The Estate Planning Challenge of Blended Families

The Estate Planning Challenge of Blended Families

According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, a staggering 42 percent of Americans are in a “step” relationship. Which means that you or someone you know is probably one of the 95.5 million people who are part of a blended family.

Estate planning that is needed to secure a financial future for the millions of Americans who are divorced, remarried and widowed is available, but it can be tricky. There are numerous ways in which your plan can go wrong. The stakes get even higher if you want your estate left to your current spouse and family versus your former spouse.
The problem? Spouses and families, current and former, aren’t always able to come to an amicable agreement on vital issues.

Let’s take a look at some of the vital questions that may loom in a blended family estate plan:

  • How would you like your assets handled when you die?
  • Who do you want to make decisions for you if you were unable to make them for yourself?
  • How will you balance the needs of children from the first spouse with the needs of the second spouse?
  • Would you like your surviving family to have a significant amount of decision-making power over your estate?

You might want to establish a trust to lay everything out in detail.

With a better idea of what you want to happen in the case of your untimely demise, you should discuss your plans with a qualified estate planning attorney, who can formalize them and add legal structure. Leaving open-ended questions may provoke “slighted” family members to sue causing delays, dissention, and legal fees.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ben Franklin

Using legal documents (Living Will, Trusts, and Power of Attorneys), we can ensure that everyone receives the inheritance that you want.

Contact estate planning attorney Chuck Bendig to get started.

Let insurance pay for my medical bills or file a personal injury suit?

Let insurance pay for my medical bills or file a personal injury suit?

Medical bills are the most common reason people begin a personal injury case. It is not unreasonable that if a person or business causes injury to someone, that person or business should at least be liable for paying all medical bills resulting from the injury.

“But what if my own health insurance company has already paid for my medical bills? Does it make sense to sue the person or business that was responsible for my injury?”

Consider this example of a hypothetical man named Tom.

Tom is walking down the street when he is struck by a piece of machinery being operated by a construction worker hanging a new sign on a storefront. Tom is rushed to the hospital. His left shoulder requires immediate surgery. Over the course of several months, he also visits a physical therapist to strengthen his repaired shoulder. The treatments total $40,000 and Tom’s health insurance pays for everything, except the deductible, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

Needing reimbursement & compensation, Tom hires an attorney who files a lawsuit against a construction company involved in the project. Tom’s health insurance company files a lien against that lawsuit. By filing the lien, the insurance company is arguing, “Tom is the one who was injured, therefore it’s his prerogative to sue. However, we paid $40,000 for his medical care so his favorable judgment should reimburse us also.”

In most states, the health insurance company’s lien would be valid. Let’s assume that Tom goes to court and he is awarded $90,000 for medical costs, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

After reimbursing his health insurance company and paying his legal fees, Tom would receive approximately $20,300. That can greatly help to cover his bills and inconvenience.

If you or someone you know has been injured due to negligence, call (614) 878-7777 to discuss your case with attorney Chuck Bendig. The call is completely free and with no obligation.

This video contains my Last Will and Testament

This video contains my Last Will and Testament

Have you ever thought, ‘When I die, I’ll leave a video for my loved ones’? More and more people are preparing a video in which they read their will and explain why they’ve left certain belongings to some and not others. The recording can show the execution of the will and can be compelling proof that you were mentally competent, but is it a good idea?

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of a video will.

Pros:

A video will can head off claims that you weren’t of sound mind or were being unduly influenced in some way when you signed your will. A video will help in the event that someone is disappointed and decides to hire a lawyer to contest your will. The video can also show you and your witnesses signing your will. In which case, clearly demonstrates that you were rational, knew the contents of your will and were expressing your own wishes.

A video will can supplement your formal estate plan: For example, if you want one child to serve as executor, a video will is your chance to say so. Your other children or family won’t be left to wonder about your actions. If you want to get into detail, a video will can also express how you’d like your family to divvy up items of sentimental value.

Cons:

(This is a big one.) Although you may use your video will to convey how your family should distribute sentimental items, you need to know that your wishes are not legally enforceable. Meaning your video won’t be accepted by a probate court, a bank or any other institution that controls assets in your name. Only a formal paper will is legally enforceable.

Videos don’t last forever and therefore, are subject to damage.

If you opt for a video will, consider it as an add-on to a formal, legal, paper will, filed by an estate planning attorney, and remember these tips:

  • Use a quality camera that clearly identifies your face.
  • Speak clearly without distortion and eliminate as much background noise as possible.
  • Keep the video-captured area at medium close-up.
  • The video cannot be edited and must be submitted with any kind of technical data necessary to play it back.
  • Some states want you to be sworn in by a person authorized by law to take oaths.
  • Prior to administering the oath, any officers of the court have to identify themselves on camera.
  • Mention the date, time and place of the recording prior to recounting your last wishes and the recorded names of your beneficiaries, as well as the names and addresses of the will’s witnesses if they’re not present at the taping.
  • The video Will should run without interruption.

Remember, it’s still the law that to be valid, a Last Will and Testament must be on paper and signed. If you have nothing but a recording of the deceased person’s last wishes, you’re unlikely to have a Will that will hold up in court.

Finally, keep in mind that a will, in either written or video form, is not the only estate planning tool you have. Various trusts can also help make sure your estate is left according to your wishes.

When should I begin my estate planning?

When should I begin my estate planning?

There’s an easy answer to this. It’s never too early. You’ve heard tomorrow isn’t promised. It’s true. At worst, you could die before getting around to executing a plan, and that could leave your heirs with a costly, divisive mess.

What happens if you suffer a debilitating health crisis that prevents you from seeing that your wishes are carried out, or even prevents you from signing essential documents?

Did you know that applicable laws that are favorable to you now may be changed to be less so later? The more years that slip by, the more vulnerable you become to being taken advantage of because of your advanced age.

If your needs change in the future, you can modify your plan; although prospective change isn’t a valid excuse for delay. Do your best to look out for yourself and for your family now, and be sure to keep your plan current. Make sure that you have the right documents and that they are in keeping with estate laws now and in the future. An estate & probate attorney can help you with this.

Here is a quick summary of the estate-planning process

Getting started on estate planning can be a lot simpler than you think. To start with, you will want to go through these basic steps:

Take inventory of your assets, including investments, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate holdings and valuable items including your digital assets.
Determine your goals and your inheritors. If you have minor children or elderly loved one, who will care for them when you are gone?
Designate a person that you trust to manage your business affairs; Power of Attorney.
Designate a person to direct your medical care should you become incapacitated; Power of Attorney Healthcare
Designate an Executor to implement the directives outlined in your Will.

After deciding what kinds of bequests you wish to make, it’s important to discuss your plans with your heirs. You don’t want to leave any unpleasant surprises. Think about how best to leave your assets. A simple Will may not be the best option. An attorney can help you with a variety of trusts, which have many advantages in creating an estate plan.

I can’t stress enough that the earlier and the greater the degree of clarity you use when you outline your plans to family and friends, the less chance there will be for disagreements when you are gone.

Who Should Be Your Inheritors?

Who Should Be Your Inheritors?

If you’ve thought about estate planning and have contemplated when and how to distribute your assets to your heirs, read on. You probably imagine that this process will entail a series of trade-offs to prevent emotion-laden family problems. However, when you focus on numbers, you’re dealing with objective and straightforward facts.

But, you are in murkier waters when considering who should inherit your wealth, and you understand that emotions will most likely factor into those decisions. The truth is, there is no correct answer to how to distribute your estate. But here are some questions that will help frame your thinking:

  • How much would you like to leave to charity and how much to your family?
  • Will you divide your assets equally among your heirs, or on some other basis, like need or good behavior?
  • What form does your estate take? Is it cash, securities or some other assets? Do you want to give these outright or leave them in a trust?
  • Can the heirs you chose to handle the responsibility of managing their own finances, or will they need help?
  • If you use a trust, will there be provisions, what will they be and whom will you designate as the trustee?

Maybe we should take a step back and clarify what exactly an heir is. An heir is a relation who potentially is entitled to money or property after you die, such as a spouse or child. Laws in each state outline the exact order in which heirs inherit property, but the list stops at a certain point. Not every heir automatically inherits.

The term “heir” is often used when someone dies without a will. When that happens, the estate administrator tries to find who rightfully inherits the property.

A “beneficiary” is a person or an organization who receives money or property by being specifically named in your will or trust. Beneficiaries can include charities, descendants or close friends, even places of worship.

If you leave a will, beneficiaries often have more rights to whatever assets remain after probate. If you don’t leave a will, the assets go to the first heir in line, and the process continues until a living blood relative is found. Keep in mind that rules may vary depending on the jurisdiction.

Trusts can help ensure the people you want to get your assets, in the form you want. Ensuring the transfer of your hard-earned assets to your heirs is a crucial part of a well-thought-out estate plan. Although it may be uncomfortable to have a conversation like this with your spouse, your children, and other possible heirs, it will enable them to ask questions and to clarify what your exact wishes are. While the estate planning talk deals with sensitive issues, it will mean a smoother transition for your heirs after your death.

Get started with your estate plan.

5 Common Misconceptions about a Power of Attorney

5 Common Misconceptions about a Power of Attorney

MISCONCEPTION #1. A power of attorney can be authorized at any time.

– I received a phone call asking me to draft a power of attorney. The caller said that she had just received certification from her father’s doctor stating that he is no longer competent. “Can you draft a power of attorney and living trust for my dad?” she asked. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Once someone lacks legal capacity, they can no longer sign any legal document including a power of attorney or living trust, which of course is the purpose of the document. At this point, the only recourse is a guardianship proceeding through the courts, which can be extremely costly and time-consuming.

MISCONCEPTION #2. Power of Attorney documents are all the same. I’ll just download one from the web.

– Everyone’s circumstances are unique. Without guidance from an experienced estate attorney, a generic POA document could expose your estate to legal challenges and interjections. Unfortunately, when problems with a POA are discovered it’s usually too late.

MISCONCEPTION #3. A Power of Attorney grants the agent the right to make any decision that they choose.

– Within a POA the agent has an obligation to make decisions that are in the best interests of the principal. While the POA grants authority, the right to act is based on fiduciary circumstances. If the action is not in the best interests of the principal, the agent does not have the right to act. In fact, many people fear signing a POA because they are concerned that their agent will mismanage their estate. Although the fiduciary obligation offers protection, it is important to choose someone that you trust to be your agent.

MISCONCEPTION #4. There is one standard Power of Attorney; it covers everything.

– It is much more flexible than that. The principal determines what powers to grant their agent in the document, which is why it’s important that it be drafted by an experienced attorney.

  • A general power of attorney governs all powers covered by a power of attorney, such as buying or selling property or otherwise managing one’s assets.
  • A limited or special power of attorney can grant very precise authorizations. For example, a power of attorney can be drafted which only grants the power to conduct a real estate sale.

MISCONCEPTION #5. Only a Durable Power of Attorney survives death.

-All powers of attorney terminate upon the principal’s death. The difference between a regular power of attorney and a durable power of attorney revolves primarily around incapacity.

 

  • A standard POA terminates upon death or incapacity. Once either of those events happens, the POA is invalid.
  • A Durable POA survives mental incapacity, but not death. The agent can act on the principal’s behalf even if the principal is declared mentally incompetent.
Estate Planning 101 for LGBTQ Couples

Estate Planning 101 for LGBTQ Couples

It’s true, most couples can benefit from estate planning. It’s a way to ensure your assets end up in the right hands after you die, and that your health care wishes are followed. But LGBT couples in particular often have special situations that require extra planning.

Here are five steps that LGBTQ couples can take to get started with estate plans.

1. Know your marital status

The Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 legalized same-sex marriage in the United States, but the patchwork of prior state laws has had some unintended consequences when it comes to estate planning, because assets typically flow directly to a spouse upon death, it’s important to be sure past relationships really are history.

For example, prior to 2015, some same-sex couples got married in states where it was legal, but then moved to states that didn’t recognize those marriages and later broke up. Thinking their nuptials weren’t valid in the non-legal states, many couples split up but never dissolved their marriages legally speaking. In addition to that, some states automatically converted registered domestic partnerships or civil unions into legal marriages.

Resulting in a lot of people being married and not knowing it.

2. Look beyond a will

A will seems like a no-brainer, especially if you have children from previous relationships or those who had children before legally marrying. Without one, it’s often unclear where assets should go when the last partner dies.

Same-sex couples shouldn’t stop there though. A power of attorney is also a good idea since it gives a spouse or someone else the power to act on your behalf if you are incapacitated.

Setting up a trust can also help, especially if there are concerns about battles over your assets after you die.

Unfortunately, same-sex couples families are more apt to contest the will than heterosexual couples because more LGBT people tend to be estranged from their birth families.

Couples can put their assets into a trust, and when one of them dies, there’s less of an opportunity to contest it, because trusts usually don’t go through probate.

3. Think about your medical needs

Think about this, if you are injured and in a coma, and the prognosis isn’t good, the harrowing decision to “pull the plug” has to go to someone. Think about who you would want making that choice for you. No matter who it is, you want to be sure it’s documented.

There are several options, but the two most popular ones are:

A health care surrogate sometimes referred to as a health care proxy, is someone you choose to make medical or spiritual decisions for you, typically if you’re incapacitated. It can also authorize doctors to share your medical information with specific people of your choosing.

A living will, a do-not-resuscitate or other kind of health directive, which documents your preferences about medical treatment when you can’t communicate. This is useful in a case where you know you wouldn’t want to “live” on life support for years but you don’t think your partner will give the ok to pull the plug. You can essentially document in your will that you only want to remain on life support for….let’s say 6 months, but after that, you wish to be removed from life support. The decision no longer rests in your partner’s hands.

4. Plan for the children

Typically, when parents die, their assets pass on to their children, but to ensure this happens some same-sex parents might need to make adoption part of their estate planning if they haven’t already. This is because it’s more common for only one of the parents to be biologically related to the child.

The idea is to ensure that your assets flow to the children rather than to aunts, uncles or other family members. If there’s been no legal determination of the child, and your partner doesn’t have an estate plan, the child may not get anything.

If only one spouse or partner is legally recognized as the parent, adding a trust with certain provisions will at least ensure the non-legal parent remains in contact with the child if someone else becomes the guardian.

5. Don’t just wing it

LGBT couples should generally avoid do-it-yourself estate planning services online. Most of the forms there don’t account for the needs of same-sex couples.

If you have questions about estate planning, contact Chuck Bendig to set up a free consultation. With more than 39 years experience, we make it easy for you to understand LGBT Estate Planning so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

Getting Re-married? Consider second spouse planning.

Getting Re-married? Consider second spouse planning.

No one wants to think about their untimely death. Especially after you’ve just been given a second chance at love. However, if you’ve just gotten remarried and you have children from your first marriage, how do you ensure that both your new spouse and your children receive an inheritance if you die? Do your children or your new spouse get the house? How will your new spouse get by financially if you choose to provide an immediate inheritance for your children?

You want to make sure that your children won’t be disinherited if you leave everything to your new spouse, who then can ultimately will the money elsewhere. Your current will could be fraught with risks that could cause your children to be disinherited.

Here are some possible solutions:

  • Pass your assets to a revocable trust agreement that’s funded during your life through your will or through beneficiary designations. The trust is revocable at any time, so you’re able to change your mind. Upon your death, the trust becomes irrevocable and would benefit your spouse and children.
  • Invest assets to make them income-producing and pay all the income to your new spouse for the rest of their lifetime, while still preserving the principal for your children. Upon your spouse’s death, the remaining principal of the trust goes directly to your children outright or in further trust.
  • You can also choose to name an independent trustee who will have the power to pay a portion of the principal to your new spouse if there’s a need. You can even have your second spouse’s interest in the trust end upon remarriage.

 

Through proper planning, you can maintain control over your assets to prevent disinheritance of your children, while at the same time, providing for your spouse. However, if you don’t make specific arrangements, here’s a broad look at what may happen to your assets, although this may vary with state law and other situations:

  • Your second spouse may be able to claim 1/3 to 1/2 of the assets covered by your will, even if your will specifically states something else. Click here to learn more. 
  • Joint bank or brokerage accounts held with a child will go to that child.
  • Your IRA and/or 401K will go to whomever you’ve named as beneficiary. Contrary to what you may have been told, wills do not supersede these beneficiary elections.

If you want a different arrangement, you and your spouse must have a written prenuptial agreement that meets your state’s inheritance laws. You’ll need to change beneficiary forms.

These financial issues merit serious consideration. Competing interests of your adult children and your second spouse may induce additional heartache once you’re gone. In the case of blended families, it’s always wise to have a professional evaluate your existing will to ensure your desires are carried out.

The time between Christmas and New Years is deadliest for drivers. Here’s why…

The time between Christmas and New Years is deadliest for drivers. Here’s why…

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Holidays (between Thanksgiving and New Years) are considered the “deadliest of the year” in terms of auto accidents.

If you’re involved in a car accident when you’re not at fault, and you suffer an injury, you may have the right to file an accident claim. You should hire an attorney as soon as possible to find out what your rights are.

It’s also a good idea to learn why car accidents are more frequent around the holidays. Here are the top 4 reasons.

1.Too much “indulgence” at Holiday parties
Almost 40% of all fatalities that occur during the Christmas holiday period involve at least one driver who was impaired by alcohol. People are attending office parties or family parties, having a great time, and there is a tendency to overindulge. While you may know you shouldn’t drink and drive, even “just a few” can have serious consequences. It’s always best to avoid getting behind the wheel, even if a person only has one or two drinks. Utilize driving services such as Uber or Lyft.

2. Increased Holiday Stress
The Holidays are as stressful as they are cheerful. Coordinating holiday events, having a house filled with family, and the crowded shopping excursions, can all lead to increased amounts of stress. Especially when dealing with holiday traffic. People have a tendency to become sloppy when it comes to safety, and neglect the rules of the road. That stress can create mental distractions, resulting in the higher likelihood of a car accident.

3. Increased traffic
During the month of December and January, there are more vehicles on the road than any other time during the year. This, of course, results in the potential of more car accidents. A factor that’s compounded when out-of-towners are added to the mix. People traveling in the area won’t be familiar with the roads, which means more people slamming on their breaks when they realize they’ve missed their exit. As a result, it is best for people who will be driving to give themselves more time to reach their destination and try to be more vigilant.

4. Improper Vehicle Maintenance
During the holidays, money is usually tighter than the rest of the year. Drivers begin skimping on vehicle maintenance and instead use the money to buy gifts. This is never a good idea and could result in you being stranded on the side of the road or a larger final repair bill. One way to avoid car accidents is to invest in vehicle maintenance during the holiday season, just like you would during other times of the year.

If you’re involved in an auto accident during the holidays and it’s due to someone else’s negligence, call Attorney Chuck Bendig at 614-878-7777. He can review the facts of your case and determine whether or not you have the right to file a lawsuit.

What happens to him if something happens to you?

What happens to him if something happens to you?

In 2011, entrepreneur and Columbus Ohio native, Nick Braun adopted a rescue lab mix and named him Beau. Beau quickly became a member of the family. So, it’s only natural he would want to take care of him just like any other family member. That included health insurance (Nick created petinsurancequotes.com) but also making provisions for Beau in the event something should happen to Nick.

For many people, it’s a multistep process to make sure the designated caregivers have the financial support and guidance they need to assume care of your beloved pet.

You can’t just say, ‘Hey Dad, can you take the dog if something happens?’, but that’s exactly what most pet owners do (if anything at all). Including your pet into your estate plan can help ensure they receive a continued high level of care should you die before they do. Having them listed in your estate plan could also keep them out of a shelter, which is where many pets end up after their owners die.

When beginning your estate plan, here are a few things to consider:

Name a caregiver.

When thinking about choosing a caregiver for pets, you should consider whether that person is willing, capable and responsible enough to oversee the pet for the long term. Special accommodations could be needed if a pet has a long lifespan or special needs.

Consider monetary expenses.

Make a list of all pet-care costs, taking into account the pet’s expected lifespan. Add up the annual expenses for veterinary care, any medications, monthly grooming, food, and toys as well as a contingency for unanticipated expenses.

Next, determine how those funds should be set aside. Some options include a trust, a bank account controlled by an executor (or by the guardian) or life insurance. Keep in mind that the beneficiary of a life insurance policy can’t be a pet, but it can be a trust that includes provisions for a pet’s care.

Outline a care plan.

Write down clear and detailed instructions on how you would like your pet to be cared for. For example, you can make a list that includes the food your pet eats, how often a day they’re fed, the contact information for your preferred kennel, and the information for any pet-insurance policy as well as his veterinarian contact info.

Formalize agreements.

Once the basic decisions about a pet’s care have been made, owners should formalize things to help ensure that their wishes are carried out. Some people create a pet trust for their animals. Others provide for pets in their wills. Both options require assistance from a lawyer. An owner who goes this route should make sure someone can step in immediately to care for the pet since executing a will usually takes some time. Once the administration of an estate is wrapped up, the will’s executor has no continuing obligation to ensure the pet’s well-being.

Whichever option you decide, estate planning attorney Chuck Bendig is here to help. The idea is to protect the ones you love, whether they’re human family, furry or feathered.