Category Archives: Estate Planning

How Do I Talk to My Parents About Estate Planning?

estate planning

The Estate Planning conversation can be difficult.

Conversations about planning for a senior’s later years seem difficult because often they are delayed until a medical crisis forces the family’s hand. Here are two suggestions on how to make this conversation a productive one for all parties involved. 

Schedule a Time to Hold the Conversation

Let them know ahead of time that you want to discuss something important. The first conversation should take place at your parents’ home, or another place where they feel comfortable. Make an “agenda” on the issues you want to discuss during this meeting to stay on track if things get emotional.

Avoid Making Your Parents Defensive

If your parents are more hesitant, start with the least emotional topics to establish comfort. Always open the conversation with “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. Saying something like, “You can’t manage your finances anymore,” would only get your parents’ hackles up. –instead, say “I want us to be prepared in case there’s an emergency so that I can be helpful.”  If you make sure your conversation is coming from a helpful place, the discussion will be a positive one.

If your parents are willing, consulting with an Estate Planning Attorney is something I always recommend.   If you are located in the Daytona Beach area, call my office for a free consultation.

How to Choose the Right Estate Planning Attorney

estate planning attorney

Choosing the correct Estate Planning Attorney is essential

 

Once you’ve located a prospective estate planning attorney, you’ll need to ask the attorney the following list of questions to determine if they’re truly qualified to help you:

Is the attorney’s primary focus on estate planning?

Unless you live in a very rural area I think you will find that most attorneys have narrowed their practice these days and with good reason, the law is complex.  In all areas of practice.  Now, that said, while it may be not as critical to be a specialist to prepare a simple Will —I personally think it makes a huge difference in an attorney’s ability to issue spot.  If what you do is Estate Planning and Probate you get a unique perspective from both ends of the process that can offer valuable insight.

 How many years of experience does the attorney have?

The more years of experience the attorney has the more the attorney will have had the opportunity to see their essential estate planning documents in action when a client becomes disabled or dies. The wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health care documents used by attorneys who have been in business for a while have been revised and tweaked to deal with the everyday situations that their clients encounter. The answers to these questions will give you the peace of mind to know that the documents they prepare for you will work when they’re needed.

Does the attorney adequately assist clients with funding their assets into a revocable living trust?

Many attorneys create beautiful estate plans for their clients but then fail to assist them with the next important step: funding the revocable living trust. A well-drafted trust will be virtually useless immediately after you die if your assets aren’t titled in the name of the trust while you’re still alive. Some firms have full-time funding assistants or even entire funding departments, while others will give you comprehensive written instructions. Others will merely mention the importance of funding but fail to provide you with any guidance whatsoever. I strongly recommend that you work with an attorney who will oversee the funding process and even pay the attorney an extra fee to do so because chances are you won’t complete all of the necessary funding on your own.

How to find a Personal Representative outside of your family

There are three characteristics I believe you should look for when choosing the Personal Representative of your estate: someone who can carry out the needed tasks is willing to serve in this role and is familiar with your unique situation.

How do you find a Personal Representative if you don’t know anyone who meets these three criteria? In other words, where can you turn to find a Personal Representative if there are no immediate candidates within your family or your close friends?

While the majority of folks find an individual in their family to serve as Personal Representative, however, if there are no immediately obvious people who you think would be a good fit, think outside of the box. Do you have any grandchildren who could do it? If your close circle of friends is older, do any of them have kids that would be able to carry out the tasks of Personal Representative?

People are typically more than willing to help out if they’re approached. Be open to reaching out to folks that have a good head on their shoulders and you are comfortable sharing your wishes with, even if they’re not a member of your immediate family. If you are still not able to find an individual to handle the task of being Personal Representative of your Estate, there are other options.

Alternatives to Working with an Individual

If finding an individual that you trust and that is willing to serve as Personal Representative for you isn’t possible, then you can look at hiring a third party to serve as the Personal Representative of your estate. For example, an experienced estate planning attorney or a local bank or trust company can be tasked to handle the duties of being your Personal Representative.

Ultimately, whether you’re able to find an individual or you opt to work with a third party to serve as your Personal Representative, it’s important to review the details of your plan and outline where your important financial documents and information are located. That will make settling your affairs a more manageable task and, ultimately, help ease the workload that you entrust to your Personal Representative.

If you are seeking help to get your Estate Plan together and live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call me to schedule a free consultation.

Four Things that Cause Sibling Feuds Regarding Estate Planning

 

Caring for an ill parent or settling their estate once they have passed is an emotional time in a family and can start a feud or add to an already existing one if specific preventative measures are not taken. When parents divide their assets to their children, they don’t expect such fights to occur, but they do. Not all disagreements can be prevented, but with careful planning, following the advice of an Estate Planning Attorney, parents can try to avoid these issues.

Here are four things that commonly cause fights and advice on how to prevent them from happening.

  1. No Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney

When a parent gets sick, it can be stressful, especially if they need to be hospitalized for an extended period. This can become more challenging if their situation becomes critical and they are unable to voice their healthcare or financial wishes. If a parent does not have a Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney, their loved ones are forced to make the decisions for themselves. This can cause conflict between siblings if they are unable to agree on a resolution. In some circumstances, siblings have taken each other to court to fight for ‘their side’. This can cause a rift in their relationship, costly court fees, and lost time that instead should be spent by their parent’s side.

To avoid this conflict, parents should have their Healthcare Directive and Power of Attorney prepared:

  • A Healthcare Directive specifies your wishes for medical treatments and allows you to appoint someone to carry out your wishes if there is ever a time when you are no longer able to communicate or provide consent
  • A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs, such as your property, while you are incapacitated
  1. No Will

If both parents pass away without a Will, a family can be thrown into chaos. This can cause fights between siblings if they want the same thing or can’t agree on how to equally divide the items.

Parents should create a Will and specify who gets what. They can identify items and give them as gifts to their children. Creating a Will not only ensures your loved ones are looked after, but it decreases the chance of siblings fighting over material possessions.

  1. Lack of Communication

In some cases, having a Will is not enough to stop feuds from occurring. A lot of times, parents don’t discuss their Will with their children (as it can be uncomfortable talking about money or their mortality). However, this lack of communication can cause more problems between siblings because it is too late to hear their parents’ reasoning.

Parents should communicate with their children about their Will so they are aware of the contents and can have an open discussion.

  1. Wrong Personal Representative/Executor

A Personal Representative/Executor will distribute the assets Personal Representative/Executor. Since the Personal Representative/Executor has the power to make decisions, it can create some tension between siblings. Arguments can arise because they may feel jealous that their sibling is the Personal Representative/Executor or that their sibling is abusing their power and not carrying out their responsibilities.

Often parents can select a third party as their Personal Representative/Executor. This can help alleviate tension between siblings as the Personal Representative/Executor is impartial and has no personal interest in the estate.

Every situation is different and sometimes feuds and disagreement cannot be avoided even with careful planning and the best intentions. As always, I recommend a lawyer in the state in which you reside prepare these papers, so there are no legal issues when the time comes for them to be implemented. If you live in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, call my office for a free consultation.

 

Estate Planning Pitfalls

Estate Planning Pitfalls Part 2

 

Last month I started what I consider one of my most important posts –a series regarding the

Estate Planning Pitfalls

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

most common pitfalls I see in Estate Planning.

Part two of my multi-part blog series discusses the pitfall of failing to keep a current/updated Will. This is probably one of the easiest pitfalls to avoid and the most common blunder I see by other people’s clients.  I tell my clients to come see me to review everything EVERY three years whether they think they need it or not —to encourage this practice I personally do not charge for these “check-ins” but even if your attorney charges you, go –it’s money well spent.   

Case Study:  Estate Planning Pitfall #2– Failing to Maintain an Updated Will

I was hired by a young man whose father had recently passed after a lengthy battle with illness, he had two half-siblings

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

out of state, the decedent had some property here, some property out of state, an ex-girlfriend living in his home.  All a recipe for a convoluted case at best case.  This will be compounded because although Father had resided in Florida for quite some time his antiquated Will was drafted in another state nearly a decade before his death.

To add insult to injury, because the Will was self-prepared on a form purchased at an office supply store it provided for very specific bequests to each of his 3 children and a close friend.  It did not provide for his residuary Estate —what could be called the “everything else” clause.  And a decade later all but one of the properties left to his beneficiaries was long gone and his “everything else” is everything and now left to chance.  The Will also provided for a Personal Representative who lived 2000 miles away and who likely will not want to be in charge of the circus that is about to commence with a bunch of heirs who don’t have a relationship and no clear instructions.

This case hasn’t ended yet but it’s going to be a long haul and could have been very easily avoided if he had just updated his Will prior to passing.

And so, even with a seemingly simple estate—say, you “just” own a bank account and a house—it’s crucial to keep an updated will or a living trust or otherwise Probate Proof yourself.   These scenarios can be avoided with the advice of an Estate Planning Attorney –so have your Estate Planning reviewed every three years or when life changes happen [beneficiaries pass away, children are born, divorce occurs, assets are sold, to name a few] and failing to do so can have unintended consequences.

Estate Planning Pitfalls

There are numerous pitfalls of which you need to be aware regarding your Estate Plan.

You’ve worked way too hard to leave your estate plan to chance. Stop procrastinating and protect your family and loved ones and your hard-earned legacy today. However, when doing so, there are numerous pitfalls of which you should be aware.

A simple Google search can reveal some harrowing examples of those pitfalls. This is part one of a multi-part series of what can happen when Estate Planning goes wrong:

Pitfall Possibility #1: Picking An Inappropriate Personal Representative

Are there any long-standing feuds in your family? Does your anticipated Personal Representative live near you? Who will handle your final affairs in an appropriate and fair manner?

These are all questions to spend some time thinking about when determining the best person or persons to act on your behalf after your death. Read on to review an example of what can happen if these things aren’t considered properly:

“When you’re dealing with families, things can get complicated—quick. We see so many cases come through with unresolved feuds between siblings. It’s one of the most common causes of litigation over an estate.

I handled one case where a client’s sister had been named the executor of their father’s estate, despite the fact that she lived in a different state than both her father and brother, whom she’d been fighting with for years.

Ideally, in a case like that, the parents would have named an objective, independent personal representative—like another family member or a trusted friend—as their estate’s executor, instead of one of the kids.

But that didn’t happen here.

After the father passed away, our client started to take care of a few things around the house, not realizing he didn’t have the legal right to do so. Once his sister arrived, there were accusations about items being removed—and a long legal battle ensued.

Ultimately, even though the estate was to be divided evenly, our client’s sister had all of the decision-making power to decide how that happened, so long as the monetary value was equal. There is no way to challenge her decisions in court, and we’re still waiting to see whether or not the siblings can put their feelings aside and divide the estate fairly.

To avoid contentious situations like this, we counsel clients to consider the complicated dynamics between the family members named in a will. If there’s even a possibility of an estate causing fights or damaging relationships, we encourage them to look for an independent personal representative who can settle things fairly.”

                                                    —Tom Gisriel, attorney at Pessin Katz Law, Baltimore, Md.

Mr. Gisriel finishes his story with some valuable advice: Consider complicated dynamics between family members and think about an independent Personal Representative if those dynamics will damage relationships –a neutral family friend? Your Attorney?

Follow the blog, so you do not miss the next chapters of Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Avoid these headaches by putting your Estate Plan in motion today by meeting with an Estate Planning Attorney where you reside.

Heidi S. Webb provides competent, experienced and trusted Estate Planning and Probate Estate Administration services to clients in the Daytona Beach, Florida area. Call today to schedule your free legal consultation.

Original Article with “case studies” located at https://www.learnvest.com/knowledge-center/estate-planning-mistakes

How to Choose a Good Nursing Home

Knowing what to look for when choosing a good nursing home for your loved one is essential. Here in Florida, some nursing homes in Miami got into some serious trouble after Irma hit because there were not compliant with State regulations. That raised the question, “How do you choose the best nursing home for your loved one?” Facilities have different levels of care they provide, but for purposes of this post, I am going to concentrate on 24-hour care.

First, let’s give a definition of Nursing Home Services: A nursing home provides 24-hour nursing and personal care to residents. Nursing care is provided by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs). Personal attention is given by certified nursing assistants (CNAs) and can include help with bathing, dressing, eating, walking, and physical transfer (like moving from a bed to a chair). (Source here)

Next, create a list of the homes near you that provide this services. I have put together a basic list to help answer to help with this dilemma. Keep in mind, this is just a start, and sometimes your gut reaction to an institution is the best reference.

1. Check State Licenses. In the State of Florida, you can go to this website to check on the license on any homes on your list. Once you put in the name, you can see what type facility they are licensed to have. Depending on the needs of your loved one, not every institution may be authorized to meet these requirements. This site will also provide information on the staff and their licenses.

2. Visit the Facility. Call and make an appointment to meet with the administrator. Have a list of questions ready and make sure you are satisfied with the answers. Get a tour of the facility to see if it meets your expectations. Also, interview some staff to get a feel for the type of people that will be taking care of your loved one. Here is an excellent list of questions.

3. Unplanned Visits. Once you have chosen a facility show up unannounced to see if this facility provides everything it promised in your questioning. If you feel something is wrong, go to the administrator so that can address your issue.

As with any significant life decision, there are many ways to choose the best nursing home. This list is just a start, but I hope it can help educate you on this difficult decision.

Estate Plan

Even the Famous Make Estate Planning Mistakes

It is a common misconception that having money means you hire the best advisors and have your life completely in order, but this is not always the case. With all the millions some celebrities have, you’d think they would be able to afford proper Estate Planning advice. But too often after celebrities die, we learn that they made some simple blunders that trigger years of court battles or cost their heirs millions of dollars., Here are some examples of some famous mistakes.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Mistake: Not having a Will. The April 2016 death of entertainer Prince wasn’t just shocking because he was only 57 years old. Many people were surprised the “Purple Rain” singer had no Will. Now a Minnesota judge is deciding how to distribute Prince’s estimated $300 million Estate among six siblings. Other potential heirs have surfaced, too, including a federal inmate claiming to be Prince’s son.

Whitney Houston

Mistake: Not updating the Will. Songstress Whitney Houston had a Will when she drowned in February 2012, but it was quite outdated. Drawn up a month before the 1993 birth of Houston’s only child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, the Will was never revised — not even as the singer’s fortune climbed to $20 million. Bobbi Kristina was 18 when her mother died, and under the Will’s terms was to receive 10 percent of the estate — $2 million — when she turned 21 and the rest later.

James Gandolfini
Mistake: Not finishing planning. Sopranos actor James Gandolfini was reportedly worth $70 million when he died in June 2013 of a heart attack in Rome. His Will provided for his widow, daughter, and two sisters (his son from his first marriage was provided for in other ways). But Gandolfini didn’t use proper tax planning. The result: The Estate ended up paying federal and state estate taxes at a hefty rate of 55 percent.

 

Marlon Brando
Mistake: Making oral promises. Actor Marlon Brando had an estate plan for his $100 million fortune when he died in July 2004. The problem was, his written plan excluded certain oral promises he allegedly made to his long-term housekeeper, Angela Borlaza. She filed two lawsuits claiming she was illegally kicked out of Brando’s California home. The former maid said the house was a gift to her from Brando. The actor, though, never completed the paperwork to transfer the deed to give Borlaza legal ownership.

 

 

 

 

Heath Ledger
Mistake: Inadvertently omitting a child. After actor Heath Ledger died in January 2008, reports surfaced that he had failed to update an old Will created before his daughter was born. As a result, Ledger’s entire $20 million Estate went to his parents and three sisters.

 

 


Florence Griffith Joyner
Mistake: Keeping a Will’s location secret. Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner had a Will when she died in September 1998. The problem: No one knew where “Flo Jo” kept it. It threw her relatives into an Estate Planning battle because they couldn’t find her original Will. And without the Will, it took four long years to close her probate estate.

ASK HEIDI: Do I need to change my will and beneficiary designations after I divorce if I want my ex-spouse to still inherit as if we were married?

 Short Answer:  Yes, divorce does void beneficiary designations as well as will provisions.

Divorce Changes Your Will

Ask Heidi

Why it’s Important:  If you want your ex-spouse to still to inherit in your estate as it was written when you were married, this needs to be addressed again after your divorce.  If you do not update the Estate documents, your estate will be deemed intestate even though you have a will.  The state will distribute your assets and family that you may not have a relationship with will end up with assets you fully intended to go to a former spouse. 

 

Four Questions to Ask Yourself Regarding Your Estate Plan

Estate Plan

Questions to ask yourself to prepare for your meeting with your attorney

You do not have to have a ton of assets to need an Estate Plan. You do need an attorney specializing in this area of law to properly put together any type of plan. An Estate Plan is more than big assets. It is the plan that comes into play when you can no longer convey your wishes on various issues. After you pick an attorney to help put together your documents, ask yourself these four questions. Bring the answers to the meeting so the attorney can get an idea of the type of Estate Plan needed to fit your needs.

1. What are your Assets? Make a list of everything you own. Your home or apartment contents, car, and various other items can be addressed in an Estate Plan. Cars. Jewelry. Furniture. Family photos. Not all assets have a monetary value. Sentimental assets have been known cause just as many problems [if not MORE] as large sums of cash. This list will help your attorney put together a plan to fit your needs.

2. Who Gets What? Now that you have your list – who to do you want to have these assets? Name a person you want to carry out your wishes when it comes to distributing these assets. These are the big decisions that no one can make for you.

3. What are you Healthcare Wishes? Accidents happen and they do not give warnings. That’s why they are called accidents. This is especially important in the case of an illness that robs you of your ability to make decisions. Choose a trusted friend or family member to assign as the healthcare power of attorney. Then talk to this individual to make sure they are willing to accept this responsibility and will follow your wishes.

4. What Type of Funeral? This is a morbid thought and no one likes to think about a day when someone will be planning their funeral. Write what you would like, if you want a funeral and make it part of your Estate Plan. Listing out your wishes will make this easier for love ones during a difficult time.

These questions are just a start. Your attorney will probably have more questions to make sure all the potential issues are addressed in your plan. Follow up on your attorney’s advice. Sign the documents, change the asset titles if necessary and let your family know where your documents can be located. Your family will appreciate having these documents and it will help them deal with their grief.