‘Till Death Do Us Part, Too: Estate Planning Tips for Commitment Without Marriage

Advice columnist Ann Landers once observed that “love is friendship that has caught fire.” If that’s true, there are thousands of ways for that blaze to unfold. For many Americans, such devotion and passion do not need to be neatly formalized as marriage.

In fact, our cultural norms are shifting, and quickly. Consider the following:

  • Per the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 112 million people in the U.S. are unmarried;
  • 45 percent of our country’s households are “unmarried households.”
  • In 2013, the CDC found that “cohabitation [without marriage] is now a regular part of family life in the U.S.”

Unfortunately, the law has not kept up with these societal trends. If you and your significant other love each other but don’t want to tie the knot, you need an estate plan that takes into account your specific situation while protecting you both, along with any other family members or loved ones you wish to include.

Estate planning for married couples can seem pretty straightforward because it relies on long-standing, proven legal and tax strategies. Unmarried couples, however, may need to take a more individualized approach in order to achieve their goals. Here are some of the documents and methods you need to consider when creating or updating an estate plan.

  1. Living Trusts

Living trusts allow you to use your assets while you are alive and then bypass the probate process when transferring property to loved ones after you die. A trust can also keep your business out of the public record, and it can empower someone else to handle your finances if you become unable to do so. Even though trusts tend to cost more up-front than related solutions, the benefits they provide cannot be easily or reliably replicated with other planning options. On balance, a trust is the superior tool for virtually everyone; it should be the cornerstone of almost any comprehensive plan, especially for couples who have not formalized their relationships with a legal marriage.

  1. Wills

A pour-over will can be an effective “backup” and compliment to a revocable trust. When you die, your assets get funneled into (or “poured-over” into) your trust and then distributed to your beneficiaries per the terms and instructions of that trust. The pour-over will keeps things simple, making the process less stressful (and prone to error) for your executor and trustee. It also helps wrap up loose ends, in case you didn’t transfer every last asset to your trust before you die.

What happens if you die without a will or other estate plan? Courts refer to this as “dying intestate,” and it means that the rules that will apply to your estate will be those written into your state’s laws. These laws rarely, if ever, account for long-term unmarried partners, so a will is essential to protect the person to whom you are committed. As an unmarried couple, you simply cannot rely on the intestate laws to work for you.

  1. Beneficiary Designations

Most retirement accounts and many other types of accounts allow you to designate a “beneficiary,” or a person who will automatically receive what’s in the account when you die. Make sure you update your beneficiaries on your 401(k), IRA, or other retirement accounts, as well as on life insurance and other documents. Depending on how your trust is designed, your circumstances, and your goals, you may name one or more trusts as the beneficiary rather than an individual person.

  1. Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Similar Documents

These documents allow you to designate your significant other as the person who has the right to make certain types of decisions and sign documents on your behalf if you become incapacitated. If no such power exists, the decision-making task typically passes to a close blood relative and typically also requires a court proceeding called a guardianship or conservatorship, depending on the type of help you need and what state you in live. Your lawyer can help you determine which powers should be covered by documents like these to ensure that enough authority is granted while still providing protection against unauthorized actions.

Whether you’ve been living with a life partner for decades, and you’re now eyeing retirement options; or you’re just beginning a family with a person who has not formally and legally been recognized as your wife or husband, you probably have questions. How should you protect yourself and family financially as you get older? What can you do to enshrine the values you hold dear for the next generation? What if an unwanted event happens, throwing you and your partner off balance — what contingency plans can be put in place?

Our experienced estate planning attorneys can help you identify a strategy to get the peace of mind you need. Please call our office today at 832.408.0505or email us to schedule a private consultation.

Do you really need a trust?

Although many people equate “estate planning” with having a will, there are many advantages to having a trust rather than a will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. While there are other estate planning tools (such as joint tenancy, transfer on death, beneficiary designations, to name a few), only a trust provides comprehensive management of your property in the event you can’t make financial decisions for yourself (commonly called legal incapacity) or after your death.

One of the primary advantages of having a trust is that it provides the ability to bypass the publicity, time, and expense of probate. Probate is the legal process by which a court decides the rightful heirs and distribution of assets of a deceased through the administration of the estate. This process can easily cost thousands of dollars and take several months to more than a year to resolve. Or course, not all assets are subject to probate. Some exemptions include jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship as well as assets with designated beneficiaries (such as life insurance, annuities, and retirement accounts) and payable upon death or transfer on death accounts. But joint tenancy and designating beneficiaries don’t provide the ability for someone you trust to manage your property if you’re unable to do so, so they are an incomplete solution. And having a will does not avoid probate.

Of note, if your probate estate is small enough – or it is going to a surviving spouse or domestic partner – you may qualify for a simplified probate process in your state, although this is highly dependent on the state where you live and own property. In general, if your assets are worth $100,000 or more, you will likely not qualify for simplified probate and should strongly consider creating a trust. Considering the cost of probate should also be a factor in your estate planning as creating a trust can save you both time and money in the long run. Moreover, if you own property in another state or country, the probate process will be even more complicated because your family may face multiple probate cases after your death, one in each state where you owned property – even if you have a will. Beyond the cost and time of probate, this court proceeding that includes your financial life and last wishes is public record. A trust, on the other hand, creates privacy for your personal matters as your heirs would not be made aware of the distribution of your assets knowledge of which may cause conflicts or even legal challenges.

A common reason to create a trust is to provide ongoing financial support for a child or another loved one who may not ever be able to manage these assets on their own. Through a trust, you can designate someone to manage the assets and distribute them to your heirs under the terms you provide. Giving an inheritance to an heir directly and all at once may have unanticipated ancillary effects, such as disqualifying them from receiving some form of government benefits, enabling and funding an addiction, or encouraging irresponsible behavior that you don’t find desirable. A trust can also come with conditions that must be met for the person to receive the benefit of the gift. Furthermore, if you ever become incapacitated your successor trustee – the person you name in the document to take over after you pass away – can step in and manage the trust’s assets, helping you avoid a guardianship or conservatorship (sometimes called “living” probate). This protection can be essential in an emergency or in the event you succumb to a serious, chronic illness. Unlike a will, a trust can protect against court interference or control while you are alive and after your death.

Trusts are not simply just about avoiding probate. Creating a trust can give you privacy, provide ongoing financial support for loved ones, and protect you and your property if you are unable to manage your own assets. Simply put, the creation of a trust puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to your assets and your wishes as opposed to leaving this critical life decision to others, like a judge. To learn more about trusts – and estate planning in general, including which type of plan best fits your needs – Contact our office today at 832.408.0505

5 Things Every New Mother Needs to Know About Wills

As a new mother, you naturally want to ensure your new baby’s future in every way. For many new mothers, infancy is a time for celebrating new life, and making a will is the last thing on their minds. For others, the process of bringing new life into the world sparks intense feelings of wanting control and needing organization. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, you might be struggling to figure out what steps you need to take to protect your children’s future should the unthinkable happen. Here are five key things every new mother should know about wills.

  1. Naming a guardian could be the most important part of your will.

If you pass away while your child is a minor, the first issue to be addressed is who will assume responsibility for your child’s care. If you don’t name a guardian for your child in the will, the courts may decide this question for you, and the guardian might not be the person you would choose. Selecting a trusted guardian is in many ways more important at this stage than deciding about how to pass any assets you own.

  1. Name an executor you trust.

To ensure your child does receive all that you have allocated when she comes of age, choose a trustworthy executor. Many people choose a family member, but it’s just as acceptable to appoint a trusted attorney to handle your estate. Typically, an attorney has no emotional attachment to the family, which might seem bad, but usually results in less potential conflict.

  1. Named beneficiaries on your financial accounts may override the will.

Many accounts allow you to name a beneficiary. When you pass away, the funds go to the beneficiary named on the account, even if your will states otherwise. If you’re creating a will with your child in mind (or adding the child to an existing will), you should review your investment and bank accounts with your financial advisor to make sure there are no inconsistencies when naming beneficiaries. It’s also a good time to check retirement account and life insurance beneficiary designations with your financial advisor and your attorney.

  1. A will is not always the right document for your goals.

When naming your child as a beneficiary, a will only goes into effect after you die. If your will leaves property outright to a minor child, the court will step in and hold the assets until your child turns 18. Most 18 year olds lack the maturity to handle even a modest estate, so we don’t recommend outright inheritance for minor children.

A trust, on the other hand, goes into effect when you create it and can provide structure to manage the assets you leave behind for the benefit of your child. An experienced estate planning attorney can advise you on the best option for your family and your circumstances.

  1. In the absence of clearly stated intentions, the state steps in.

Think of a will, trust and other estate planning documents as an instruction manual for your executor and the courts to follow. You must be clear and consistent in your stated intentions regarding your child, as well as for others. If you’re not clear or if you don’t leave any instructions at all, the probate courts will step in and follow the government’s plan, which can lead to long delays and is probably not the plan you would have selected for your child and family.

Providing for your baby’s long-term welfare may start with just a simple will, but to be fully protected, you probably need more. That’s why it’s important to talk with a competent estate planning attorney to make sure you have the right plans in place to fulfill your goals. We’re here to help! Contact our office today at 832.408.0505 to talk about your options to protect your new baby.

The Real Cost of Caring

Dealing with the financial stressors of caring for an aging loved one can affect your ability to provide them with the care and compassion they need. It can also put the security of your financial future at risk.

To mitigate these concerns, consider these useful tips to help you make informed decisions about how to protect your future retirement plans while caring for your senior loved one.

Don’t Leave Your Job

Many adult children end up putting their professional lives on hold to become a primary caregiver for their elderly parents. Financial experts advise against this because of the sudden loss of income and valuable benefits. Consider caregiving options that support your ability to maintain your earning potential.

Create a Budget

Review the actual costs of being a primary caregiver before making any drastic changes like leaving your job. Also, consider whether your loved one’s assets can be utilized to cover some of the costs involved in providing care inside or outside the home.

Look for Benefits Elsewhere

Free or low-cost benefits that can help cover some of the costs of caregiving, such as home health aides, are often available to seniors. Similarly, review the limitations of public benefit options such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Consider Relocating Your Parent

It is common for seniors to prioritize remaining in their own home while they age. Although understandable, this can be a very expensive and often unrealistic option. If opening your home to your loved one is an option, it can be far less expensive.

Seek Professional Help

Geriatric care managers can help you establish a caregiving plan that meets your needs and assist you in identifying resources to save time and money.

Protect Your Parent from Scams

Financial elder abuse is on the rise, so make sure your loved one’s finances are protected. Telephone, postal mail, and internet fraud is common and can be easily avoided when a close relative or friend is keeping tabs on the accounts of a senior loved one. Consider talking with your parents about stepping down as Trustee of their trusts and letting you step in now to monitor their finances, and if they do not have a Trust holding title to their accounts, meet with us now to look at whether it makes sense to set that up for them (and for you).

Discuss the Future

Now is an opportune time to review your loved one’s wishes for his or her estate and consider your own financial goals and how helping to care for a loved one might affect them.

Caring for a loved one can take a toll, both financially and emotionally. If you are ready to create a financial plan for caregiving, start by sitting down with a licensed Estate Attorney. An Estate Attorney can help you plan for changes in life at every stage. Our Family Wealth & Legacy Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth & Legacy 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 & Legacy Planning Session and find out how to better protect your family.

Is Your Family “Too Young” to Need an Estate Plan?

Young families face different estate planning needs and challenges than those who have had a long life behind them. While established families may be concerned about what will happen to their family when they pass on, young, growing families can be more focused on what is happening to their family in the present. And you even may find it hard to justify planning for an “estate” you haven’t yet established!

But here’s the thing … if you have children or anyone else you care about, you may not have an “estate”, but you do need estate planning if you want to ensure your loved ones wouldn’t be stuck in Court and/or conflict, if anything happens to you.

Here are a few estate-planning issues important for young couples to consider as soon as they start a family:

The Care and Custody of Your Children

If you die or become incapacitated before your children reach 18, they will need a legal guardian. To ensure your children are only ever in the care of people you want and choose, you need to name both temporary and long-term guardians for your children.

Identifying friends or family as the “godparent” of your child isn’t enough. You need to legally document your choice. And, naming just one person or a couple won’t cover it either. Name at least 3 options, in case back-ups are needed.

Also, ensure that you have not just named legal guardians in your Will, for the long-term.

If something happens to you and your child is home with a babysitter, or at school, you want to also name local people, friends or family, who would immediately be able to be called upon by authorities. And, those people need to have legal documentation on hand to step in and make immediate, short-term decisions for your littles.

We recommend a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® to ensure there are no gaps, for even a minute, in the care of the people you love most.

The Management of Your Children’s Inheritance

Remember, when you die, the assets left to your minor children will need to be managed by someone at least until they turn eighteen. If no one is identified for this task, the court steps in and appoints “professionals” to take over the role, which can cost your children their entire inheritance.

And, it’s totally unnecessary. With just a bit of prior planning, you can keep your loved ones out of the Court system entirely and give total control to the people you know, love and trust.

The Authority to Make Decisions for You

Finally, no matter what your age is, or how big or small your assets are, you want to put in place the documentation that appoints the people you would want making decisions for you if you cannot make your own decisions.

Once again, the focus here is on keeping the people you love out of Court during what would be a hugely stressful time for them.

Estate planning is a key part of growing up, and showing up for the people you love. So, yes, you may be a young family, but once you’ve become a family, you’re not too young to plan well to make things as easy as possible for the people you love.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we will help you make the very best financial and legal decisions throughout your life, and for the beyond.  Far from being a morbid task, estate planning can give your young family the peace of mind, confidence, and security you desire when it comes to the future well-being of all members of your family.

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. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session to find out how to protect your family.

Avoid these 10 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

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:

  1. Failure to leave any written documentation of your assets, including a list of your online accounts and passwords
  1. Failure to let family members know where to find important estate planning documents
  1. 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®)
  1. Failure to name recipients for your personal possessions
  1. Failure to designate beneficiaries for retirement and other financial accounts
  1. Failure to name secondary beneficiaries
  1. Failure to name alternative trustees or executors
  1. Failure to properly fund or title assets to any trusts you have established
  1. Failure to update your estate plan as life circumstances change
  1. 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.

Estate Planning Essentials for Parents

A comprehensive estate plan can protect the things that matter most. For many, this means their property and their family.

Including provisions for the care of your children in your estate plan is essential for peace of mind. But many parents struggle with including such provisions as naming a legal guardian for their child in their plan. Indeed, even the fictional parents in the popular television sitcom Modern Family struggled with this issue in a recent episode. While Jay and his new and much younger wife Gloria agonized and argued about who they should name as a legal guardian for their children, their children were left at risk that if something happened to Jay and Gloria before they decided and properly named guardians in a legal document, a judge would make the decision for them. Not ideal, under any circumstances.

When naming a legal guardian for your minor children, there are many factors to consider, such as whether the guardian has similar values to yours or can provide a welcoming home environment. But the toughest decisions are often the most important. Consider the outcome if you died without having legal protections for your children in place. Your children could be subject to conflict between relatives or they could be raised by someone you would never want, or in a way you wouldn’t want.  They could even temporarily be taken into the care of strangers.

Identifying and naming a legal guardian for your children in your estate plan is a difficult and important task. Don’t put off naming a legal guardian for your child. While thinking about what will happen to your child if you die is difficult even for fictional parents, your kids deserve the protection and you deserve the peace of mind that a legal guardian can provide.

Unfortunately, even if you have made the hard decisions and worked with a lawyer to name legal guardians in a Will, your kids could still be at risk, because that would not take into account what happens if you become incapacitated, or if your named guardians all live far from your home, and it wouldn’t protect against anyone who may challenge your decisions. The only way to ensure your kids are raised by the people you want, in the way you want, never taken into the care of strangers (even temporarily) and that your kids would never be raised by anyone you wouldn’t want, is by creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®, which only a select few lawyers, like us, are trained to prepare.

If you are ready to take that step, start by sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can walk you step by step through creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® that not only names a legal guardian for your child in your Will, but also ensures your kids care is fully provided for, in the short-term and the long-term, and in the event of your incapacity.

Working with a trusted Personal Family Lawyer® will ensure your entire family is protected and cared for no matter what.

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.

If you would like to create or update your estate plan, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

Legal Rights of Grandparents: In Honor of National Grandparents Day

When all is ideal in a family, the bond between grandparent and child is a special one. Maybe you’ve even heard that grandparenting is the grand reward for parenting.

But what happens when the grandparent becomes the parent? Or when parents’ divorce or one parent dies and a grandparents’ visitation rights are taken away?

This is happening more and more often, and it’s an issue you’ll want to be aware of, if your child has a close relationship with your parents, or if you are a grandparent who wants to maintain relationship with your grandkids no matter what, or if you do not have a relationship with your parents and want to ensure that your child doesn’t either, if something happens to you.

Let’s begin with the first scenario: your child has a close relationship with your parents, that you want to maintain, no matter what happens to you. In that case, you must put in writing your nomination of your parents as the legal guardians of your child or children. Otherwise, if something were to happen to you, they could lose custody and even visitation rights.

This is especially a risk if you are a divorced parent. If you were to die, and your child’s other parent or other grandparents were to fight or attempt to deny your parents’ visitation, your known and documented wishes that your parents maintain a relationship with your child could be pivotal.

If you are a grandparent reading this, make sure your child has legally named guardians for your grandchild so that you do not have to suffer through a protracted court battle, created because your child didn’t take a simple action to legally document his or her choices now.

In the event that you know you would never want your parents raising your child, it’s just as critical for you to name legal guardians. Quite often, if both parents have become unable to care for their child, due to death or incapacity, grandparents would be the first option the Court system would look to as caregivers for the child.

But, maybe you would choose someone else, or perhaps you would even want there to be restrictions on the care or visitation of your child by your parents. In that case, you must legally document your choices. You may even want to create a confidential exclusion of guardianship, which we prepare as part of a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan® for your family.

Finally, if you are a grandparent who has already become a primary caretaker for your grandchild, you will want to take the steps of naming legal guardians for the child or children in your care, in case anything happens to you.

This National Grandparent’s Day, make grandparenting a priority in your family. When you call and schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session to get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and provide for the care of your children, if anything happens to you, not only will we waive our Family Wealth Planning Session fee, but we will also create a no-charge health care directive for the grandparent in your family, or you if you are the grandparent.

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,™ where we can help identify the best strategies for you and your family. 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.

Legal Strategies to Avoid Guardianship

As senior citizens continue to age, the likelihood increases that they will become physically or mentally incapacitated. Hopefully, people in such a situation have family members who step in and help keep their affairs in order. That is not always the case, however. If no one steps in to help, courts may be petitioned to appoint someone–a guardian–to look after that person’s very existence. This often happens  when a person becomes incapacitated by illness and cannot make decisions.

 What Can I Do?

For medical situations, a medical power of attorney – a document that identifies a person of your choosing (your agent) to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacity – should be executed. Your agent can be family member or friend. The key is to make sure it is someone you trust.

A power of attorney can also be used to appoint someone to deal with non-medical issues. This document can be set up to either take effect immediately or only at such time as you are unable to make your own decisions. The former is known as a “durable” power of attorney, while the latter is a “springing” power of attorney. The durable power of attorney is the more effective of the two in that it requires no consideration of whether a person lacks the capacity to make decisions.

Also, consider setting up a trust to administer your assets as you age. Unlike a power of attorney, with a trust, the trustee has sole control of your assets. And there are further legal steps you can take, such as establishing a limited liability corporation or a family limited partnership to manage your assets.

All of these processes will prevent the need for a court to appoint a guardian for you if you become incapable of managing your own affairs. Those of us who are in our senior years should

recognize the increasing chance of the need for someone else to make decisions. And those of us who have elderly parents or loved ones should help them think about these issues. The time to plan for potential incapacity is now. Once someone becomes incapacitated, it’s simply too late.

This article is a service of Gratia P. Schoemakers, Personal Family Lawyer®.  One of the main objectives of our law practice is to keep families out of court and out of conflict through thoughtful estate planning. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ where we help you be proactive in avoiding guardianship and appointing people you trust to take care of you and your affairs if you later become unable to do so.  Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and identify the best strategies for you and your family.

What Every Single Parent Needs to Know About Estate Planning

If you are a single parent, life for you right now probably couldn’t get any busier. You are likely being pulled between work, school activities, sports teams and the inevitable emergencies that fill the lives of single parents everywhere.

Being a single parent is a huge responsibility. You may have taken it on willingly or not but your children’s lives are now largely in your hands.  So what would happen to them if something happened to you?  Who would take care of them?  Who would pay for their housing and food?  Who would pay for their education?  These are questions you need to get answered, and the best way to do that is through estate planning.

Having an estate plan that covers the care of your children in case you should die suddenly or even become incapacitated provides welcome peace of mind for the single parent.  Here are the elements that can help you:

Will.  A will lets you name the person responsible for your estate as well as who will inherit your assets. Most importantly is the legal vehicle you use to name a guardian for your children,  without a will, the state will decide their fate.

Revocable Living Trust.  There are so many benefits of a living trust for single parents.  First, a trust enables you to still control your assets while you’re able, but if you die or become incapacitated, it transitions that decision-making authority immediately to the person you have named as your trustee (obviously someone you can trust and count on to do what you would have wanted).  If your children are still minors or even young adults their inheritance can be handled for them until the time comes when they are capable (and you decide that time).  Plus, if you have a trust, your estate doesn’t have to go through probate, which can be costly and time-consuming. Also probates are not the best idea if your children need to continue living in their home and having their expenses paid.

Durable Power of Attorney.  As a single parent, you are likely the only signatory on your mortgage, your bank accounts, and other financial instruments.  What would happen if you became incapacitated and there was no one to pay the mortgage or the bills?  That is why it is important to have a durable power of attorney in place. When choosing your power of attorney, it should be someone you trust managing your financial affairs, while also make legal decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.

Advance Medical Directive.  An advance medical directive gives you the legal power to have someone you select make your health care decisions in case you are not capable of doing so yourself.

Beneficiary Forms.  Your life insurance policy, retirement accounts and brokerage accounts all require beneficiary designations.  Those you designate to receive the assets in these accounts will only receive them if you execute the proper beneficiary forms!  They cannot pass to your heirs via a will or trust. And minor children should never be named as beneficiaries as they are not legally able to own assets. Talk with your Personal Family Lawyer® about strategies to leave these assets to your children without court intervention.

Kids Protection Planning Kit®.  Developed by a nationally recognized attorney who is a single mom herself, the Kids Protection Planning Kit® provides single parents with the legal planning tools they need to make sure there is never a question about who will take care of your kids if you are in an accident. The kit includes legal documents to name short- and long-term guardians, instructions for those guardians, medical powers of attorney for your minor children and more.  There are also audio CDs to guide you through the process.

One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the protection of yourself and your family through thoughtful estate planning. Call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk through a Family Wealth Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family.