5 Common Misconceptions About Planning for the Future

Planning for your death can seem morbid, but in fact, having a solid end of life plan is a smart idea. 

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding end of life planning, especially when it comes to drawing up and maintaining a will. 

Read on to learn the truth about some common myths (or misunderstandings) surrounding estate planning.

Myth: A Will Only Deals with My Belongings

Almost everyone knows the fundamentals about wills and what they do. Before you die, you write out a list of who gets all your belongings to make things easier to divvy up after you die. Your cousin gets the dresser in the bedroom, your niece gets your collection of antique books, and so on.

But, in fact, wills deal with a lot more than just your financial assets. It also specifies what you would like to happen in the circumstances surrounding your death. These wishes can include health care plans should you become unable to make those decisions yourself and even funeral planning.

Myth: Drawing Up a Will is Complicated

There is a general perception that drawing up a will is a lengthy and complex process. You have to figure out who gets what, who is going to take care of which issues, and all the little details surrounding your death. Making all those decisions can start to seem overwhelming and unreasonable.

But really, all you are doing is specifying what you want. If you find a good financial advisor and attorney, they can help you translate that into legal documents that protect your wishes. It is only as complicated as sitting down and saying, “No, I want the end of my life to look like this.”

Myth: Once I Write My Will, It is Set

One of the reasons people wait to draw up their wills is that they believe once they have written out the will, there is no changing it. They would rather wait until later in life when they can be more precise about who they want which assets to go to. But changing your will is not as difficult as it may seem.

As a matter of fact, reviewing and adjusting your will is an expected part of the estate management process. Estate managers know that you may have another child or have a new person enter or leave your family. Most estate planners recommend reviewing your will every three to five years and adjusting it as needed.

Myth: Only Rich People Worry About Estate Planning

If you make less than several million dollars per year, it may seem like you do not need an estate plan at all. After all, if you do not have millions of dollars in assets, is it going to be that big of a deal to divide up your things? 

But despite what you may think, no matter what the state of your assets, it is a good thing to have a will in place. For one thing, as we mentioned, a will covers everything about your end of life arrangements, not just distribution of your assets. But also, it is always a good idea to have a plan in place to make things easier on the bereaved, should the worst happen.

Myth: I Can Wait Until I’m Older!

One of the all-time top myths about drawing up a will is that if you do not have white hair yet, you do not need to worry about it. After all, if you have just started your career, or if your retirement account only has $200 in it, there is plenty of time to worry about that. You can set up a will later, when you are older.

The unfortunate truth is, you do not know when you might need a will. No matter how young and healthy you are, you could walk out your front door and get run over by a bus tomorrow. It is smart to have all your assets and end of life plans taken care of from the jump, just in case the worst happens.

Learn the Truth About Other Common Myths & Misunderstandings

If you are looking for the best help in drawing up and maintaining your last Will & Testament, get in touch with us at Lilac City Law.  Contact us today to start securing your future.

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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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Is it True that Prince Didn’t Have a Will?

Is it True that Prince Didn’t Have a Will?

Prince, the well-known music icon from the 80s, continued to make music and wow his fans even in the 90s and 2000s.  When he died, many people across the world mourned his passing and fell in love again with his music.  However, as news of his passing persisted, many were shocked to find out that Prince didn’t have a will to direct the disbursement of his estate.

How does someone with so much fame and fortune not have a will?  Where will his assets and royalties go?  Is there such thing as too rich to need a will?  Or too poor, perhaps?

That’s the question we wanted to answer with this article.  Whether you are a world-famous artist like Prince was, or you just started your family and are living paycheck to paycheck, it is important for you to have a will and an estate plan in place.  Your assets and such are just as important to you as his were to him.

What is a Will?

A will is essentially a legal document stating how you would like your assets divided and who will receive them.  This gives you an opportunity to make sure anyone you want to include will be included.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Have a Will?

Creating a will seems like something you shouldn’t worry about until you are in your 60’s and 70’s and getting ready to retire.  It is an understatement to say that a lot of people put it off.  Unfortunately, not everyone lives until they are old.  There is illness, accidents, and other things that may result in untimely passing.  It is far more reasonable and proactive for you and your family to have you write a will early on in your life and you can adjust it as necessary as you age and your circumstances change.

What Happens if You Do Not Have A Will?

If you don’t have a will, the state will decide how your assets are divided up and who will get what.  Each state has a different law, so how it gets divided depends on your state laws.  Legal spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings typically will receive the assets.  Charities, friends, and unmarried partners are not included and if relatives cannot be found, the state may retain your assets.

How Does Having a Will Help?

If you do not have a will then your family will have to apply to a probate court.  They will appoint someone to oversee your estate.  This could be lengthy and expensive.  In your will, you will appoint your own executor which will help probate move quicker and not cost as much.

Having an estate plan will also allow you to make sure people you may not want to receive anything, will not.  It also makes it less stressful for your family because they won’t have to decide how to divide your assets and will keep them from having to fight in court if they can’t decide.

Having a will is not necessarily for you, you will not be around to see it executed.  It is for your loved ones.  Leaving them to sort out your assets and paying for court fees after losing you is not the way you want to go.

In Prince’s case, his sister is now left with the mess of fighting to make the decisions on his estate, then figuring out how it should be disbursed.  Don’t leave a mess for your family.  Make sure you have a will.

 

Talk to an Attorney Today About Setting Up Your Will

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Additional Reading

Why Prince Didn’t Leave a Will

Prince Didn’t Leave A Will!

Prince didn’t have a will and neither do nearly 60 percent of Americans