Setting the record straight:  Myths of the Living Trust

Setting the record straight: Myths of the Living Trust

If you’re reading this, chances are you have already thought about setting up a living trust.

First, let’s define the benefits of a living trust.

A living trust allows you to retain control over the trust property until death. Then, the trust is turned over to the successor trustee, chosen by you, to distribute the trust property according to your wishes. This helps to avoid probate, resulting in a faster and easier distribution to your beneficiaries without the additional costs that are often associated with probate. It also maintains your privacy since its provisions stay confidential, compared to a last will and testament, which becomes a matter of public record.

You can update a revocable trust at any time during your lifetime. Revocable living trusts are used to protect your property until your beneficiary is mature enough to make wise decisions about their inheritance.

Next, let’s delve into some common myths about a living trust.

Myth #1: Living trusts are only for the wealthy.
While it is true that many wealthy people set up trusts, it doesn’t mean that this option is only for the rich. In fact, many people with average incomes find living trusts to be extremely beneficial; especially those with children or dependents.

Myth #2: Living trusts only benefit beneficiaries, not the people making the trusts and not you, the grantor.
In fact, a trust allows for easier handling of your affairs if you become incapacitated, and makes things much less stressful for your loved ones that are left to care for your affairs when you’re unable to do so.

Myth #3: You can’t access funds once they’re in a living trust.
This ignores the “living” part of the living trust. All funds and assets can be made as accessible as you wish, to you or to whomever you choose. You can structure the trust so that everything is accessible to you and you alone until your death.

Myth #4: Creating a living trust is expensive and complicated.
Setting up a trust may cost a bit more up front than a last will and testament, but the cost savings later can make up for these expenses in the long run.

Myth #5: A will can do the same things a trust can do.
A living trust adds flexibility. For one, it allows you to give your hard-earned money and property to those you care about while still protecting it for them. For example, if you have beneficiaries who you feel are not able to handle large sums of money on their own yet. Maybe your potential beneficiary is struggling with debt or an unstable marriage; a living trust may be the perfect instrument for you.

Have a discussion with estate planning attorney Chuck Bendig. Call 614.878.7777

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.