6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate Plan

6 Reasons to Establish a Trust as Part of Your Estate Plan

Estate planning should be considered one of the most essential parts of your financial plan. Setting up an estate plan simplifies the transition of your assets to the people you wish them to go to, and in the way you want them to be disbursed. 

There are several aspects of an estate plan, though, and this can make the whole idea of estate planning appear harder than it is.  An estate planning attorney can help you with this.  But, also  knowing the aspects of why you should establish a trust as part of an excellent estate plan will also help.

When you establish your estate plan, you’ll want to work with an estate planning attorney to set up several key components such as a Last Will & Testament, a Guardianship Plan, the appropriate Powers of Attorney including both financial and healthcare, and a Trust.  

Trusts play a pivotal role in planning for the future of your estate and how it will be taken care of when you pass or become unable to manage it. We’ll cover the different types of trusts in another article. But first, let’s discuss 6 important reasons why you should establish a trust as a key element of your estate plan.  


 

A Trust Helps You To Avoid Probate

Probate is a legal court process that is responsible for distributing your assets or property when you pass.  Probate is a court process that examines your Last Will and Testament, and if all is in order, carries out the desires of that Will.  However, as a court processes, probate can be a time sink, costly, stressful and tiring. To avoid going through the process of probate, you can establish a Trust.  A trust enables you to pass-on selected assets, or your entire estate to your desired beneficiaries without any delay, hassle or additional attorney charges.

 

Moreover, avoiding probate can help you save money on probate fees which can be as much as 5% of your entire estate!

 

A Trust Keeps Your Estate Information Private

Establishment of a Trust not only avoids probate, it also offers the privacy that a Last Will and Testament cannot.  A Will is a legal document that is publicly presented during probate.  And as we covered in the previous section, Probate is a legal proceeding. This means that the details and execution of a Will are dealt with publicly, exposing all assets of the deceased one to the general public. This can be undesirable for a number of reasons.

A Trust, on the other hand, is maintained between you, your trustee and your beneficiary. The assets passed on to the beneficiaries are not typically subject to public proceedings and disclosure.  And you might imagine this has a number of advantages regarding security issues and the avoidance of potential family disputes.

 

Save Money by Avoiding Estate Taxes

Estate taxes are a huge concern for estate planning.  The best scenario is transferring your estate and wealth to your beneficiaries without having to give half of it to Uncle Sam, who didn’t earn it for you in the first place.

One way to prevent this from happening and assuring that your estate and assets be distributed solely amongst the people you desire is that you establish an ‘Irrevocable trust.’ There are certainly circumstances that might lead you to desire an irrevocable trust, but as the name (irrevocable) suggests there are also risks involved.  You should have a good discussion with your estate planning attorney about the benefits and risks involved with an irrevocable trust.

The takeaway from this point, however, is that you can potentially avoid very significant taxes by implementing good estate planning.

 

A Trust Can Be Updatable 

A Will is a final document.  You can “amend” it, but only in a manner similar to adding a “P.S” to a letter.  If you consider what it means when you add a “PS” in a letter – you’re not changing the content of the letter.  In a will, this is the function of a codicil.  It’s a new thought, that is added as to the Will, but doesn’t change the content of the original document.

If drafted well, a codicil might accomplish the desired amendment to your Will.  However, you won’t know because you’ll have passed by the time the Will is interpreted.  And part of the interpretation of the Will will consist of trying to figure out what is meant by the codicil.  Let’s hope there is no conflicting information between the original document and the codicil.  To avoid codicil, many will draft an entirely new Will, but that can feel like overkill for a minor update.

In contrast to the barriers of updating a Will, you can (relatively) easily update a ‘Revocable Trust.’ Should the need arise to change or update your Trust, it can be done by preparing and signing a simple trust amendment.

 

You Can Establish a Trust That Fits Your Needs

One of the most compelling reasons to establish a Trust is because there are so many ways a Trust can be customized for your specific estate planning.  Some examples of types of Trust include Special Needs Trust for individuals who are unable to manage their financial dealings because of certain challenges, Charitable Remainder Trust for donating a calculated amount to any or a desired charity organization, and/or Generation Skipping Trust for the well-being of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

You get the idea…you have a lot of options for forming a trust to meet your desires, and potentially avoid the expense and rigamarole of a Will.

 

A Trust Can Go Into Effect While You’re Still Alive

A Will gives power to its beneficiary after you have passed away, whereas a Trust allows the beneficiary, if you set it up to do so, to access assets while you’re still alive.  This can be in various ways.  One way this can be set up is through distributed, calculated amounts periodically.  Predetermined by you, the Trust maker. Kind of like an allowance for your beneficiaries.

 

What You Can Do Today!

Many people are unaware of the benefits a Trust has to offer, that is probably the reason why only 20% of Americans establish a Trust.  But, If you have an idea of how you want your wealth and estate to transfer to your cared ones, it makes a lot of sense to connect with a great estate planning attorney.

 

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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?

“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?”


Who Would Raise Your Children If Something Happened to You?

Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s an implicit reminder that we are indeed mortal, and, in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready. 

Who will you leave your child with if you die?  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

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?

Do You Want a Stranger to Raise Your Children If You Die?

Establishing the Guardianship Plan, also called a Kids Protection Plan, is a critical 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

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 guardian will generally make 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.

Guardians may also cover managing the entrusted person or child’s finances. However, 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.

A guardian is usually charged with providing for all of the child’s necessities. These necessities include providing food, shelter, clothing, and any other items that may be needed. Of course, most people consider a loving home and ample opportunities to succeed as necessities as well.

If the appointed guardian cannot provide these things themselves, they must find a home that is suitable to offer those in their care.

In many cases, the guardian that is named by the parents (or appointed by the court) will personally take on the task of raising and caring for the child.

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 to 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.

Do Grandparents or Other Relatives Automatically Become Guardians of Minor Children?

Grandparents or other relatives do not automatically become guardians of minor children if something happens to the parents. They can generally take the children in temporarily as long as there are no objections from the rest of the family, but their authority to make decisions regarding school, doctors, etc. would be limited to emergency decisions only. In addition, any disputes between family members about what should happen could be disruptive to the children’s lives during an already difficult time.

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.



Choosing Your Children’s Guardian

Your chosen guardian may fill-in for you temporarily, while the authorities figure out what to do, or they could end up being the person to raise your children to adulthood.  You have a lot to consider with this decision.  You can’t assume that your partner or your parents will step in either.

While it is rare for something to happen to both parents of a minor child, it does occur, and the consequences are simply too severe to not take a few simple steps to select and legally name guardians the right way.

Define Your Ideal Guardianship Candidate the Right Way

The first step in selecting a guardian is to come up with a list outlining the qualities and attributes you and your partner value most when it comes to the long-term care of your children. The list can mirror your parenting philosophy and style, as well as list the qualities that would make up your absolute “dream” guardian.

In addition to qualities like parental values, discipline style, religious/spiritual background, kindness, and honesty, you also need to consider more practical matters.

Is the person young enough and physically capable of raising your kids to adulthood? Do they have a family of their own, and if so, would adding your kids to the mix be too much?

Geography should also come into play—do they live nearby, and if not, would it be a major hardship to relocate your children? Is their home in a location you would feel comfortable having your kids grow up in?

One thing you may think you should consider is financial stability, and that is a frequent misconception. Even though the people you name as legal guardians for your children will be making decisions for their healthcare and their education, they do not need to be the ones managing your children’s financial needs.

Ideally, you will leave behind ample financial resources for your children and the people raising them. You can do this by establishing a trust for those resources and naming a financial guardian, or trustee, to oversee them.

Make a list of Candidates

Based on those parenting qualities, start compiling a list of people in your life who match your ideals. Be sure to consider not only family but also close friends.

Though you may feel obligated to choose a family member, this decision is about what is best for your children’s future, not trying to protect someone’s feelings. And if you are having trouble coming up with enough suitable candidates, try coming up with people who you would NOT want as guardians, and work backward from there.

Or consider the person a judge would likely select if you did not make your own choice and whether there are any other people you would prefer to raise your children.

Determine Back-Up Guardians

It would be a big mistake to choose only one guardian for your child. It is impossible to say what the future holds, and it could be that the guardian you select passes in an accident with you, leaving no discernable choice for a guardian to your child.

Make sure that you have a solid list of three or four guardians and the order in which you have chosen them. It never hurts to be too careful. When the life of your child is in the balance, everything helps.

Just because someone has been with you through thick and thin does not mean you should name them as your child’s guardian. Your friend, you have known from elementary school but still lives in his mom’s basement, might want to be on the list but it would be wise to leave him out.

Select Temporary Guardians (aka First Responders)

In addition to legally naming long-term guardians, you also need to choose someone in your local area to be a “first responder,” or temporary guardian. This is someone who lives near you and who is willing to immediately go to your children during a time of crisis and take care of them until the long-term guardian is notified and appointed by the court according to your long-term guardianship nomination.

If your children are in the care of someone like a babysitter without legal authority to have custody of them, the police will have no choice but to call Child Protective Services and take your children into the care of the authorities.

From there, your children could be placed in the care of strangers until your named long-term guardian shows up, or until the court decides on an appropriate guardian.

This is an area where plans that only name a legal guardian through a Will typically fail. Beyond naming just a long-term guardian, you need a short-term, temporary guardian who is named as the first responder and knows exactly what to do if something happens to you.

Once you have chosen your long-term guardian, it is imperative that all temporary caretakers know exactly how to contact them. This precaution is not just about your death—it also covers your incapacity and any other situation when you are unable to return home for a lengthy period.

Practical Considerations of Naming Guardians

The first thing to think about is the fact that this person could raise your kid! If that happens, your child will be informed by your guardian’s values and beliefs.

Does the guardian share your core values and act in a way that is decent and respectable by your standards? What sorts of things do they genuinely value, and would they be willing to take the time to instill those values to your child?

Think ahead to the near or distant future — can you see your potential guardian making enough money to support your child?

Are they hard-working and responsible enough to take on the duty of raising and supporting a child? It is hard to instill that motivation in someone without kids until it is their responsibility, too.

Give strong consideration for those who will be able to support your family through thick and thin.

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 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.  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.

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.

What Happens at the End of a Temporary Guardianship?

A temporary guardianship only has a legal effect for the designated time or until the specified condition is met.

You may sometimes hear a temporary guardianship referred to as an informal guardianship. This is because the temporary guardianship may be set up outside of the courts. Often, the informal guardianship is set out in a notarized letter. This is not as strong as a power of attorney or full guardianship but can still be useful in certain situations. One of the most common uses is when a child will be going to live with a relative for a while and the parent will still be able to address any concerns that arise while the relative assumes primary care.



What is a Testamentary Guardianship?

A testamentary guardianship is a guardianship listed in a parent’s will. This is another type of informal guardianship.

It is not possible to legally leave a child to another relative in a will even when well-intentioned and the whole family agrees. The job of a will is to answer questions about property distribution.

What a testamentary guardianship does is simply to make the wishes of the parent known. Courts will usually honor these wishes on a temporary basis if the family is in agreement, but the full guardianship process will need to happen before the guardian becomes permanent.

What is an Emergency Guardianship?

Some people may refer to the temporary guardianship they’ve set up as an emergency guardianship, but an emergency guardianship usually means a temporary guardian appointed by the court. Courts usually appoint emergency guardians when someone has a serious accident or illness and needs a guardian but never nominated one. The court appoints the emergency guardian for a limited period of time to handle the emergency while the regular guardianship process plays out.

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 is a Limited Guardianship?

A limited guardianship means the guardian has limited powers. For example, you may wish to appoint a guardian to make medical decisions and a separate conservator for financial decisions. A limited guardianship can either be temporary or permanent.

Do I Need a Temporary Guardianship if I Have a Permanent Guardian?

Even if you’ve nominated a permanent guardian, the court still needs to formally approve the guardianship before it can take effect. Designating the same person to act as your temporary guardian can avoid any ambiguity about what should happen while that process plays out. In addition, you may still need a backup temporary guardian in case the permanent guardian can’t immediately step in.

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.

How does Guardianship Work With Divorced Parents?

A temporary guardianship or other arrangements can’t override the other parent’s parental rights. Generally, both parents would need to agree to a temporary guardianship. For example, both parents may want to jointly make a plan in case something were to happen to both of them.

Otherwise, courts would generally look to one parent to take over if something happened to another. For example, if two divorced parents with joint custody lived in the same town and one was hospitalized, the child would usually go to live with the other parent rather than a temporary guardian appointed by the one in the hospital. If they lived far apart, a temporary guardian might come into play while travel and other arrangements are made.

Should Children Know About Temporary Guardianship Plans?

Depending on their age and maturity, it can be a good idea to let children know your plans for a family member to take care of you and/or them if something were to happen. This allows you to gain their input and can also ease fears they have about being orphaned that you may not even be aware of.

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.


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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.

Are There Situations Where Family IS NOT a Good Plan for Temporary or Permanent Guardianship?

Absolutely!  Here are a couple of examples.

Your Family Has a History of Abuse

Not everyone grew up in a loving family. If you grew up in a family in which you were abused in any way, you likely do not want to put your children into the same kind of situation.

If there was/is regular alcohol abuse or drug use this perspective might also be true. Children become at risk when they are left to fend for themselves because the adult who is supposed to be in charge is a victim of addiction.

We are discussing family here, but it is important to consider the family of ex-spouses or the exes of those who might gain custody of your children.

When you have a list of the family that absolutely should not have custody in any way of your children, you will want to gather any paperwork that proves your reasoning for not wanting the courts to give them guardianship.

Keep a copy of these papers with your essential paperwork, provide a copy to the person you want to have custody, and if you have a lawyer, make sure they also have a copy.

Adopting Your Children Would Create a Financial Hardship

Sometimes family members would willingly step up and take care of your children. Raising kids is, however, an enormous financial responsibility.

Unless you have a great deal of money, you can set aside to help pay expenses over the coming years, adding even one child to an established family may cause a financial burden. If you have several children, this makes it extremely difficult.

You do not want to put your family members in a position that will make it hard for them to provide for their own needs and that of their children while also providing for yours.

These people may be willing to try, and they may even be considered good choices as temporary guardians until a permanent one can be found.

Think about the custody of your children in financial terms may seem hard when it is their safety in question, but it is a practical matter that cannot be overlooked.

And if you plan early enough, you might be able to set up a trust or will to help alleviate any financial burden your family would have from your untimely death.

Your Family is Unwilling or Unable to Adopt Your Children

Your parents raised you and any siblings. They may have been wonderful parents and given you all the love they had, and you might think they would make the perfect choice for granting guardianship.

Take time to think this through. First, they are older than you. It is likely that time has created a situation in which they are no longer physically able to keep up with the rigors of raising a child.

They may also be getting to the age at which they will not be around long enough to see your children to maturity.

You likely want to avoid a replication of the trauma and uncertainty that led your children to need new parents to raise them.

On the other hand, maybe you have no family members who are willing to step up and take over: Your parents are enjoying their retirement, your siblings have lives of their own that they do not want to upset, or there may be other reasons.

Whatever the case, you do not want to choose someone who would refuse the responsibility and leave the care of your children up to a court or foster system.

What Guardianship Forms Do I Need to Complete NOW to Protect My Children?

 

1)  A Last Will & Testament: A last will and testament may be the most important form you can have in your estate plan.

Your will is not only the place for you to outline what happens to your property after you die, it is also where you might name a guardian for your children (or pets), identify someone to handle your property after death on behalf of your children, and identify an executor to manage your property from the time you die until your estate is settled.

2)  Temporary Guardianship 

3)  Letter of Instruction: One more guardianship form that gets overlooked is a letter of instruction. This is the place where you explain your hopes and expectations for how your children are raised.  These include decisions about your children’s education, activities, and religion.  Be sure to update this letter as your children grow and their interests and needs change.  Also, make sure you share and discuss this letter with your chosen guardian(s) so there are no surprises.

Create a Plan and Keep Your Family Protected

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.

In the worst case of the worst case.  A judge who doesn’t know you or your wishes will be forced to make decisions for your children. Without your input.  That’s what could happen if you don’t establish a kid’s protection plan with strong, thoughtful, guardian nominations.

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?

A Guardianship Attorney Knows the Processes

Filing for guardianship can be time-consuming. The guardianship process might include petitions, hearings, and evidence – and may even face challenges from multiple parties seeking guardianship of your children.

A good guardianship lawyer will help you or your preferred guardian expedite this process. If like Lilac City Law, the guardianship attorney is the drafter of the plan and other aspects of the incapacitated or deceased’s estate plans, they will understand how the guardianship proceedings play into the full scope of this transitional period.

You can imagine that this process, can get complicated very easily. Especially if minors, money, or assets are involved. The best thing you can do to mitigate potential issues ahead of time is to gameplan, with an experienced attorney, how things would work out in a worst-case scenario.

Lilac City Law Is Your Guardianship Planning Law Firm in Washington & Idaho

We are here to help you find peace with the unknowns that the future throws your way.  That’s why we put so much effort into informing you of the process through this blog. We are passionate about building and protecting strong families.  Please reach out to us by phone or through the contact form below.  We’ll get you set up immediately with a friendly and welcoming estate planning lawyer that will walk you through this process step-by-step.

Wills & Living Trusts – Which is Better?

An Estate Plan includes A Will and Living Trust

 


It’s not a stretch to say that given an chance, most people won’t be able to describe the difference between a Will and a Trust.  Both are potentially beneficial planning devices and serve distinctly helpful purposes for an estate.  And both Wills and Trusts are common approaches to end of life planning.  So what is the difference?  Which is better for you when thinking about protecting your family?


 

Wills, Protection After Death

A Will serves as a public document that declares, in an official manner, how your estate will be passed on to whomever you desire.  An executor or personal representative is usually designated as someone to manage the process of probate, which can be cumbersome and often ends up involving attorneys for assistance.

 

Trust, Protection Before Death

A Trust, or Living Trust, as opposed to a Will, provides for a transfer of your estate prior to your death (into the trust).  A very important benefit of this process is that you can utilize a trust to avoid probate.  You can also utilize a trust to pass property to children although the property must be managed by a trustee until they reach the age of 18.  Additionally a trust, unlike a Will, does not become a public document and many people like the privacy it affords.

One of the biggest benefits of a Living Trust is that, well managed, it is updated throughout your life.  Because of this, it can be a godsend to family and friends in the case of your incapacitation. Whereas without a trust, the concerned family might have to go through a public court process to gain the authority to manage your finances and affairs, if you become physically or mentally unable to – with a trust, this process is kept private and a pre-determined protocol for taking charge of the trust is carried out.  If a living trust is skillfully set up, you and/or your estate should not be in limbo as a result of inability by you or your spouse to manage it properly when it would otherwise not be possible.

 

Does a Trust Help Me Avoid Probate?

Yes, we covered this a little bit here, and more in-depth in our article, The Basics of Probate.  If your loved ones who are left behind cannot afford a lengthy and drawn out procedure after your passing, then you may want to avoid probate at all costs.

A living trust is your best option in this regard as it does not pass through probate whereas a will does.

 

Probate: Living Trust vs Will

Probate is a court process that is put in place to wrap up a deceased person’s affairs once their debts are settled.  It can take time, it can be contentious, and it certainly can feel unnecessary for many estates.

As a property that passes through a Trust it does not have to go through probate, it may be allocated to beneficiaries without any interference by a court (or family) or any attorney’s fees charged.

 

Summary of the Key Differences Between a Trust and a Will

A Will is also referred to as your Last Will & Testament.  It is where you get to specify your last wishes for your estate and appoint someone to carry them out.  Your assets will be transferred to your beneficiaries after your death and after probate. You can name your guardians for minor children.

Your Living Trust, also termed as “Inter Vivos” trust, is where you specify your wishes in the case that you are incapacitated.  A successor trustee is appointed to carry out the trust on your behalf.  Your assets are to be transferred to the trust while you’re alive so it can be passed onto your beneficiaries when you’re gone. You will also name a guardian to take care of minor children. With a living trust, you can avoid probate.

 

 

 

Can it be a Both-And Situation?

You bet!  If you want to know more about how a Trust and a Will might work together to be an even more comprehensive approach to planning your estate, we will help you make sense of it all.  Please contact us and we’ll schedule a time to discuss your estate-planning options.

 

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5 Reasons to Create a Will Today 

Lilac City Law will help you establish your Will

 


One of the best things you can do to protect those you love and the assets you will leave behind in the event you pass away is to create a will today. Most people tend to avoid discussing what will happen to their wealth and estate should the worst occur, and we agree, it’s not exactly a cheery subject. However, if you don’t take the steps now to create a Will while you’re still alive, then the Government will make those important decisions for you… now that’s a scary thought! 

 

When you create a will, you are effectively spelling out exactly how you would like your wealth and estate to be handled after you pass away. There are tons of reasons why creating a will is so important, but here are 5 of them that will hopefully motivate you to start a meaningful discussion on family planning with your local Spokane law offices today.

 

Reason #1: Take care of Your Children

Children, especially very young children, can be most vulnerable to uncertainty in the event that they suddenly become orphans. A Will grants you the power to appoint a person you trust wholeheartedly as the guardian for your children when you’re gone. Otherwise, the State will decide who gets to take care of your little ones.

Of course, raising children isn’t exactly cheap these days. Fortunately, you can also set up a trust fund which is managed by Trustees whom you trust and choose, to provide financial support.

 

Reason #2: Ensure Proper Distribution of Your Wealth 

We’ve all heard of countless horror stories of family and even non-family members fighting over who gets what when someone dies. When you create a Will, however, you can specify who receives what and how much. In addition, you can also include special provisions for non-family members such as close friends or mentors.

 

Reason #3: Protect your Family Business

According to a recent article in Forbes magazine, less than a third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Of those that do survive, half of them won’t make it from second to third generation ownership. A Will lets you ensure that your company is properly passed down to your heirs or co-owners.

 

Reason #4: Shorten up the Probate Process

Regardless of whether you have a legal Will on file or not, your estate will need to go through a probate process. These processes are necessary to administer how your estate will be distributed, but they are often complicated and time-consuming and can be a burden for loved ones to have to deal with on top of your passing away. With a will, however, the process can be cut shorter and helps reduce the unnecessary hassle.

 

Reason #5: A Will can help Reduce Estate Taxes

A will can help you reduce your estate taxes so you can ensure that your beneficiaries get as much value as possible. Once your assets are distributed to your beneficiaries, the value of your estate is also reduced therefore lowering your estate tax bill.

 

Get in touch with Lilac City Law and start your family planning today.

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Is a Military Will Enough Protection for my Family?   

Is your existing family protection plan enough to still protect your family?

 


One of the benefits of serving in the United States Military is that you have access to free legal help for things like: Powers of Attorney, Wills & Living Wills, Family care & Protection Plan, Survivor benefits, Estate taxes, Probate.

 However, there are some very important limitations to these supports that you should be aware of if you’re still serving and your family, wealth, or assets have grown.  Or, if you’ve discharged from military service.  


 

Limitations to Military Wills & Other Legal Benefits 

These great military benefits are best for less complicated situations.  Consider how you met with your military lawyer and setup your will, trust, or family care plan.  How many times did you meet with them?  Did they get to know your family’s names?  Did they personalize documents for you and make sure they would stand up to scrutiny in different jurisdictions?  If you’re like most service members, the answer to one or all of these questions is no.

 

“Typical” Situations

The typical situation is that service members push through legal en-masse either in preparation for deployment or event.  Or they go to legal as yet another step in a check-in or check-out process.  The pace that military lawyers are forced to work at times means that customization of family care plans, kids protection plans, estate plans, and others is very difficult.  Because of this many service members receive basic templates that offer very little customization for their unique family situation.   Not all service members have the same situations though, and that’s the issue we’re getting at.

 

The Most Common Objection

“I already had mine setup while in the military.”  This is the most common response we hear when talking about wills, trusts, kids protection plans, and similar support with service members and Veterans.  We wrote the article, Why you Need to Update your Estate Plan after these Life Events, to show why and how seven common life events change the effectiveness of your current family legal plans.

Whether we’re talking about a plan setup in the military or one created a couple of years ago when your life may have been less complex, if you haven’t updated it, it may not even apply to your life and assets anymore.

 

Three Things You Can Do Today

  1. If you put together any of these plans in the past and your life has changed in any of these ways, we want to help.  You can find out more about how we help families like yours to establish and update their plans here.
  2. You can create a free, fast, and easy Kids Protection Plan.  If you decide later to create a more in-depth plan we can also help you with that.
  3. Follow us on Facebook.  We share new and important information on family planning all the time.

 

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The Value of Proper Protection Planning

If you Google “Kids Protection Plans” you will see the work we are putting into providing services, education, & support to our community.  LCL is doing this because we are striving to be a “different kind of law firm.”  Being different means building a relationship with you and using that relationship to personalize a plan for you and your family.  This is our protection planning process, it is fundamental to our mission of providing the best Personal Family Law services possible.  

The Usual Talk

Establishing an effective planning process with your family lawyer is very important.  Most family lawyers will say, “Without proper planning…[fill in the blank].”  But they don’t walk you through what that means or how you will know if you’ve actually set up a proper plan.  They focus on what happens without the plan and leave it to you to fill in the blank that they can do it for you.  They are selling fear, then selling themselves as the solution.

The fear is that without the plan, your children could be placed in CPS.  A judge can decide who will raise your kids.  A portion of your assets could be lost to probate.  Your children’s financial inheritance can be poached by morally questionable “wealth planners” when they turn 18.  In fact, the harder we think, the more we can bring to the table as potential reasons for you to be concerned.  There are more things to be afraid of than are even reasonable to discuss.

Having a Proper Plan

So what does it mean having a proper plan? How is reframing the discussion about establishing a plan better than discussing the fears about not having one?  Well, first, having a plan effectively mitigates the scary scenarios above.  A proper plan also has other tangible and intangible benefits.

A proper plan takes a weight off your shoulders.  It gives you confidence and removes stress from your already busy plate.  It is also good for your family.  A plan demonstrates to them in a direct way that you are planning for the worst case.  And for your growing family, it demonstrates the value of looking into the future and planning contingencies for the potential worst cases.

It has to Work for You

In addition to how it makes you feel, a proper plan is also one that works.  The plan will work in the situations that you foresee, and maybe the ones that you don’t.  It will reflect the needs of your family today, as well as in the future.  It will be a custom plan.  And it will be an up to date plan.  This is where LCL really makes a difference.  We build custom Kids and Family wealth plans based on your needs.  And we do it based on getting to know you and your family today and in whatever tomorrow brings.

Find out More: Protection Planning

 

Lilac City Law Works with Families to Develop

Family Wealth and Kids Protection Plans 

 

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