Thomas H. Sullivan

Attorney at Law

Trustees

New Year, New Estate Plan

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

Estate Planning is Like Building a Snowman

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

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....

Planning for Stepchildren and Step-Grandchildren

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

Passing on Your Wisdom and Experience to the Next Generation

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

National Adoption Month

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

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. ...

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 a delayed inheritance really an enhanced inheritance?

Posted on: March 17th, 2019
Whether you have accumulated a little or a lot of wealth over your lifetime, it is likely that you have some particular thoughts on how you would like those assets to be used by loved ones after your death. Maybe you would like the assets to be used as a down payment on a home, be applied toward college tuition, or fund a dream vacation. Unfortunately, without specific guidance from you, money that is left outright to your loved ones probably won’t be used the way you would like....

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?...

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....

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:...

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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....

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. ...

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....

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....

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....

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....