Estate Planning Articles

Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.

Women and Estate Planning – Debunking the Myths

Not long ago, women rarely took much interest in estate planning for several reasons. Today, however, the need for estate planning is even greater if you are a woman. Debunking some of the common myths surrounding the concept of women and estate planning is a good place to start.

Preparing for Your First Estate Planning Consultation

Many people put off estate planning because of the uncertainty of what it means and what it encompasses. It’s not an overwhelming or time-stealing process, though it is crucial for ourselves and our families.

Owning Overseas Property Increases the Need for Estate Planning

Like many Americans you may own property outside of the United States. Whether you inherited an ancestral family home, purchased a vacation retreat, or are currently living in a home you own oversee, owning property in another country makes estate planning a bit more complicated and increases the importance of having a well-thought-out estate plan in place.

How to Lend a Hand and Save Taxes

While you may not be able to physically lend a hand, one of the ways you can help a cause at home or overseas is through gifting. However, choosing to donate to a reputable charity or foundation is just the first decision. Find out more about charitable gift giving, including how to structure your gifts in such a way that not only helps you save taxes but allows you to provide for your loved ones and contribute to a greater cause.

Estate Planning Lessons – Wesley Snipes and the “Pure Trust” Argument

It’s likely we’ve all taken some bad advice at some point in our lives, but when it comes to issues like taxes, bad advice can have very serious legal and financial consequences for you and your loved ones. Seeking an experienced estate planning attorney for legitimate ways to protect your assets and reduce tax obligations is the best way to prevent becoming an unfortunate victim of bad advice, like actor Wesley Snipes.

What’s the Big Deal about Probate Avoidance?

You may have heard friends and family members discussing the need to avoid probate; however, you may not understand why avoiding probate is so important. Now is the time to learn more about probate avoidance so you have plenty of time to start including appropriate strategies in your estate plan.

Medicaid Asset Transfer Rules – When Gifting Can Cost You

If they had the funds, most people would not think twice about gifting assets to an adult child or loved one. But, that gift could jeopardize Medicaid eligibility. Moreover, you may need that eligibility to help pay for the high price of long-term care for you or a spouse.

I was Appointed Trustee of a Trust. Now What Do I Do?

Did you just find out you are the Trustee of a Trust? If so, you are probably feeling honored, and maybe a bit intimidated if this is your first time acting as a Trustee. In this article, find out what a Trustee’s role is within the Trust as well as the duties and responsibilities of a Trustee.

What You Need to Know about Asset Protection

You likely worked hard, saved wisely, and invested prudently to acquire the assets you now have. Now, all you need to do is to protect those assets. To accomplish that goal, you need to understand how and why your assets might be at risk as well as learn more about asset protection tools and strategies.

How Will Life Insurance Policies Impact Medicaid Eligibility?

Like most seniors, you probably own at least one life insurance policy. Will that policy interfere with your eligibility for Medicaid benefits if you need them down the road? If you are unsure, now is the time to learn how Medicaid evaluates life insurance policies.

Is a Health Savings Account (HSA) Right for You?

While the American health care system has undergone major changes in recent years, the potential to save money and taxes through a Health Savings Account (HSA) has not changed. Find out whether you’re eligible to get started with an HSA, and how an HSA can be an excellent tax saving vehicle that provides the benefits of both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA all-in-one!

Do You Know Who Your Designated Beneficiaries Are?

Who are your designated beneficiaries? Not sure? If so, you are not alone; it’s not uncommon to select designated beneficiaries without considering your overall estate plan. However, the failure to coordinate them could wreak havoc on your overall estate. Read on to learn how.

Combat Pay, Taxes, and Retirement – What Veterans Need to Know

If you are a member of the United States military, you likely have more important things on your mind than taxes and retirement planning. You should, however, take a moment to learn how your combat pay is treated by Uncle Sam to ensure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled for your service to your country.

Medicaid Estate Recovery – Are Your Assets Safe?

The longer you live, the better the odds are you will one day need long-term care (LTC). For the average person, the cost of that care can be prohibitive. Moreover, you cannot count on Medicare nor your basic health insurance to cover costs associated with LTC

Will Baby Boomers Have Anything Left to Pass Down?

The Baby Boomers are reaching retirement. Some of them are financially ready for retirement; however, many are not. Even more have failed to plan their estate. No one likes to dwell on their own mortality, but failing to plan for it can have a significant financial impact on the next generation.

Medicaid Patient Share of Cost for Long-Term Care

Nursing home costs can deplete a nest egg very quickly. Planning ahead to ensure you qualify for Medicaid can help immensely. However, do not make the mistake of assuming that Medicaid will cover your entire long-term care bill. Instead, be prepared for a share of cost.

Medicaid Gifts to Children

Do the Medicaid gifting rules and asset transfer penalties have you confused? If so, you are not alone! Unfortunately, failing to understand the rules and penalties could result in your ineligibility for benefits right when you need them the most. The answers to several common questions may help you gain a better understanding of Medicaid’s rules and penalties.

A Nursing Home’s Take on the Need for Medicaid Planning

Nursing homes have historically resisted the concept of Medicaid planning based on the assumption that patients who engaged in Medicaid planning were trying to avoid paying their bills. In recent years, many nursing homes have started to rethink that position as they realize that Medicaid planning is often in their best interest as well as the patient’s.

Include Personal Property When Creating Your Estate Plan

Every individual needs to create an effective estate plan describing their wishes as to the disposition of assets, care of minor children, and burial arrangements. However, even people who meticulously prepare their estate plans often overlook their personal property. When you create a Will or Trust, you can make specific provisions for distribution of items of personal property among your heirs.

Planning for a Stress-Free Vacation

Every year thousands go on vacation. And theyve likely planned it to a tee which hotel to stay at, which sights to see, and theyve maybe even scouted the local restaurants that are a must-try on their trip. But, when it comes to planning, one of the most important, often-overlooked items is making sure your what ifs are in order.

Loaning Family Money & What You Need To Know

Loaning Family Money What You Need To Know Loaning Family Money What You Need To Know Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys People lend money to family members for a variety of reasons.

Cross-Training for Financial Fitness

John and Susan have been married for 38 years. Like many couples, early in their marriage, they gravitated toward a division of labor that worked for them. John is an amateur chef, so he handles the grocery shopping, the meal planning, and the cooking. Susan loves the outdoors, so she takes care of the lawn and the garden. Susan, who is a neat freak, does much of the cleaning, while John keeps track of the family finances. John and Susan have done something else, something really smart. Despite their division of labor, each of them knows how to handle all of the others responsibilities. This way, if one spouse goes out of town o

Peace of Mind for New Moms and Dads

A brand new baby brings a special kind of chaos to your home. In the midst of sleep deprivation, midnight feedings, and seemingly endless diaper changes, estate planning is likely the last thing on your mind. And yet, making an estate plan is a relatively simple task that can bring an immense sense of security to your growing family.

Four Tips for a Pain-Free Tax Season

New Years Day has come and gone, and April 15th looms in the not-too-distant future. While its true that many of the big tax planning decisions like deferring income or bunching deductions should be made before December 31st, there is still plenty you can do to save money and hassles this tax season. Here are a few simple suggestions

James Gandolfini's Will: 3 Lessons for You and Yours

Sopranos star James Gandolfini died in 2013 at the age of 51. Within weeks of his death, his Will was made public and put under a media microscope. Why did this happen and, more importantly, what lessons can you learn from it to protect yourself and your family?

Estate Planning is Essential for Same-Sex Couples

For most people, dying without an estate plan means burdening loved ones with added inconvenience, delay and expense. For same-sex couples, however, dying without an estate plan can spell disaster. Find out why and learn what you can do about it.

Protect Your Right to Make Medical Decisions

Who would make your medical decisions if you were terminally ill or get into an unexpected accident? Have you expressed your wishes to your family members and, just as importantly, have you formalized your wishes so that your doctors will follow them?

Five Things Every Woman Should Know About Estate Planning

Womens roles in society and within the family have shifted dramatically over the past several generations and women have more earning power than ever before, yet too many wives take a backseat to their husbands when the subject of estate planning comes up. Here are five things every woman should know when it comes to estate planning.

Five Non-Tax Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

Estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to reduce their estate taxes, right? Wrong! Only a tiny percentage of Americans need to worry about estate taxes but every adult needs an estate plan. Find out why.

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

People tend to think of estate planning as something that only the wealthy or the elderly need to do. In truth, regardless of your age, your situation in life, or your level of wealth, estate planning accomplishes a few universal goals.

Planning for the Worst-Case Scenario

Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the worst, we miss the opportunity to do the best for our loved ones. A comprehensive estate plan can help you confront your fears in a way that will ease your familys responsibilities, should the unexpected happen.

Insurance: The Missing Link in Your Estate Plan?

Insurance has a number of uses as an estate planning tool. It helps protect and preserve your estate, giving you more to pass on to your loved ones. It also has special characteristics that allow you to position your estate for sophisticated estate planning. Learn about the basic categories of insurance and how they strengthen your estate plan.

Why Your Trust Shouldn't be Short and Sweet

The draft of your new Trust makes you wonder if your estate planning attorney gets paid by the word. Is all this verbiage really necessary? In fact, a good plan has many points to cover.

Tax Breaks for the Sandwich Generation

It can be a surprise to find yourself caring for elderly parents at the same time that youre raising your own children. The emotional demands of these multiple roles are often coupled with financial challenges as well. Thats why its important to know when you can claim your aging or ill parent as a dependent for income tax purposes.

Trusts and Income Tax: Who Pays?

As Trusts gain popularity, a question comes up more and more often: who pays the income tax on a Trust? It seems like a simple inquiry, but the answer can be hard to pin down. So, who does pay income tax on a Trust? Here is the answer, in a nutshell.

A Quick Guide for Basis

You might have heard the word basis used in reference to taxes. Learn the definition of basis and how it can make a big difference in your estate plan.

What Does It Mean To Be a Trustee?

If youve been chosen to serve as a Trustee, what responsibilities can you expect? Learn about the basic duties that come with this important and sometimes daunting job, and find out where you can go for guidance.

Avoid These Four Asset Protection Pitfalls

The estate planning process presents a number of opportunities for using asset protection strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn about asset protection, and avoid these four common pitfalls.

Expecting the Unexpected

Life is full of surprises. None of us have a crystal ball, and this means it is unreasonable to create an estate plan without flexibility regarding your long-term wishes for your loved ones. When you build flexibility into your estate plan with a power of appointment, you can empower your spouse or children to stand in your place and make decisions based on your familys changed circumstances.

The Accidental Spouse

Could you be married and not even realize it? If you live in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you could be married even without a marriage license or an official ceremony. Find out how common law marriage affects your estate plan and what you can do about it.

I Have an Estate Plan: Do I Still Need My Attorney?

Your estate plan is prepared. Your Living Trust is in place and properly funded, you have a Pour-Over Will just in case, and your incapacity plan is ready and waiting in the event you need it. Is it time to part ways with your attorney? Not at all! In fact, your relationship with your estate planning attorney has just started.

Why a Trust Makes Sense - Even If Your Child Is Not a Child

If your children have reached adulthood, you might assume it's best to leave them their inheritances outright, with no restrictions. However, you want to make sure your children enjoy flexibility in accessing and using their inheritances while minimizing the impact of taxes, divorce, lawsuits, and other threats. Therefore, it might be better to leave their inheritances in a Trust.

Planning Your Estate With Privacy in Mind

When you use a Will to plan your estate, much of your personal information becomes public after your death. A Trust can help you accomplish your estate planning goals while shielding your personal affairs from prying eyes.

Your Family Deserves More Than an Estate Plan

If you want to leave a true legacy, a traditional estate plan is not enough. With Legacy Planning, you can pass on your values, wisdom, and family heritage along with your nest egg. You can also provide your children's inheritances with just the right amount of protection from the threats and challenges of life.

Helping Your Parents Age Gracefully

Your mom and dad have always been there to guide you through life's challenges. Now, the tables are turning. Learn some strategies for gently helping your parents plan for the challenges they're likely to face as they age.

What to Expect When You're Inheriting

Most of us have daydreamed about inheriting money, but the reality of inheriting often doesn't match our dreams. In the real world, an inheritance can bring with it a number of questions and worries. Here we address four common concerns about inheritances.

Five Estate Planning Myths

Estate planning is on everyone's "should do" list, but it rarely seems to make it to the top of the "to do" list. Perhaps this is because of all the myths surrounding the estate planning process. Here are five common estate planning myths, along with the truths behind them.

Does a Roth Make Sense for You?

Choosing between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA can have significant tax and estate planning consequences. Whether a Roth is the right option depends on a number of factors, including an account owner's current income, anticipated post-retirement income, and estate planning goals.

The Estate Tax Is Not the Only Consideration in Estate Planning

The U.S. Congress continually debates the estate tax, often considering whether or not it should be done away with entirely. Many people think this tax is a cornerstone of estate planning, so if it's eliminated, they don't need an estate plan. Nothing is further from the truth. This article explains why.

Getting Value Out of Giving with Charitable Trust

You've heard the maxim, "It's better to give than to receive." Americans take this aphorism to heart, especially as it relates to contributions to charity. Did you know that our tax laws actually encourage charitable giving? This article will explain gift-giving options from small to large, each with tax-savings implications.

Leaving a Ranching Legacy

Ranch life comes with its own particular challenges and rewards. Therefore, ranch families have even more need for professional advice than other families when it comes to finding the most effective means of passing on their assets, which may be more substantial than they suppose. This article explores various means that can be employed to create an estate plan which minimizes taxes and distributes assets equitably.

There's No Time Like the Present to Review your Plans

Time passes quickly. Life brings change. While these may seem like platitudes, they reflect the truth of most people's lives. This article will encourage you to recognize a new life stage as an opportunity to review and fine tune your estate plan.

Is Your Ex-Spouse Really Out of Your Life?

Divorce is bad enough, but did you know that your children and new spouse can suffer financial devastation if you do not remember to change your estate planning documents after a divorce?

Choose Your Estate Planning Practitioner Wisely

Who should you entrust with planning your estate? Unfortunately, the estate planning industry can be a mixed bag. Along with licensed, qualified attorneys there are unqualified, or even unlicensed, individuals producing cookie-cutter estate plans that may or may not work as intended. Find out why you should choose your estate planning practitioner wisely.

Look After Your Spouse Even After You're Gone

You and your spouse have worked hard to save for your golden years. But have you planned for a long, secure retirement if one of you outlives the other? Heres how paying attention to certain key financial areas can set both of you up for a secure, worry-free retirement.

Short and Sweet is Not Always Better

When you compare a do-it-yourself living trust with one that was prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney, one of the first things youre likely to notice is that the attorney-prepared trust is long. And it might not be so easy to read. Theres a good reason for this. This article discusses the reasons why planning for contingencies with an attorney drafted estate plan is the better choice. When it comes to estate planning, theres any number of contingencies to prepare for.

Practical Strategies for Protecting Your Privacy

Were all exposed to invasions of our privacy, large and small, during our lifetimes and even after death. These practical strategies make it easier to shield your familys personal affairs from prying eyes.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

When you really think about it, your true wealth is much more than just your accumulated assets or material possessions. With the right plan, you can protect and preserve your true wealth and create a legacy for your family that will last for generations to come.

Estate Planning Without a Crystal Ball

When you are planning your estate, it is important to remember that circumstances rarely stay the same over long periods of time. A plan that worked for your family when the kids were little may very well be obsolete by the time they've started families of their own. This is why it's important to ensure that you build flexibility into your plan.

Puppy Love: Planning Your Estate With a Pet Trust

Increasingly, pet owners are not just worried about providing for our pets during our lifetimes, we want to ensure that they get all the love and care they need after were gone, too. This article discusses the estate planning benefits a Pet Trust can provide for your furry and feathered animal companions.

Help! My Attorney No Longer Practices Law

It's not something we often stop to think about, but attorneys experience life changes like anyone else. They may change careers or experience an illness or disability, or they may retire or even pass away. This article discusses the steps you should take if your estate planning lawyer no longer practices law.

Planning Your Estate? Don't Forget Insurance

The term "estate planning" usually calls to mind the process of creating a Will, establishing a Living Trust, or naming a guardian for young children. One piece of the estate planning puzzle that might not be readily apparent, though, is insurance. Learn how insurance in its many forms plays an important role in the estate planning process.

Parenting Your Grandchildren? You Need a Solid Estate Plan

According to data collected in the 2010 census, 4.9 million children under age eighteen live in grandparent-headed households. If you are in this growing number of grandparents returning to your parent role again, one of the pressing responsibilities that accompany your job as caregiver is to make sure you have a plan for your grandchildren in the event that something happens to you. And because youre older now than you were the first time around, planning becomes even more important. This article reviews why it is imperative to have an estate plan in place and what a basic plan should include.

Helping Your Parents Through Their Twilight Years

As a child, your parents were there to guide and support you as you faced lifes challenges and obstacles in your path growing up. Similarly, as your parents age, and become less independent, they will rely on you as they face new challenges in their twilight years. This article examines how planning well in advance is important to ensure that no matter what lies ahead, their care and financial affairs will be looked after. Regardless of their financial means, if they are wealthy or of more modest means, there is a plan that can meet the specific needs of your family.

One Big Happy Family: How to Avoid an Estate Dispute

Picture this Youre at the end of your long, fulfilling life and youre ready to say goodbye to your loved ones and leave this world in peace. And then your family declares war on each other. This scenario plays out all too often even in the closest of families. This article examines helpful ways to plan and avoid divisive family disputes after you are gone.

10 Essential Estate Planning Facts

An alarming 55% of American's don't have an estate plan in place. Procrastination is a common excuse. However, for many people it's a lack of knowledge about estate planning, including the benefits, their options and the protections it offers them and their families. This article reviews 10 essential estate planning facts that will arm with you with enough knowledge to cross estate planning off your "to do" list.

Why are Roth's Such a Big Deal?

A Roth IRA has some important distinctions from a traditional IRA, and, depending on your tax bracket, your retirement needs, and your estate planning goals, a Roth could be a better choice for you. So, what's the difference between the two types of IRAs? This article explores how each IRA works and which option can best fit your personal needs and goals.

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