Estate Planning

Understanding Probate

understanding probateAn individual’s will designates how personal assets should be distributed to beneficiaries upon death. A revocable trust enables the smooth transfer of those assets. Without a trust, if assets are titled solely in the decedent’s name, the estate must be funneled through the probate court. Understanding probate can go a long way in alleviating stress during an already difficult time.

Probate is the court-supervised process that transfers assets of someone who has passed away to the rightful beneficiaries. Depending on the complexity of the estate, the process can last roughly six months to two years. There are financial costs associated with probate, such as attorney and appraisal fees. These expenses can be hefty depending on the size of the estate.

Understanding Probate

Here are the typical steps of the probate process.

1) A petition is filed to open probate and a personal representative is appointed by the court.

Even if an executor was named in a will, before probate can begin that person must be authorized by the court. Executor, administrator and personal representative are different titles used to describe the person who will be managing the estate.

2) Notice of the death is given to potential creditors.

Any claims against the estate must be presented to the executor; there is typically a time limit within which a claim can be made.

3) Assets are collected and valued.

The executor needs to take inventory of and properly appraise the decedent’s assets before determining how and to whom they will pass.

4) The estate is managed by the executor.

This process includes opening an estate checking account to pay bills, maintaining investments and real estate, and filing appropriate income tax returns.

5) Remaining assets are distributed.

Once debts, expenses and taxes have been paid, the executor must distribute any remaining assets according to the decedent’s will. In the absence of a will, assets are distributed according to the state’s probate laws.

 

By |2019-09-16T19:35:29-07:00September 23rd, 2019|Estate Planning|

Your Digital Legacy

your digital legacyDoes anyone truly die in the 21st century? The Internet is an integral part of our lives. Online banking, social media, a digital library of movies, books and music, email, photos stored in the Cloud – we all have accounts and an Internet presence that we don’t think much about unless we are hacked. When people die, pieces of them and their digital assets remain online. Your digital legacy adds yet another layer to your estate planning.

In this new reality where online life and the physical world blur together, it’s important to think about how your digital assets and legacy will be handled when you pass away. With most websites requiring a password change every few months for security, even a written record can become obsolete and make it difficult to access investments and outstanding bills. When it comes to social media, accounts are not owned by the user and cannot be passed down in a will. Still, there are a couple steps you can take to help simplify the process.

Protect Your Digital Legacy

Learn About Social Media Options: Every social media site handles a user’s death a little differently. Facebook has a legacy option, in which you can designate someone with the power to leave a final message to friends and family, archive photos, and provide updates. Instagram’s legacy feature does not allow changes to be made, however, the account will no longer appear in public searches. Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and LinkedIn will delete an account if provided proof of death by a family member.

Designate a Digital Manager: As part of your estate planning documents, designate someone you trust to manage your digital estate. Maintain an up-to-date a list of important online accounts, digital libraries and electronic devices, as well as your login information for each. Also provide your digital manager with the email address associated with them, which can help him or her gain access if passwords have changed.

Written by Alicia Vallee, a Phoenix-based freelance writer.
By |2019-08-19T10:05:48-07:00August 28th, 2019|Current Affairs, Estate Planning|

Estate Planning Insights

estate planning insightsMike McCann recently helped his dad through a difficult life transition – from having full independence to living in a memory care facility. There are several estate planning pitfalls people often encounter. His dad avoided all but one. In this brief video, Mike shares key estate planning insights he gained in the process.

Most importantly, he learned that communicating your wishes to your loved ones is critcal. It’s a step that should not be put off.

Estate Planning Insights

By |2019-08-14T13:59:44-07:00July 8th, 2019|Estate Planning, Video Blog|

Think About Estate Planning

Aretha Franklin’s death without a will is a reminder that “you better think” about estate planning.

On August 16, Aretha Franklin passed away in her home after a long, private battle with pancreatic cancer. The Queen of Soul died without having a will or trust in place. Now her family must wrestle with not only their grief, but also the lengthy, complicated and expensive process of probate. Take this news as an important reminder to think about estate planning. Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person’s assets and distributing them to creditors and inheritors.

How Often Do You Think about Estate Planning?

Franklin’s exact net worth is unknown, but it is estimated at roughly $80 million and includes the rights to many of her hit songs, according to Wealth Management Magazine. The complete lack of estate planning on Franklin’s part will likely result in the federal government taking a huge tax bite out of that figure, leaving less inheritance to her four sons. At the moment, there are no indications that any of Franklin’s heirs are in conflict regarding next steps. Unfortunately, without documented instructions for distribution of her estate, that could easily change.

When music legend Prince died two years ago, he also left behind no will or plan for what should happen to his $500 million estate. In addition, it was unclear who had control of his royalty rights and his unreleased music. Both performers led deeply private lives. Yet, without a will or trust in place, each of their estates now can and will be laid bare for all to see.

Everyone needs a will. The legal document expedites the settlement of an estate, keeps proceedings from going to probate, and helps keep private matters private. This is true regardless of the size or scope of your estate, legacy or fame.

By |2019-08-14T13:59:48-07:00September 24th, 2018|Current Affairs, Estate Planning|

Make Your Legacy Tangible

make your legacy tangibleEstate planning is about much more than the tangible elements of life insurance and trusts, or investment accounts and wills. That’s because your money and possessions are not the only representations of your life. What about your beliefs and wisdom, your personal experiences and family stories? These are your legacy. They are the most valuable assets you can pass on to your loved ones and community. So, how do you make your legacy tangible?

“The challenge with character and intellectual assets is giving them the same kind of physicality that financial assets are given,” explains Laura Roser, author of Your Meaning Legacy. “Legacy vehicles are the physical structures that enable you to pass on your non-financial assets.”

One simple way to pass on your legacy is to write a heartfelt letter. You can also create short videos or audio recordings in which you share family traditions, memories and other stories. For those feeling especially ambitious, it has become easier than ever to create biographies, memoirs and other specialty books.

Regardless of how simple or elaborate you choose to be, you’ll want to include these items in your estate plan along with instructions for how they are to be shared and preserved. Remember, too, you don’t have to wait until your death to share them.

Sharing your life stories today can benefit you and your family in multiple ways. For example, a 2006 study from Emory University shows that children who know and understand their family’s history exhibit strong self-esteem and a belief that they can influence events and outcomes in their lives. Additional benefits, according to Roser, include decreasing depression in older adults, connecting with family, and increasing the likelihood of a successful wealth transfer.

Charitable giving can also include a legacy letter, video or other vehicle that shares personal wisdom and values. Your thoughts and insights will make the gift all the more meaningful to the recipient. A college student who benefits from your scholarship will also benefit from knowing why you gave. Nonprofit employees will appreciate knowing funds to continue their work came from someone with shared beliefs and values.

Just like the drafting of important financial papers, documenting your non-financial assets should be done before it becomes urgent or too late. Why not start right now?

Ideas to Help Make Your Legacy Tangible

  • Pick a photo from your past and write a description of what was happening, how you felt when it was taken.
  • Record a two-minute video about your wedding day, the day your child was born or a family tradition.
  • Create a “Top 10” list (of things for which you are grateful, of mistakes you’ve made and learned from, or of actions you believe create a well-lived life).
  • Write a letter to your family telling them you love them and what you consider to be their greatest gifts.
By |2019-08-14T13:59:48-07:00July 30th, 2018|Books, Client Stories, Estate Planning|