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
There is a common misconception that estate plans are only for the ultra-rich – the top 1 percent, 10%, 20%, or some other arbitrary determination of “enough” money. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. People at all income and wealth levels can benefit from a comprehensive estate plan. Sadly, many have not sat down to put their legal house in order.
According to a 2016 Gallup News Poll more than half of all Americans do not have a will, let alone a comprehensive estate plan. These same results were identified by WealthCounsel in its Estate Planning Awareness Survey. Gallup noted that 44 percent of people surveyed in 2016 had a will place, compared to 51 percent in 2005 and 48 percent in 1990. Also, over the years, there appears to be a trend of fewer people even thinking about estate planning.
When it comes to estate planning, the sooner you start the better. Continue reading
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.
Did you know that the best-selling item at Walmart is bananas? It’s true, and has been for several years. So the next time you need a great price on your favorite yellow fruit, go ahead and head for Walmart.
But steer clear of the world’s largest retailer when you need a will or other estate planning documents.
While not available in the U.S. (yet), Walmart has been selling wills for $99 in several Canadian locations. You can also get powers of attorney at the boutique law shop called Axess Law set up in Walmart. And in our opinion, that’s not just bananas, it’s nuts too.
Creating an estate plan is something you do to leave a legacy of care and love for the people who matter to you the most. Working with an attorney who understands your goals and wishes for your family, and can articulate those in a well-crafted estate plan, is a much better alternative than relying on a one-stop shopping experience, be it at Walmart or through online legal websites with standard forms that can’t begin to know what you truly want and deserve for your loved ones.
Having the caring guidance of a Personal Family Lawyer® will ensure that your estate plan takes advantage of the ever-changing state and federal laws as well as reduces the potential for family feuds.
If you’re the parent of minor children, your attorney will help you create a valid will (and if you work with a Personal Family Lawyer®, a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®) that ensures the well-being and care of your children; without one, a judge will make that decision for you (or your kids could even be taken from your home temporarily).
Even if you don’t have minor or dependent children, you have stuff that will have to be handled after you are gone and a $99 will is likely only going to make it worse for the people left to clean up the mess.
Estate laws vary by state, which is another good reason to have a Personal Family Lawyer® guide you. The probate process can be lengthy and arduous; your attorney can help you and your family stay out of Court, saving time, money and stress.
Finally, many life circumstances – remarriage, divorce, new children – impact your estate plan, so be sure you review it annually and keep it updated when things change. Having a Personal Family Lawyer® who knows you and your family makes it much easier to keep your plan on track, so it will always be just what your family needs, when they need it.
If you would like more information about creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today at 832.408.0505 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk and find out how to best protect your family.
There are many goals most of us want to accomplish in life, and some of the most important ones center on family and money. Here is what a thoughtful estate plan can help you accomplish that involves both:
Control health care decisions. Most people will die in a hospital or care facility, and many will lack important decision-making capacity for their own care. You can name the people responsible for health care decisions if this should happen to you through an advance medical directive as part of your estate plan.
Control your finances. By assigning a durable power of attorney in your estate plan, you can save your family from the expense and emotional trauma of having to go to court to take control of your finances via a conservatorship in case you become incapacitated.
Plan for your long-term care. Most of us will require long-term care at some time during our lives, and it can be expensive – even financially devastating for many families. An estate plan will help you take the necessary steps to plan for your long-term care so it doesn’t fall to your family.
Keep peace in the family. By determining where your assets will go and having the right beneficiaries named on retirement and bank accounts, you will help ensure family harmony and fend off any potential inheritance fights.
The process of estate planning is ripe for procrastination since so few people understand it or – more commonly – wish to contemplate their own demise. Yet it still remains one of the best things you can do to protect your money, your health and your family.
Here are 3 tips to get estate planning off your “to-do” list:
Consider your children. Estate planning helps you protect your children throughout their lifetimes. When they are young, you need to appoint a guardian if something should happen to you. When they are older, you want to have the financial capacity to send them to college. When you are gone, you want them to enjoy a legacy that includes passing on your values as well as your assets. Only estate planning can do this for you.
Review beneficiary designations. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment accounts and other financial vehicles all require you to complete a beneficiary form to designate who will receive the assets upon your death. With no form, state law will govern, and your assets may go to those you never intended to receive them, or worse, go to your estate and be depleted by taxation. Be sure you have beneficiary forms on file for your accounts and that they are reviewed at least annually for any necessary updates.
Consider your own health. If you become incapacitated, who will be making your health care decisions for you? Do you want your life to be prolonged via life support no matter what? Whatever your wishes are for your own health, they won’t necessarily be followed unless you have executed a Living Will or assigned powers of attorney to see to these matters.
Make this the year you create your estate plan – or, if you have a plan that hasn’t been reviewed in the last two years, to update your estate plan. It’s a gift that will keep giving to you and your family.
The best way to learn about estate planning for your family is to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Don’t wait! Give us a call today at 832.408.0505, we love to hear from you.
Even after death, celebrities are highly publicized for their mistakes, many of which we make ourselves. April 21, 2016, superstar musician Prince suddenly died, leaving no will, and the management of his substantial estate fraught with legal complications and added costs.
It’s easy to assume that the wealthiest among us have all their ducks in a row, but it’s hard to judge someone—even a celebrity—for neglecting something like the creation of a will. Until you stop to seriously think about what will happen when you die, creating a will can seem like an unnecessary and morbid task, certainly not something you casually check off your to-do list. Nevertheless, the importance of having a will simply cannot be stressed enough. Below are just a few of the reasons why everyone should have a will, no matter their wealth, age or health.
You can name the person you want to manage your estate in your will. You will get to choose someone you trust and make sure they have all the knowledge they need to ensure your wishes for your estate are carried out.
You can decide who your beneficiaries will be. You can also disinherit those who would normally stand to inherit from your estate if you choose. Your wealth and possessions are yours; a will provides a legally enforceable way to ensure they go to the right people.
You can ensure your minor children will be raised by the people you want, for the long-term. If you have minor children, you should name a legal guardian and include provisions for their care in your will. But, don’t rely on a will alone because it won’t address the immediate care of your children if something happens to you, it won’t provide for your children’s care in the event of incapacity and it won’t ensure someone you would never want to raise your kids could not.
You can leave gifts and donations to your favorite charities or people you love beyond your legal family. Without a will, your estate would pass to the people designated to receive it under the law, and that may not be who you would want to receive everything you own. Creating a will ensures you get to choose who gets what.
Important as they are, a will can only do so much. For example, a will does not keep your family out of court.
And, a will does not ensure your kids will never be taken out of your home, if something happens to you.
And, a will does not keep your family out of conflict.
A will is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan that will protect and enforce your wishes when you die.
If you are ready to take the right steps toward making informed, empowered and educated decisions for the legal and financial future of the people you love, start by sitting down with a Personal Family Lawyer®.
As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will walk you step-by-step through the creation of an estate plan that will protect what you value most. Our Family Wealth Planning Session™ helps you protect and preserve your wealth for future generations. 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 matters most to you and what you want to leave behind.
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.
What can we learn from earlier generations? Quite a bit, says Brendon Burchard, but only if we ask the right questions.
Brendon Burchard, famed personal development trainer and author of The Motivation Manifesto (Carlsbad, Hay House, 2014) says asking your mother, father and/or another loved one these 32 important questions can teach you valuable lessons about love, life, and what matters most. Burchard suggests recording the conversation so the lessons and messages can be passed down easily to your children and grandchildren. Use these questions as a springboard and see what you didn’t know about your elder loved ones:
- What comes to mind when you think about growing up in your hometown?
- What did you love to do as a kid, before high school?
- What did you love to do in high school?
- What do remember most about your teenage years?
- What do you remember most about your mom (grandma)?
- What was most important to her?
- What do you remember most about your dad (grandpa)?
- What was most important to him?
- If Grandma and Grandpa had a message to pass along to the grandchildren, what would it be?
- How did you meet your spouse? How did you know (s)he was the one?
- How did you choose your career? What was your favorite part about it?
- What made you successful?
- What did you believe about yourself that helped you become successful and deal with hard times?
- What times in your life truly “tested your mettle,” and what did you learn about yourself by dealing (or not dealing) with them?
- What three events most shaped your life?
- What do you remember about when I was born?
- Were you ever scared to be a parent?
- What three words would you say represents your approach to parenting and why?
- When you think about [sibling] how would you describe him/her?
- What message do you have for [sibling] that you want him/her to always keep in mind?
[Do the last two questions above for each sibling in your family]
- When you think about [spouse], how would you describe her/him?
- What message do you have for [spouse] that you want her/him to always keep in mind?
- What three words would you say best describe who you tried to be in life? How would you like to be remembered?
- What do you think your children and grandchildren should focus on professionally?
- What have you learned about people in life?
- What do you think the world needs more of right now?
- What do you believe people want the most in life?
- What were the three best decisions you ever made?
- What are you most proud of?
- What were five of the most memorable moments of your life?
- What message would you like to share with your family?
- What are you most thankful for?
These questions can reveal a wealth of valuable life lessons – family treasures to share with generations to come. But having this conversation is just a start. To preserve and protect your family assets and other things of value, you should create a comprehensive estate plan that will safeguard what you value most. And, we include a recorded Family Wealth Legacy Interview, which becomes a priceless family legacy piece for your loved ones, with every estate plan we create.
If you need guidance in planning for your future, start by coming in to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects and preserves your most valuable assets. 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 matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.
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.
Part of being an enlightened parent is being thoughtful about how we teach our kids about adult life. Of course, you want to prepare them to make good choices as an adult, especially when it comes to finances. And, you may either feel not equipped, or you may be concerned about passing on your own bad habits.
So, how do you teach kids about smart financial decision-making? What lessons should you teach? Is leading by example enough? Raising a child to be money savvy doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you have valuable lessons to pass down. But it will take a little reflection on your own financial know-how and a commitment to make passing on these aspects of adult life conscious, rather than doing it unconsciously, as happens in most families.
Kids look to us to learn about life and they pick up far more from us about what we do than from what we say. Accordingly, we can best teach our children to be money savvy by modeling the habits we want them to take on for themselves and by involving them in the process. A good place to start is by being transparent about your financial habits when the opportunities arise.
For example, you could have a monthly financial meeting and include your kids, and each month review your household income and expenses, like a business owner, would when reviewing their profit and loss each month.
And, when you do your estate planning, involve your kids in the process by having a family meeting once the planning is done to explain the planning and introduce your child to us, as your personal legal advisor who they can turn to in the future when needed.
Modeling sound financial decision-making for your child is an excellent opportunity to take a deeper look at your own financial habits. This is a good time to take an honest look at your finances to make sure you are on track to meet your goals.
Assess your financial health and consider taking steps now to secure your financial future. Practice what you preach and know that your children are watching, so make sure you are modeling habits you’d be proud for them to develop as they enter adulthood.
If you need guidance in assessing your own financial health and habits, start by coming in to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session™. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you in creating a comprehensive financial plan that protects and preserves your wealth while meeting all your financial obligations. 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 matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.
At GP Schoemakers, PLLC 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.
Blended families, unmarried couples, assistive reproductive technology (ART) and same-sex unions and marriages challenge the traditional concept of “family” as it’s been known for legal purposes up until now.
As these legal definitions and our personal situations expand, so do the priorities of the modern estate plan.
No longer is estate planning just for the wealthy, who wish to save money on their taxes; it’s for all of us who want to ensure our legal system recognizes the one’s we love.
For example, if you are in a life partnership (or more than one), married in the eyes of your community, but not married in the eyes of the law, your partner would have no legal right to see you or make decisions on your behalf, if you were hospitalized.
Even if you are married, your spouse or partner would not be able to access your financial accounts, without court intervention, without proper legal planning in advance. And, if you are not married, the Court is unlikely to give a non-legal spouse access and would instead appoint a professional fiduciary before allowing your unmarried partner access.
If you are part of a blended family (meaning one or both spouses have children from a prior relationship) or have children who aren’t biologically both yours and your spouse’s (or non-spouse partner), you need to include provisions in your estate plan that clearly define the inheritance rights of all children, biological or not.
It is vitally important that you clearly define any legally established relationships between you, your spouse (or non-spouse partners and loved ones) and your children, biological or otherwise, to ensure your wishes will be carried out in the event of your death or incapacity. If you do not do this, your kids could end up in the care of someone you would never want and taken out of the home of the non-biological parent they are living with.
Whatever your family’s configuration may be, estate planning is your chance to safeguard the people you love and your assets on your own terms and according to your own definitions. With the uncertainty of the current political and social climate, developing a carefully crafted plan tailored to your family’s needs is more important than ever.
If you need help crafting estate-planning instruments that adequately protect your family and your wealth but are flexible enough to be relevant as our legal definitions of family change, start by coming in to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you in creating a comprehensive estate plan that protects and preserves your family’s values, as well as your assets. 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 matters most to you and what you want to leave behind and ensure that none of your assets are lost to the Court or government processes that don’t really serve your desires.
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 Sessio.