Thomas H. Sullivan

Attorney at Law

Latest Blog Posts

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:...

Caution: Creditors Now Have Easy Access to Inherited IRAs

Posted on: November 16th, 2018
Do you have IRAs or other retirement accounts that you plan to leave to your loved ones? If so, proceed with caution. As opposed to when you own the retirement accounts, inherited retirement accounts do not have asset protection, meaning they can be seized by creditors....

Giving Thanks With Your Estate Plan

Posted on: November 11th, 2018
Estate planning covers more than just financial matters. Indeed, many use their estate plan to pass along their values as well as their wealth. One way to do this is to give thanks with your estate plan, by designating charitable giving or specific gifts that will help ensure your legacy...

What do the 2018 Midterm Elections Mean For Your Estate Plan?

Posted on: November 7th, 2018
Estate planning is meant to be an ongoing process, not a one-time transaction. In the same way that you never stop budgeting, saving, and investing as you go through life, it is also sensible to see estate planning as a lifelong project. Let’s look at some of the considerations you should make now that the 2018 midterm elections are in the history books....

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....

What Estate Planning Awareness Means For You

Posted on: October 26th, 2018
The third week of October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Estate planning is important for everyone regardless of wealth or family status because if you become incapacity or pass away without an estate plan, you are leaving the distribution of your assets subject to state law – and the results may not be what you want or expect....

Your 2018 Taxes – Get Started Now

Posted on: October 23rd, 2018
While the end of the year is not quite here yet (but rapidly approaching), now is an opportune time to take a moment and start your year-end tax planning for 2018. This is particularly necessary this tax year because of the changes to the tax law that became effective in 2018. As a result of the significant changes in the law, your taxes may look different this year, so you should allow for some extra time in the preparation....

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....

The More You Know: Reverse Mortgages & Estate Planning

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018
You have likely seen several advertisements for reverse mortgages if you have spent any time watching television or surfing on the internet. The concept and sell is a simple one: as long as you own and live in your home, you can supplement your retirement income with a loan that you do not need to pay off. The trade-off when it comes to a reverse mortgage is that you are using your home’s equity to receive that extra retirement income. Even if a reverse mortgage is right for your circumstances, entering into a reverse mortgage is something that should be understood fully before signing any paperwork....

Big Life Changes Often Mean Big Estate Plan Changes

Posted on: September 30th, 2018
Many people who put together an estate plan do so when they start a family - assuming they put an estate plan together at all during their lifetime. While putting an estate plan together is a good thing to do, many people make few updates once the plan has been created, despite other key life events happening over the years. This is a major mistake that can place your hard-earned money and assets into a costly probate or into the wrong hands. To make sure you do not run into these issues and your wishes are followed in the event of your death or incapacity, below are nine life decisions or events that should get you thinking about updating -- or creating -- your estate plan right away....

5 Tips for Successfully Receiving an Inheritance

Posted on: September 27th, 2018
If you recently received an inheritance, or are expecting to receive one in the near future, it has likely triggered mixed emotions in you. You have lost a loved one and also experienced monetary gain. Studies show that a third of Americans who received an inheritance completely spent it within two years of receipt. Below are five practical steps for you to follow to maximize and protect your inheritance....

Why Joint Tenancy Should Not Be the Go-To Plan for Newlyweds

Posted on: September 25th, 2018
If you are recently married or have been married and are acquiring additional assets, know that you have options when it comes to how the property will be titled. And, although joint tenancy seems like an easy and convenient choice, it may not work as well as you would think....

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:...

Your Post-Honeymoon Legal Checklist

Posted on: September 6th, 2018
​Your wedding is over, and the day was absolutely perfect. You went away on your honeymoon with your new spouse and had the time of your lives. Now you are back and can breathe a sigh of relief and watch the rest of the years ahead unfold before your eyes. Well, not so fast. Now that your honeymoon is over, there are several things you should be mindful of to make sure that the legal and financial parts of your life properly reflect your newly married status. ...

Who Should Be Your Successor Trustee?

Posted on: September 2nd, 2018
If you have a revocable living trust, you probably named yourself as trustee so you can continue to manage your own financial affairs, but eventually, someone will need to step in for you when you are no longer able to act due to incapacity or after your death. Your successor trustee plays an important role in the effective execution of your estate plan....

How to Choose a Guardian for Yourself

Posted on: August 27th, 2018
Every day we make hundreds of decisions from what to eat for breakfast to where we go on vacation. With each passing day, there are more choices to be made. But, what will happen if you can’t make decisions for yourself? Before that time comes, there is one important decision you need to make. Who do you want to serve as your guardian?...

How to Successfully Make a Large Gift to Your Children or Grandchildren

Posted on: August 22nd, 2018
What constitutes a “large” gift can be relative. That being said, if you are considering giving cash or property to someone, a little bit of planning can really help avoid negative consequences. This is particularly true if the gifted amounts are over $15,000.00, will be gifted in property, will be gifted on a regular basis, or if the gift givers -- whether parents or grandparents -- hold assets that are over $11 million....

Five Considerations When Selecting a Guardian for Your Children

Posted on: August 17th, 2018
There is no question that having children changes everything -- and estate planning is no exception. If you and your spouse pass away or become legally incapacitated, and arrangements were never made in the event of such an emergency, your minor child or children will have to be placed with a new family. Not surprisingly, such a drastic change can be a disruptive process for minor children -- even if they are placed with members of your family. If you choose a guardian for your child in your will or other estate plan documents this difficult time can go much more smoothly....

How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Posted on: August 13th, 2018
While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a rich history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, executors, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, executors, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better....

Name a Guardian for Your Minor Children

Posted on: August 8th, 2018
We know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising your children can stop you in your tracks. It feels crushing and too horrific to consider. But you must. If you don’t, a stranger will determine who raises your children if something happens to you - your children’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met....

Legal Considerations When Getting Your New College Student Ready to Go

Posted on: August 6th, 2018
If you are preparing to send your son or daughter off to college to pursue higher education, you may be wondering how their first semester of school will go. During this exciting new chapter in your family’s life, the last thing you may be thinking about is estate planning for your college-aged child. While your child may not have any assets (yet), once he or she turns 18, your child is considered an adult in the eyes of the law. Before your kids go away, have a frank conversation with them about how much information -- including grades, finances, health records -- you will be able to access....

Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden

Posted on: August 1st, 2018
Most business owners have their estate planning prepared because they are worried about what will happen to their business after they are dead. However, proper estate planning has the added benefit of allowing you to make plans for what will happen if you are incapacitated or needing to be away from your business for an extended period of time....

What to Do with Your Beloved Collection

Posted on: July 25th, 2018
Whether your beloved collection consists of artwork, books, cars, music, or other significant items, you should not forget about this valuable asset when estate planning. You have likely spent quite some time -- whether years or your entire life -- building your collection; you should not leave its fate to the whims of the court. Estate planning is a great way to share the value and meaning of these much loved items with those you leave behind. Through your estate plan, you can explain to your loved ones why you collected these items in the first place as well as the meaning or value they have for you....

Retirement Planning for Business Owners

Posted on: July 21st, 2018
For many employees, saving for retirement is usually a matter of simply participating in their employer’s 401(k) plan and perhaps opening an IRA for some extra savings. But, when you’re the owner of a business, planning for retirement requires proactivity and strategy...

Digital Afterlife: An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account

Posted on: July 14th, 2018
Did you ever wonder what happens to your digital footprint when you pass away? Well you should, particularly if you are part of the 77 percent of Americans who go online every day. As the internet has become more of an integral part of our lives, our information -- pictures, videos, financial, emails, social media accounts, and other personal information -- is constantly being stored online. All of this information is known as your “digital assets.” While the internet has made our lives easier by allowing us to access our information with the simple push of a button, it may be difficult for our loved ones to do the same once we are gone....

How an Estate Planning Letter of Intent Can Help Your Family

Posted on: July 13th, 2018
Estate planning is an important task that everyone should undertake as it helps to protect your family and loved one’s financial future. But estate planning can do much more than focus on finances, it can also provide for care of those you leave behind. One aspect of estate planning that is often overlooked but can be quite useful is the letter of intent. This document is typically contained within an estate plan and includes instructions on how the estate and decedent’s executors should manage the estate’s assets and care for family and loved ones....

Rewarding Your Employees By Giving Them the Business

Posted on: July 9th, 2018
Retiring from your business can a tough decision. To ensure that what you have built continues on, there needs to be a plan for succession. For some people, they have spent years grooming a child or other family member to take over, wanting the business to stay in the family. Others look to sell to a third party for a quick way out that will also give them a nest egg for their next phase of life. However, there is a third option--transferring the business to your employees. If you like the idea of transferring your business to long-time faithful employees who have contributed greatly to the company’s success over the years, below are a couple of options for you to consider....

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....

The Biggest Threats to Successful Estate Planning

Posted on: June 11th, 2018
Poor estate planning is a recipe for disaster. Look no further than Dickens’ Bleak House—or a telenovela—to witness the tragedy and melodrama inadequate estate planning can cause. While having your estate planning documents prepared is the first hurdle to overcoming these types of disasters, there are several threats that lurk around the corner that might derail your wishes....

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....

One Call You Must Make After You Buy a Home

Posted on: June 5th, 2018
During the home buying process, you worked with a lot of individuals: your realtor, the seller’s realtor, the title company, the loan officer, and the home inspector. Now that you have finalized the purchase of your house, there is one more expert you need to call: your estate planning attorney....

Do It Yourself Estate Planning?

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
There are many software programs, as well as websites, that sell do-it-yourself estate planning documents. These websites and form tools seem to offer a convenient and cost-effective alternative to consulting with an estate planning attorney. But do they really meet your needs and protect your family? Is online, do-it-yourself estate planning worth the perceived upfront savings?...

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. ...

Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced

Posted on: May 1st, 2018
Consider this story. Beth’s divorce from her husband was recently finalized. Her most valuable assets are her retirement plan at work and her life insurance policy. She updated the beneficiary designations on both to be her two minor children. She did not want her ex-husband to receive the money....

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....

Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business

Posted on: April 17th, 2018
Owning your own business can be a great endeavor that takes a lot of passion and drive. Many small business owners focus on the day-to-day management and growth of the business, rather than thinking about a time when he or she may not be in the business. This is a far too common mistake. Future plans for your enterprise are even more important when one child works in the business but the others do not. Keeping the peace among your children after you are no longer able to participate in the business requires careful balancing of your estate plan....

Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform

Posted on: April 10th, 2018
Twenty years ago, the Roth IRA first became available to investors as a financial tool for their estate planning needs. These accounts have maintained their popularity because unlike their traditional IRA counterpart, a Roth IRA provides account owners tax-free income during retirement....

A Trust for Fluffy or Fido

Posted on: April 3rd, 2018
Estate planning is about protecting what’s important to you. Although much of the traditional estate planning conversation focus on surviving spouses, children, grandchildren, many pet parents wonder about what could happen to their “furry children” after their death or if they become incapacitated and unable to care for the pets. Read on if you’ve ever thought, “What will happen to my cat, dog, or other pet if I pass away?” “What if I’m incapacitated and unable to care for them?” ...

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....

Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes

Posted on: March 27th, 2018
Approximately half of America’s population over the age of 16 is unmarried. While much of the discussion involving estate planning focuses on married couples, this topic is just as important for a single person. In fact, many times it is even more important that a single person have a well-coordinated estate plan. This is because the default laws governing estates often work poorly for people without a spouse and may not adequately provide for a significant other or unmarried partner. Having a cohesive and well-drafted estate plan will ensure that you protect and provide for those you truly care about upon your death....

Five Surprisingly Common Planning Mistakes Baby Boomers are Making

Posted on: March 23rd, 2018
Baby boomers - the first generation tasked with the responsibility of planning for and funding their golden years. This generation, which includes those born between 1946 and 1964, have entered and continue to enter into retirement. As they make this financial transition into retirement, many are learning that they have made some of the most typical retirement mistakes....

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....

How Estate Planning Can Help You Dream About Your Future

Posted on: March 13th, 2018
A dream without a plan is simply a wish. Estate planning is not just about death and taxes -- it puts you in the driver’s seat of your financial life, allowing you to set achievable goals. It is a great opportunity to focus on the legacy you want to leave behind for loved ones, help you avoid the expense and delay of probate, as well as help you save on taxes....

What Happens to Your Student Loan Debt When You Die?

Posted on: March 6th, 2018
There are two issues many people prefer to avoid thinking about: death and debt. Unfortunately, both of these seems to be inevitable. Student loan debt is a part of life nowadays, particular for students obtaining advanced or professional degrees. As of 2017, the total national student debt is now over $1.4 trillion with college students graduating with an average of $17,126 in debt for their degree. Students are not alone in their debt load. Approximately $81 billion of the debt is in Parent PLUS loans....

Concerns for the Small Business Owner

Posted on: February 27th, 2018
Preparing your company for your incapacity or death is vital to the survival of the enterprise. Otherwise, your business will be disrupted, harming your customers, employees, vendors, and ultimately, your family. For this reason, proactive financial planning -- including your business and your estate plan -- is key. Below are some tips on how to protect your company and keep the business on track and operating day-to-day in your absence....

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....

Choosing a Successor Trustee

Posted on: February 20th, 2018
When you create a living trust, you usually need to choose who to name as your successor trustee. It is crucial that this decision is not taken lightly and that the right person is selected for the job....

What do successor trustees and executors do?

Posted on: February 13th, 2018
An executor, sometimes called a personal representative, is the person who is named in a will, appointed by the court, and responsible for probating the will and settling the estate. Depending on the state, an executor may work under court supervision or may use so-called “independent” administration for an unsupervised probate....

After Tax Reform, Is Estate Planning Still Necessary?

Posted on: February 5th, 2018
The new tax legislation raises the federal estate tax exemption to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for couples. The increase means that an exceedingly small number of estates (only about 1,800, nationally) will have to worry about federal estate taxes in 2018, according to estimates from the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation....

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....

Why Your Estate Planner Needs to Know If You’ve Lent Money to Family

Posted on: January 25th, 2018
Many children and grandchildren are skipping the traditional bank and obtaining loans from parents or grandparents. Unfortunately, we have all heard stories of families torn apart because of disagreements over money. So, what can you do to make sure your intra-family loans help — rather than hurt — your family?...

Debt After Death

Posted on: January 16th, 2018
If you carry debt, do not assume that your death or incapacity will make it automatically disappear. To the contrary, the money you owe may eat away at the assets you were planning to leave to your heirs or -- if you owe a large amount of money -- may wipe out your estate completely. Debt comes in many different forms including credit cards, student loans, car payments, mortgages, and other financial obligations....

How Your HSA Works with Your Estate Plan

Posted on: January 9th, 2018
If you’re enrolled in a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you must consider how your health savings account (HSA) fits into your estate plan—especially to make sure that any hard-earned money left in your HSA when you die goes where you want it....

Organizing for Tax Season

Posted on: January 2nd, 2018
It’s the start of a new year, which means tax season—and this year’s April 17th IRS filing deadline—is just around the corner. Soon you’ll be receiving tax forms such as your W-2 or 1099s, and you’ll start thinking about the life events that could affect your taxes in various ways....

What to Expect from Estate Planning in 2018

Posted on: December 27th, 2017
2017 is now fading into the rearview mirror. As we all look ahead to 2018, let’s consider a few things to watch regarding estate planning, so you and your family can be completely protected....

Why a Spendthrift Trust Can Be a Great Solution for Your Heirs

Posted on: December 19th, 2017
A spendthrift trust is for the benefit of someone who needs additional assistance managing or protecting his or her money. The spendthrift trust gives an independent trustee complete control and authority to make decisions on how the funds in the trust may be spent and what payments to or for the benefit of the beneficiary are necessary....

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....

Gift Giving the Tax-Free Way

Posted on: December 6th, 2017
Although it’s the season of giving, no one wants to share with the IRS. Luckily, the law provides you many opportunities to give gifts to family, friends, and charities tax-free. Some are straightforward, while others may require the help of a professional....

Four Reasons Why Estate Planning Isn’t Just for the Top 1 Percent

Posted on: November 29th, 2017
There is a common misconception that estate plans are only for the ultra-rich - the top 1 percent, 10%, 20%, or some other arbitrary determination of “enough” money. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. People at all income and wealth levels can benefit from a comprehensive estate plan. Sadly, many have not sat down to put their legal house in order. ...

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....

Do You Own Rental Property?

Posted on: November 15th, 2017
​A comprehensive estate plan should address all of your assets. For most people, an estate plan must include three common categories: (1) your home; (2) financial accounts, like your checking and savings account; and (3) personal property. Other types of assets - such as life insurance, retirement funds, and annuities - should also be considered as part of your estate plan. ...

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....

Estate Planning Isn't Spooky!

Posted on: October 25th, 2017
The idea of implementing an estate plan might be one of the scariest things you have to confront as an adult. But estate planning does not have to make chills run down your spine. On the contrary, estate planning is empowering for both you and your family and allows you to live confidently knowing that things will be taken care of in the event of your passing or incapacity. Remember, estate planning is not just for the ultra-rich. If you own anything or have young children, you should have an estate plan. Read below to find out reasons why....

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 Long Should You Keep Important Documents?

Posted on: October 18th, 2017
In a society dominated by paperwork, the question of how long to hold on to important documents has been baffling for most people. We especially worry about documents of a financial or personally identifying nature. People who worry about losing something important sometimes hoard everything; others who worry about things like identity theft are too quick to shred documents. Most of us, however, lie somewhere between these two extremes: Simply and utterly confused about what to keep and how long to keep it....

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....

Planning for the Future Without a Crystal Ball

Posted on: October 2nd, 2017
Creating a will, trust, or any type of estate plan has always involved dealing with an uncertain future. Consider that just 20 years ago in 1997, the estate tax had an astonishing 55% rate with only a $600,000 exemption. Back then, tax-driven estate planning was a mathematical necessity for a large segment of the population....

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....

How A Living Trust Helps Your Family

Posted on: September 18th, 2017
There are several parts to an estate plan, one of them being a living trust. Common factors that prompt someone to create a trust include privacy, tax benefits, avoiding probate, and caring for family members with special needs. Estate planning also lets you dictate how your assets will pass on to future generations after your death....

Estate Planning For the Newly Married

Posted on: September 12th, 2017
Now is the perfect time to start working on an estate plan—because, as newlyweds, you may not have a list of your accounts, but you've effectively just done a working inventory of your possessions—as you've figured out how to consolidate two households into one. You've already been working on the new banking and shared responsibility of bills and taxes and so forth....

Kids Going Away To College?

Posted on: September 1st, 2017
You may have been running around for weeks, getting your new college student off to school. It's exhilarating, and your heart likely is bursting at the seams. You're probably prouder than you can say, but you're a little afraid, too. How can you make sure your kid is going to be safe at school, so far away from home? A new Bed Bath and Beyond matching sheet set for the dorm sounds great, but it just doesn't seem like quite enough, does it? So what else can you do?...

Do I Really Need An Estate Plan?

Posted on: August 23rd, 2017
You don’t need to have a summer house in the Hamptons or a private art collection big enough to rival MOMA to consider yourself the owner of an estate. In fact, virtually anyone who owns anything has an “estate” in the eyes of the law. Although the term may conjure images of expansive country properties, expensive cars, or other symbols of high wealth, for the purposes of estate planning law, the term “estate” covers a whole lot more....

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....

The Perils of Joint Property

Posted on: August 1st, 2017
People often set up bank accounts or real estate so that they own it jointly with a spouse or other family member. The appeal of joint tenancy is that when one owner dies, the other will automatically inherit the property without it having to go through probate. Joint property is all perceived to be easy to setup since it can be done at the bank when opening an account or title company when buying real estate....

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....

Tips for Working with a Law Firm

Posted on: July 3rd, 2017
When you hire an attorney for estate planning, help with a loved one’s estate, or any other legal matter you want to make sure that the work gets done as quickly as possible and at the best possible value. Here are some tips to have the most useful and value-oriented law firm experience....

How You Can Benefit from a Late Portability Election

Posted on: June 30th, 2017
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Estate Planning That Expresses Who You Are

Posted on: June 26th, 2017
You intend to pass along your wealth through your estate plan, but what about your wisdom? Ensuring you accomplish both calls for a family meeting to have a conversation about your money, your legacy, and your core principles....

Money Isn’t Everything in Estate Planning

Posted on: June 13th, 2017
Money may be the most talked about wealth contained within a person’s estate, but the riches of their experience and wisdom can mean even more to family members down the line. Reinforcement of family traditions can be built into your estate plan alongside your wishes regarding your money, property, and belongings. After all, what really makes a family a family is its values and traditions — not the way its finances read on paper....

How to Protect Your Child’s Inheritance from His or Her Untrustworthy Spouse

Posted on: June 6th, 2017
Parents who develop an estate plan often do so to provide for their heirs financially. Many want to make sure hard-earned assets, family heirlooms, or closely held businesses stay within the family. Indeed, a common question is what cost effective options are available to protect one’s children’s inheritance from a spouse in the event of untrustworthiness or divorce....

Estate Planning for Military Families

Posted on: May 30th, 2017
Although Memorial Day just passed, it is important to honor those that have served our country. This time is also a good opportunity for members of the military and their loved ones to consider setting up an - or revising an existing - estate plan. Military families need to consider special estate-planning issues that others do not. This is particularly true when one or more family members are deployed overseas....

3 Ways Your Trust Can Help a Loved One With Mental Illness

Posted on: May 23rd, 2017
When a loved one suffers from a mental illness, one small comfort can be knowing that your trust can take care of them through thick and thin. There are some ways this can happen, ranging from the funding of various types of treatment to providing structure and support during his or her times of greatest need....

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. ...

The Difference between Lifetime and Deathtime Planning

Posted on: May 9th, 2017
According to a March 2017 survey by Caring.com, six out of ten Americans have no will or any other kind of estate planning. Many said they’d get around to it, eventually. When they’re old. (The survey did find that the elderly are much more likely to have some plan in place.) It’s all too clear that most of us think “estate planning” is a euphemism for “deathtime” planning. Indeed, in the Caring.com survey, one-third said that they didn’t need an estate plan because they didn’t have any assets to give someone when they’d died....

How Your Trust Can Help a Loved One Who Struggles with Addiction

Posted on: May 2nd, 2017
Because of its prevalence, navigating a loved one’s addiction is actually a relatively common topic in everyday life. But you should also consider it when working on your estate planning. Whether the addiction is alcoholism, drug abuse, or behavioral like gambling, we all want our loved ones to be safe and experience a successful recovery. A properly created estate plan can help....

How a Community Property Trust Could Save You From Heavy Taxation Down the Road

Posted on: April 28th, 2017
When it comes to your family’s legacy, every dollar you can save from tax collection counts. One way to keep your assets out of the hands of the IRS is the formation of community property trusts. ...

Integrating Community Property Trust Into Your Estate Planning

Posted on: April 28th, 2017
A well-crafted estate plan is comprised of many individual parts, and careful, trust-based estate planning is the best way to ensure the highest possible quality of life for you and your loved ones....

Which life events require an immediate estate plan update?

Posted on: April 25th, 2017
Estate planning is the process of developing a strategy for the care and management of your estate if you become incapacitated or upon your death. One commonly known purpose of estate planning is to minimize taxes and costs, including taxes imposed on gifts, estates, generation skipping transfer and probate court costs. However, your plan must also name someone who will make medical and financial decisions for you if you cannot make decisions for yourself. You also need to consider how to leave your property and assets while considering your family’s circumstances and needs....

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....

Safeguarding Your Estate Plan Against Three Worst-Case Scenarios

Posted on: April 2nd, 2017
Even with an estate plan, things can always happen that may cause confusion for the estate–or threaten the plan altogether. Below are three examples of worst-case scenarios and ways to demonstrate how a carefully crafted plan can address issues, from the predictable to the total surprise. ...

Not Just Death and Taxes: 5 Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning

Posted on: March 28th, 2017
Comprehensive estate planning is more than your legacy after death, avoiding probate, and saving on taxes. Good estate planning includes a plan in place to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated during your life and can no longer make decisions for yourself. ...

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....

5 Reasons to Embrace the Emotional Side of Estate Planning

Posted on: March 14th, 2017
When you hear the phrase “estate plan,” you might first think about paperwork. Or your mind might land on some of the uncomfortable topics that estate planning confronts head-on: end-of-life decisions, incapacity, and your family’s legacy from generation to generation. Those subjects hit home for everyone....

How to Build Freedom From Court Interference Into Your Estate Plan

Posted on: March 7th, 2017
It’s clear why you might want to avoid court involvement in your estate for financial reasons, knowing that probate can quickly get costly and time consuming for those involved. But there is an emotional component to it as well. Your assets are just that: yours. And the idea of them being discussed and deliberated on in a public forum might not be such an appealing one....

Do It Now: Name a Guardian for Your Minor Child(ren)

Posted on: February 28th, 2017
We know it’s hard. Thinking about someone else raising your children stops us all in our tracks. It feels crushing and too horrific to consider. But you must. If you don’t, a stranger will determine who raises your children if something happens to you - your child’s guardian could be a relative you despise or even a stranger you’ve never met....

The Top 2 Ways the Court Gets Involved in Your Estate, and How to Avoid Them

Posted on: February 21st, 2017
No one wants unnecessary court involvement in their life. But without careful and proactive estate planning, chances are that some aspect of your estate will end up being decided there....

New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes

Posted on: February 14th, 2017
On January 24, 2017, the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017, or H.R. 631, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by South Dakota congresswoman Kristi Noem. If passed, H.R. 631 would completely repeal the federal estate tax. A separate companion bill put before the Senate by South Dakota senator John Thune, S. 205, would also repeal the generation-skipping transfer tax (GSTT). ...

How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Posted on: February 7th, 2017
While the term fiduciary is a legal term with a long history, it very generally means someone who is legally obligated to act in another person’s best interests. Trustees, executors, and agents are all examples of fiduciaries. When you pick trustees, executors, and agents in your estate plan, you’re picking one or more people to make decisions in your and your beneficiaries’ best interests and in accordance with the instructions you leave. Luckily, understanding the basics of what each of these terms means and what to consider when making your choices can make your estate plan work far better....

Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment

Posted on: January 31st, 2017
Most financially savvy individuals begin planning their estate when they’re in peak mental shape. The idea that this might change at some point in the distant future is an unpleasant one, and they would rather go about their estate planning as if they’ll be as sharp as a tack late into their golden years. Unfortunately, this common approach of ignoring a potential problem and hoping it simply won’t happen can leave a giant hole in your estate plan. Read on to find out that this common hole can be more easily filled than you might think. ...

A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation

Posted on: January 24th, 2017
Successful estate planning is about far more than simply passing your wealth to the next generation— it’s also about passing on your values. No matter which financial or legal structures you choose to contain and manage your assets, these instruments only preserve your wealth until it reaches the hands of your beneficiaries. What happens then? Your values enabled you to accumulate wealth and persevere in spite of obstacles and long odds. If your children and grandchildren don’t share and cherish those values, they could lose their inheritance as quickly as they received it....

Got Stuff? George Carlin Says You Need An Estate Plan!

Posted on: January 17th, 2017
George Carlin would have been a great pitchman for estate planning. You may remember his stand-up routine on "stuff." We all have stuff, and we're pretty particular about our stuff. We move it around with us, it's hard for some of us to get rid of it, and some of us don't like our stuff mixed up with other people's stuff....

Why Factoring Long-Term Care Into Your Estate Plan Pays Off

Posted on: January 15th, 2017
For most people, thinking about estate planning means focusing on what will happen to their money after they pass away. But that misses one pretty significant consideration: the need to plan for long-term care....

Impacts of the Trump Presidency on Estate Planning: Your Quick Guide

Posted on: January 5th, 2017
It's official — the Electoral College voted on December 19, 2016, essentially completing the 2016 presidential election cycle. With that bit of uncertainty behind us and a fresh year starting out, here's what you need to know about planning your estate under the incoming Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress....

Asset Protection

Posted on: October 15th, 2013
A revocable trust provides no asset protection for the trust maker during his or her life. Upon the death of the trust maker, however, or upon the death of the first spouse to die if it is a joint trust, the trust becomes irrevocable as to the deceased trust maker's property and can provide asset protection for the beneficiaries, with two important caveats. First, the assets must remain in the trust to provide ongoing asset protection. In other words, once the trustee distributes the assets to a beneficiary, those assets are no longer protected and can be attached by that beneficiary's creditors....