When you pass away, your family may need to visit a probate court in order to claim their inheritance. This can happen if you own property (like a house, car, bank account, investment account, or other asset) in only your name. Although having a will is a good basic form of planning, a will does not avoid probate. Instead, a will simply lets you inform the probate court of your wishes – your family still has to go through the probate process to make those wishes legal. Continue reading
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin. But, you may not know what it is or how it affects your estate planning. Or, maybe you’ve got yourself some Bitcoin, but haven’t given thought to what would happen to your digital currency in the event of your death or incapacity.
So today’s article will dive in with some initial thoughts, and then we’ll get deeper in future articles.
There are now over 800 digital currencies available, though Bitcoin is the most well known.
And each one operates a bit differently, and with a different purpose.
What they all have in common is that they are digital currencies, in the form of “tokens” that you can now buy (or invest in) and in some cases use to exchange for goods and services.
For example, more and more providers of goods and services are accepting Bitcoin as a payment method, just as they would cash or credit.
And, even a few accepting the lesser known currency called Ripple (XRP).
But, as of this writing, there are no providers we’ve heard of accepting, for example, the lesser known cryptocurrency of ProCoin (PROC), a coin based on shopping rewards. But, the coin is tradeable on the open coin market, currently at $.12, though it’s been traded as high as $.38.
If you want to learn more about how these digital currencies work, please do let me know and I’ll write more about it in the future.
For today, I want to cover what you need to make sure you’ve got in place from a “what happens when you become incapacitated or die” perspective if you are holding digital currency.
Because if you have not planned for the transfer of your digital currency at the time of your incapacity or death, it could literally be lost to the ethers. And, if you invested in Bitcoin back in the day before it got popular, that could potentially be millions of dollars lost to your loved ones.
There are two things for you to consider if you are holding digital currency:
- That your loved one’s (or whoever you would want to have your currency) know about it; and
- That they know how to access it and cash it in or hold onto it.
If you are holding your currency in an exchange, such as coinbase, with 2-factor authentication, it could be very difficult for your loved one’s to access your currency. We are in process of setting up a digital account administration system for our clients and you can look forward to that in the coming months. Having that in place would allow the executor of your estate to handle all digital accounts, not just crypto accounts.
Until then, best practice is to transfer your cryptocurrency into a “paper wallet”, which is kind of ironic given that it’s a digital currency. And it basically involves storing codes offline that allow you to access your currency. Here’s the thing, if you lose those codes, or your loved ones can’t find them, it’s the same as all of your currency being gone.
Bottom line: if you have cryptocurrency and you want your loved ones to have it after you are gone, you should probably call us so we can make sure it’s not lost upon your incapacity or death.
As a new technology, cryptocurrency can be a bit confusing, and not many lawyers are even thinking about this issue yet. But we are, so give us a call and let’s have a Family Wealth Planning Session during which we can help you to protect and preserve what matters most. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what you can do to ensure your family is taken care of.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate and Business Attorney. 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 Family Wealth & 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 at 832.408.0505 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and find out how to better protect your family.
Of the handful of major life events that require your serious consideration, few are as emotionally charged as how to leave your assets for loved ones at the time of your death. This often complex process is accomplished via testamentary documents such as wills and trusts, which have recently become available for purchase online as standard forms.
The assets you have acquired during your life and the ways that you own them are often far more complex than a standard legal document or online service can anticipate. When you make that all important decision to create a will or put your assets into a trust, you need an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you so that your wishes for life and death can be carried out without risk of your family getting stuck in court or conflict, when it’s too late.
Your incapacity or death will be an emotional time for your family. During this time, they need guidance, not a set of documents, which may not have even been kept up to date or adequately cover after-acquired assets.
In certain cases such as being married multiple times, having minor children, or owning a small business, legal assistance is especially necessary.
There may also be a variety different tax or asset protection implications for your inheritors. The right lawyer can advise you on the best way to handle the different assets you own such as real estate, investments, a small business, or personal property.
Is a trust right for your situation? Is there a way to transfer an asset before you pass, so that it will be protected from claims, creditors or taxation? Groupon can’t help you with that.
You may save money initially if you have a simple, small estate with few assets by just using a form that you find online. However, if you become incapacitated before death, your family could get stuck with a long drawn out court process, as they attempt to get control of your financial assets. And, if your document is unclear, contestable, or wholly or partially invalid, it’s your family who will be paying the price down the road.
Speak with a licensed Estate Attorney to create an estate plan that protects you and your loved ones.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Estate and Business Attorney. 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 Family Wealth & 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 at 832.408.0505 to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and find out how to better protect your family.
As a parent, you are most likely quite accustomed to managing the legal and medical affairs of your children, as circumstances require. If your child requires urgent medical attention while away from you, a simple phone call authorizing care usually can do the trick. But what happens when those “children” turn 18, and are now adults in the eyes of the law, and need of urgent medical attention far from home?
The simple fact is that the day your child turns 18, he or she becomes an adult, and have the legal rights of an adult. What this means for you is that you lose your prior held rights to make medical and financial decisions for your child, unless your child executes legal documents giving you those rights back. Without the proper legal documents in place, accessing medical information, and even being informed about your adult child’s medical condition can be difficult and in some cases, impossible.
When sending kids off to college, it is important to consider the legal implications an accident or medical emergency might have on your ability to stay informed and participate in important decision making for your young adult child. Medical professionals have a responsibility to follow the Privacy Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensures medical privacy protection for all adults. Once your child turns 18, they are (from a legal perspective)no more attached to you than a stranger, making communication about medical issues tricky if your child is incapacitated and not able to grant permission on their own.
In most states, there are three legal documents which can make all the difference when a medical crisis strikes and your young adult child is far from home. When utilized together, they can ensure a parent or trusted adult be kept in the loop about care and treatment when a child over the age of 18 experiences a medical event while they are away at college, traveling, or living far from home. As with most legal documents, the law varies from state to state, so be sure to seek out the counsel of your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine which forms suit your situation best.
HIPAA – Essentially like a permission slip, this authorization allows your adult child to specify who is allowed access to their personal medical information. Specific information can be specifically withheld, such as drug use, sexual activity, and mental health issues can so that additional privacy can be protected if desired.
Medical power of attorney – Designates an agent to make medical decisions for the young adult. This could be you, as the parent or another trusted adult. Each state has different laws governing medical power of attorney, thereby requiring different forms. Be sure to check with your Personal Family Lawyer® to be sure you are following the laws of your state, as well as the state in which your child resides.
Durable financial power of attorney – Allows the parent or another trusted adult to take care of personal business in the event the adult child is unable to do so. This form would allow the parent to take care of such important tasks such as signing tax returns, paying bills, and accessing bank accounts for the incapacitated adult child. A durable power of attorney is indeed powerful and gives broad access to sensitive financial and legal decision making and should only be given to a trusted relative or friend.
The milestones come quickly once children graduate from high school and enter into the big, wide world away from home. As your family navigates these significant rites of passage, be sure to consult us as your Personal Family Lawyer® to determine the steps necessary to ensure excellent communication and peace of mind when a medical emergency arises. Consider including your young adult children in the process. We’re here to help your family establish the legal and medical protections you all need to live the lives you desire.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Esq. 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 Family Wealth 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. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.
If you are planning a vacation, you probably have a lot to prepare for before you get away. Between structuring your itinerary, getting plane tickets or train reservations, and booking hotels, creating an estate plan is probably not something you thought to add to your to-do list. But, think again and consider that now is the time to take action on this vital piece of your legal life planning.
If something were to happen to you while away on vacation, whether an illness, injury or even death, your family would be stuck with a huge mess to clean up.
The Barber family of Southern California is an unfortunate example. Mom, dad and three kids went on a roadtrip to Arizona where they were in a terrible accident. Mom and dad died, and their three boys were injured, but alive.
It took the authorities a couple of days to locate any relatives, during which time the boys were in the protective custody of strangers. A fate no parent ever wants for their children in a time of tragedy, fear and grief.
The family member that was located first was a sister of the mom and she promptly took the boys back to her home and didn’t let any other family members see the boys.
It took many hundreds of thousands of dollars and at least 7 lawyers to sort out the family fighting that ensued over both the boys and the assets left behind by the Barber parents.
And it all could have been easily avoided with a small amount of planning in advance.
Making the commitment now to create a comprehensive estate plan will ensure your loved ones will not be stuck in court or conflict, if the unexpected happens while you are on vacation.
At least 8 weeks before you leave, schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with us. During that Session, we’ll get you more financially organized than you’ve ever been before (ensuring none of your assets are lost if you are injured on your vacation) and guide you to make informed, empowered and educated choices for yourself and the people you love most. If you are leaving sooner than 8 weeks from now, call our office and let us know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session and we will see what we can do to get you started.
Whatever you do, do not just think a standard set of estate planning documents will serve you or your family. What you and your family need is a plan that properly addresses the care of your children (if you have minors at home), your assets and the parts of your life that go beyond just the money. We can explain more during the Family Wealth Planning Session.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®. 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 Family Wealth 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 Family Wealth Planning Session!
Completely disinheriting a child or grandchild should be reserved for extreme circumstances. And, if those circumstances exist in your family, it’s critical to ensure that you’ve taken the proper planning steps so that you are not leaving your loved one’s with a guaranteed lawsuit or other conflict after you are gone. Read on, if you are considering disinheriting a child or grandchild.
First, let’s get clear when it is a good idea to disinherit a child or grandchild, and when it is not. Disinheriting a child or grandchild to punish them for a lifestyle choice you do not agree with is usually not the best course of action. Instead, consider whether it may be time to release your need to control the people you love with your assets and instead recognize that each person deserves to be accepted and loved for the choices they are making.
If the lifestyle choice you disagree with is something like a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, which could be exacerbated by an inheritance, consider creating a trust that would allow your assets to be used for treatment programs, and that may even incentivize treatment. We can help you draft appropriate provisions into your trust to address a scenario like this.
If you are considering disinheriting a child or grandchild because you are concerned that they may not make good use of their inheritance, or could even possibly lose the inheritance to a future spouse or divorce, we can support in preparing a special trust that would allow you to leave the inheritance to your child or grandchild and keep it protected from future spouses or divorces, ensuring the inheritance stays in your family, no matter what.
If you are considering disinheriting a child or grandchild because they have special needs issues and you want to ensure they qualify for governmental benefits, contact us because we can create workarounds to ensure that your inheritance can be used for their support and they can qualify for governmental benefits.
Finally, if you truly do want to disinherit a child or grandchild, be sure to do it very carefully so as not to create unnecessary family conflict. Do not attempt to do this on your own.
Be sure to document your capacity and that you are making the choice to disinherit based on your own free will, so that the disinherited family member cannot challenge the disinheritance claiming incapacity or duress.
After you’ve made these difficult decisions, make sure you review your estate plan every 1-3 years to ensure your wishes still align with your legal documents. Families are dynamic, so you should refresh your estate plan at regular intervals or after significant changes in your family take place, such as births, deaths, or marriages.
Because the decision to disinherit a child or grandchild requires significant consideration, you should not make it alone. Consult with us to help you clarify your wishes and include them in your estate plan, so they are legally enforceable and do not create additional conflict.
Working with us when considering disinheriting a child or grandchild will ensure you make the wisest decision and that your wishes will be followed when you die. If you are considering this significant decision, meet with us for guidance, we can help you articulate your wishes and include them in a comprehensive estate plan so your desires—and your beneficiaries—are clear.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, esq. 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 Family Wealth 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.
America is a nation of do-it-yourselfers, but building a deck and creating a legally valid estate plan are two entirely different things – and a less-than-perfect deck won’t devastate your family’s financial future or the relationships among the people you care about most.
The prevalence of online legal services has led many people to believe that they can create legal documents cheaply and those documents will be just as effective as if they had visited an estate planning attorney. And this is why that is wrong:
No legal advice – these sites are little more than document mills that churn out the same generic forms over and over. They are not attorneys and cannot advise or warn you if you make a mistake. Plus, who will be there for your family when something happens to you if you’ve used an online document drafting service?
Think your family doesn’t need an advisor to support them when you are gone? Think again.
Consider this: Erica’s father was killed in a motorcycle accident. Dad didn’t leave much behind, but he did leave an estate plan prepared by a trusted family attorney. Had the family attorney not been there for Erica and her brother, they would have taken what dad did leave and drowned their sorrows in a European backpacking trip. Thanks to this family attorney, though, Erica and her brother now have a healthy trust fund set up for them for life with the proceeds of a successful wrongful death case.
Leaving it to your family to know what to do after you’re gone is a big mistake for the people you love.
One size doesn’t fit all – your family is different from everyone else’s family. Just like every state has different inheritance laws, every family has different situations. An online form will not help you protect a special needs child or relative, or protect a child’s inheritance from creditors or a nasty divorce. An online form cannot tell you how to protect assets from taxes or help you achieve your goals.
And, an online form cannot keep your family out of conflict during a time of grief. Even if you don’t have a lot of assets you are leaving behind, whatever you do have will be subject to distribution between the people you care most about. Some of the biggest disagreements we’ve seen after death, aren’t about loads of money, but about the little things and those little things aren’t going to be dealt with well with form documents.
Save now, pay later – you may think you are saving money by using an online service to create your will or trust, but it is impossible to make a fair comparison since the services provided are entirely different.
An estate planning attorney creates an entire plan tailored to your individual needs in a legal document that will stand up in court, and advises you on ways to cut taxes and save for retirement and long-term care. No online service does that.
In addition, your trusted advisor is going to be there for your family when you cannot be. The people you love will need someone to turn to after you are gone. Do you want them to be stuck with figuring out who that should be during their time of grief? Or do you want to leave behind the gift of having taken care of things well during your lifetime and a trusted advisor to hold their hand when you no longer can?
We invite you to take advantage of our specialized legal services for families with a Family Wealth Planning Session. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.
This growing population of professionals are often still raising kids at home when they become responsible for the care of their own aging parents. The stress and financial strain of managing the affairs of both children and parents can become overwhelming. The following tips can help make this challenging life stage manageable and more enjoyable.
Assess the Financial Situation
Taking time to thoroughly understand the financial picture for your own household is imperative as you step into a role of responsibility for your aging parent. Prepare for the inevitable and avoid surprises by working with a professional to consider how your role in the care of your parent will affect the plans you are making for your family’s financial future. Take advantage of our Family Wealth Planning Session process, a comprehensive planning process that ensures your legal, financial and insurance needs are covered appropriately.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying that, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning for your family’s future means preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. As you move through helping your aging parent with important Estate Planning decisions, take time to be sure your own wishes are legally binding as well.
Be sure to include:
- Medical power of attorney – appoints a person to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so
- Durable power of attorney – designates a person to make financial decisions if you are unable to do so
- Living will – expresses your wishes for end of life decisions
- Will – carries out your wishes in the event of your death
- Kids Protection Plan – designates a legal guardian for your minor children in the event of your incapacitation or death
Pay Attention to Red Flags
Even if your aging parent is still quite capable, work together to assess their financial situation carefully and be on the lookout for signs that anything is falling through the cracks. Common red flags are:
- Frequent calls from creditors
- Forgetfulness when it comes to bills and deadlines
- Unopened mail
Utilize professional legal and financial support when necessary and communicate clearly so everyone knows who is responsible for what.
Practice Good Self Care
Stress is one of the most common consequences of caring for two generations at once. Balancing the responsibilities of raising children and caring for aging parents with relaxation and play is vital over the long-haul. Remember that adequate rest and good nutrition will provide you with the extra energy you’ll need when times get tough. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to do it alone! As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we are ready to assist you when duty calls.
Now is the perfect time to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we’ll review your current financial situation in light of your future responsibilities. With our assistance, you’ll gain the confidence of knowing you’re making the most empowered, informed and educated legal and financial decisions for yourself and the ones you love.
We, at GP Schoemakers PLLC, 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 Family Wealth 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. Begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.
As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I see many of the same estate planning mistakes made time and again by people who either fail to plan properly or who use “do-it-yourself” estate planning websites or forms in an effort to save money.
Without professional guidance, this can cause more problems for your heirs and end up depleting estate assets by far more than what you could potentially “save” by doing it yourself online.
A qualified estate planning attorney or Personal Family Lawyer® can help you avoid these 10 common estate planning mistakes:
- Failure to leave any written documentation of your assets, including a list of your online accounts and passwords
- Failure to let family members know where to find important estate planning documents
- Failure to name a guardian for minor children or choosing a guardian who lives far away without planning for temporary, local guardianship (solved with a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®)
- Failure to name recipients for your personal possessions
- Failure to designate beneficiaries for retirement and other financial accounts
- Failure to name secondary beneficiaries
- Failure to name alternative trustees or executors
- Failure to properly fund or title assets to any trusts you have established
- Failure to update your estate plan as life circumstances change
- Failure to create an estate plan of any kind and instead leaving it to the court system to decide how your assets will be distributed
If you’d like to learn more about how to avoid common estate planning mistakes that could cost your heirs dearly, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.
Even if you do not have an estate plan that you’ve created, the State has one for you. And it’s likely one you won’t like. It may be time for you to review the plan the State has for you and make more informed, empowered choices for your family.
If you have created an estate plan with a lawyer, or on your own, it may be time for a review and an update.
Estate planning is simply not something you do once, set it and forget it. In the same way your life, the law and your assets change, your estate plan must change as well.
Far too many people spend thousands of dollars on a plan, only to have it sit on a shelf getting stale, and then end up leaving their family with a huge mess they thought they had invested time and money to prevent.
Don’t let this be the case for your family. Your family is worth more than that.
The bare minimum, your plan should be reviewed every three years. We do recommend that your Family Wealth Inventory (or listing of your assets) be updated annually. You may want to check to make sure you even have an asset inventory included with your plan. Most plans don’t have this included.
Unfortunately, most lawyers (and every do it yourself) system overlooks this and there are Billions of dollars in our State Departments of Unclaimed Property as a result.
In addition to the minimum review every three years, your plan needs to also be reviewed in the event of any of these life changes:
- significant changes in the value of your estate;
- changes in your “income level or requirements,” such as retirement;
- an out of state move;
- job changes;
- changes to family situations, such as births, marriages, deaths, and major illnesses;
- changes to business interests;
- significant purchases or payoffs;
- major changes in insurance coverage; and
- the death or major illness of someone named as your executor, trustee, power of attorney, or child guardian.
As part of our standard service, we create a Family Wealth Inventory of your assets so nothing is lost to the State Department of Unclaimed Property when you become disabled or die. In addition, we review your plan at no additional charge every three years, and have membership program options to review your plan annually plus make changes to your plan at no additional cost to you. And, that’s just the beginning.
If it’s time to create or review your plan, contact us for a Family Wealth Planning Session. You’ll get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make informed, empowered decisions for yourself and your family. Because you and they are worth it.
This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer,® who develops trusting relationships with families for life. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth 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 time for us to sit down and talk because this planning is so important.