Law Office of Frank A Hauenschild https://fahlaw.com Estate Planning Law Firm Mon, 23 Apr 2018 18:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.6.11 https://fahlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/cropped-Screen-Shot-2017-12-21-at-10.52.04-AM-2-32x32.png Law Office of Frank A Hauenschild https://fahlaw.com 32 32 The Dangers of DIY Estate Plans https://fahlaw.com/2017/03/10/the-dangers-of-diy-estate-plans/ https://fahlaw.com/2017/03/10/the-dangers-of-diy-estate-plans/#respond Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:23:48 +0000 http://fahlaw.com/?p=193 With the number of online and do-it-yourself (DIY) legal providers continuing to grow and advertise heavily, you may be wondering if you could do your estate planning with the help of these forms. The advertising is seductive. Ads say, “attorneys use similar forms,” “the cost is significantly less than hiring an attorney,” and “many of these websites and kits are created by attorneys.” Most folks think their estates are not complicated and many think forms are forms – and – attorneys just charge for forms, right?

Wrong.

All estate planning attorneys know that DIY estate planning is dangerous and those same attorneys make more money cleaning up someone’s DIY mess than they charge for an estate plan that works in the first place.

  • While completing the forms may seem easy and straightforward, a single mistake or omission can have far reaching implications that only come to light after you have become incapacitated or died.
  • With you not here to explain your intentions, your heirs may end up disappointed and confused; and they could end up paying much more in legal help to sort things out after the fact than it would have cost in the first place.

The results of DIY are tragic. Good people fall for the “estate planning is just a form” and they said they have attorneys on staff.

  • But, we’ve seen folks accidentally disinherit their beloved children, pass assets outright to a drug-addicted beneficiary, and create documents that have no legal validity or don’t control their assets.
  • We’ve even seen young children with no guardians named at the mercy of the court to determine their future.

It’s sad and frustrating. DIY companies mislead good people like you to make a few bucks; the results, often chaos and pain.

7 Factors Those Contemplating the DIY Route Should Consider

  1. Legal Expertise. Experienced estate planning attorneys have the technical expertise to draft documents correctly so they are legally valid and reflect your wishes. Yes, they likely start with pre-drafted forms, but they know what language to bring in as well as what to change and how to change it to make your plan work the way you want. They also understand the technical terms and legal requirements of your state. Laws vary greatly from state to state; and, a DIY program or kit may not tell you everything you need to know to prevent your plan from being thrown out by the court or failing to carry out your wishes.
  2. Counseling. Attorneys are called “counselors at law” for a reason. Estate planning attorneys counsel families and they have seen the results of both proper and improper planning. An experienced attorney can guide you with delicate decisions, including who should be the guardian of your minor children; how to provide for a child or elderly parent who has special needs without interrupting valuable government benefits; how to provide for your children fairly (which may not be equally); and how you can protect an inheritance from creditors and irresponsible spending.
  3. Explanation of Intentions. If there is any confusion as to what your intentions were after you are incapacitated or gone, the attorney, who counseled you, will be able to explain what you wanted. This unbiased interpretation from someone who does not stand to benefit from your plan can help avoid costly litigation by your beneficiaries, keep peace in your family, and maintain the validity of your documents.
  4. Coordination of Assets. A will only controls assets that are titled in your individual name. You probably have other assets that are controlled by a contract, joint ownership, and/or beneficiary designations; these include IRAs, 401(k)s, joint bank accounts, real estate, and life insurance. A will does not control these assets. An estate planning attorney will know how to coordinate your assets and estate plan so that your assets are distributed as you wish.
  5. Tax Planning. The federal government and many states have their own death or inheritance tax. State taxes often kick in at much lower exemptions than the federal tax. Careful professional planning is a must in order to avoid paying too much federal and/or state tax – and probate fees.
  6. Unmarried Couples. Being married creates rights and privileges under the law. If you’re not married, you need to create contracts and documents that will protect you and your partner. Because laws are frequently changing and vary greatly from state to state, it’s vital to have updated advice from a competent estate planning attorney. Without proper planning, many rights may be limited for unmarried cohabitants. Providing for your pets may also be very important to you.
  7. Complexity and Cost. Many people think their estate planning will be simple. But the reality is, most folks discover they do need some personalized planning…and you may not know that without the guidance and counseling of an estate planning attorney. It is far better to spend a little more now and make sure your plan is created correctly than to try to save a few dollars and have things turn out badly later. You won’t be around then to straighten things out.

Often a DIY estate plan is worse than no plan at all, but don’t let that discourage you. You wouldn’t participate in DIY surgery so forget the DIY law; the lawyers who work for those companies don’t represent you and they are not your fiduciary; they represent the company for whom they work. Only a lawyer you hire individually, usually with a written engagement agreement, is your fiduciary and must always act in your best interests.

Though your first priority needs to be a plan that protects you and your family, if payment is a concern, we will work with you. We have levels of planning to fit a variety of budgets as well as payment plans. We invite you to call our office right now to get you and your family truly protected.

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Wills vs. Trusts: A Quick & Simple Reference Guide https://fahlaw.com/2016/11/28/wills-vs-trusts-a-quick-simple-reference-guide/ Mon, 28 Nov 2016 16:12:09 +0000 http://fahlaw.com/2016/11/28/welcome-to-cloudways-copy/ 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 Revocable Living Trusts Can Do – That Wills Can’t
Avoid a conservatorship and guardianship. A revocable living trust allows you to authorize your spouse, partner, child, or other trusted person to manage your assets should you become incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs. Wills only become effective when you die, so they are useless in avoiding conservatorship and guardianship proceedings during your life.

Bypass probate. Property in a revocable living trust does not pass through probate. Property that passes using a will guarantees probate. The probate process, designed to wrap up a person’s affairs after satisfying outstanding debts, is public and can be costly and time consuming – sometimes taking years to resolve.

Maintain privacy after death. Wills are public documents; trusts are not. Anyone, including nosey neighbors, predators, and unscrupulous “charities” can discover the details of your estate if you have a will. Trusts allow you to maintain your family’s privacy after death.

Protect you from court challenges. Although court challenges to wills and trusts occur, attacking a trust is generally much harder than attacking a will because trust provisions are not made public.

What Wills Can Do – That Revocable Living Trusts Can’t
Name guardians for children. Only a will – not a living trust or any other type of document – can be used to name guardians to care for minor children.

Specify an executor or personal representative. Wills allow you to name an executor or personal representative – someone who will take responsibility to wrap up your estate after you die. This typically involves working with the probate court, protecting assets, paying your debts, and distributing what remains to beneficiaries. But, if there are no assets in your probate estate (because you have a fully funded revocable trust), this feature is not necessarily useful.

What Both Wills & Trusts Can Do:
Allow revisions to your document. Both wills and trusts can be revised whenever your intentions or circumstances change so long as you have the legal capacity to execute them.

WARNING: There is such as a thing as irrevocable trusts, which cannot be changed without legal action.

Name beneficiaries. Both wills and trusts are vehicles which allow you to name beneficiaries for your assets.

Wills simply describe assets and proclaim who gets what. Only assets in your individual name will be controlled by a will.

While trusts act similarly, you must go one step further and “transfer” the property into the trust – commonly referred to as “funding.” Only assets in the name of your trust will be controlled by your trust.

Provide asset protection. Trusts, and less commonly, wills, are crafted to include protective sub-trusts which allow your beneficiaries access but keep the assets from being seized by their creditors such as divorcing spouses, car accident litigants, bankruptcy trustee, and business failure.

While some of the differences between wills and trusts are subtle; others are not. Together, we’ll take a look at your goals as well as your financial and family situation and design an estate plan tailored to your needs. Call us today and let’s get started.

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Is a Financial Plan Enough? Why Experts Say You Need an Estate Plan https://fahlaw.com/2016/11/22/is-a-financial-plan-enough-why-experts-say-you-need-an-estate-plan/ https://fahlaw.com/2016/11/22/is-a-financial-plan-enough-why-experts-say-you-need-an-estate-plan/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 20:07:26 +0000 http://fahlaw.com/?p=1 If you want to leave a robust financial legacy for your family, a financial plan alone is like trying to guide a boat with just one oar. It’s only part of the big picture for your overall monetary health. A well-informed financial plan is worth your time for several reasons, but let’s look at how financial and estate planning can work in tandem to create the best possible future for you and your family in the years to come:

What’s included in a financial plan

Financial planners take stock of an individual’s fiscal landscape and come up with approaches to maximize his or her overall financial well-being. Take Emily for instance, an energetic project manager in her late-twenties. She’s found a successful career track after graduating with her bachelor’s and now has the steady income necessary to start daydreaming about buying a house with bay windows like the one she passes on her morning commute.

But before she can take such a big leap, Emily tracks down a skilled financial planner who will take an honest look at her foreseeable cash flow and her spending and saving habits. People from all walks of life use the help of financial planners to make sure they’re in good shape for making big purchases, saving for their children’s education, and ensuring a comfortable retirement. This also includes developing an investment portfolio, which the financial planner monitors and manages.

But financial planning only goes so far. To have a comprehensive approach, Emily also must also consider her estate and the wills and trusts she should put in place so her assets go where she wants them to in the long run. That’s where a trusts and estates attorney comes in.

What’s included in an estate plan

Estate planning attorneys are lawyers who give sound advice about what will happen to a person’s assets if he or she becomes mentally incapacitated or when he or she dies. While this may not sound like the sunniest of topics, knowing that what you pass on to your family will be legally protected lets you focus on enjoying the best things in life without worrying about your loved ones’ futures. Estate planning includes defining how you want your loved ones to benefit from the financial legacy you leave behind, implementing tactics to protect your assets from creditors down the road, providing a framework so your loved ones can make medical decisions on your behalf when you can’t, developing strategies to help you reduce estate taxes, and more.

And at the end of the day, your attorney is a teacher. He or she should be equipped to clearly explain your legal options. Even though estate planning can be highly technical, your professional bond with your attorney can and should feel like a friendly partnership since it involves taking an honest look at many personal wishes and priorities. There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan, so choose an attorney whom you trust and enjoy working with and who is responsive to questions and needs.

Remember Emily? While financial planning helped her get from point A to point B with some pretty big money milestones, she now knows she needs an estates and trusts attorney to make sure her wishes are carried out and her money stays in the right hands—her family’s.

How these two efforts work together

There are several ways these two components of your financial wellness work in harmony. Asking your financial planner and estate planning attorney to collaborate is common practice, so don’t be concerned that what you’re asking is outside their regular scope of work. Knowing who else advises you will help both parties get the information they need do their jobs at peak effectiveness. For example, your estate planning attorney may prepare a living trust for you, but your financial planner may help you transfer certain assets into that trust.

What are you waiting for?

If you already have a financial planner and are thinking about working with a trusts and estates attorney, you’re in an excellent position. We can often collaborate with your advisor to begin working on your estate plan. This might save you time and money, as we’ll get up to speed with the help of your financial planner.

The right time to plan your estate is right now. The sooner you put yourself and your family in a position to rest easy knowing a solid plan is in place, the better. And now that you know your financial plan is a wonderful start—but not a complete solution—you’re ready to take the first step on the path to total financial security.

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How to Get Organized to Meet With Your Estate Planning Attorney https://fahlaw.com/2016/11/21/how-to-get-organized-to-meet-with-your-estate-planning-attorney/ Mon, 21 Nov 2016 16:13:01 +0000 http://fahlaw.com/2016/11/28/welcome-to-cloudways-b-copy/ OK, great! You’ve finally decided it’s time to meet with an estate planning attorney and get your affairs in order. It’s time to make sure your family is protected.
Now that you’ve scheduled the first appointment, what’s the next step?
You can do one of two things: (1) Simply wait for the meeting date to arrive, or (2) Get yourself organized and prepared for the first meeting.
Before You Meet With Your Attorney: 3 Things
Taking the time to sort through your important papers and get your thoughts in order will go a long way to making the meeting productive and valuable. Otherwise, the meeting will become a fishing expedition for your attorney and both tedious and confusing for you.
Here are 3 ways to get yourself organized and prepared for your first meeting:
1. Make a complete list of your assets and liabilities.

a. List what you own (e.g., bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, and life insurance). Fortunately, you do not need to make a list of your personal property.

b. Jot down how you own it (e.g., in your sole name or in joint names with your spouse or someone else such as a child or sibling).

c. Indicate whether you have already designated a beneficiary for the account or policy.

d. Record how much you owe (e.g., mortgages, car loans and credit cards).

2. Think about who you want to inherit your estate, when they’ll inherit it, and how they’ll inherit it.

There are many ways to pass your property to beneficiaries, including outright, in stages (such as after college or after getting married), at specific ages, or in lifetime discretionary trusts.

It’s wise to consider the advice of your attorney, but, at the very least, think about each beneficiary’s current needs and what they may need in the future.

3. Think about who you want to be in charge if you become incapacitated or die.

Along with naming Guardians for your minor children, deciding will serve as your fiduciaries (including the Executor of your Will, Successor Trustee of your Trust, Attorney in Fact of your Power of Attorney, and Health Care Agent in your Medical Directive) is, by far, the most important decision you will need to make.

Why? Because if you choose the wrong person for the job, or if someone you choose declines to serve or can’t serve, the estate plan that you have so carefully put together will come to a grinding halt.

If you’re like most people, you’ll need the advice of your attorney to choose the right people or institutions to serve as your fiduciaries, but think about which family members or friends will be good candidates – and which will not.
It’s a lot to think about and organize, but it will be well worth it. You got this.

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Why a Trust is the Best Option for Avoiding Probate https://fahlaw.com/2016/10/28/why-a-trust-is-the-best-option-for-avoiding-probate/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 16:16:56 +0000 http://fahlaw.com/2016/11/28/welcome-to-cloudways-e-copy/ As Ambrose Bierce once darkly observed, “Death is not the end. There remains the litigation over the estate.”

Obviously, ideally, when someone passes away, the paperwork and material concerns associated with the estate are so flawlessly handled (thanks to excellent preparation) that they fade into the background, allowing the family to grieve and remember in peace.

In fact, the whole business of estate planning – or at least a significant piece of it – is concerned with ease. How can assets and legacies be transferred to the next generation in a harmonious, stress-free, fair process?

To that end, one primary goal of many people is to avoid the complications and costs involved with probate.

There are many “tools of the trade” that a qualified attorney can use to keep your assets out of probate – for example, establishing joint ownership on bank accounts and real estate titles, designating beneficiaries for life insurance policies and certain accounts, and so on. However, setting up a revocable living trust is quite often the best, most comprehensive option for avoiding probate. Let’s discuss why this is true.

What is a trust?

Often touted as an alternative to a will, a trust is a legal structure that permits management of your assets by a trustee on behalf of your beneficiaries. A living trust is established while you are still alive, as opposed to being created upon your death. You can be the trustee for your own living trust until you are no longer able to manage your financial affairs or pass away, at which point the responsibility for managing the trust passes to someone you designate as a successor trustee.

How does a trust help you avoid probate?

The purpose of probate is to transfer property ownership for all assets that were listed in your name when you passed away. A trust can bypass this process completely because your assets are transferred to the trust while you are still alive. Therefore, when you die, there’s nothing that needs to be transferred by the probate court (everything is already in your trust). Furthermore, a trust can cover virtually any type of asset, from real estate to vehicles to stock to bank accounts. When a trust is structured correctly with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, your entire estate can stay out of probate court entirely. This process not only limits court costs, but it also maintains the privacy of your financial records while enabling your beneficiaries to enjoy the benefits of the trust without disruption or delay.

Establishing a trust can be a bit complicated, and the process can cost a bit more upfront than a will; however, if you’re willing to invest a little more up front, a trust can be (but is not necessarily) your best option for avoiding probate later.

That said, as wonderful as revocable living trusts can be – and we’ve only scratched the surface of their exciting features in this short post – always bear in mind H.L. Mencken’s warning that “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

The key to planning effectively to minimize the likelihood of a drawn out, contentious, expensive process is to work with highly qualified, trusted people. Find a lawyer who genuinely cares about you and your family and who knows how to forge the right strategy for you and your family. Give us a call today to learn more about your next steps to get the peace of mind you deserve.

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