revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust means you can change the terms any time during the grantor’s life. Irrevocable trusts require you to permanently surrender any rights to revise the trust after it is established.

What Is a Will?

A will is a written legal document that specifies how you want your assets dispersed after you die. A will can be canceled as well as revised at any time during your lifetime. Wills identify a guardian for your kids in the event of your untimely death.

Will vs Living Trust; What’s the Difference?

Both wills and trust are similar in that they address your plans to distribute your property once you die. Before you choose one, study these following differences to find which works better for you:

Probate Court Proceedings

Wills are subject to probate court proceedings. Probate is a division within the judicial system that ensures that a deceased person’s property is allocated to the right beneficiaries. The court will also make sure that the deceased’s debts are all paid off.

Public Disclosure of Information

Certain cases filed with a court system can be viewed by the public. Probate cases are one of them. When a will is submitted to the court, anyone case request to see the filing at the court clerk’s office and view what’s included.

Information included in living trusts stays confidential. Only beneficiaries who have access to trust files can see this information.

Living Trust vs. Will: Which One is Best?

So which method is best for you? Here are some considerations that might influence your decision:

Marital/Family Status

If you are married, wills can transfer your assets to your spouse. If you have young children, a will can transfer their guardianship if both parents pass away.

Current Health/Age Status

Living trusts are not necessary for those who are healthy and at middle age. They set parameters to manage your care and property in case you are not able to.

Time Commitments

Managing a living trust can be a big time commitment. Living trusts can only disperse assets that you actively place into it. You must continually change legal ownership of all your assets like your cars, bank accounts or businesses to the name of the trust.

Types of Assets

If you own a business or other enterprises, you do not want to tie up operations while probate matters are finalized. Sometimes probate cases can take years to settle.

Next Steps

Are you planning your estate? If so, check out these helpful estate planning worksheets to help you through the process. If you are still unclear about a living trust vs. will, give us a call.

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Dying without a Will: What Happens to Your Family and Your Estate?

You might not want to think about your mortality, but getting your affairs in order may be more important than you think. 

No matter how big or small your assets, whether you’re single or married, or even whether or not you have children, it’s essential that you have a will that designates what happens to your money and property after death. 

If you end up dying without a will, you’ll leave it to the courts to decide who gets what. 

Don’t be one of the 46% of Americans without a will. Here are some of the things that might occur if you find yourself dead without a will.

Family Members Will Fight

A death in the family doesn’t bring out the best in people. Regardless of how much (or little) you have in terms of assets, it’s likely that your close family will dissolve into fights. 

Children might argue about who deserves the money more or come to blows over your favorite clock or nicknack… Relatives might say that you cared about them more and so they deserve part of your estate, and so on. But ultimately, this decision can be made by you today (and save everyone a lot of grievances! It might even save the family.

A will is an easy way to cut through the fight and make your desires clear. It is your money—and it is up to you where it goes.

Sentimental Items Will Get Complicated

Another issue that might arise is the issue of sentimentality vs. practicality. While the courts might be able to assign a monetary value to all of your assets, you cannot usually place value to sentimental objects.

For example, items like family heirlooms or engagement rings might be hard to pass down. Do you give it to one of your children, another family member, or sell it for money?

It can get even more complicated. If you give it to one of your children, is their share of the estate reduced by the value of the ring? Can you compare the value of cash to the value of a sentimental object?

By leaving instructions on the sale, preservation, and ownership of your valuable objects, you will make this whole situation a lot simpler.

Your Estate Will Be Hit with More Taxes

A will can even protect you and your estate from taxes.

The federal estate tax will not hit most Americans; approximately the first $5 million of an estate is tax exempt. The rest will be taxed around 40%.  But you cannot predict what future legislation will say in this regard.

Moreover, some states have their own regulations for estate taxes. And these state-level exemption levels can be a lot lower than the federal-level exemption.

If you do not have a will, you will lose tax benefits like marital deduction, which lets your surviving family members inherit your entire estate tax-free. Your estate may also be divided according to a state formula–which will subject parts of your assets to taxes.

The Risks of Dying Without a Will

Too many Americans find themselves unprepared for the event of a disaster or major death in the family. Dying without a will could leave your assets scattered and your family fighting for years after your death. 

Give yourself and your loved ones some peace of mind. Contact us today to take the first step towards planning your estate and getting your will set for the future.

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The Advice for Writing a Will That Everyone Should Follow

You do not know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Because of that, you should not put off writing your will until your “old age.” This advice is especially true if you have children. 

If you were to pass away unexpectedly, what would happen to your kids? If you have a Last Will and Testament, you can definitively answer that question. 

A will tells your loved ones what you want to be done with your assets. That is why it is so important to write a will as soon as you can.

The Parts of Your Will You Need to Think About

There are several different elements of a will you should be aware of. You will need to spend time thinking about these things and choosing some loved ones to include in the will. 

Your Assets to Be Identified in Your Will

These are your belongings. They are the things you are willing to other people. They can include personal items, property, bank accounts, investments, and additional money. 

The Beneficiaries to be Identified in Your Will   

Beneficiaries are the people who will receive your assets. These might be children, family members, close friends, and organizations or charities you want to support. 

The Guardians to be Identified in Your Will 

If you still have young children, you will need to choose a guardian who will take care of them if you pass away. It may be the surviving parent, but you will also want to pick a back up guardian in case something happens to both parents. 

The Executor to be Identified in Your Will 

This is the person who’ll make sure your assets are divided in the way you want them. Make sure this person is someone you trust. 

Advice for Writing a Will You Should Follow

The exact elements of a will can vary depending on what state you live in. However, there are some pieces of advice everyone should following when writing a will. 

Here are a few examples. 

Be Specific About assets, beneficiaries, guardianship and other wishes in Your Will

Try to be as specific as possible when writing your will. This can get tricky if you have a lot of children, have gotten remarried, or if you have step-children.

For example, let’s say you got remarried to a second spouse. You should not leave all your money to your second spouse and hope they leave it to your children when they pass away. Your second spouse might give the money to their own family instead. 

Write exactly what you want each person to get. 

Store Your Will Properly 

You cannot write a will then tuck it into your desk drawer. You have to make sure your will is somewhere people will find it when you pass away and somewhere it stays protected. 

It’s a good idea to keep your will (and other relevant documents) in a firebox. At Lilac City Law, we also help our clients maintain their wills digitally.

Update It Often

You cannot write a will once and be done with it. You should go back through your will at least every five years and make necessary changes. 

There are also other circumstances that mean its time to redo your will. 

If you do not update your will, your assets might not be divided in the way you intend. 

Don’t Do It by Yourself

You should never try to write a will by yourself. A professional estate lawyer understands the appropriate laws and can ensure you are not missing anything. They also know when the laws change and can let you know it is time to update your will. 

Although it might seem easy to write your own will, you may end up missing important elements. 

Advice for Writing a Will Everyone Should Follow

It is never too early to start writing a will. If you have a family and do not have a will yet, writing one should be your next priority. 

Do you need some help getting started?

Make sure you take a look at our family estate planning services and do not hesitate to contact us for more information. 

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It’s Not a Male Thing: Why Married and Single Women Need a Will

As you  become an adult, one question you may have is “who needs a will?”. 

The answer is everyone!

Everybody dies and almost no-one knows when.

It is a common misconception that only certain people need wills.  Every woman (and every man) should have their end of life documents ready and handy, regardless of their age. 

Women & Men both need a will.  Here are some examples of why.

You Need a Will if You Have Children

Who needs a will? Anybody with children, especially if those children are still minors. Often, the only place custody is discussed in regards to end-of-life planning is in a parent’s will 

If you do not have a will or your will does not designate the guardianship actions to be taken with your children, a court will end up deciding on your behalf.  

The courts do have a protocol for these situations, but it all depends on circumstance, and it is not a guarantee that your family or relatives (even the other parent) will take over custody.   

If you die and the other biological parent is still alive, capable and willing, the children will likely go to them.  However, if, for any reason, the other parent is not capable of caring for the children, the court will try to find the closest capable and willing relative to become the guardian of the children.  If there are no capable or willing relatives, your children will end up in foster care.

You Need a Will to Avoid Family Infighting

If you have any kind of estate (any property or assets), there is a risk that your family will argue over it. Stories abound of families tearing themselves apart of potential inheritance, and some never recover. 

In fact, Forbes believes that about $1 trillion will be inherited every year on average until about thirty years from now. Whether this trend is continued beyond that is unclear.

What is clear is that with savings and assets to pass down, families often get to fighting and splitting up over objects and bank accounts.

You Need a Will to Name an Executor 

One specific issue that can be avoided by having a will is a struggle over an executor. An executor is a person chosen by you to distribute your estate.

An executor needs to be someone who not only understands money but who is unlikely to lie or cheat others out of what is rightfully theirs.

If you want to avoid any potential issues by having everyone paid equally, regardless of who the executor is, this needs to be specified in the will.

You Need a Will to Lay Out Specific Instructions

There may be some aspects of your estate that you have specific wishes for that go beyond who owns what. For instance, maybe there is a charity you support or a business owned by you or some other member of your family that you wish to contribute to.  You will need to lay this out in your will. 

Another example is if you own shares of stock, and you want a decision on the stocks (or vote on shareholders’ rights) decided a certain way. Your wish will also need to be stated in your will.

Who Needs a Will?

Who needs a will? Everyone.  Both Women and Men.

No matter how small you think your estate may be, you have something that can be passed on to your family or loved ones.

Remember, there are many purposes of a will, but above all else, a will is meant to care for family members. 

Establish Your Will Today

If you want to know more about getting your estate planning in order contact us today. 

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Aretha Franklin Did Not Leave a Will

Aretha Franklin Did Not Leave a Will

Many of us were saddened by the news that we lost a great singer, Aretha Franklin, on August 16, 2018. She was known as the “Queen of Soul” and her family saw her as the rock of their family.  Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 after fighting advanced pancreatic cancer. 

What may be even more surprising than her death, is the fact that she did not leave a will. 

What does this mean for her estimated $80 million estate? Will it go to her sons or other family members? What about her lawyer, agent, and other people who help her career? Is there such a thing as too rich or too poor to have a will?

What a Will is and Why it is Important

A will is a legal document in which:

  • you name the beneficiaries of your estate
  • designate how your estate will be divided
  • name a guardian for your minor children

It is important to have a will whether you are a millionaire or if you are living from paycheck to paycheck.  It allows you to decide who will be included in the division of your estate.  If you do not have a will set up, then it will be up to a judge to determine how your estate is divided as well as who will take custody of your minor children.

In the case of Aretha Franklin, under Michigan law, if an unmarried person dies without leaving a will, then their assets will be divided equally between any surviving children.  Aretha Franklin has four adult sons, but that has not kept other family members from trying to get their cut of her wealth.  Her niece has also decided to file to be appointed to be the personal representative for her estate. When you do not leave a will, it opens it up for other family members to fight over what they believe is their share of your estate.

If you have a will, then the judge will go with what your wishes are, and it will reduce the fighting between your loved ones.

Why Not Everyone Has a Will

Many people know that having a will is important, but they put it off.  When you are younger, it is not something you want to think about.  Many think that making a will is not something you will need to do until you are older.

Even after getting older, many still do not create a will.  They either just do not get around to it, or they think that their family will not fight over their estate.  Others, are fine with the probate judge deciding.

Unfortunately, some circumstances cause us to die before we get around to writing our will.  It is important to have a will no matter what age you are.  You can always adjust it as you get older or as your circumstances change.

What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will

If you do not have a will when you die, then the state will determine how your estate is divided.  Each state has its own set of laws, so how it gets divided depends on what state you live in. Typically, legal spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings will be included in who gets a portion of your estate.  Most states do not recognize charities, friends, and unmarried partners. They will not receive anything unless you have a will.  If relatives cannot be found, then your assets may be retained by the state.

How Having a Will Helps

If you do not have a will, then your family will have to go to a probate court.  The probate court will appoint someone to oversee your estate and divide your assets.

Having a will is about protecting your family.  You will not be around to see it executed so think of them and what not having a will set up will put them through.  You do not want to leave them to sort your assets and pay court fees after having to deal with your loss.

In Aretha Franklin’s case, her sons are entitled to her estate, but there may be a long battle with other family members.

Get Help Setting Up Your Will Today!
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Celebrate Your Military Family, Improve Your Military Will

Celebrate Your Military Family By Improving Your Military Will

There’s an old military adage that says, “No good plan survives engagement.” 

While this quote’s timelessness must lend credit to its applicability in battle, it transcends its martial roots and applies equally as well to law.  Especially Estate Law. 

Take for instance the idea of a Last Will and Testament.  A Will is probably the most well known and well-understood items in an estate plan.  The purpose of the Will is to make sure your assets go where you want them to go after you pass away.  It need not be too complicated, and in many cases, Wills have been as simple as notes scratched on a piece of paper from the deathbed of the person writing the Will.  <- We do not advise this, but if it is a bad idea and it works, is it indeed a bad idea?  

Today, and this month, we are celebrating the Month of the Military Kid.  As a law firm, this got us thinking, what can we do to celebrate?

 Share updates and resources, check.  Spread the good word, check.  Educate…  we can do that!  That is what this blog is all about.  Getting good information, usable information, from our brains and into a forum (this forum!) where readers can make informed decisions.  In that spirit, the purpose of this article is to answer for Veterans and those still serving, why their Military Will is not enough protection for their family, and show them how to fix this.  

Your Military Will Just Is Not Enough

It’s not your fault, and it is not a bad start.  But the hard fact is, your military Will is not enough protection for your family.  Here’s why.

As we mentioned above, a Will of any type is designed to designate who will get your assets when you pass.  The process begins with your death and then must go through a legal action known as probate.  Probate is the bane of estate planners for several reasons.  The top of these reasons being time, cost, messiness.

Probate is an Unnecessary Pain

Death is a hurry up and wait process when probate is factored in.  You are scrambling around trying to figure out last arrangements (if you haven’t set up an estate plan ahead of time), trying to figure out the finances of paying for burial or cremation, ceremonies, and getting family and friends together.  Then, you have all the assets of the deceased to figure out what to do with.

Houses, cars – are they owned?  Who has the right to sell them? Trinkets, storage items, family heirlooms, tv’s, jewelry, books, intellectual property, investments…the list is endless.  And it is going to take 6-9 months to figure out who has the right to even make decisions on these assets.  That is 6-9 months to work through probate, assuming the issue of ownership is uncontested!

Let’s set aside the time suck that is probate on Willed assets and work our way through costs.  Get ready to pay up to 10% of the assets of the estate just to transfer them to where they are supposed to go!

If you are keeping track that’s thousands of dollars and 6-9 months so far.  Again, IF the declarations in the Will are uncontestable.  Do you have an ex-wife that owns half your house but your adult kids and your current fiance’ are the ones named to inherit your assets in your military Will?  How’s that going to be settled?  Who is going to help you (or really them) to figure it out?  And how much is it going to cost?

Wills In the Military

Being honest, we are pointing out the drawbacks of Wills because there is another way for young families to prepare for the future. An approach that can release them & you from the turmoil of probate, the financial burden of an unnecessary legal process, and avoid the messiness of contested assets altogether.   So why does the military get service members set up with Wills in the first place?

For one, Wills are relatively straightforward and easy to set up en masse.  Did your command order you and 100 other people to set up your military Will through JAG?  Was it a pre-deployment Will or something set up for family day?  If so, it may be very limited in scope and entirely out of date if any one of a hundred or more things have happened since it was penned.

New kids, new property, new assets, new marriage situations, and more are all reasons to update a Will.  And in reality, updating a Will is not as simple as crossing off an outdated item and adding a new issue.  You are likely going to have to re-write the whole thing.

So, while military Wills get the job done, temporarily.  They do not grow with you and your needs, and if it has been a year or more since you established yours, you need another option.

Another Option – Let’s Talk Total Estate Planning

Wills are a means to an end and can be effective if you use them in the right way.  However they do come with drawbacks, and for a young military family, there are strong reasons to consider other paths for estate planning.  Especially, trusts, powers of attorney, and other options.

Recall from this discussion some of the drawbacks of Wills, and particularly military Wills.  

  • To transfer assets upon death requires probate, which can take 6-9 months;
  • Probate can cost up to 10% of the assets of the deceased;
  • Disputes over the Will can lead to painful situations which are only solved in probate court; and,
  • Wills only cover items and beneficiaries specifically.  Any change to your situation and family might change the whole dynamic of the military Will.  

A trust on the other hand

  • Can transfer assets almost immediately upon death, or even before passing if it is set up to do so. 
  • Will not require anyone to pay lawyers or a probate court.  Once the trust is set up the only cost is modifying it, if necessary.
  • Trustees (recipients of the trust) are decided between you and your estate lawyer when drafting and updating the trust.  It is very clear who your trustee(s) will be and under what conditions they assume control of the trust that your assets have been placed in. 
  • You can set up your trust to be disbursed to certain people in certain circumstances.  If you want your brother to receive part of your assets upon passing but not his spouse, you can make that a condition at any point.  
  • Lastly, a trust is private.  The process of going through probate opens up the details of your assets to the public eye.  Your beneficiaries could have unscrupulous suitors showing up at their door if you have a sizable estate to pass on.  A trust being disbursed to the trustee(s) in the manner you wanted is not handled in the public eye.  

Should You Scrap Your Military Will? 

You already know there are no absolutes in life.  And as we have discussed in this article, this sentiment is true in death too!

Should you scrap your military Will wholesale?  Maybe not.

At the very least, it is a fantastic jumping off point to discuss what else you should be considering or should have already considered.

The good news is that while you are still alive, it is not too late!

We Help Military Families Get Their Estate Plans In Order

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Estate Planning: A Key Baby Boomer Family Value!

Estate Planning: A Key Baby Boomer Family Value!

If you were born between 1946 and 1955, you are considered to be a “Baby Boomer.”

If you are a Baby Boomer do not already have an estate plan established, you need one for your own sake and for your family’s.

So, what is an estate plan and why is it important?

In this article, we are going to discuss the basic components of a good estate plan, and why it is important for you and your family to have one.

Estate Plan Fundamentals

Estate planning is the process (and paperwork) of preparing your estate (no matter how big or small) for when you die or otherwise become incapacitated.  There are several different aspects of comprehensive estate planning and what you put in yours will be dependent on your needs, assets, and vision.

The ultimate goal of estate planning is to keep courts out of your assets and personal planning and to ensure that your family knows your wishes in any eventuality. If you do not set up an estate plan, it is very likely that a court will be the one who chooses how your assets are divided and who will take care of your health and financial decisions should you become incapacitated.

Let’s look at each part of a comprehensive estate plan more closely.

Last Will & Testament

A will is a legal document that says how your property will be distributed at the time of your death.  It is revocable and can be amended at any point while you are still alive.  If you have minor children, you will name their guardian in your will.  Here is more information on the components of a last will and testament

Trust

A trust is used for both while you are alive (if you become incapacitated) and/or after death.  The effect of a trust is keeping a court out of intervening to manage or distribute your estate.  There are also significant tax planning purposes for establishing a trust for your assets.  If you become incapacitated, whomever you name in your living trust will become your trustee and manage your estate.  The only parts of your estate covered in your living trust are the ones you put into the living trust. To learn more about a trust, you can see our article “6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate”.

Health Care Directives

Health care directives will typically include a health care declaration (living will) and a power of attorney for health care (POA).  These documents allow you to choose someone to make your health care decisions for you if you are unable to.  You can state when you want them to start and end and the conditions that should be met before granting someone else authority to make decisions on your behalf.  

Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is similar to the health care power of attorney.  You can choose someone to make your financial decisions, instead of or in addition to healthcare decisions, on your behalf if you are unable to.  You may also choose the same or an altogether different person than you did for your health care power of attorney to act on your behalf.   

Beneficiaries for Your Bank and Other Accounts

Naming beneficiaries for bank accounts and retirement plans ensure your account are automatically “payable on death” to your beneficiary and allows the funds to skip the probate process. Likewise, in almost all states, you can register your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts to transfer to your beneficiary upon your death.

Plan for End of Life and End of Life Events (Funeral)

Make sure your family and loved ones know what your end of life wishes are regarding organ and body donation.  Also, make it clear whether you would like to be buried or cremated.

Instead of doing a funeral prepayment plan, consider setting up a payable on death account at your bank and deposit funds into it.  The account will pay for your funeral and any other related costs.

Why Estate Planning is Important

An estate plan is important for anyone at any stage of their life.  Estate planning will help your family members and loved ones before and after you pass.  If set up well, your estate plan will also ensure more of your wealth gets to people that you love, and less is taken away in probate, and other needlessly expensive and challenging court/tax processes.

Remember, even if you are not a Baby Boomer, it is important to think about estate planning too!

Begin Your Estate Plan Today

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Getting Ready for Spring Break and More with a Family Protection Plan

What If...Getting Ready for Spring Break and More!

Spring break is coming up fast! And it truly is an exciting time of year, filled with both the promise of spring and brief glimpses of Summer. With the brief pre-summer respite, families across America are going to be planning short trips, family outings, and the occasional “stay-cation!”

Whether your plans for spring break include trips to exotic locations, the mall, or simply spring cleaning, this is the perfect time of year to start thinking about what-ifs and how-would-I’s?

What If…Someone Got Hurt On Vacation?

What if on that vacation your loved one were to get hurt? How would you help them, advocate for them, get them home?

The challenges presented by a loved one who is away from home can be exceedingly difficult to work through without prior contingency & family protection planning.  In our article, What a New College Student Can Teach Us About Family Protection Planning, we covered this exact scenario.  Well, sort of.  We assumed the person who got hurt was a young college student away from home.  But the point of the vignette remains the same.   Accessing and advocating for the care of a loved one who is not a minor and is separated from you, is very difficult due to existing privacy laws and policies.

Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“In the midst of your adult child’s medical emergency, they (doctors) are unable to provide authorization to have you get pertinent details of the situation, talk to the doctor, and potentially make very important decisions.  You are now as much in the dark on the whole situation as a stranger, but of course, you’re not a stranger.  Your his or her parent!   This isn’t just a cautionary tale either…  This happens every day.  So, how can you prevent this?!”

What If…Someone Back Home Got Hurt?

What if my husband and I went on a brief overnight vacation and something were to happen to my kids back at home? How would I guarantee they did not end up more traumatized by our absence? Who would look after them?

This is a nightmare scenario.  You finally get some respite time with your hubby, and because you have a young family, you are just going to be gone for a night.  A short overnight trip to a private cabin.  Just far enough from home to let your hair down and reconnect with your best friend and partner.

Unbeknownst to you, something happens to your kids’ caretaker.  The police are on the scene, paramedics rushing about, and no-one knows what is supposed to be happening with the children.  The neighbor, a good friend of yours, and the person you kinda always let know as a “backup plan” when you are leaving tries to let the police know that they can watch them until their parents return, but there’s no documentation.  The police have no idea if the neighbor is your best friend or an opportunist predator.  They cannot take a risk, and your kids are retained by the police until they can talk to a social worker and get them into an emergency shelter – either with someone they do not know or maybe even in a hotel or office building with another stranger until you return home and have to sort things out.

When you get home, what are you going to do?  Could an ounce of planning have prevented the trauma your family endured tonight?

What If…You Never Made It Home?

What if I were to get into a car accident today? Who would be able to speak for me and make my wishes known? How would I make sure a doctor or even worse, a judge, I do not know is not going to be making decisions whether or not to treat me if I were incapacitated?

Car accidents kill and critically injure tens of thousands of Americans per year.  How many of them are parents?  How many are single parents?  It happens, that is what we all need to remember.  While it probably will not happen to you, it can!  Do you have a plan to advocate for your wishes if you were to become incapacitated?

In situations like this you have to consider, do you want to be resuscitated if your injury might lead to a prolonged vegetative state?  Do you want someone else to make that decision?  OR, do you want to make sure someone, in particular, is NOT in a place to make that decision on your behalf?  These are the things of Lifetime movie dramas, but in real life, they are preventable, and you can ensure that in this type of situation that you are protected, your assets are taken care of, and your children will be protected too.  People do not have to figure out the puzzle pieces of your life and wishes because you have made sure of it.

Change Your “What-If” to “Here’s How”

In so many of our blogs, we have broken apart pieces of the what if scenarios above and tried to make them make sense. The truth is that in a real-life situation it will be several items that help you, and not just one.  You cannot look at estate planning as just a Last Will and Testament, or a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  These legal tools are part of a larger Family Protection Plan.

Your Family Protection Plan protects your family when they leave for vacation (or college) by ensuring the powers of attorney and HIPAA authorization documentation necessary are on-hand and available for use.

A Family Protection Plan is there on paper and in your lawyer’s office to ensure your children do not end up as wards of the state for even one night!  You know where you want your kids to stay if there is an emergency, get it down on paper and make your desires undeniable and uncontestable.

And lastly, your Family Protection Plan grants you a sense of protection and self-direction even if you were to become incapacitate or sadly to leave us all too early.  With your plan, you will ensure your assets are transferred to those you want them to be.  You will make sure you are taken care of.  And you will make sure that even in your absence your family remains protected.

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Consider Your Estate Plan Before You Travel

How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

How Becoming Incapacitated Can Affect Your Family

If you should become incapacitated at some point in your life, you can bet it will be both very scary and stressful for you and your family.

Becoming incapacitated and unable to take care of your affairs, does not mean that you do not have a plan or say in your care and finances though.

There are steps you can take today to ensure that you and your family are both taken care of should you or your spouse ever end up in this situation.

Advance Health Care Directive 

An advance health care directive is also known as a living will.  This document allows you to choose someone you trust to make your health care decisions.  This person might be a family member or a trusted friend.  Having someone designated to make sure your health care decisions are in line with your outlook and desires will take the pressure off of you and your family.

Working through the establishment of a living will/advance health care directive means stating clearly which health care and end of life choices you want.  This document also allows you to say what you want or do not want. For example, you can put in your advance health care directive that you do not want a feeding tube or you can put that you do want a respirator if those are your choices.  These directives eliminate ambiguity for your family when trying to make health care decisions on your behalf.

Setting up a living will/advance healthcare directive today is a great first step in getting your estate in order.

Set Up Your Advance Health Care Directive & Living Will Today

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Durable Power of Attorney for Finance 

A durable power of attorney is similar to the advance health care directive in that you choose a family member or a trusted friend to make decisions for you.  The difference is that this is for your finances.  Because of this, you want to make sure you choose a person you completely trust to make sound financial decisions for you and possibly your family depending on the situation.  The person you choose can be the same person as your advance health care directive but does not have to.

Guardianship Plan

When we say a Guardianship Plan, we are talking about a plan set up to help you to choose someone to take care of your minor children if you are unable to.  In many cases, your spouse will be there to the carry-on with guardianship of your minor children, but in the rare case both of you become incapacitated or only one of you are still living, it will give you the reassurance your children will be taken care of.

Along with choosing who will be your children’s guardian, you can also add a letter voicing your wishes for how your children are raised.  You can say what type of education you want for them, what religion you want them to follow, etc.

You can read more about guardianship plans and kids protection plans, here.

Trust

Having a trust set up for your children will ensure that your wealth is protected from undue taxes or probate while also setting up the transfer of your wealth and estate to those you designate.  You will be able to name a trustee who will help your children access your gift for things like schooling, housing, basic needs, or other things you want to designate.

To help reduce stress, the trustee and the guardian should be two separate people. However, they must be able to work together and make decisions in the best interest of your children.  Without a trust, your financial and property assets could become the rope in a tug of war between kids, relatives, and others.  If you were to become incapacitated, a trust would truly help to keep things straight for everyone!