6 Easy Tips For Writing A Will

The process of creating a will can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be.  Kiplinger's Personal Finance has provided a simple six-step approach to creating a good will:

1) Sort out all of your assets including real estate, financial assets, personal items, and other possessions such as automobiles to help you get started.

2) If you have minor children, then select a guardian who will take care of your children if you pass away.

3) Designate beneficiaries who will receive your assets once you pass away.  This could include family members, friends, or charities.

4) Select an executor who will be in charge of distributing your assets according to your wishes.

5) Meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes are properly reflected in your documents.

6) Update your will from time to time as you go through life changes.

While thinking about death is probably not at the top of your to-do list, breaking down the pieces of a will into these six simple steps can make the process of creating a will much less daunting.


Do You Have An Estate?

Thinking about creating an estate plan?  The Vanguard Group, Inc., recently released a helpful piece listing five facts that everyone should know about estate planning:

1. If you own anything, you have an estate.

2. Your estate plan comes into play if you are incapacitated or if you pass away.

3. If you fail to plan, your state's laws will make decisions for you.

4. Update your estate plan regularly, as your plan is not final until you become incapacitated or pass away.

5. Although DIY estate planning can save money now, generic forms may be inappropriate for your situation, costing your loved ones in the long run.


4 New Year's Resolutions For Married Couples

Whether you are planning a wedding this year, or you have been married for 50 years, this helpful article from A Practical Wedding outlines four major planning discussions you should have with your spouse.  Writing your wills, purchasing life insurance, preparing living wills, and documenting various aspects of life can go a long way toward making an unexpected situation much simpler for your spouse or other loved ones to manage.

Thank you for a wonderful 2016, and best wishes for a safe and happy 2017!

How Will Donald Trump's Election Impact Estate Taxes?

After this month's election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States, many Americans anticipate changes to the tax code.  On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to eliminate the estate or "death" tax.  So, what does this mean for you?

For 2016, the unified credit (sometimes referred to as the estate and gift tax exemption) is $5.45 million per person, or $10.9 million for a married couple (this will increase to $5.49 million per person, or $10.98 million for a married couple in 2017).  This means that only assets held at the time of death above this threshold are subject to estate taxes as the law currently stands.

If enacted by Congress, Donald Trump's proposal would eliminate the current estate tax, but would impose a capital gains tax on assets valued at over $10 million at the time of death.  A recent article in Forbes provides a synopsis of Donald Trump's proposal.  What will actually happen remains to be seen, as an overhaul to the entire tax code requiring compromises will likely be necessary before any changes will be made by Congress.


Celebrating 3 Years in Business!

A HUGE thank you to all of my family, friends, and clients as I celebrate three years in business this week!  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love, and I am truly grateful for all of the support, advice, and referrals you have provided over the past three years.  During these three years, I have had the pleasure of helping nearly 200 individuals with their estate planning needs!  I look forward to meeting and working with many more wonderful people in the years to come.  THANK YOU!

Time To Do Your Homework!

Summer is winding down, kids are heading back to school, and sports, clubs, and other activities are starting up again.  As the new school year begins, now is the perfect time to think about your estate plan.  Respected personal finance publication Kiplinger recently shared five important reasons to establish an estate plan:

1. Maintain control over what happens to your assets after you pass away.

2. Minimize the negative impact your death could have on a business you own.

3. Prevent information about your assets from becoming public after you die.

4. Prepare in advance for an unforeseen disability.

5. Take inventory of your finances to plan for the future both during your lifetime and after your death.

Click here to read further.


Add Your Estate Plan to Your Summer Vacation Checklist!

School is out and summer is finally here!  For many, that means it's time for a long-awaited vacation away from home.  Whether you are heading to Disney World, taking a cruise, or relaxing at a nearby lake this summer, make time to review your estate plan before you take off.  Below is a quick and easy checklist to make sure your plan is ready to go:

1. Review Beneficiary Designations - If you have a will, you have probably designated beneficiaries to receive your probate assets (meaning assets that will pass through the probate process instead of automatically) if you pass away.  Keep in mind that non-probate assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial assets may include beneficiary designations as well.  Transfers to these beneficiaries will occur almost automatically and outside of the probate process upon your death.  Take a quick look at your probate and non-probate beneficiary designations to make sure your assets will transfer according to your current wishes if something happens to you.

2. Update Powers of Attorney - It is important to make sure you have powers of attorney established in the event that you are in an accident and need someone to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf.  If you have not established powers of attorney and something happens to you, a court will intervene to appoint someone to handle these decisions on your behalf.  This process can be expensive and time consuming for your loved ones.  Planning ahead will save time, money, and headaches for everyone involved.

3. Designate a Guardian - If you have young children, you will want to make sure you have made a guardianship appointment in your will.  If you do not select an individual to take over guardianship of your children in the event of your death, a court will make a selection instead.  Additionally, you will want to select a trustee to manage any assets you plan to pass to young children should something happen to you.  This includes assets passed by will, or through life insurance polices, retirement accounts, and other non-probate assets.

4. Make Documents Accessible - Before you leave for vacation, store your estate planning documents in a safe place, and let your loved ones know where they can be found and how they can be accessed if necessary.  A lost or hidden estate plan will be of no use to anyone.

5. Don't Wait! - You have spent months or even years planning and saving for your vacation, so why put off updating your estate plan until minutes before you leave?  Updating your estate plan doesn't have to be arduous - get started today!

Have a safe and happy 4th of July weekend!

How Failure to Plan Could Impact Prince's Legacy

After the shocking news of Prince's death and subsequent reports that he appears to have died without a will or other estate plan in place, you might be wondering what this all means.  Reuters recently published a comprehensive piece on the impact Prince's inaction could have not only on the distribution of his assets, but on his legacy for years to come.