Thomas H. Sullivan

Attorney at Law

Beneficiaries

The Difference Between a Prenuptial Agreement and a Will or Trust

Posted on: July 25th, 2021
There was a time when most people heard about prenuptial agreements only when watching soap operas or Hollywood movies or reading a novel. For many of us, prenuptial agreements seemed to be reserved only for the ultrawealthy, where the continuation of dynastic family wealth was at stake. Today, however, prenuptial agreements are much more common....

Fears When Talking about Money

Posted on: July 22nd, 2021
Studies[ have shown that the largest contributing factors to generational loss of wealth are a lack of communication and trust among family members and the failure to prepare heirs. Often, fear is what underlies the lack of communication and trust that inevitably leads to unprepared heirs. Following are some of the fears that prevent people from communicating with their loved ones about their wealth....

Multigenerational Wealth Transfer Checklist

Posted on: July 15th, 2021
Studies estimate that 70 percent of family wealth is lost by the end of the second generation and 90 percent by the end of the third generation. To help your loved ones avoid becoming part of this statistic, you need to educate and update your extended family about your wealth transfer goals and the plan you have put in place to achieve these goals....

Can a Beneficiary Also Be a Trustee of a Trust?

Posted on: July 10th, 2021
Clients often naturally choose their children to be beneficiaries of their revocable living trusts. Many clients also wish to name one or more of their children as the trustee of that trust, but are not sure if that is allowed by the law. The short answer is yes, a beneficiary can also be a trustee of the same trust—but it may not always be wise, and certain guidelines must be followed....

Living, Testamentary, and Constructive Trusts: Are They All the Same?

Posted on: July 5th, 2021
In the world of estate planning, terms that refer to legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives can be confusing and even overwhelming at times. What is a will, and how does it differ from a trust? What distinguishes a springing power of attorney from an immediate power of attorney? Or are they the same thing? No wonder estate planning can get so confusing! ...

Types of Life Insurance and How They Can Be Used in Estate Planning

Posted on: June 22nd, 2021
Many of us do not start thinking about life insurance until we get our first full-time job and the company’s human resources representative asks us if we want to enroll in the employer’s group life insurance policy. Most people think “Why not?” and sign up, naming a family member as the beneficiary of their policy, and then never give it another thought. Although this may be a good start, too few of us spend much more time thinking about life insurance. ...

Why Is My Trust So Long?

Posted on: June 3rd, 2021
When you met with an attorney a few weeks ago, perhaps all you expected was a simple will. Maybe you thought that, with your situation, the work should be easy and the documents should be few. But now that you have finished working with the attorney, your parting gift is a large binder filled with hundreds of pages. You may be wondering, “Why is my trust so long?”...

What Are the Rights of a Child Born Outside of Marriage?

Posted on: May 8th, 2021
Despite the prevailing view, children born to unmarried parents are commonplace. Historically, children in this category were treated poorly by both society and the law. In many cases, they had no right to inherit from either parent. This legal scheme eventually changed and provided means for these children to inherit from their mothers, but rarely their fathers, until the late 1960s....

Defining Fair Market Value

Posted on: May 2nd, 2021
When reading through a will or trust agreement, you may see language that grants a right to an individual to purchase certain property from the estate or trust at “fair market value.” At first glance, this phrase may seem a perfectly reasonable method of setting a suitable purchase price for a property to be sold at a later date. But a recent court case out of Virginia teaches an important lesson to those who have a will or a trust that relies solely on the term “fair market value” to set a future price of property....

Options for Establishing and Transferring Your IRA to a Loved One

Posted on: April 26th, 2021
Now, more than ever before, Americans are using a variety of tax-deferred accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs to save for retirement. And while the laws are currently designed so that people must start withdrawing the money when they retire, it is not uncommon for many of these accounts to still have significant value at the owner’s death. As a result, a huge amount of accumulated wealth is just waiting to be passed on to loved ones over the next few decades as retirement account owners age and die. Many people are unaware that there are numerous options for transferring these types of accounts to their loved ones. For purposes of this article, we will use “IRA” to refer to a retirement account because many people end up rolling over their 401(k) and other similar retirement accounts into an IRA to obtain greater investment options....

Planning Considerations for Unmarried Partners

Posted on: April 12th, 2021
When it comes to protecting your unmarried partner, there are several options to consider. Depending on the value of your money and property, your desired level of protection from your partner’s creditors, and other factors unique to your situation, one or more of these strategies may be beneficial. A word of caution: regardless of what methods you use, you must work with an experienced estate planning attorney. While do-it-yourself options may be cheaper, they can sometimes create more problems than they solve, and the problems can be expensive to remedy....

All in the Family: Understanding Common Legal Terms

Posted on: April 8th, 2021
While watching a movie or reading a book about wealthy individuals and their families, you may have come across terms such as “heir,” “descendant,” and “next of kin.” Though made-for-Hollywood storylines use these terms interchangeably, words describing familial relationships have distinct definitions. Using the correct terms is critical in wills, trusts, and other legal documents because words have significant implications. The wrong word can lead the courts to incorrectly interpret your documents and therefore cause an unintended result. Here are a few commonly confused words, their proper meanings, and some usage scenarios....

What If No One Wants My Stuff?

Posted on: February 28th, 2021
A critical question to ask yourself when creating an estate plan is who will get your stuff when you pass on? While most people think about who they would like to receive the major items—homes, retirement accounts, savings—personal property such as jewelry, clothing, sports equipment, vehicles, and other possessions are often overlooked. The truth is that while some mementos and sentimental items may be very valuable to you, the people that you want to give them to at your death may not need or want them. Who, then, will get your remaining property and possessions if no one wants them?...

Ways to Leave Your Real Estate to Your Loved Ones

Posted on: February 16th, 2021
Owning real estate continues to be a very popular investment vehicle for individuals and couples alike. One attractive feature of investing in real estate is that investment property can also double as a personal residence. In other cases, real estate investments may be rental, recreational, commercial, or farm properties. Whatever the case, it is important to understand that real estate can be owned in several ways, each of which has important legal consequences when it comes to leaving that real estate to your loved ones upon your death. Failing to understand how you legally own your real estate and how it will be passed on to your loved ones can lead to unintended, and often negative, consequences....

Including Noncitizens in Your Estate Planning

Posted on: February 3rd, 2021
With our society becoming increasingly mobile and international travel becoming more affordable than ever before, families and family-like relationships have steadily grown far more diverse in terms of citizenship. It is no longer uncommon for spouses from different countries to retain citizenship in their native countries. Many couples split their time between the United States and another country to be near their families and enjoy the many benefits of such a lifestyle. In addition, it is not uncommon for a couple’s children or other loved ones to move away from their country of origin and take up permanent residence abroad, or even renounce their home country citizenship, depending on their choices of careers or domestic partners or other considerations....

My Loved One Has Died: As an Heir or Beneficiary, Do I Need an Attorney?

Posted on: January 30th, 2021
You just found out that your favorite aunt, Aunt Melba, has died. In the midst of your grief and sadness, you receive a notice from the attorney handling Aunt Melba's affairs stating that you are a beneficiary. Your best friend advises you to get an attorney. What should you do? Will Aunt Melba's attorney help you? After all, Aunt Melba's attorney has been helping your family for years. Since this attorney knows Melba and the family affairs, shouldn't her attorney be able to help you as well?...

You Inherited a Retirement Account

Posted on: December 21st, 2020
It is increasingly common for an IRA or 401k to be the highest value item of property that an American owns. For purposes of estate planning, however, it is important to understand that very special rules apply to these types of accounts. Gone are the days when you can write up a quick will or trust and be assured that everything you own will pass to your heirs or beneficiaries according to the terms of those legal documents. Instead, it has become critically important for families to understand both the laws applicable to wills and trusts and the complex laws governing retirement plans. ...

All in the Family

Posted on: October 13th, 2020
The notion of fairness often pervades family dynamics and may continue even beyond death when decisions about dividing accounts and property arise. The law has attempted to address different notions of fairness with a variety of distribution strategies. Per stirpes, by representation, and per capita are key terms in wills and trust agreements that specify the way money and property are to be equitably divided. As you explore these distribution methods, observe how they achieve fairness in different ways and with different results....

What Happens If My Beneficiary Dies Before Me?

Posted on: September 30th, 2020
When planning for death, most people assume they will die before their beneficiaries (e.g., their spouse, children, and grandchildren). While these assumptions are often well-founded, they do not always come to pass. Sometimes a beneficiary of an estate or trust dies before the person leaving the inheritance. If this has happened to you, you may be wondering what is next. How does this event impact your original plans? The truth is, it depends on a number of factors. Lawyers call this scenario having a predeceased beneficiary. ...

How to Protect Your Significant Other from Frozen Accounts

Posted on: August 21st, 2020
​The death of a loved one is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Nothing can truly prepare a person for such a loss. However, dealing with the financial stress of frozen bank accounts can exacerbate the stress. Without proper planning, your significant other could struggle to gain access to your accounts. The frustration is especially distressing if the frozen account was the primary source for paying joint or household expenses....

Why Your Heirs or Beneficiaries May Receive a Smaller Inheritance Than You Thought

Posted on: August 17th, 2020
Often when a person dies and leaves money or property to heirs or beneficiaries, the first thing the heirs or beneficiaries want to know is the overall value of the estate. If the executor or the trustee (the person or entity in charge of handling the final affairs of a deceased person) shares that information, as is typically required, it can be tempting for heirs or beneficiaries to immediately do some quick mental math to estimate how much they will receive. With that number in mind, they may begin mentally spending the anticipated inheritance on things that have always been a little out of reach....

Seven Ways to Avoid Family Fights over Your Property

Posted on: August 6th, 2020
Ask a group of friends if they have experienced a family fight over property after a loved one has died, and you will be in for a lively and eye-opening conversation. Far too many families end up fighting, or at least experiencing tension, over a family inheritance. But it does not have to be that way. Many families have worked through the details of divvying up a deceased loved one’s property remarkably well and ended up even closer. Having counseled families for years, we offer the following pearls of wisdom to help your family avoid fighting over your property when you are gone:...

How to Help Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate

Posted on: June 22nd, 2020
Today, many people are using a revocable living trust instead of a will or joint ownership as the foundation of their estate plan. When properly prepared, a living trust avoids the public, costly and time-consuming court processes of conservatorship or guardianship (due to incapacity) or probate (after death). Still, many people make a big mistake that sends their accounts and property and loved ones right into the court system: They fail to fund their trust....

3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs

Posted on: June 17th, 2020
The bad news: When a deceased person’s estate (all of their money and property) has to go through probate (the court-supervised process of distributing a deceased person’s money and property), it can be subject to a variety of costs stemming from attorneys, executors, appraisers, accountants, courts, and state law. Depending on the probate's complexity, fees can run into tens of thousands of dollars. The good news: Many of these probate costs can be reduced by avoiding probate. It’s really that simple....

Setting Your Trustee Up for Success

Posted on: June 8th, 2020
For many people, a revocable living trust is a valuable tool to ensure that their finances are well managed during periods of incapacity and that their loved ones are financially secure upon their passing. However, signing the trust agreement doesn’t end the estate planning process: To work properly, the trust needs to be funded....

How to Handle Savings Bonds in Estate Planning

Posted on: June 3rd, 2020
​A savings bond is defined as “a debt security issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to help pay for the U.S. government’s borrowing needs.” In effect, when you buy a savings bond, you are loaning the U.S. government money which is repaid with interest after a fixed period of time....

State Estate and Inheritance Taxes

Posted on: May 17th, 2020
The federal gift and estate tax exclusion is currently very high—$11.58 million for an individual and $23.16 million for a married couple in 2020. As a result, only very wealthy people currently need to be concerned that their estates will be taxable at the federal level, at least until 2026, when the increased exclusion amount is scheduled to return to the $5 million (adjusted for inflation) exclusion in place before the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. But even if you are not among those who currently need to plan to avoid federal estate tax liability, some states have their own estate tax and a few have an inheritance tax (there is no federal inheritance tax). Only one state—Maryland—has both an estate and inheritance tax. State exclusion amounts are typically much lower than the federal estate tax exclusion, so it is important to make sure that your estate planning takes this potential tax liability into account....

Caught in the Undertow

Posted on: May 12th, 2020
​Many people love to spend part of their summer vacation at the beach, enjoying the ocean and sunshine. But there may be unseen dangers that are crucial for beachgoers to keep in mind: For example, the undertow is a current of water, often quite powerful, below the surface, that is moving away from shore when waves are approaching it. It can easily knock a smaller person off balance and could be dangerous for those who are not strong swimmers. As a result, it is very important to take steps to protect family members from this danger. Likewise, there are a number of dangers associated with failing to put a well-thought-out estate plan in place that could make your family members feel as though they are drowning if you were to pass away....

COVID-19: A Reminder of Why Estate Planning Is Important

Posted on: April 7th, 2020
Coronavirus has been all over the news—and with good reason. For some people, it can turn into a serious illness if contracted. Thankfully, for the great majority of people who have contracted the disease, the symptoms appear to be relatively mild. Nevertheless, it is crucial for everyone, particularly those who are in good health, to continue to take all the steps necessary to protect those around us who are more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill if they are exposed to the coronavirus...

Ancillary Probate

Posted on: March 18th, 2020
Many people own property in more than one state—perhaps a vacation home in Florida, a rental property in a former home state, or even a car titled in another state. It is important to think about how that property will be handled as you create an estate plan. It may be necessary for there to be an additional probate proceeding called ancillary probate. Through proper estate planning, however, this result can be made less burdensome or even avoided....

Important Steps to Protect Your Special Beneficiaries

Posted on: March 13th, 2020
All children are a blessing. From the day they are born, you begin making plans to ensure that your child or grandchild has a bright future. What will their interests be? What job will they have? Who will they marry? While these are common concerns for most families, for those with a special needs child or grandchild, taking steps to ensure they have a safe, happy, and healthy future is even more important due to the additional hurdles they may face. To help provide a prosperous future for your special needs child or grandchild, we suggest the following steps:...

Spring Cleaning for Your Estate Planning

Posted on: March 8th, 2020
​Your estate plan, like your home, periodically needs a thorough polishing. Your life circumstances are constantly changing, and an estate plan that perfectly met your needs a couple of years ago may now be cluttered with outdated provisions or documents. With spring fast approaching, now is the time to dust off your estate plan to ensure that it will still achieve your goals, as well as to avoid unintended consequences that may arise as a result of divorces, deaths, births, or other changes that have occurred since the last time your plan was reviewed....

Investigate the Past and Impact the Future

Posted on: March 7th, 2020
Genealogy has long fascinated many people, and it continues to be studied by those who are interested in discovering who they descended from and what those family members were like. Many of us have gazed at black and white or sepia-tone photos of ancestors whose names we don’t know and wondered about their lives, joys, trials, and accomplishments. Fortunately, today, there are many resources making it much easier to discover information about prior generations of our families....

Estate Planning Strategies to Protect Your Spouse

Posted on: February 5th, 2020
You have searched for and found the love of your life, maybe your first love, or maybe after a previous marriage. As you have built your life together, you have probably weathered your fair share of storms and grown stronger because of them. To prepare for the future and the possibility of no longer being around for your spouse, it is important that you plan now to protect the surviving spouse later. As part of a married couple, you are uniquely situated to further protect your loved one upon your passing through the use of special planning techniques only available to married individuals....

The Lifetime QTIP Trust

Posted on: February 5th, 2020
Estate planning for couples in a second or subsequent marriage can be tricky, especially if their estates are disproportionate. One solution for allowing the well-to-do spouse to maintain control of their property and wealth--but keep their other spouse happy--is the "Lifetime QTIP Trust."...

Distribution Methods for Your Children

Posted on: February 5th, 2020
If you are a parent, you probably love to do good things for your children—and leaving them an inheritance is one of the most tangible ways you can show your love once you are gone. What you may not know is that there are a variety of ways that you can leave money and property to your children, and you can choose the method you think best takes your goals, including their well-being, into account....

New Year, New Estate Plan

Posted on: January 7th, 2020
Welcome to 2020! A new year is a time for optimism and new opportunities. It is a time to start fresh and make sure you are headed in the right direction. But making New Year’s resolutions is not enough: Take action now to ensure that you and your family or loved ones are prepared for the future!...

Estate Planning is Like Building a Snowman

Posted on: January 7th, 2020
A complete estate plan must include certain essential parts. In fact, it is similar to building a snowman in some respects. The traditional snowman has several critical components: bottom, middle, and top snowballs, as well as “arms” and a “ face.” If any of these are left out, the snowman can look a little odd! The consequences of an incomplete estate plan are much more serious, however. If you leave out important documents when you create your estate plan, it is unlikely to accomplish all of your goals, and the benefits you thought you were gaining could melt away....

Common Mistakes with DIY Estate Plans

Posted on: January 7th, 2020
The internet offers all the information and tools we need at our fingertips to create our own estate plan, right? For most people, this is simply not true. Several years ago, Consumer Reports®, an independent nonprofit consumer watchdog group, created wills using the forms provided by DIY websites and asked three law professors to review them. Although the professors found that the wills drafted using the DIY services were better than wills drafted by non-lawyers on their own, they were inadequate to fully meet the needs of most consumers. Although your DIY “estate plan” may initially cost only $49.95, it may end up being much, much more expensive than an estate plan designed by an experienced estate planning attorney. ...

Effect of Bankruptcy on Estate Planning

Posted on: December 3rd, 2019
Bankruptcy may be one of the last things on your mind when you are creating an estate plan. Fortunately, the number of bankruptcy filings have declined as the economy has improved, but there were still a whopping 969,397 bankruptcy filings during the period from June 30, 2018 to September 30, 2019. What happens to your estate if you file for bankruptcy protection, but die while still in bankruptcy? What if one of your beneficiaries is in bankruptcy or is likely to be soon? None of us knows what the future holds, so these are important considerations that you should take into account in your estate planning, even if the possibility of bankruptcy seems far-fetched right now....

Important Estate Planning Considerations for LGBTQ Couples

Posted on: December 3rd, 2019
Everyone needs estate planning. Regardless of your age, race, gender, or sexual orientation, properly protecting your future and your loved ones requires a plan. For LGBTQ couples, there are a few things you should consider when thinking about crafting an estate plan. Each couple is unique, and it is our goal to ensure that your personal wishes are carried out and that no one else is dictating what should happen with your money, property, or children....

What Impact Does the Citizenship of My Spouse Have On My Estate?

Posted on: December 3rd, 2019
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2017, there were 44.4 million foreign-born people living in the United States, 55% of whom were non-citizens. As a result, there are many occasions when a non-citizen may be the beneficiary of the estate of a U.S. citizen, for example, if the non-citizen immigrant married a U.S. citizen. There are no laws prohibiting this, though non-citizen spouses—regardless of whether they are in the U.S. legally or illegally—may be treated differently for estate and gift tax purposes....

Planning for Stepchildren and Step-Grandchildren

Posted on: November 7th, 2019
The structure of families has changed in the United States: According to statistics cited by the Pew Research Center, six out of ten women who remarry are in blended families, and in about half of those remarriages, stepchildren live with the remarried couple. If you or your grown children are part of a blended family, your estate planning should reflect the special considerations and complexities involved....

Passing on Your Wisdom and Experience to the Next Generation

Posted on: November 7th, 2019
Each person accumulates a wealth of knowledge, experiences, and values throughout the course of their life. Regardless of whether you are financially wealthy, you have a great deal to share with your loved ones. An ethical will, sometimes also called a legacy letter, is a great way to pass on the wisdom that you have acquired and can be one of the most meaningful parts of your estate plan....

National Adoption Month

Posted on: November 7th, 2019
November is National Adoption Month, which is aimed at raising awareness about adoption and the children who need permanent, loving homes. Thousands of children are adopted each year, bringing much joy to their adoptive families. If you are in the process of adopting or have recently adopted a child, it is a great time to create or update your estate plan to ensure that it provides for your new family member in the way you intend....

Myths We Tell Ourselves About Estate Planning

Posted on: October 20th, 2019
Estate planning can be a very difficult process. While it’s not brain surgery, making the decision to move forward with the planning requires us to face the fact that we will not live forever. This thought can stop many people right in their tracks. Others talk themselves out of seeing a qualified attorney to put together an estate plan based on some of the following common myths:...

Estate Planning Awareness Week

Posted on: October 14th, 2019
In 2008, Congress recognized the need for the public to understand the importance and benefits of estate planning by passing House Resolution 1499, which designated the third week of October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Nevertheless, according to a 2019 survey carried out by Caring.com, 57% of adults in the United States have not prepared any estate planning documents such as a will or trust despite the fact that 76% viewed them as important. Many of the respondents said this was due to procrastination, but many others mistakenly believed that it was not necessary because they did not have many assets....

Planning Season

Posted on: September 25th, 2019
​For each season, there is planning that you must do on the farm. In order to be successful, this planning must be done thoughtfully and in advance. Your life is no different. To properly plan for the next season in your life and the lives of your family, a well-executed estate plan is a must. Below are a few documents to consider when crafting a plan to protect yourself, your family, your business, and your legacy....

The ABCs of RLTs

Posted on: September 17th, 2019
You may have heard of a revocable living trust (RLT), which is a commonly used estate planning solution. But what exactly are they, who is affected by them, how can they be changed, and what do they accomplish?...

Can I Refuse an Inheritance?

Posted on: September 3rd, 2019
Why would anyone want to refuse an inheritance? Although it is surprising to many, there are several circumstances when declining an inheritance can be beneficial. The law does permit you to refuse an inheritance if you comply with certain strict requirements. The legal term for a refusal of an inheritance is a “disclaimer,” which is defined as an irrevocable and unqualified refusal to accept an interest in property....

What Could the SECURE Act Mean For You?

Posted on: August 25th, 2019
If you have kept up with current events, you know that there is real potential for change to your retirement accounts. The Senate is working to pass new legislation that would help seniors prepare for their golden years more efficiently. Better known as the SECURE Act, Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement seeks to make Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) more appealing for Americans of all backgrounds. ...

Informal Probate Can’t Be As Bad As Formal Probate, Right?

Posted on: August 10th, 2019
The loss of a loved one comes with many unexpected challenges. Losing a beloved relative or friend can be overwhelming, and the process of handling their affairs in the wake of such a loss only adds to the stress. Many families are eager to tie up loose ends and distribute the assets of the deceased. To do so, formal or informal probate will need to occur....

Will vs. Trust: Which is Right for You?

Posted on: July 31st, 2019
When you sit down to create your estate plan, there are likely dozens of questions running through your mind. Who should get possession of your home? Who should run the family business? Will you create a college fund for your grandkids? What charity should you donate to? The options can be dizzying....

Being Deployed? Here’s What You Need to Do

Posted on: July 20th, 2019
You just received your orders, and you will be deployed shortly. No matter the time frame, there is still time to make sure your affairs are in order....

Lifetime QTIP Trusts

Posted on: June 28th, 2019
Estate planning for married couples can be tricky when one spouse is significantly wealthier than the other, and each spouse wants different beneficiaries to ultimately inherit their estate. One solution to this problem is the Lifetime QTIP Trust. ...

Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?

Posted on: June 17th, 2019
If you think you only need to create discretionary lifetime trusts for young, troubled, or financially inexperienced beneficiaries, then think again. In this day and age of frivolous lawsuits and high divorce rates, discretionary lifetime trusts should be considered for all of your beneficiaries, minors and adults alike....

The Harmonious Family that Won’t Fight? The Outcome May Surprise You

Posted on: May 28th, 2019
Most families are happy families. They get together for the holidays, share laughs, and tell stories. Everyone gets along and enjoys each other’s company. Then, the matriarch or patriarch dies. Suddenly, years of pent-up resentment and hurt feelings bubble to the surface, and the once-happy family is now embroiled in litigation over the decedent’s estate....

Just Like You Need a Medical Checkup, Your Estate Plan Needs a Checkup!

Posted on: April 12th, 2019
Whether or not you currently have estate planning documents, one important item to add to your calendar is getting an estate plan checkup....

When is probate necessary?

Posted on: April 7th, 2019
Whether or not you have an estate plan in place, you have likely heard the term "probate." Probate is the legal process by which a deceased individual's assets are distributed under court supervision. This process is necessary to distribute assets that are solely in the name of the deceased person. Probate is governed by state law....

Changes to ABLE Accounts You Should Know

Posted on: April 3rd, 2019
If you have a loved one with disabilities, you may be familiar with “ABLE” accounts, authorized by Congress in 2014 under the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act. ABLE accounts are tax-advantaged savings accounts–similar to 529 education savings plans–whose funds can be used to pay for certain qualifying expenses of disabled individuals. As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), there are several changes that affect ABLE accounts....

Four Common Myths about Estate Planning

Posted on: February 7th, 2019
Misinformation can be more dangerous than a lack of information. Check out these four common myths about estate planning to separate fact from fiction....

11 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Posted on: February 7th, 2019
Review this 11-point checklist to avoid the most common mistakes that could be lurking in your estate plan....

Did you or a loved one make any of these five critical estate planning mistakes?

Posted on: January 13th, 2019
Sadly, most Americans are indifferent to estate planning - at best - or completely ignore the issue - at worst. When it comes to estate planning, however, there are just some mistakes that you cannot afford to make. Below are five of the most critical estate planning mistakes....

Wills, Trusts and Dying Intestate

Posted on: January 2nd, 2019
Most people understand that having some sort of an estate plan is a good thing. However, many of us don’t take the steps to have an estate plan prepared because we don’t understand the nuances between wills and trusts – and dying without either....

5 Steps for Coordinating Plans Across Generations

Posted on: December 4th, 2018
Intergenerational estate planning is important. This type of planning is about more than just helping one generation build as much wealth as possible. These plans help prepare heirs to both manage and preserve those assets into the future for long-lasting enjoyment. Below are five steps that can facilitate successful intergenerational estate planning....

Your 5 Task Year-End Estate Planning To-Do List

Posted on: November 25th, 2018
2019 is fast approaching. As we all prepare for the holidays and a new year, it is important that we wrap up any loose strings. Before entering into the new year, here are some things that need to be on your end of year checklist:...

Murphy’s Law and Estate Planning

Posted on: November 17th, 2018
​As the old adage goes “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Referred to as Murphy’s law, this well-known saying has no mercy. Sadly, estate planning is no exception to its wrath. There is hope! Below are five-estate planning mistakes and how to fix them:...

5 Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now

Posted on: November 6th, 2018
During your lifetime, your retirement account has good asset protection, but as soon as you pass that account to a loved one, that protection evaporates. This means one lawsuit and POOF! Your life long, hard earned savings could be gone. Your heirs could be left penniless....

Estate Planning Considerations for Benefits Open Enrollment

Posted on: October 16th, 2018
The fall, generally late-October or early-November, is the time when employers send out summaries of employee benefits offered by the company and give employees the option to enroll in these benefits. These can generally include retirement plan options, health care, dental, vision, short and/or long-term disability, and life insurance coverage. Your employer may pay 100 percent of the premiums, split the costs with you, or you may have to pay all of the premiums yourself. Below are several considerations you should keep in mind once open enrollment begins....

Trusts - The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning

Posted on: October 9th, 2018
To the general public, a trust may seem like an advanced tool only for the wealthiest among us. But, the reality is that trusts are a foundational estate planning tool with a solid history for being highly effective in ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out. The process begins with the maker of a trust – commonly referred to as the trust maker, grantor, settlor, or trustor – transferring his or her ownership of certain assets to the trust. A trustee is then appointed to manage these assets for the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of the trust. In a “standard” revocable living trust, you are the trust maker, the trustee, and the beneficiary while you are alive. Then your designated successor trustee and beneficiaries take over upon your passing....

Do your parents have an estate plan?

Posted on: September 19th, 2018
If you find yourself in the “sandwich generation” (someone who is caring for both your children as well as your parents simultaneously), you need to know whether or not your parents have put together an estate plan. While it is still your parent’s choice to make estate planning decisions, having a plan -- no matter how late in life it is created -- is an absolute must....

Your Fall Legal Affairs Checklist

Posted on: September 12th, 2018
With the fall season approaching, it’s an excellent time to review your affairs. Below is a checklist to ensure your planning meets your needs and is up-to-date:...

Declare your Independence from Court Interference!

Posted on: July 3rd, 2018
While the rest of the nation celebrates its independence on July 4th, you can rest assured that you too can declare independence for your family -- from court interference. Life can be unpredictable. Whether it is a financial issue, the birth or adoption of a child, sickness or incapacity, it is important to be prepared with proper estate planning. In fact, failure to put together a comprehensive estate plan can leave you and your loved ones at the mercy of the court when it comes to distributing assets or caring for a minor or sick family member....

Joint Tenancy Pitfalls

Posted on: June 23rd, 2018
There are many ways to own your assets. When you die, it is only natural that you want your family to share in the bounty of your hard work. As a way to simplify the transfer process and avoid probate, you may be tempted to add a child or other relative to the deed or bank account utilizing the ownership type of joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTwROS). However, while this type of ownership delivers a lot of potential benefits, it may also be masking some dangerous pitfalls....

3 Tips For Every New Homeowner

Posted on: June 19th, 2018
Congratulations on the purchase of your new home. Whether this is your first home or an upgrade/downsize, the purchasing of a home is a big event in your life. When these major life changes occur, it is important that you are properly prepared. Below are a few things for you to consider now that you finally have the keys to your new home!...

Finding the Right Fit: Questions For Prospective Wills and Trusts Attorneys

Posted on: June 14th, 2018
It goes without saying that estate planning is incredibly important and is more than just having a will or a trust. Estate planning offers a sense of security for you and your loved ones that your wishes will be carried out. With such an important and personal endeavor, selecting the right Wills and Trusts Attorney is crucial....

Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation

Posted on: June 7th, 2018
No one wants to discuss death and dying. And yet, it’s a critical time in everyone’s life and one for which we know we need to prepare. While many people have the desire to share their wishes, something is preventing people from openly communicating with their families....

The One Thing Every New Grandparent MUST Do As Soon as Possible

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
Congratulations on welcoming the newest addition to your family. Being a new grandparent changes everything -- including how you approach your finances -- and is one of the most joyous occasions in life. The excitement of a new baby -- and all of the firsts that come with this bundle of joy -- can grab all of your attention and focus. That being said, there is one thing that every new grandparent must do as soon as possible that is often overlooked. Specifically, every new grandparent shuld immediately create (or revise) an estate plan so that it includes your family’s newest generation. ...

How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
Your children are your pride and joy. It is no surprise that at some point or another, every parent likely becomes concerned about who will care for a minor child or children if one or both parents die or are incapacitated. From a financial perspective, many parents turn to life insurance in an effort to take care of their family in the event of death. While it is true that life insurance is a particularly helpful financial tool to protect your loved ones, it is just as important to consider how to leave the proceeds to your minor children. Beyond this, you should also take into account how to incorporate your retirement money (IRAs and 401(k)s), another common, significant asset into your overall estate plan....

How to Fix 5 Common Estate Planning Problems

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
Not surprisingly, most people loathe reviewing their estate plan because it can be both confusing and daunting. Others do not want to think about death and avoid the topic altogether. If you already have put an estate plan together, you are ahead of the curve as many people do not have one. If you do not yet have an estate plan, there is no better time than now to sit down and get one in place. In either scenario, below are five common estate planning mistakes and how to fix them so that you are fully protecting your family....

How many plans do I need?

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
Most folks have at least heard of an estate plan. But fewer realize that a simple will is not enough to prepare for your future. In fact, a combination of plans - financial, tax, legacy, and estate - are vital to your financial well-being and protection of your assets and family. All of these plans are closely linked, affecting one another but also serving different purposes....

3 Things You Must Do Once Your Divorce Is Final

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
The divorce process can be long and expensive. However, the work does not end once the divorce decree is signed. In order to ensure that your assets and estate planning wishes are carried out in light of this major life change, there are three things you must do as soon as possible....

Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family

Posted on: April 26th, 2018
Whether you are in your first marriage or have remarried after a divorce, blended families are a common part of modern society. That being said, it is important to understand that blended families and subsequent marries create important and unique issues when it comes to estate planning....

Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning

Posted on: April 3rd, 2018
In the event of your untimely death, the manner in which your beneficiaries -- or those people who receive your assets from your estate -- are determined is highly dependent on how your property is titled....

How to Leave Assets to Adult Children

Posted on: March 16th, 2018
When considering how to leave assets to adult children, the first step is to decide how much each one should receive. Most parents want to treat their children fairly, but this doesn't necessarily mean they should receive equal shares of your estate. For example, it may be desirable to give more to a child who is a teacher than to one who has a successful business, or to “compensate” a child who has been a primary caregiver....

How to Leave Assets to Minor Children

Posted on: March 16th, 2018
Most parents want to make sure their children are provided for in the event something happens to them while the children are still minors. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and good friends sometimes want to leave gifts to beloved young children too. Unfortunately, good intentions and poor planning often have unintended results. Don’t make these common, expensive mistakes. Instead, here’s how to both protect and provide for the children you love....

4 Things to Consider Regarding Early Inheritance

Posted on: February 23rd, 2018
Nearly two-thirds of people over the age of 50 would rather pass their assets to the children early than make them wait until the will is read. It can be especially satisfying to fund our children’s dreams while we’re alive to enjoy them, and there’s no real financial penalty for doing so, provided that you structure the arrangement correctly. Here are four important factors to take into account when planning to give an early inheritance....

Are Payable-On-Death Accounts Right For You?

Posted on: January 30th, 2018
A payable-on-death account, also called a POD account, is a common way to keep bank and investment accounts out of probate, the court-supervised process that oversees distributing a deceased person’s property. Most people want to avoid their estate going through probate because their heirs will receive the inheritance faster, privately, and at lower cost....

There's Never A Better Time Than Now To Get Your Affairs in Order

Posted on: December 13th, 2017
The idea of getting your financial and legal house in order is likely the last thing on your mind during the busy holiday season. But, getting started is much easier than you think. In fact, the end of the year is a good time to reflect upon the year that has passed and focus on your aspirations for the future. Don’t hold this task off for later. Some careful thought and a little bit of work now can go a long way to help you feel 100% confident about moving forward in the new year....

How to Share Family History and Heirlooms with Your Estate Plan

Posted on: November 25th, 2017
The best time to share your family history with loved ones is right now, before the memories are forgotten. The coming holiday season is a great opportunity to reminisce because you’ll probably have your loved ones nearby....

Can You Bequeath Your Frequent Flyer Miles?

Posted on: November 7th, 2017
If you’re a frequent airline traveler, one of your estate planning concerns may be what will happen to your accumulated miles once you’re gone. They could be worth thousands of dollars, so you probably don’t want them to just disappear, but some airline policies say that’s exactly what will happen....

Vacation Properties and Your Estate Plan

Posted on: November 2nd, 2017
If you own a vacation home, timeshare, investment property, or any other asset outside of the state where you are domiciled you must make sure it’s included in your estate plan. If you fail to include these in your estate plan, or fail to have an estate plan at all, your heirs will encounter issues, and usually the expense and hassle of court costs, when inheriting these assets....

Providing for Your Minor Children after You Die

Posted on: October 18th, 2017
Deciding on a guardian for your minor children may very well be the most vexing decision you’ll make regarding your estate planning. Not only must you trust the appointed guardian to raise your children as you’d want them raised, but you also need that person to be financially responsible with your children’s inheritance. For example, if you have an IRA or an annuity that you wish to pass to your minor children, how can you ensure those funds will be used properly—especially if the person you trust most to raise your kids isn’t necessarily the best with finances?...

How Does My Annuity Fit Into My Estate Plan?

Posted on: October 4th, 2017
Selecting the right type of annuity for yourself is no small feat. Of course, you’ve put in the research and planned with your financial advisors. But, you might still be wondering what happens to those annuity payments upon your death....

How Does an IRA Fit Into Your Estate Plan?

Posted on: September 27th, 2017
When you think of IRAs, you probably think of retirement. But what happens to your IRA money after you’re gone? The answer depends on how you go about creating your estate plan and selecting beneficiaries, and you might be surprised to find out that your money could end up with the wrong people or cause an unexpected tax bill if you don’t take action ahead of time....

New Baby? Time to Create Your Estate Plan

Posted on: September 20th, 2017
Estate planning is often one item that gets pushed back on nearly everyone’s to-do list. The reasons you might be delaying vary: lack of time, not thinking you have enough assets, not knowing how to start, or fear of contemplating death. Whatever the reason for not putting an estate plan together, it is important to understand that if you just had a baby - now is the time to meet with an estate planning attorney to implement a plan....

After the Death of a Spouse

Posted on: August 16th, 2017
When a spouse passes away, thinking about "the estate" might be the last thing on your mind. And while it's necessary to give yourself ample time to process the loss of your partner, it’s also imperative you talk with your estate planning attorney sooner rather than later — or you might be facing some pretty unpleasant consequences....

Estate Planning 101

Posted on: August 13th, 2017
You have worked hard for years, have family members and friends you care about, and have approached a time in your life when “estate planning” sounds like something you should do, but you are not exactly sure why. You may feel that you are not wealthy enough or not old enough to bother or care. Or you may already have a Will and feel that you are all set on that front. Whatever your current position, consider these common misconceptions about estate planning....

Do You Really Need a Trust?

Posted on: July 26th, 2017
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....

Do You Really Need a Will?

Posted on: July 19th, 2017
Most Americans do not have a simple will as part of their estate plan. You might believe that a will is only for the rich and famous, and not the average person who has a far smaller net worth. On the other hand, you may think that a will is entirely unnecessary since you have a trust, jointly owned property, or have named beneficiaries on your insurance....

Isn't There Already A Law That Leaves Everything To My Spouse And Kids?

Posted on: July 11th, 2017
Many people think that if they die while they are married, everything they own automatically goes to their spouse or children. They’re actually thinking of state rules that apply if someone dies without leaving a will. In legal jargon, this is referred to as “intestate.” In that case, the specifics will vary depending on each state's law, so where you live when you die can significantly change the outcome for your family....

Tools You Can Use to Leave Words of Wisdom to the Next Generation

Posted on: May 15th, 2017
You come into the world a blank slate, and as you grow, you gain wisdom. You've planned your estate to leave physical assets to beneficiaries, so now think about leaving them something that’s just as important but less tangible: the hard-won wisdom you’ve accumulated over your life. Let your family and friends learn from your mistakes, and profit from your successes. ...

3 Decidedly Dumb Ways to Leave an Inheritance for Your Children

Posted on: April 18th, 2017
Estate planning offers many ways to leave your wealth to your children, but it’s just as important to know what not to do. Here are some things that are all-too-common, but textbook examples of what not to do or try.......

Does a Dynasty Trust Make Sense for Your Family?

Posted on: April 11th, 2017
Earlier this year, NBA team owner Gail Miller made headlines when she announced that she was effectively no longer the owner of the Utah Jazz or the Vivint Smart Home Arena. These assets, she said, were being placed into a family trust, therefore raising interest in an estate planning tool previously known only to the very wealthy­–the dynasty trust....

How You Can Build an Estate Plan that Includes Asset Protection

Posted on: March 21st, 2017
Much of estate planning has to do with the way a person’s assets will be distributed upon their death. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. From smart incapacity planning to diligent probate avoidance, there is a lot that goes into crafting a comprehensive estate plan. One important factor to consider is asset protection....