Checklist: Six Must Have Items in Any Estate Plan

Checklist: Six Must Have Items in Any Estate Plan

Setting up a fully comprehensive estate plan means covering all the bases so that when you need the plan to work for you, it works the way you envisioned it would. 

However, that also means planning for contingencies and getting things in order today, so that tomorrow your family or caretakers aren’t scrambling to figure it all out. 

If you’re starting to think about estate planning, or even if you’ve already setup an estate plan, here’s a list of must have items for your estate plan.   

And, of course, if you’re already working with a great estate planning attorney, this article will be something you can refer to for your own insight, or to share with others as they work through their own estate planning processes.


 

Establish Your Last Will and Testament

After a trust, and guardianship plan, and beneficiary documentation, and a hundred other things, a Will can be your ultimate backup plan.  A Last Will & Testament directs what your wishes will be with regards to your assets after you’re unable to make those decisions anymore.  You’ll also want to discuss with your estate planning attorney how you can protect your assets and decisions from probate, and the costs associated with probate, by setting up a trust.

Regardless, Step one is to start considering who you would wish to inherit different parts of your estate, upon your passing or incapacity.

 

Setup Your Durable Powers of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal tool  you can use to designate an individual to step into your shoes and act on your behalf in financial, medical, and/or estate decisions if you not been incapable of doing so.

There are different types of durable powers of attorney so you will want to thing about someone who can handle decisions regarding your healthcare needs, financial assets and investments, and any potential legal procedures.

 

Plan for Your Family, Setup a Children’s Protection (Guardianship) Plan

If you have minor children, or adult children with special needs, this is something you really need to pay attention to.  In the event that you are unable to take care of your own matters, or you pass away, you will want to assign someone (a guardian) to be responsible for the assets and money you plan to leave behind for your children.

In absence of a clear plan to manage and transfer your assets and estate to your children, a judge may end up making that decision for you.  You can start setting up a Children’s Protection Plan for free, here!

 

Designate & Setup Beneficiaries for Your Bank and other Accounts 

The purpose of an Estate plan is to plan ahead for unexpected, or sometimes expected but unavoidable events, to ensure your transition is as seamless, and frankly cost effective, as possible.

Deciding who your beneficiaries are, allows hassle-free and automatic transfer of your financial assets to them at your passing. Fund control can be transferred to beneficiaries without any tiring and time consuming court concerns, and if you set things up correctly, you can potentially avoid probate in the event of your passing.

Whatever path your estate plan designates, you should create a list of your accounts and assets, and work to start figuring out who the beneficiaries of these accounts should be.

 

Plan for End of Life Events (funeral)

There are different ways to plan for your funeral ahead of time such as a ‘Pre-paid Funeral Plan’ or Funeral Insurance.  Another option is setting up an account in your bank known as the ‘payable-on-the-death’ bank account which allows you to designate a beneficiary for the assets in the account.  They may, of course, use some of this to pay for your funeral expenses!

This is just another piece of a great estate plan that takes into account unforeseeable, but also unavoidable, expenses.  And establishes a means to help your heirs address them.

 

Establish a Schedule for Updating your Estate Plan

The first item on your schedule should be to consult with a great estate planning attorney!   After that, you’ll want to setup a regular timeline to review and amend your estate plan.  Over the next couple decades, God-willing, your assets will change, and your plans for who should inherit parts of those assets may also change.  Reviewing your estate plan once a year, or once every couple years, ensures that when it becomes necessary, there are no out of date issues, and no glaring holes – leading to confusion and potentially costly court proceedings for your intended beneficiaries.

To keep it easy for you, here’s a list of times and reasons you should update your estate plan.

 


Schedule your estate plan consultation today!


 

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How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

Who Would Raise Your Children If Something Happened to You?

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Randi L. Johnson, Lilac City Law, Estate Planning, Social Security Disability, VA Disability

By Randi L. Johnson

How Do I Appoint a Guardian for My Child If I Die?

 

Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s a tacit reminder that we are indeed mortal and, in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready.  What are our plans if this were to happen?  Putting your assets in a trust, or last desires into a Will – helps to make sure your financial holdings are passed on to whomever you want them to go.  However, if you don’t create a care plan, or declare a guardian for your children the courts may decide who cares for your children if you die.

Are you comfortable with a stranger making this decision?

 

A Stranger Might Raise Your Children

“My greatest fear, someone I don’t know raising my child… What if something happens to me, who is going to take care of my child?”

This sentiment is a visceral fear that most parents have at some point.  And for a good reason; when we raise our children, we are trying to put the best of ourselves into them.  That means our world view, and our lessons learned, even our religion or philosophy for life.  In short, we are trying to instill our values and love.  But not everyone has those same values, do they?

Before we get into how to go about setting up a Guardianship Plan, this is something to consider…Who should you appoint as a guardian for your children in the event of untimely death?

 

Who Should Raise Your Children if You Die?

Establishing the Guardianship Plan (Kids Protection Plan) is the last step in the process of protecting your kiddos.  Before you even get that far, you should first be thinking very seriously about who can provide a lifestyle for your family that you’d be ok with raising your family. 

Often this is a sibling, parent, or maybe even an adult child.  However, it’s not uncommon to consider someone who isn’t directly related. Your internal family dynamics aren’t on trial; it’s a very personal consideration and decision you are making in the best interest of your family. Don’t unduly narrow the scope of consideration; this is a choice you are preparing for everyone’s best interest.

Here are some basic requirements and some other things to think about:

 

Your children’s guardian must be:

  • At least 18 (in most cases)
  • Able to fulfill their duties as a guardian
  • Able to financially provide for your children

 

Your children’s guardian should be:

  • Of similar outlook to you and your partner
  • Knowledgeable of your goals as a family and parent(s)
  • Capable of providing emotional support for your children
  • Stable (family wise, financially, etc.)
  • Someone that you’re comfortable having around your children.
  • Aware that they are being asked to be appointed as a guardian

 

 

How to Appoint a Guardian For Your Children

If you know who you want to take care of your children, the process for establishing a guardian involves declaring your desires in such a way that it will stand up to scrutiny by a judge if necessary. That’s a wordy way to say that just because you have a wish for a guardian, it doesn’t mean your preferences cannot, or will not, get challenged.  This potential hurdle is why so much consideration should go into your decision of who to appoint as a guardian.

A verbal agreement, for instance, is quickly challenged and will not instruct a judge what your wishes are. They may consider it, but without proof, your children will be relying on a judge’s discretion.  In this case, a judge well-meaning meaning but does not know you and will only know you through what information you leave behind if any. Frankly, there are too many unknowns here for me or most moms to feel comfortable knowing things will, “turn out ok!”

Better than a verbal agreement, a quickly drafted written agreement provides at least some potential protection.  In this sense, an informal written agreement certainly is better than a verbal agreement, but it can still be easily challenged.  When looking for how to prepare documents to stand up to future challenges, we always advise putting them together in such a way that it answers all the questions a judge would have about your wishes. That’s why when we prepare guardianship plans, we put all these wishes, desires, values, and more into a well prepared, and notarized, Last Will and Testament.

Placing your guardianship plan in your Last Will means a couple of things.  First, because you probably had an attorney’s input on the structuring of the guardianship plan, it will be structured to be clear enough to avoid being challenged.  Second, it automatically becomes part of the probate process, for which your family will likely have an attorney helping them through.  If the plan is part of your Will, the attorney will be working to make sure your wishes are carried out according to what you have drafted.

 

Alternatives to Placing Your Guardianship Plan in a Will or Estate Plan?

It is possible to create a Guardianship Plan and not have it be part of your Will. Here’s a free and easy way for you to do it right now.<- This will get you set up with the basics of a Kids Protection (and Guardianship) Plan. You’ll still want to consider having an attorney involved in this process, even if you can use that link to start laying out your desires without one.  The benefits, as described before, are that with an attorney’s assistance you’ll be creating a plan that will stand up to the scrutiny the law requires a judge to pay to your desires and the well-being of your children.

 

What Happens to My Family If I Die?

Strictly speaking, death isn’t the only way a Guardianship Plan might become necessary.  A Guardianship Plan might be essential if you (and your partner) become incapacitated in some manner too. This potentiality in and of itself describes why you might want to make this more of a protection plan than something you place in your Will and forget.  If you haven’t died, but need to appoint a guardian, you likely still want the plan to support your desires!

Back to the point, what happens if you die?  The processes are determined by the state you live within, but generally speaking, a guardian will be required to establish the ability to provide for your children. This procedure occurs in a court setting. Here’s a great list of requirements and resources for more information, by state.  Of course, if you have questions about this, you can always respond in the comments below too, or send us a question/messagehere.

 

Have you Been Through this Process as a Child or as a Guardian?

We’d love to put together a list of tips or lessons learned from the perspective of a child having gone through this, or from the perspective of a guardian having adopted the children of deceased parents.  Please feel free to reach out to us so we can help parents better understand how this process works.  You can contact us hereor connect with us on Facebook.

 

I’m Ready to Protect My Family if I Die, What Do I Need to Do?

Reach out to us via the contact form below, or simply call our office. Our team will reach out to you and send you all the information you need.  We are here to help you protect your family.  It’s our mission and our passion to support you and your family. 

 

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My husband and I worked with Randi and her team to complete our last will and testament, advanced directive, and health care proxy in the summer of 2018. Randi, and her team, as well as David Morris, were exceptionally kind, very professional, and thorough. We had several meetings to go through the important stuff - the financial info, heirlooms, and disposition of my husband's motorcycle. At each meeting, Randi and her team listened to our intentions and concerns. At the signing ceremony, we got a huge binder with our info and a data stick for safekeeping. Included in our will is a review which will take place every other year. We also got a document which states who can take our children to give our babysitter in case something bad happens to us when we were out. I'm very satisfied with Lilac City Law, and their work. I would recommend them without qualification to anyone.
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23:52 29 Jan 19
Parents are so intentional about so many aspects of their children's lives. Few will forgo putting together a will. But, what if you don't die? What if you are just incapacitated? Are you prepared for the unexpected? Are you leaving your children at risk? If someone else does raise them, do you know that they will be raised according to your wishes? Have you even thought through what your wishes are? All these questions and more will be covered in the process of completing a Family Protection Plan with Randi Johnson at Lilac City Law. Having our Family Protection Plan in place gives me an incredible sense of comfort and peace of mind. I highly recommend Randi and the staff at Lilac City Law. Hopefully you never need her services, but isn't it better to be prepared than to leave things to chance?
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Kevin Bunce
Kevin Bunce
17:22 12 Dec 18

The Challenges of Creating a Guardian Plan for Children


Inspired by an Article in Mom.Me

“Why I Still Don’t Have a Guardian for My Child” 


Sometimes you come across something that another person writes that stops you and makes you say, “yes! This is what I’ve been trying to say.”  An article written in Mom.Me (link above) recently highlighted, clearly, the work we’ve been doing here at Lilac City Law to help families create a guardian plan.  We felt an article like this really must be shared.

In the article the author tells a couple stories.  The first is of the chaos and support she received when her father died.  And the realization she had that his passing without a will, guardian plan, or wealth plan created challenges and even a bit of resentment among his survivors.   <- Figuring out what you can, should, and are able to do with the assets of someone is far more challenging and stressful when they are not around to give their intent; especially, absent a will or Guardian Plan.

She Learned a Lesson but Never Followed Through

The author swore not to put her kids in the same situation.  Eleven years passed between the author’s recognition of the need for a will and guardian plan, yet, she never did complete these.  This is the part of the article that hits home.  And it echoes why Lilac City Law started providing family wealth and kids protection planning.  If you missed it, here’s my story too.

In the article the author reaches out to friends to find out their take on why they knowingly avoided the issue of creating a guardian plan for their child(ren).

The Author is Not Alone

The author’s friends shared with her reasons including:

  • Dysfunctional family and relatives / next of kin
  • Fear of telling family
  • Worry about family resisting desires of various plans
  • Finding guardians who share faith and values
  • Desiring guardians who may not be family
  • The awkwardness of approaching potential guardians
  • Compassion and concern for the feelings of potential guardians
  • Skepticism that a potential guardian would be able to take on that role

Creating a Guardian Plan is Kinda Scary

There are a lot of reasons that can hold you up in creating a guardian plan or will.  Of course there are the common concerns cited by the author and her friends above.  In addition to these, there’s easily dozens more reasons why you’d delay (until it’s too late) creating one of these plans.   Waiting is not a good plan, but neither is doing it half-heartedly.  If you’re going to create a plan create it right.

Creating a guardian plan takes courage.  Courage to realize that at some point everyone passes.  And for many, even more courage to be able to lay things out for your family in ways they may not agree with.  A good guardian plan or will is your way to say, for my family (and assets), these are my wishes.

See the video below to preview what a good guardian plan, estate plan, or will looks like.


There’s a difference between a do it yourself plan (DIY) and working with a dedicated professional. 


 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop 

Estate Plans, Incapacity Plans, Wills, and Kids Protection Plans 

 

The article referenced and the stories cited in this blog post were written by Sarah Tucker, and published on mom.me on Oct 19, 2016

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Create a Plan to Protect Your Children


Family is important to Lilac City Law.  We have dedicated a big part of our business to supporting families in all phases of life. From Kids Protection Plans to disability and long term support advocacy.  The one thing we know that always makes things easier, is the value of creating a plan.  

Remember When..

Think about it like this.  You are a parent, when you had your first child you went through a process.  You discovered you were pregnant and probably saw a doctor.  Then you started to get information about your child’s development.  After a couple months you realized there was going to be a whole process you needed to have a plan figured out for the actual child birth event.

Building a Plan

Were you going to give birth to your child at home, in a tub, or in a hospital?  Did you want a midwife, doctor, or someone else to deliver your child?  Did you plan to go to parenting and birth classes?  You probably spent a great deal of time thinking about all these things and more!  And this was for the birth of your child.  No doubt you had a small bit of anxiety about what happened next..

Childcare, work-life balance, school, doctors appointments, sports, sick kids, changing, immunizations.  All decisions that were going to be made and that you were going to be responsible for.  But what if you weren’t.  What if you couldn’t make those decisions because of a worst case scenario?  Who would?  How would you make sure your vision and your wishes were implemented for family?

This is where and why Estate Planning, Incapacity Planning, & Kids Protection Planning exists.  And this is also why we do what we do at Lilac City Law.

Without a Plan

In the worst case of the worst case.  A death or incapacity, a plan does sort of already exist.  However, that plan has been put in place by the state.  A judge who doesn’t know you or your wishes will be forced to make decisions for your children..without your input.

What are your desires for your children in the event of your death or incapacity?  Who do you want to take care of your children?  Who is going to manage your assets?

Create a Plan and Keep your Family Protected

Again, remember that plan you laid out before the birth of your children?  Remember how many contingencies it accounted for?  You did this because even though you hadn’t met them yet, your children and their futures mattered dearly to you.  You recognized that the more you planned ahead, the less likely the worst case scenario would occur.

A Kids Protection Plan is a plan you should create now for those children for that very same reason.

 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop 

Estate Plans, Incapacity Plans, and Kids Protection Plans 

 

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