Man and daughter outdoors embracing and smiling

Father Knows Best: Avoiding Common Estate Planning Pitfalls

If you’re a father, you’ve always strived to provide the best for your family, ensuring their well-being and securing their future. However, even the most well-intentioned plans can falter if you overlook the complexities of estate planning. So this Father’s Day, let’s celebrate all of you dads and explore some common pitfalls that fathers often encounter, then offer practical strategies to navigate them successfully.

Heads up before we dive in; I’ll provide some stories below that illustrate what happens when a dad hasn’t created an estate plan or hasn’t updated it over time. The names of the people below are made up, but the scenarios I’ll describe are common.

Pitfall No. 1: Procrastination

If you’re a father, the weight of responsibility for your family’s well-being often rests heavily on your shoulders. However, even the most well-intentioned plans can fail if you overlook the complexities of estate planning. One of the most significant pitfalls is procrastination, or postponing the process under the assumption that you have ample time or that your assets are currently too modest to warrant formal planning. But the truth is that estate planning is crucial for individuals of all ages and asset levels! Unexpected events can occur at any time, leaving your loved ones in a bad situation if you haven’t properly documented your wishes.

Take for example, John, a 45-year-old father of three, who put off creating a will, thinking he had decades ahead of him. You can’t really blame him, can you? Many of us are in the same boat. However, he passed away tragically and unexpectedly, leaving his family to deal with his affairs in the court process called probate. The probate process was lengthy, and his assets were frozen and unavailable for his kids until the court process played out. In addition, probate drained his assets, so there wasn’t as much to leave his kids in the end.

I doubt this is what John would have wanted.

So dads, to avoid the procrastination trap, it’s essential to approach estate planning with a sense of urgency. Start the process as soon as possible, and review your plan regularly to ensure it remains aligned with your evolving circumstances and family dynamics (keep reading for more information on how I can help!).

Pitfall No. 2: Failing to Update Your Plan Over Time

This brings us to another pitfall: failing to update your plan after significant life events, such as marriages, divorces, births, or deaths. Life is inherently dynamic, and your estate plan should reflect those changes. Your plan should reflect your life as closely as possible, otherwise it could become ineffective or even invalid. And if that happens, you end up like John, even if you already have an estate plan.

Updating your estate plan over time is crucial. So make a habit of reviewing your plan at least every three years, preferably annually, or whenever a major life event occurs. When you work with me, I will help you ensure your plan accurately reflects your current wishes and aligns with any changes in state or federal laws.

Pitfall No. 3: Not Communicating With Loved Ones

Contrary to common belief, estate planning is not solely about legal documents, such as a Will, Trust or Power of Attorney. Documents are merely the byproduct of good estate planning. The real power of estate planning is in having open and honest communication with your loved ones. However, many fathers make the mistake of keeping their estate plans a closely guarded secret, leaving their families in the dark about their intentions and wishes. This lack of transparency can breed misunderstandings, conflicts, and resentments that can undermine the effectiveness of your plan and strain family relationships.

Let’s look at David’s story for a greater understanding. David, a successful business owner and loving father, always assumed his oldest son would take over the family business after his passing. So David’s estate plan included a provision wherein his oldest son inherited the business. When David died, however, his son revealed that he had different career aspirations and didn’t want to run the business. This led to family conflict – because David didn’t have a “Plan B” in his estate plan.

As a result, the family had to go to probate court, spending lots of time, energy, attention, and money, to get the business transferred to the one family member who wanted to run the business. Had David discussed his wishes openly, the family could have addressed their concerns together and arrived at a mutually agreeable solution that would have saved them the unnecessary hassle of probate court.

So what can you learn from David’s story? Share your wishes with your family members, explain your reasoning, and address any concerns they may have. This open dialogue can foster a deeper understanding and strengthen the bond between you and your loved ones. It also allows your loved ones to provide valuable insights and perspectives that can help refine and improve your plan. What a loving gift to give your family!

Pitfall No. 4: Not Working With a Professional

The last pitfall I’ll address is going at it alone, or doing your plan cheaply online. As I pointed out above, estate planning is not just about creating a few documents and putting them away on a shelf until something happens. There’s much more to it.

Instead, work closely with an estate planning firm like ours, who can help you craft a plan that fits your unique family dynamics, wishes and assets, as well as keep in touch over time to ensure your plan is updated and works when you need it to. At my firm, we support you with all this and more, including helping you structure your plan in a tax-efficient manner, minimizing the impact of taxes on your assets and ensuring your loved ones receive the maximum benefit from your estate.

I also help you address any unique circumstances within your family, such as a family business, a child with special needs or a family member with addiction issues, ensuring that your plan is tailored to meet the specific needs of your loved ones.

So dads, after reading this, I hope it’s clear that estate planning is a profound expression of your love and responsibility as a father. By taking action now, you can navigate the pitfalls and create a lasting legacy that transcends your lifetime. Remember, your knowledge and attention to detail today can shape the future of your loved ones for generations to come.

How We Support You to Avoid These Common Pitfalls

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we understand that protecting your family goes far beyond just legal documentation. Our mission is to empower you to enshrine your hopes, values, and profound love for your children into a comprehensive plan that preserves your family’s integrity for generations to come. We take the time to truly understand what family means to you—the struggles you overcame, the values you hold dear, the future you envision. And then we help you craft a tailored estate plan that meets your needs and stays updated over time.

So this Father’s Day, give yourself and your children the greatest gift: your love. Book a call with our office to learn how we can support you, and by extension, your entire family. Simply click on the scheduling link here: https://calendly.com/life_and_legacy_planning/15min?month=2024-06

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Field of American flags at Sunset

Memorial Day Reflections: Crafting Your Lasting Legacy With Estate Planning

Memorial Day brings with it an opportunity to reflect on the concepts of mortality, remembrance, and legacy. As we remember the brave men and women who lost their lives serving in the military, may this day also inspire you to think about the legacy you wish to leave behind.

But, first, what is a legacy, really? “Legacy” is often misunderstood and so is estate planning. Legacy and estate planning are often perceived as “only for the wealthy” and/or “philanthropic”. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Legacy isn’t just about money or wealth. As my mentor Ali Katz says: “Legacy is the choices you make now, the actions you take now, the way of being you are now, and the ripple of impact beyond your lifetime.”

Legacy includes capturing your life stories, passing on your values, and ensuring your loved ones have a record of the essence of what matters to you.  These are the things you leave behind that mean the most to your loved ones. Money can’t even compare. Thinking of it this way, it’s easy to see that every human has a legacy to create and leave behind, including you!

Estate planning, on the other hand, is something many people think they understand, but really don’t. It isn’t just about getting your Will done, or documenting what your end-of-life health care wishes are. Estate planning, like legacy, encompasses much more. It’s not about getting some documents signed. Estate planning is the vehicle that allows you to leave a legacy.

So let’s dive in for more understanding on what “legacy” really means and how you can secure your legacy for the benefit of your loved ones.

Understanding What Legacy Truly Is

Legacy, at its core, is about connecting the generations, and Life & Legacy Planning is the way to do it. Here’s an example. Consider a teacher who has spent her career fostering curiosity and resilience in her students. She may not have millions of dollars to give away, but she can use her estate plan to leave her personal library to a local school. She may even set up a small scholarship fund in her estate plan so she can continue supporting education long after she’s gone. And, if she has children or close friends she cooks for regularly, she may leave a book full of her recipes they all love.

Her legacy then becomes not just about the resources she left behind, but about inspiring future generations to value learning and perseverance, and nourishment. Similarly, your estate plan can be crafted to perpetuate the principles you deem most important, making your influence felt well into the future.

So now, take a minute to reflect. What principles are most important to you? How do you want to use them to connect your generation to the next?

Estate Planning as a Form of Love

In emphasizing the value of estate planning as the vehicle that allows you to leave a legacy, know that estate planning should be tailored for each person, each person’s family dynamics, and each person’s values. No two people are the same, no two families are the same, and therefore, no two estate plans should be the same. This personal touch transforms estate planning from a mundane task, that most people put off because they don’t see the value, into a powerful act of love.

Proper and customized estate planning can also alleviate the potential for family conflict, which oftentimes results in irretrievably broken family relationships. But when you use estate planning as a vehicle for securing your legacy, it has the power to preserve these relationships and uphold family harmony. Estate planning is then transformed into an enduring gesture of care and love.

Consider as an example a devoted husband and father who deeply valued his family’s annual summer retreats to a beloved lakeside cabin. Understanding the special place the cabin held in his and his family’s hearts, he specifically detailed in his Will his wish for the property to remain in the family, passing down to his children and grandchildren.

He also set up a small fund to cover the cabin’s upkeep, ensuring that his family would continue to enjoy it without financial burden. In doing so, this loving husband and father not only preserved a cherished family tradition but also created a physical space for remembrance and togetherness, allowing future generations to share in the joy and serenity he found there. This thoughtful element of his estate plan demonstrates how such preparations are acts of love, weaving his memory and values into the fabric of his family’s future.

Take another minute to reflect. How would you craft your own legacy into a plan of action?

Practical Steps to Create Your Legacy

Taking the first step in estate planning can feel daunting, but when you frame it as an act of love and legacy preservation, it becomes a deeply meaningful process. Start by identifying what matters most to you. This could be family traditions, a commitment to charity, a passion for art, or anything else that defines your personal story and values. Begin by listing these priorities and considering how they can be integrated into your estate plan.

Next, consult with a Personal Family Lawyer (“PFL”) who understands the intersection of legacy and estate planning through a special process called Life & Legacy Planning. A PFL will help you get clear on your values and goals, then together, you’ll create a customized plan that fits you and honors the legacy you wish to leave behind. For instance, if you, like the devoted father in the example above, have a cherished family property, a PFL can advise you on how to set up a trust to manage that property and stipulate how it should be maintained and used by future generations.

A PFL will also record a Life & Legacy Interview that your family will cherish for years. The Interview allows you to express your love, hopes, and reasons behind your decisions and is a comforting and clarifying piece for your loved ones, ensuring they understand your intentions and feel your presence in the provisions you’ve made. You can even record messages to send to beneficiaries that provide stories and details about a special possession or heirloom and why you chose to give it to them.

By taking these steps, you’re not just planning for the future; you’re crafting a legacy that carries your values and love forward, ensuring that your impact on the world persists and that your memory continues to serve as a source of inspiration and unity for those you hold dear.

Memorial Day Is an Opportunity for Action

This Memorial Day, as you reflect on the sacrifices of those who gave their all (and what a legacy that is!), take action to get your estate plan in place. Remember, estate planning is not just for the wealthy; it is for everyone. It’s about making your mark, much like the soldiers we honor, whose legacies are remembered for generations.

So let this Memorial Day be the catalyst for you to start or update your estate plan. In doing so, you honor your life and ensure connection among the generations. Just as we come together as a nation to remember, let’s also take steps to put our love into action.

How We Can Help You Take Action Today

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we don’t merely dispense legal counsel; we empower you to reflect on how you want to be remembered and how you want to pass on the values you hold dear. We take the time to fully understand what’s important to you, and then together, we’ll craft a thoughtful and holistic plan that results in the greatest gift you can leave your loved ones: your love.

To learn more about how we approach estate planning as the intersection of love and legacy, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Retired couple walking on the beach having fun in a sunny day

10 Steps to Take Now to Secure a Comfortable Retirement: Part 1

Retirement is more than just an end to the working years; it’s an exciting new phase of life that requires thoughtful preparation and strategic planning. Since May is Older Americans Awareness Month, it’s the perfect opportunity to explore 10 steps you can take now to ensure a comfortable and fulfilling retirement. In this article, we’ll discuss the first 5 steps, why they’re important, and how to implement them. Next week, we’ll continue with the remaining 5 steps.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Step 1: Plan for the Transfer of Your Assets

Why It’s Important: Effective estate planning ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, potentially reduces estate taxes, and can prevent a lot of legal complications for your heirs. Proper estate planning also helps to avoid the public, often lengthy and costly process of probate, ensuring that your heirs have quicker access to the assets you leave behind. Moreover, clear directives in estate planning can prevent family disputes (sometimes resulting in irretrievably broken relationships) and ensure that your specific instructions are followed, preserving your legacy exactly as you intend.

Practical Steps: Consult with a Personal Family Lawyer. A Personal Family Lawyer (“PFL”) always starts the client relationship with education about your options that align with your specific family dynamics, assets and wishes. From there, your PFL will help you create a tailored Life & Legacy plan that works when you and your family need it to, keeping you and them out of court and conflict. Importantly, a PFL can also help you avoid unnecessary taxes before and during retirement (and who doesn’t want that?).

Life Insurance: Having adequate coverage to handle any debts and funeral expenses can provide a financial cushion for those who depend on you. As part of the PFL Life & Legacy Planning process, your PFL can educate you about how much insurance you need and how to pass the funds to the people you want, while avoiding unnecessary taxes and ensuring the funds are available as soon as possible.

Find a PFL in Your Community. Go to personalfamilylawyer.com to find the nearest PFL and make an appointment for a 15-minute consult call on their website. Many PFLs have virtual offices for your convenience, so if there isn’t a PFL listed in your locality, choose the closest one.

Step 2: Prepare for Long-Term Care Expenses

Why It’s Important: As we continue to live longer, so does the probability of needing some form of long-term care. These services, whether in-home care, assisted living, or nursing facilities, can be costly and are not typically covered by Medicare. Without proper planning, the high costs of long-term care can quickly deplete retirement savings, potentially leaving less financial support for spouses or other family members. Furthermore, preemptive financial planning can significantly ease the emotional and logistical challenges of arranging for long-term care.

Practical Steps:

Research Long-Term Care Insurance: Investigate different policies early, ideally in your 50s or early 60s, before premiums rise significantly. Compare benefits, coverage limits, and the reputation of insurance providers.

Learn About Government Programs: Understand what Medicare covers and explore Medicaid eligibility for long-term care, which varies by state but generally requires spending down your assets.

Find a PFL in Your Community Who Offers Elder Care Planning. Preparing for long-term care can be tricky because the laws are quite complicated. However, a PFL who offers elder care planning can help you navigate your options and create a plan that preserves your assets for your loved ones, rather than draining them for health care costs. Go to personalfamilylawyer.com to find the nearest PFL who offers elder care planning and make an appointment on their website.

Step 3: Pass on Generational Wealth

Why It’s Important: By ensuring that wealth passes effectively to future generations, you can secure their financial future and teach them how to manage and grow that wealth responsibly. Furthermore, generational wealth can enhance the lives of future family members and their communities by providing educational opportunities, fostering entrepreneurship, and supporting philanthropic efforts. It also instills a sense of responsibility and stewardship, which are crucial for maintaining family wealth over generations.

Practical Steps:

Educational Trusts: A PFL can help you set up trusts that release funds for your children or grandchildren based on milestones such as graduation from college. These trusts also have tax benefits, and a PFL can educate you about how they work.

Create a Family Investment Plan: Include younger family members in discussions about family investments to educate them about financial principles.

Find a PFL in Your Community. A PFL can not only help you create an educational trust but also asset protection trusts so you can create generational wealth for your family. Go to personalfamilylawyer.com to find the nearest PFL and make an appointment on their website. Keep in mind that many PFLs have virtual offices for your convenience, so if there isn’t a PFL listed in your locality, choose the closest one.

Step 4: Leave a Legacy

Why It’s Important: What your family will treasure most is not the financial gifts you leave, but your life lessons, values, and memories that define your family heritage. A well-planned legacy can inspire and guide future generations, providing them with a sense of identity and belonging to a greater family story. You can ensure that your philosophical and ethical beliefs continue to influence even when you’re no longer present, helping to shape the character and choices of your descendants.

Practical Steps:

Record Life & Legacy Interview with a PFL: All PFLs include an interview as an important part of their unique Life & Legacy Planning process. The interview ensures your family has a piece of their family history they can hold onto long after you’re gone. They’ll also treasure being able to see you and hearing your voice whenever they want.

Step 5: Cultivate and Share Family Values and History

Why It’s Important: Continuing the idea of leaving a legacy, know that strengthening family bonds through shared history and values helps maintain a sense of continuity across generations. This cultural and historical continuity enhances their psychological resilience and emotional well-being. Additionally, a well-documented family history can serve as a valuable asset for educational and genealogical purposes, enriching the lives of current and future generations. Here are some steps you can take outside of recording a Life & Legacy Interview with a PFL.

Practical Steps:

Create a Family Archive: Gather photos, letters and important documents in a digital format to ensure preservation and easy sharing. Enlist the help of a younger family member (Gen Z, anyone?) if you need to. Also consider writing down recipes, stories, and holiday traditions that can be passed down as family legacies.

Compile Family Histories: Write or record stories about family elders, significant events, and the origins of family traditions. Note that writing these down the “old school” way, i.e., pen and paper, will be meaningful to younger generations. They’ll love having a piece of paper with your handwriting on it.

Host Family Reunions: Regular gatherings not only help reinforce family bonds but also allow older generations to impart wisdom and traditions firsthand.

So whether you’re a few years away or are about to retire now, it’s never too early (or too late!) to start planning. Be sure to check back next week for even more steps you can take to ensure peace of mind when the time comes.

Let Us Help Secure Comfort in Your Retirement

At our firm, we do more than just guide you through estate planning; we provide you with peace of mind, knowing you are free to enjoy retirement. However, understanding the complexities of retirement—from estate planning to ensuring long-term care and preserving generational wealth—can be daunting. That’s why, as your heart-centered Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we streamline the process, making it as easy on you as possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to create a Life & Legacy Plan that secures your comfort in retirement, we invite you to schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office. Let us help you live your best life, every step of the way.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Mother and daughter smiling at camera

Estate Planning: A Gift of Peace and Power for Every Mother

Moms spend their days and nights thinking about how to make sure their children are happy, healthy, and safe. If you’re a mom, you know. If you aren’t a mom, you were born because of a mom. It’s one of the two things we all have in common.

So, as  Mother’s Day approaches, let’s talk about the most meaningful gift you can give or receive on this hallmark holiday that means a lot: every mom deserves the peace of mind and power to create financial security for themselves and their children with thoughtful estate planning.

Now you may be thinking, “Estate planning? Really? Isn’t that just for rich people?” Or, “How  does drafting a Will give me peace of mind and financial security?”

Glad you asked! Most people have a general concept of what “estate planning” means, but in reality, don’t fully understand it. Believe it or not, estate planning is far more complex than just drafting a Will, and it’s not just for rich people, though doing it will leave your family much more “rich” than if you don’t. Once you appreciate the power of estate planning, you’ll know why it has the power to “gift” you peace of mind.

So let’s start by parsing out what estate planning really is and why it matters for every mom you know, including yourself if you are a mom.

Why Estate Planning Matters for Moms (and Dads too)

Imagine having a roadmap that clearly shows how your financial assets, the guardianship of your children, and even your most cherished possessions are handled should anything happen to you. Now imagine that your roadmap is a legal document and the people receiving that roadmap are required to abide by your wishes and are able to easily do so because your wishes are so clear and you’ve left a guide for your family along with the roadmap.

That’s what estate planning is: a legally enforceable plan for your future, and ideally a guide to help your loved ones navigate the plan. And contrary to what most people think, estate planning isn’t just for the wealthy or those who are nearing the end of life. It’s for everyone, including you! Thoughtful estate planning gives you the power to make decisions now that will impact your and your family’s future, giving you peace of mind to know you aren’t leaving a mess for the people you love.

You may be wondering, “Really? How does estate planning give me peace of mind?” Relax – grab a mimosa or some tea, kick your feet up, and let’s talk about how it works.

Estate planning allows you to specify who will care for your children if you are unable to do so yourself. It’s undoubtedly a tough subject, but choosing a guardian you trust to raise your kids as you would brings immense comfort, and may even guide you to build deeper relationships with the people you’d call upon to care for your children, if you cannot. Knowing that your wishes are written down and legally protected can relieve a lot of stress, and relax any of those “stressful in the background” thoughts about that one person you would never want raising your kids. 

Without a plan, a judge would decide who takes care of your children if you cannot, and they might not choose the person you would have wanted. Or worst of all, they may even choose the one person you’d never want raising your kids because maybe they look great on paper. Think about it: a judge knows nothing about you or your kids. They only know what they see in court filings. That’s it. They’d have to make decisions with no input from you. Kinda scary, right?

When done right, estate planning also lets you direct the distribution of your property and finances. Specifically, it ensures your assets are transferred to the people you choose without unnecessary delays, legal hurdles, or family conflict.

This not only secures your children’s future but also simplifies the administrative process at a time when your family should have space and time to mourn and heal, not get tangled in legal complexities. And if they do get tangled up in conflict, it’s highly likely that those relationships will be forever destroyed. That also happens. Again, more often than you may think.

Here’s the bottom line. When you get these things in order, you can die in peace, and that means you live life more fully.

Estate Planning Equals Empowerment

Estate planning puts the power in your hands. It’s a declaration of your values and your voice, legally secured to guide your family when you can’t be there. By setting out your wishes clearly, you prevent disputes and ensure your legacy lives on exactly as you intend. After all, someone will have to wrap up your affairs after you die, so it may as well be you, now, while you’re living. So step into your power, safeguard your children’s future, and cement your role as the heart and protector of your family.

In the process of getting your estate planning handled, when you work with a Personal Family Lawyer® firm, you’re going to learn a tremendous amount about your finances, and your financial literacy is going to grow in a way that will result in you feeling exponentially more financially secure and clear.

Financial Protection In Case of Loss

Estate planning is especially vital if the unthinkable happens and your spouse or partner dies. Many mothers face not only devastating emotional loss but also the potential for significant financial instability – especially if you aren’t the primary breadwinner in your family. An effective estate plan, however, includes setting up mechanisms such as life insurance, trusts, and instructions for pension or retirement benefits, which can provide you with financial support when it’s most needed. There’s absolutely no reason you and your children need to compromise your lifestyle should something happen to your partner.

For example, an estate plan ensures that you have access to joint assets and that any individual assets held by your spouse or partner are transferred to you or your children without delay. This can be critical in preventing financial hardship during an already challenging time, ensuring that you have the resources needed to maintain your home, cover living expenses, and continue to provide for your children’s needs.

The Personal Family Lawyer Difference

By now, it should be clear that creating an effective estate plan that honors your wishes and secures your and your family’s financial future isn’t as simple as creating a Will. It’s more complicated than that and can be overwhelming, particularly with the legal jargon and the multitude of decisions that need to be made. These decisions are hard, too. When you’re living your life, probably the last thing you want to think about is your death. You’d probably rather have a root canal.

Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the process alone. Personal Family Lawyer firms, like ours, are uniquely trained, and trusted advisors who can guide you through the process, ensuring that your plan fits your specific circumstances and family dynamics. Here’s a bonus: A Personal Family Lawyer can also advise you on tax implications and the best ways to structure your finances to benefit you and your heirs. Yay! (Unless you want to pay extra taxes and give your money to the government instead of your kids, then knock yourself out).

Finally, a Personal Family Lawyer is committed to serving you and your family for the long term by checking in to update your plan as life changes, assets change and your kids grow. By working with a Personal Family Lawyer Firm,  you create a plan that is thorough, thoughtful and works when you and your family need it to.

Let Us Give You the Gift of Peace and Power

At our law firm, we don’t just give legal advice or draft documents. We take your power and peace of mind seriously. We also know that you’re busy. As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we have processes in place that make getting your estate plan in place as easy as possible, all while being thorough, thoughtful, and mindful of your time and budget.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you create an estate plan that gives you the Mother’s Day gift of power and peace of mind – so you can live life to the fullest – schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Hacker with computer in dark setting

The Dark Side of the Internet: Protect Yourself From Online Scams and Digital Attacks

In the digital age, online scams and cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, posing risks to not only everyday users but also to lawyers who manage clients’ sensitive information. But there’s no need to fear if you take measures to keep your data safe. And if (when?) you’re working with a lawyer, you should also know what actions lawyers take to protect your data. Taking these two approaches, let’s discuss how you can safeguard yourself from these digital attackers and how lawyers ensure their clients’ data is protected from the bad guys.

And since this article is being published around “Star Wars Day” (i.e., May 4th, as in “May the fourth (Force) be with you”), I’ll refer to the bad guys as the “Dark Side” just for fun.

7 Tips to Protect Yourself From the Dark Side

Navigating the internet safely requires vigilance and knowledge about potential threats, even as the Dark Side constantly comes up with online scams and attacks designed to steal personal information or harm your devices. Here are some essential steps to protect yourself from these cyber threats and ensure your digital experience remains secure.

  1. Verify who you’re interacting with and confirm the identity of anyone asking for personal details online. Scammers often pretend to be from a trusted company. If you receive an email or message that looks suspicious, or even a little off, contact the company directly using information from their official website.
  2. Create strong passwords. This is crucial. Your passwords should be long, unique, and include a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using common words or sequences that can be easily guessed. Additionally, use different passwords for different sites. A password manager can help you generate and manage secure passwords.
  3. Don’t click on links or attachments without knowing who the sender is. Clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources can be dangerous. These can lead to fake websites designed to steal your information or install malware on your device. When in doubt, don’t click, especially when links come to you via text. Never, ever click a link sent to you via text without verifying that the sender is a real friend or company you are doing business with.
  4. Keep your software and devices updated. Regular updates help fix security vulnerabilities. Use antivirus software to protect against malware and other threats.
  5. Educate yourself about the types of scams that exist, such as phishing emails that ask for personal information or offer too-good-to-be-true deals. Being aware is your first line of defense.
  6. If you get a call from a bank, a government agency or even from a child or grandchild asking for money or gift cards for any reason, or access to your computer, tell the caller you will call them back. Hang up, and call your child or grandchild directly, OR the bank or government agency and find out if they were actually calling you. As an added measure, with your family, have a family “code phrase” that must be spoken out loud in the event of an emergency, such as “blackie is a brown dog” or something unique that only your family would know.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT: Never give anyone remote access to your computer, unless it is from a tech support company you engaged with proactively, meaning you called the tech support line on the Company’s website directly, and you initiated the request for support. Scammers will pretend they are from Coinbase or your bank, and tell you they need to access your computer to resolve your account problem. Do not fall for it.

It’s also important to note here that the elderly are the most targeted group for online scammers. So if your parents fall into this age group, pass along this article to them so they are armed with knowledge to protect themselves.

The Dark Side Won This Time, Now What?

Even after taking all these measures, sometimes the bad guys get away with it and scam you, or a loved one. If you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, it’s important to act quickly. Immediately inform your bank or relevant service provider if you’ve shared any sensitive information. They can take steps to protect your account. You should also update your passwords right away, especially if you believe they may have been compromised. Again, ensure your new passwords are strong and unique. You may also want to report the scam to the alleged sender, so they know someone is impersonating them and can take protective measures themselves. And if applicable, report the scam to the relevant online platform, or even the local police, consumer protection agencies, or internet crime complaint centers.

Rest Easy Knowing We Have Your Back

At our law firm, we don’t just give legal advice; we’re your trusted advisor for life. If you’ve been scammed, we can help you set up your affairs in such a way that there are layers of protection built-in so it doesn’t happen again. As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we’re also here for your family. If your elderly parents don’t have an estate plan in place – or it’s been a while since they had it reviewed – we are here for them too. We can help them protect not only their data, but everything they want to pass on to you.

If you want to learn more about how we can help you and your parents create a Life & Legacy estate plan that keeps your family out of court and conflict and ensures your plan works when you need it to, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Tablet and cell phone showing social media folder with icons

What Happens To Your Social Media Account When You Die?

When you die, what happens to your online life? Each social media platform has its own rules for dealing with the accounts of deceased users, ranging from permanent deletion to transforming accounts into places for mourning and memory. Understanding these options is essential for managing digital assets responsibly and respecting your wishes. So let’s take a look at the various policies of major social media sites and what you can do to make sure your accounts are handled the way you want. After all, our social media accounts reflect our personalities, interests, and memories, so we want them handled with care.

What Each Platform Allows

Let’s take a look at the practical aspects and discuss what each digital platform allows or requires. Note that these provisions are updated as of April 2024, as this article is being published.

Facebook. Facebook offers two options for accounts of deceased users: either close the account permanently or convert it into a memorial account where loved ones can share memories. The platform allows you to designate a “Legacy Contact” while you’re alive; someone who can manage your memorialized account by updating your profile picture, accepting friend requests, and posting memories. Importantly, they cannot log into the account or view your private message history.

Instagram. Instagram also allows accounts to be either memorialized or permanently deleted. A memorialized Instagram account will display a “Remembering” label and will not appear in public spaces like the “Explore” section. The process requires proof of death, such as a death certificate, so someone will need to provide that after you’re gone.

TikTok. TikTok permits family members or legal representatives to request the deactivation of a deceased user’s account by providing appropriate proof of death. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, and at the time of this writing, TikTok does not currently offer a memorialization option, so your account is permanently removed once the request is processed.

X. X (formerly known as Twitter) allows the family to close the account of a deceased user. This involves submitting proof of death, after which your account and its contents are permanently deleted. X does not provide a memorialization option.

YouTube. YouTube is covered by Google’s overall policies, which offer a proactive feature called the Inactive Account Manager. This allows you to set instructions for your account if you become inactive for a specified period. You can also choose to have your data shared with trusted contacts or have the account deleted.

LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, immediate family members or colleagues can request to remove a deceased member’s profile by providing proof of death. LinkedIn focuses on maintaining a professional network and so does not offer account memorialization.

How to close or memorialize an account

It’s important to know that social media platforms generally discourage logging into a deceased person’s account as it poses privacy and security risks. To close or memorialize your account, family members must directly contact the service and provide the necessary documentation. They won’t be able to make a phone call, either – they’ll have to find out how to close or memorialize your account on each site separately, which can be time-consuming and frustrating. But there’s a better way! You can create a plan that helps your loved ones navigate the process. To do that, you need a trusted estate planning lawyer.

What an Estate Planning Attorney Can Do

A trusted estate planning attorney plays a crucial role in helping manage your digital legacy, ensuring that your wishes for your online accounts are carried out after your passing. Here’s what a skilled attorney can do to help ensure that your loved ones have the necessary information and authority to manage your accounts:

1. Create a Digital Asset Plan

An estate planning attorney can help you draft a digital asset plan that details your wishes for each of your online accounts. This plan can specify which accounts should be closed and which should be memorialized. It includes all kinds of digital assets, from social media accounts and emails to digital wallets and personal blogs.

Your attorney can also guide you in appointing an executor, a person who will be responsible for managing your online assets according to your wishes. A knowledgeable attorney will explain the responsibilities involved and help ensure that the executor has the legal authority they need to act on your behalf with various digital platforms.

2. Provide Necessary Legal Documentation

A skilled attorney can prepare necessary legal documents that authorize your executor to access your accounts. This might include special powers of attorney and directives that are included in your will, trust, or in a separate document.

3. Secure Your Account Information

A trusted attorney can suggest secure ways to store your account usernames, passwords, and any other necessary information. This information can be kept in a way that respects privacy and security but becomes accessible to the digital executor or designated individuals after your death.

4. Update the Plan Over Time

As laws and platform policies change, a trusted estate planning attorney can help update your digital estate plan. This ensures that it remains compliant with new regulations and continues to reflect your wishes accurately.

However, it’s important to know that most estate planning attorneys treat their clients as a “one and done” transaction. Once your plan is signed, they won’t contact you again to ensure that your plan stays updated over time. And they won’t explain that failure to update your plan regularly means your plan won’t work when you need it to. Instead, work with a Personal Family Lawyer who will keep in touch for your lifetime to ensure your plan works.

How We Can Help

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we don’t merely dispense legal counsel; we safeguard all your assets and guide you to make the right decisions for your unique situation. We take the time to fully understand what’s important to you, and then together, we’ll craft a thoughtful and holistic plan so you and your family can avoid the stress, conflict, and chaos that comes with incomplete planning – including incomplete digital planning.

To learn more about how we approach estate planning from a place of heart and understanding, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
tax refund in wood type

Why Estate Planning Is the Best Use of Your Tax Refund

When that extra bit of money from your tax refund lands in your bank account, (kinda feels like Christmas, doesn’t it?)  it’s easy to start dreaming about all the ways you can use it. Financial experts may tell you that it’s a chance to pay off debts, tuck away savings for an emergency, or add to your retirement savings. You, on the other hand, may want to splurge on something special. However, there’s an often-overlooked option that not only provides immediate satisfaction but ensures long-term benefits for both you and your loved ones: estate planning.

Estate planning might sound like a complex and daunting chore reserved for the wealthy, but it’s actually a straightforward and crucial process for everyone. In its most basic terms, estate planning involves making a plan for what happens to your belongings and finances after you’re gone, or if you become incapacitated. Think of it as creating a roadmap for your loved ones to follow, ensuring they’re taken care of and know exactly how to handle your estate according to your wishes. After all, someone will have to do something with your stuff after you’re gone, and if you’re the one who takes care of it while you can, you can save your loved ones a lot of pain. And, make sure you are cared for in the way you want, by the people you want, if you become incapacitated.

And by the way, proper estate planning covers much more than just money and personal belongings, but we’ll delve into that in just a bit.

Why You Need an Estate Plan

Not only do you need a plan for what happens with your finances and personal items after you’re gone or become incapacitated, but you also need an estate plan if any of the following are true:

You care about the people in your life who will handle things for you, if you cannot. First and foremost, estate planning isn’t something you just do for yourself, it’s truly an investment you make for the people you love. If it feels daunting to you, imagine how they will feel left with a big confusing mess when something happens to you. And, it’s one of those things that you must get handled before you need it because by the time you need it, it’s too late, and you’ve just left the people you love the most with a big mess.

That’s why we say that estate planning is about protecting your family. It’s about protecting their time, energy and attention, and leaving them with a gift of love. It’s a way of saying “I love you” that goes beyond words, providing them with security and guidance during a difficult time. By making your wishes clear, you can keep them out of court, prevent potential conflicts and ensure your loved ones are supported exactly as you intend.

You want your wishes to be honored. With an estate plan, you have the power to dictate exactly how you want to be cared for if you are incapacitated, or who makes decisions for you if you cannot. If you would not want to linger in a hospital bed for years like Terry Schiavo did before her death, you must create a plan. Otherwise, the people you love could get stuck in a court process fighting over your care. 

You also get to say who inherits your assets, from your home and savings to sentimental items. Planning ensures there isn’t any confusion and guarantees that your possessions end up in the right hands. Planning also makes it clear who should handle things after you are gone, and it makes it as easy as possible for the people you choose. 

You want to save money and time (for yourself and your family). Dealing with the court if you become incapacitated or when you die is time-consuming, can be expensive and is totally public. Without a clear plan in place, you or your family may face costly legal battles and time-consuming administrative hurdles. Your careful planning now can save them from this stress and financial strain, making the process as smooth as possible. In addition, careful planning ensures that you save yourself money by avoiding unnecessary costs if you are unable to care for yourself. 

You have minor children. If you have minor children, consider who is home with them when you aren’t. Would that person know what to do if you didn’t make it home? Or would the authorities show up at your house and have to take your children into the care of protective custody/strangers while they figured it out? If the idea of this terrifies you like it does most parents, you need an estate plan. 

Most parents of minor kids are overwhelmed with the demands of everyday life and don’t stop to think that estate planning applies to them. A common misconception is that planning is only for older folks who know their mortality is staring them in the face, and young parents think that’s too far off to warrant any consideration. That’s a mistake. Death happens to everyone and incapacity can happen before it, no matter how old you are right now. Don’t leave your kids at risk.

So now you know you need an estate plan but aren’t sure what to do next. If you feel like the process seems daunting, don’t worry. Taking that first step is easier than you might think. 

Put Your Tax Refund To Work 

You might consider using your tax refund to do your estate plan on your own or opt for a cheap online service. While these options can seem cost-effective at first glance, they don’t offer the comprehensive coverage and personalized advice that your unique situation requires. 

Instead, investing your refund in working with a heart centered, holistic attorney with a process in place for ensuring that your plan works throughout your lifetime is a much wiser choice. We will get to know you, your family dynamics, and your assets, and then help you choose the right plan for you both now, and into the future. Creating a will or a trust isn’t a one and done thing you do, and then put it on a shelf or in a drawer and never look at it again. When you do that, your plan is almost guaranteed to fail when the people you love need it. In that case, it’s almost better to do nothing because then at least you have it on your to-do list. False security is one of the greatest risks of estate planning.

We will help you navigate the law, and also help you tailor your estate plan to fit your specific needs, as well as provide peace of mind knowing that your estate plan is thorough and legally sound. Remember, when it comes to safeguarding your family’s future and ensuring your wishes are accurately reflected, the value of expert guidance is well worth the investment.

At the very least, your attorney should help you create the relevant documents, including:

Creating a Will: A will is a document in which you detail the distribution of your assets and designate guardians for any minor children. It serves as your voice, ensuring your assets are allocated as you desire. 

Setting Up a Trust: For greater control over the distribution of your assets, a trust is invaluable. It not only allows for precise management of how and when your assets are distributed but can also offer tax advantages and circumvent the lengthy and public probate process. In addition, and maybe more importantly, a trust will help your loved ones avoid a lengthy, expensive,  and totally public court process, which can cost your family significant amounts of time, energy and attention. 

Selecting Guardians and Executors: A key component of estate planning is choosing individuals who will execute your wishes and look after your children if you are unable to do so. These crucial choices help safeguard your family’s future. And if you want to go beyond merely choosing people to raise your kids, you need a thorough Kids Protection Plan, which takes into account anything that could happen (i.e., you’re in a car accident and they’re with a babysitter at home). A Kids Protection Plan also ensures your kids are raised by the people you want in the way you want, that someone you’d never want to raise your kids is able to, and that the right people are able to get emergency care for them if you’re traveling without them.

Managing Taxes and Expenses: Effective estate planning can significantly lessen the tax load on your beneficiaries, allowing a larger portion of your assets to benefit them directly instead of going towards tax settlements.

These are all undoubtedly important, and what most estate planning attorneys will do for you. However, a Personal Family Lawyer will go a few steps further, ensuring that investing your tax refund in an estate plan is the very best investment you’ll make all year. In fact, every Personal Family Lawyer promises to deliver a plan to clients that works throughout your lifetime. They do this by:

  • Empowering you to choose the right plan that fits your unique family situation, values, and budget (most lawyers will tell you what you need);
  • Ensuring your assets are inventoried and don’t end up lost (most lawyers won’t tell you that this happens – a lot – to the tune of billions of dollars every year);
  • Creating a Kids Protection Plan® , a comprehensive plan outside of your will for what happens to your kids if something happened to you (most lawyers don’t even think to do this);
  • Being a trusted advisor for your family, so they have someone to turn to for help when something happens to you (most lawyers don’t ever make contact with your family after you’ve completed your estate plan); 
  • Capturing your memories, stories, values and family traditions so they are passed down to the next generations (most lawyers don’t think to do this either); and
  • A system for updating your plan at least every three years to make sure your plan stays up to date so as your life changes and the law changes, your plan works when you need it to (most lawyers treat their clients as a “one and done” transaction, never checking in again and letting your plan go stale).

What If I Didn’t Get a Refund This Year?

Now you may be thinking, bummer, I didn’t get a refund this year. Know these two things: 1) Estate planning is always a wise investment whether you get a refund or not; and 2) A Personal Family Lawyer, using a unique process called Life & Legacy Planning, can help you organize your finances so you are more likely to get a refund next year, or at least not have a big unexpected tax bill, if that’s what happened this year.. A Personal Family Lawyer will also help you get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, so that you make the very best decisions about the allocation of your resources for yourself and the people you love. 

Estate Planning: The Ultimate Expression of Love

Among all the ways to use your tax refund, estate planning with a Personal Family Lawyer ensures that your love and care for your family endure long after you’re gone. It’s an act of foresight that not only secures your family’s financial future but also leaves a legacy.

As a Personal Family Lawyer Firm, we will work with you to create a complete plan that is worth more to your loved ones than your tax refund will cover. To learn more about our Life & Legacy Planning process, and how we approach estate planning from a place of heart, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office today.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Close up photo of bitcoin crypto currency

Navigating the World of Cryptocurrency: A Guide for Parents and Teens

In an era where digital innovation shapes every aspect of our lives, it’s no surprise that our teenagers are drawn to the allure of cryptocurrency. This digital form of money represents a shift away from traditional financial systems. If you are the parent of teens, understanding cryptocurrency is crucial so you can provide them with the guidance they need to navigate this new world safely and wisely. Luckily, I’m here to help you learn what you need to know. Let’s dive in. 

What is Cryptocurrency, Exactly?

Cryptocurrency, which folks also call “crypto” is, in essence, virtual money that can be used to buy goods and services. It can also be traded for profit, much like stocks. However, unlike the dollars in your wallet, crypto exists only in the digital world. The crypto universe is vast, with thousands of digital currencies out there.

Crypto is based on blockchain technology, which ensures transactions are secure, transparent, and decentralized, so they’re not controlled by any government or financial institution (there are pros and cons to this that we’ll describe below). Imagine blockchain as a digital Lego tower where each block represents a piece of information, and once a block is added to the tower, it can’t be removed or altered, making it a super secure way to keep track of cryptocurrency transactions – kind of like a high-tech, unbreakable diary

A critical component of understanding cryptocurrency is the concept of a crypto wallet. Unlike a physical wallet, a crypto wallet doesn’t store currency; instead, it holds secure digital keys that allow access to cryptocurrencies. With me so far?

What Parents of Teens Need to Know

To the younger, digital-native generation, cryptocurrency is an exciting and innovative concept. They’re not afraid of technology and investing online. They’re aware of the potentially significant returns on investments, stories of cryptocurrency millionaires, and the prospect of being part of a cutting-edge financial movement. This is why crypto is very attractive to teens.

Parents should know that while there are no laws specifically prohibiting teens from owning or trading cryptocurrency, most platforms and exchanges require users to be 18 years old. For eager and younger investors, custodial accounts present a solution. These accounts allow parents to oversee their teen’s investments, providing a controlled environment where teens can learn about digital currencies. 

These accounts not only allow parents to monitor their teen’s investment activities but also offer a hands-on educational experience in managing and understanding digital currencies. It’s a balanced approach that combines the practical aspects of investing with the security of parental oversight.

Be Aware of the Risks

While learning how to invest in crypto can be a great learning activity for you and your teen, be aware of the risks involved. For one, the crypto market is highly volatile. Prices can surge or plummet within a short period, making investments speculative and risky. It’s crucial to have open discussions with your teen about the importance of not investing more than they can afford to lose, and about the reality of the speculative nature of digital currency. Teach your teen the importance of research, diversification, and long-term thinking and you’ll help instill responsible investment habits that will last a lifetime (and make you proud!).

Most importantly, ensure that you know how to get into their cryptocurrency accounts, in case something happens. And, that someone knows how to get into your accounts as well. The biggest risk to your cryptocurrency investments is that you haven’t documented them such that someone could access your accounts, when something happens to you. Contact us and let us help!

Alternatives and Best Practices

For families that find direct investment in cryptocurrency too daunting, there are alternative ways to engage with the digital economy. Encouraging your teen to learn about blockchain technology or exploring investments in crypto-related stocks and ETFs can provide a safer introduction to the concepts without the direct risks associated with cryptocurrency trading. 

However, if you’re ready to make a go at it, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Foster a Culture of Learning.
The rapid evolution of digital currencies makes continuous learning essential. Encourage your teen (and take the opportunity yourself) to stay informed about the latest developments by reading reputable news sources, listening to podcasts, and even speaking with a financial advisor. 

Establish Guidelines.
Before your teen makes any financial investment, it’s important to establish clear guidelines. Discuss together how much time and money is reasonable to invest, the importance of privacy and security in digital transactions, and the expectations for responsible behavior. Setting these ground rules early on can lay a strong foundation for healthy financial habits.

Embrace the Future.
Regardless of whether your teen decides to invest in cryptocurrency, understanding this new facet of the financial world is invaluable for you. The rise of digital currencies offers a unique opportunity for parents and teens to learn together about the future of money, technology, and personal finance. It’s a chance to explore new concepts, discuss values and responsibilities, and prepare for a future where digital currencies may play a significant role. 

Prepare Yourself and Your Teen With Our Guidance

Whatever the future holds, as a Personal Family Lawyer firm, we believe it’s important to educate your children about finances so you leave a legacy of fiscal responsibility when you’re gone. That’s why we help ensure that when you’re no longer here, your assets – including cryptocurrency – are passed on the way you want, easily, and without your family ending up in court and conflict. We do that by approaching estate planning as a relationship – a lifetime relationship with you as your and your family’s trusted advisor so you have someone to turn to in times of change and uncertainty, and in times of joy and excitement. 

To learn more about how we can guide you and your family to secure the future you want, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Law, notary, attorney background theme

April Fools! How DIY Wills and Trusts Offer a False Sense of Security … and May Leave Your Family With an Expensive Mess

If you’ve been traveling around the sun for a while, you’ve no doubt heard of a Will, a document that says what happens to your money and belongings after you die. You may even have a Will, or know you should get one. And maybe you’ve heard of a Trust and wondered what it is and how it works. You may have even done research on Google about how to do your own Will or Trust.

In fact, it’s hard to poke around the internet and not find do-it-yourself (“DIY”) Wills and Trusts services. Legal Zoom, TrustandWill.com, and even media personalities Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman offer cheap DIY documents. Heck, you can even create your own Will or Trust for free by downloading a few forms. What these websites won’t do, however, is explain the potential consequences that can happen if you use one of their services. 

Legal Documents Have Legal Consequences

The truth is that Trusts and Wills, and other documents that all adults should have in place, like a health care directive and power of attorney, are legal documents with legal consequences. They contain lots of legal language. Even if you think you understand the words, you likely don’t fully understand the nuances in the terminology. There’s a reason lawyers have to complete college, graduate from law school, then pass a bar exam before they can practice. It takes time and effort to learn the law, the legal terminology, the application of the law, and the potential consequences if something goes wrong. 

Even then, many lawyers who don’t specialize in estate planning, or Wills and Trusts, and who don’t have training as a Personal Family Lawyer®, as we do, put in place legal documents that fail when you become incapacitated or die, for various reasons.  And, yet, you may be getting sold on the idea that you can draft legal documents on your own, using an online website.  The promise is you can save money, and completely protect yourself and your loved ones from expensive legal consequences of not having planning in place. Since it’s early April when this article is being published, we call “April Fools” on these services. 

A Real Life Cautionary Tale

Let’s keep you from being fooled by illustrating what can happen when you draft legal documents on your own without understanding the consequences. What follows is a true story:

A woman passed away and her husband came into his lawyer’s office to get legal advice on what to do next. The woman we’ll call her “Jane”) received an inheritance from her first husband (let’s call him “John”). She was also close to her adult children and her grandchildren, and wanted to make sure they received what was left of her inheritance from their father. And while she intended to leave her second husband some money, she made it very clear to her family that she wanted to provide for her children and grandchildren.

Jane was frugal. She didn’t want to spend money on an attorney. So she did some research on Google about Wills and Trusts, downloaded some forms, and wrote out her own documents. She learned from Google that a Trust can keep her family from going through a court process called probate, which would save them money and leave more for them to inherit. So she drafted her own Trust thinking that she’d achieve her goals and save money at the same time. 

You may already see where this is going…

When John’s lawyer read Jane’s DIY Trust, they realized that what Jane actually did was leave her entire inheritance to her second husband. Jane legally disinherited her children and grandchildren. Jane’s DIY Trust was also subject to laws of a different U.S. State than the one she lived in, meaning that any legal process related to the Trust would be more complicated than it needed to be. Surely this was not the result Jane wanted.

Jane not only disinherited her children, but she failed to transfer her house to the Trust, despite drafting and filing a deed on her own, and she left assets out of her Trust altogether. So while she thought she was doing the right thing, what she really did was leave her loved ones with a giant, expensive mess. 

Not surprisingly, the family ended up in court and years later, the matter still isn’t resolved. 

You Don’t Have to Make the Same Mistakes

Jane must have believed what she heard from well-meaning folks like Dave and Suze about doing a Will and Trust on her own. She probably thought she understood the legal documents she drafted and signed. She most definitely thought she was making things easy for her family and that she was giving her children money from their father. But Jane was fooled.  

Don’t be Jane. If Jane had worked with a Personal Family Lawyer®, she would have created a plan that would accomplish her goals, and keep her family out of court and out of conflict. She would have saved her family years of heartache and pain, not to mention the expense.  Jane’s story teaches us that it’s absolutely worth it to work with a lawyer whenever you’re dealing with a legal document – including a Will or Trust. Don’t “Trust” those (see what we did there?) who say you can do it cheaply or do it yourself. Don’t be Jane. 

What to Do Instead

You owe it to your loved ones to take the time and put in the investment to do your estate planning right, and keep it up over time.  In fact, it’s the last and greatest gift you can leave them. Having your affairs buttoned up so they don’t have a mess on their hands and are allowed to process their grief in peace is your final act of love. 

If you want to leave your family the gift of your love, we can help. At our firm, we don’t merely dispense legal counsel or draft documents; we safeguard your family. We look at your specific family dynamics and your goals and then work with you to create a plan that ensures you and your loved ones avoid the stress, conflict, and chaos that comes from DIY documents. 

To learn more about how we approach estate planning from a place of heart so you can leave your family with love, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office here.

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.
Blended family of five with two girls and a baby boy sitting on a bench by an urban old brick wall

Parents, Step-Parents and Children, Oh My! Blended Families + Death = Potential Nightmare

Anyone who’s seen an episode of “Modern Family” knows that families these days come in many different shapes and sizes. Long gone are the days when a “family” was defined as a mother, father and two children (or was it 2.5 children? Where does the .5 come from anyway?). In this article, we’ll focus on one of the types of families that’s common in our modern culture: the blended family.

The Unique Dynamics At Play in Blended Families

A “blended family” comes into being when parents divorce, and at least one remarries. While everyone may get along effortlessly while the parent is alive, that too-often doesn’t happen once the parent dies. Why? Because the law still hasn’t caught up to our modern definition of “family.” The law often favors the spouse, which works well when the spouse and the deceased have children together. But when the deceased parent has children from another marriage, the children can – indeed, often are – cut out of their inheritance. 

Other than the law being slow to catch up, there are a few more reasons why this happens:

  • The parent trusts the new spouse completely and can’t comprehend the spouse ever doing anything to harm the children;
  • The new spouse may place his or her own interest ahead of the children – or have children from a first marriage and want them to benefit instead; or
  • The parent has not been educated about what could happen when he or she dies, and hasn’t consulted with a competent attorney to get educated.

A True (and Common) Story That Became a Nightmare

In a recent marketwatch.com article, a woman wrote about her own nightmare scenario. Her father (we’ll call him “Dad”) owned several properties, including the house she lived in as a child. He remarried, and when his health started to decline, her stepmother (we’ll call her “Stepmom”) made financial moves so he could qualify for government health care benefits under the Medicaid program. Whereas Medicaid is a needs-based program (meaning, you only qualify if you can’t afford to pay), many people with means are able to take advantage of legal maneuvers and set their assets aside so they qualify. Doing this keeps assets protected for the next generation(s).    

So far, so good. It seems as if Stepmom has the children’s interests at heart, right? Not so fast.

In order to qualify for Medicaid, Dad had to transfer his assets to someone else while he was alive. That “someone else” was Stepmom. Apparently, she convinced Dad it was the right move and that she could be trusted with his properties. Dad eventually died, and so at the time of his death, Stepmom owned all his properties, including the childhood home. Stepmom went on a selling spree, cashing in on them all. And guess where the money went? If you guessed Stepmom and HER daughter, you’d be right. Dad’s children from his first marriage got nothing.

Wait – Surely That’s Not Legal!

You may be thinking that’s a horribly unfair outcome – so bad that it has to be illegal. But it’s not. It’s completely legal. Once Stepmom owned the properties, she was free to do anything she wanted with them. She chose – deliberately – to give her stepchildren none of the proceeds and under the law, she had the absolute right to do this. The children had no recourse. They’d lose in court every day of the week – and twice on Sundays. 

And so we’re left to wonder: is this the outcome Dad wanted? Could he have foreseen Stepmom was capable of cutting out his children? And did he know there was another way he could have protected them and still qualified for government benefits? With education from a trusted lawyer, would he have done anything differently?

How to Ensure Your Children Are Spared From the Potential Consequences

If you want to avoid the same tragic consequences, there are some steps you can take right away:

  1. Don’t Be Afraid of the Inevitable: Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” and he was half right (you can avoid taxes with careful estate planning but that’s a topic for another article). Death is certain. Yet we’re all uncomfortable talking about death, much less planning for it. Accept death as a reality then make plans while you can.
  2. Hold a Family Meeting: Having a heart-to-heart about your wishes, values and goals can go a long way in preventing misunderstandings after you pass away. 
  3. Educate Yourself: Hands down the single most important thing you can do is educate yourself, and educate yourself now. Don’t rely on the internet. Laws are different from State to State, families are different, assets are handled in different ways, and the internet won’t take all this into account. 
  4. Work With a Lawyer Who Understands Your Family Dynamics: One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to planning for life & death matters like these! What works for one family might not work for yours. You need a tailored plan to fit your unique needs. You deserve, and your family deserves, to have a plan that works when your family needs it. That’s why you need a trusted, heart-centered attorney who will appreciate your unique situation and educate you so you’re empowered to put the right plan in place. Your family’s future literally depends on it.

Your loved ones don’t have to face tragic circumstances when you pass. With honest conversations, proper education, and guidance from a trusted attorney, you can put together a plan that keeps the peace and makes sure your loved ones are taken care of just the way you want. 

To learn more about how we approach estate planning from the heart and yet with all the strategies you need to keep your assets in the family, schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with our office.

 

This article is a service of Lang Hall Law Offices, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session™.
The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.