Thomas H. Sullivan

Attorney at Law

Seven Ways to Avoid Family Fights over Your Property

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

Planning for Your Family's Education

Posted on: July 31st, 2020
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2018–2019 academic year, the average tuition and fees for a public four-year institution were $9,200; $35,800 for a private nonprofit four-year institution; $3,700 for a public two-year institution; and $18,400 for a private nonprofit two-year institution. If postsecondary education is in your family’s future, including any of the following tools in your estate plan can be an excellent way to help provide for education needs....

Saving for College: What If There Is Money Left Over?

Posted on: July 24th, 2020
Setting money aside for your children’s or grandchildren’s education is a great way to provide for their future. However, it is possible that not all of the money you have set aside will be used for college expenses. For example, your child may receive a large scholarship and will not need to use all the money you have saved, or your grandchild may choose a trade school that is less costly than you expected. Alternatively, your child or grandchild may decide to join the workforce immediately upon graduation. When confronted with this scenario, you may wonder what you can do with the excess money. The answer depends on how the money is managed....

How to Help Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate

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

3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs

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

Setting Your Trustee Up for Success

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

How to Handle Savings Bonds in Estate Planning

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

State Estate and Inheritance Taxes

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

Caught in the Undertow

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

Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Create an Estate Plan in the U.S.?

Posted on: April 10th, 2020
The United States has experienced a surge in immigration since 1970, and there are now approximately 45 million foreign-born people living in the United States. Some of them have become U.S. citizens, but many non-citizens live in the United States as well. In 2019 alone, approximately 1,031,000 foreign nationals obtained lawful permanent resident status. It is not only permissible, but essential for those individuals, like U.S. citizens, to have estate plans in place. There are a number of special issues non-citizens may need to consider....

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

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

Ancillary Probate

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

Important Steps to Protect Your Special Beneficiaries

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

Spring Cleaning for Your Estate Planning

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

Estate Planning Strategies to Protect Your Spouse

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

The Lifetime QTIP Trust

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

Distribution Methods for Your Children

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

New Year, New Estate Plan

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

How to Own Your Real Estate

Posted on: January 7th, 2020
Real estate is more than just your primary residence. It can include other real estate such as a vacation home or a rental property. Depending upon the type of real estate you own, the ideal form of ownership can vary. Below, we take a look at the different types of real estate and make suggestions about the best form of ownership for each. ...

Estate Planning is Like Building a Snowman

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

Effect of Bankruptcy on Estate Planning

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

Important Estate Planning Considerations for LGBTQ Couples

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

Myths We Tell Ourselves About Estate Planning

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

Estate Planning Awareness Week

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

Planning Season

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

The ABCs of RLTs

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

What Could the SECURE Act Mean For You?

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

Will vs. Trust: Which is Right for You?

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

Lifetime QTIP Trusts

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

Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?

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

Discretionary Trusts -- How to Protect Your Beneficiaries from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences

Posted on: June 10th, 2019
Although leaving your hard-earned assets outright to your children, grandchildren, or other beneficiaries after you die may seem like the easiest and most desired form of distribution, this scheme will make their inheritance easy prey for creditors, predators, and divorcing spouses. Instead, consider using discretionary trusts for the benefit of each of your beneficiaries....

4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest

Posted on: June 3rd, 2019
A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, rapidly deplete your estate, and tear your loved ones apart. But with proper planning, you can help your family avoid a potentially disastrous will or trust contest. ...

Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters

Posted on: May 18th, 2019
While we all want to provide financial help to our loved ones—whether they are family or close friends—it is important to understand that how the money is classified will directly affect your estate planning. Accordingly, the intent behind the transfer of the money is key when determining if it will be considered a loan, gift, or advancement....

Estate Planning Is More Than Just Death Planning

Posted on: May 13th, 2019
Many believe that estate planning is simply instructions on how to distribute your assets when you pass away, but the reality is that proper estate planning can do much more. While one major benefit of estate planning is to provide for your family and friends when you are gone, there are many benefits for you as well....

What does a discretionary trust mean?

Posted on: April 22nd, 2019
Sometimes giving assets outright to a beneficiary – such a child, a grandchild or a special needs loved one – is not the ideal method of distributing assets in an estate plan. In such a scenario, a discretionary trust can be a good estate planning tool. Below is some basic information on discretionary trusts and how they may be beneficial to your particular family’s needs....

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

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

Is Now the Time to Remodel Your Old Trust?

Posted on: February 7th, 2019
There are several reasons why you should update your existing trust or perhaps your entire estate plan. While estate planning documents do not necessarily have a shelf life, they may not fulfill your goals when your circumstances change. Of course, having estate planning documents that are up-to-date is critical, but how do you know when you should make changes?...

Do I Need a Will or Trust?

Posted on: February 7th, 2019
Yes! Everyone needs a will, trust, or both to ensure your legacy is passed on in the way you intend, to provide for children, spouse, and family members, and in the case of trusts, to avoid probate. Wills and trusts are not just for the wealthy: A well-drafted plan ensures that what you do have is not wasted in probate court, establishes your intentions for sentimental items and family heirlooms, and can even state your wishes for the care of pets....

How is a corporate trustee different?

Posted on: January 13th, 2019
In its simplest terms, a trust is a legal arrangement in which a trustee holds and manages assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. The trustee owns the assets, enters into contracts on behalf of the trust, manages the trust’s investments as its trustee, and follows the trust’s instructions on making distributions. A trustee can be one person, multiple people, or a company....

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

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

Wills, Trusts and Dying Intestate

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

Wills vs. Trusts: A Quick & Simple Reference Guide

Posted on: December 27th, 2018
Confused about the differences between wills and trusts? If so, you’re not alone. While it’s always wise to contact experts like us, it’s also important to understand the basics. Here’s a quick and simple reference guide:...

Consider "Micro" Estate Planning in the New Year

Posted on: December 18th, 2018
You are probably familiar with the idea and benefits of traditional estate planning: eliminating probate fees, lowering tax liabilities, and providing financial peace of mind and security for your loved ones. If you do not currently have an estate plan, you should consider getting one as soon as possible....

What is an Inheritor’s Trust?

Posted on: December 11th, 2018
When it comes to estate planning there are several types of tools you can use, depending on your circumstances. One such estate planning tool is the trust. There are numerous types of trusts aimed at fulfilling different estate planning purposes. If you are anticipating an inheritance, there is a special type of trust designed to help protect it: an inheritor’s trust....

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

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

Murphy’s Law and Estate Planning

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

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...

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....

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:...

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 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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family

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

Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning

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

How to Leave Assets to Adult Children

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

How 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....

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....

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....

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?...

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 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 101

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

Do You Really Need a Trust?

Posted on: July 26th, 2017
Although many people equate “estate planning” with having a will, there are many advantages to having a trust rather than a will as the centerpiece of your estate plan. While there are other estate planning tools (such as joint tenancy, transfer on death, beneficiary designations, to name a few), only a trust provides comprehensive management of your property in the event you can’t make financial decisions for yourself (commonly called legal incapacity) or after your death....

Do You Really Need a Will?

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

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....

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....

Does a Dynasty Trust Make Sense for Your Family?

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

How 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....

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. ...

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....