Monday, January 16, 2017

Make 2017 the Year You Complete Your Estate Plan!

The start of the New Year almost always brings with it new goals and resolutions.  So, what is the best way to meet these goals head-on and successfully complete them?  Oftentimes, the key is in not taking one giant leap, but small steps, providing us the best possible chance to succeed!
 
With estate planning, adopt a similar approach.  Taking manageable steps can make all the difference between completing your estate plan and giving yourself and your family peace of mind, and putting it off for another year, potentially putting your loved ones at risk in the event something happens to you.  Here are just a few benefits of putting an estate plan in place:
 
Nominate an individual you trust to make health care decisions:  Nominating a trusted individual who knows your health care wishes can ensure your desires are followed.  Without planning ahead, your family is likely to have to go to Court before making health care decisions on your behalf, incurring additional money and time during an already stressful period.
 
Name someone to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so:  Executing a Financial Power of Attorney ensures your financial affairs continue seamlessly during your life and any legal decisions can be made on your behalf.  In the absence of a Financial Power of Attorney, no one can legally make these decisions for you, whether that person is a spouse, a child, or a close friend.
 
Provide for your children and loved ones from future potential creditors, predators, and unnecessary taxes:  Protecting your loved ones from others and sometimes themselves, can ensure your desires are followed.  A proper plan promotes family harmony upon your passing by making the process proceed smoothly without undue stress and delays.
 
Protect your assets, both during your lifetime and after:  Planning ahead can make all the difference in protecting your most cherished assets for yourself and your family members.  Advanced planning options to protect assets in the event of a need for advanced health care expenses may be warranted to protect your assets.
 
To take the first step toward giving yourself peace of mind and a lasting legacy come to our free educational seminar being held in the Village of Hilbert Community Room on Saturday, February 4th at 10:00 AM.  We will be providing an overview of how a properly drafted comprehensive estate plan can save your family time, money, and promote harmony among your beneficiaries.  Please call or e-mail our Client Services Director Sandie at sandie@epgwi.com to reserve your spot today!
 
 
For more information about this seminar and our upcoming events, go to www.TheEstatePlanningGroup.com today!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Protecting Your Minor Children from the Unexpected

Parents often cite a child’s birth as one of the happiest days of their life.  The child will bring many moments of happiness to your lives and undoubtedly a few trying moments, too.  However, as parents, you also need to consider who would care for your child if you no longer can.  Estate planning can offer some valuable assistance.

A simple will executed by each parent is a common method used to protect minor children.  A will is the only legal avenue (without court intervention) where parents can nominate a legal guardian for children under 18.

So, who should you nominate as a guardian?  Beyond recommending someone you trust and respect, here are some other factors to consider:

·         Guardian’s Location—Will a guardian’s location require a change of schools for your children; will the location allow your children to remain close to existing friends and family?

·         Guardian’s Values—Does the guardian share your core beliefs, a similar philosophy in raising children, religious views, etc.?

·         Guardian’s Suitability—If a guardian has children of their own, could they care for your children too; does the child already have a good relationship with the prospective guardian?
Once a guardian is chosen, the next question is how financial assets should be held to best benefit your children.  A testamentary trust, formed in a parent’s will, is a great tool to hold such assets.

This type of trust secures assets left for your children and can specify an age or ages for asset distribution.  Many parents distribute a percentage of a child’s share every few years, minimizing potential excessive spending of an inheritance at one time.  Without a testamentary trust, all assets are distributed when the child is no longer a minor.  To oversee this trust, you may nominate the above-named guardian, a financial institution, or an entirely different person/entity.

Protections for younger children are absolutely vital. Whether that means completion of a simple will or other estate planning options, this issue deserves consideration by you and your family.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Timing is Everything in Legal Life Planning!


With Christmas fast approaching and the New Year practically upon us, discussions of goals and resolutions for the upcoming year frequently come up.  Invariably, when legal life planning is discussed, many times a "We'll do that next year" approach is adopted.
The legal life planning process, though, can only fully use all available tools if sufficient time exists.  Adequate preparation can mean the difference between having options and protecting your assets versus facing additional expenses and headaches down the road.

One of the best ways to plan ahead is to formally nominate someone to make health care and financial decisions for you when you are unable to communicate those desires.  Failing to execute Health Care and Financial Power of Attorney documents can result in your loved ones being forced to go to court, spending time and oftentimes thousands of dollars, to gain such authority.
Planning ahead about how best to pass your assets can also help ensure a smooth process for your chosen beneficiaries, while minimizing administrative costs.  Wills and other non-probate tools, like a payable-on-death (POD) designation or a life estate deed are often used, but other legal options, like a revocable trust, may deserve consideration too.

When attempting to protect assets from a future need for a nursing home stay and qualify for the government program that pays for such care ("Medicaid"), planning ahead is especially critical.
If you have gifted or sold any assets for less than fair market value within 5 years of trying to qualify, the Medicaid system requires the difference to be repaid before you qualify (the "5-year look back period").  Putting in place legal tools now to safeguard those assets before a need for nursing home care arises can avoid this issue.

Timing is everything in legal life planning!  Protections to put in place now to protect yourself and your loved ones will be discussed at our first seminar of the new year on Saturday, January 14th at 10:30 a.m.  This seminar will be held at the Weyers-Hilliard Library in Green Bay.  More details can be found here:  http://www.theestateplanninggroup.com/event/life-and-legacy-planning-weyers-hilliard/
From all of us at Davidson Law Office and The Estate Planning Group, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Estate Planning through the Ages

When you hear the words “estate planning” what is your first thought? Oftentimes, images of the very wealthy along with complex trust and tax planning spring to mind. In actuality, estate planning includes important documents that should be considered by people of all ages, regardless of one’s current stage in life. Whether a person just turned 18 or is enjoying retirement, estate planning includes different legal documents that deserve discussion. Below are some of the important periods and ages where estate planning should be thought about:
  • Turning 18: Every person should have, at the very least, a valid Health Care Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney in place upon turning 18. Wisconsin Statutes do not provide for any “default” person to make decisions for an individual after they turn 18, even if they are a parent or spouse. In the absence of a valid Health Care Power of Attorney, a guardianship proceeding may be required, which can become very expensive.
  • Parents of young children: Estate Planning is also critical for parents of young children. By executing a will, young parents can nominate a guardian to provide personal security for their minor children. From the financial side, a testamentary trust can be incorporated into the will to ensure minor children do not receive all assets left to them by their parents at age 18 in one lump sum distribution. Instead, parents can nominate a trustee to manage any assets for the benefit of minor children and make distributions to the children upon reaching a pre-determined age, set by the parents.
  • People looking to avoid Probate: Estate Planning also includes more detailed plans for individuals or couples who desire to bypass the probate process. With a revocable trust, the probate process can likely be largely avoided, which in turn, leads to a quicker estate administration and a faster distribution of assets to beneficiaries. The revocable trust is also a private document that is not publically available and can give added protections for beneficiaries from creditors.
  • Individuals concerned with protecting assets from Nursing Home Care: For individuals who are worried about the possible costs of nursing home or long-term care, estate planning can provide asset protection. An irrevocable trust, unlike a revocable trust, can be used to shelter certain assets from being liquidated to satisfy nursing home expenses. However, assets are only safe if they are in the irrevocable trust for the 5 years prior to applying for a needs-based program, such as Medicaid. Additionally, control of any assets in an irrevocable trust must be ceded from the initial owners. Even with these trade-offs, for some clients the benefit of protecting certain assets from any nursing home care is well worth the protections an irrevocable trust provides.
The Estate Planning process addresses a wide range of issues for individuals of all different ages. From the young couple who just had their first child to the couple who has been together for over 60 years who are concerned about the impeding cost of nursing home care, estate planning can provide ease of mind ensuring the maximum protections are in place to preserve and protect each person’s assets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Who do we give the Packer Season Tickets to?

Green Bay Packers Season Tickets. As of the writing of this article, the current wait list is around 120,000 people. So, it is easily understandable why families with tickets want to pass them on to loved ones.

But for some, the answer to who to give the tickets to is a challenging decision. We recently had someone come to see us who was really struggling over who to give his tickets to because he did not want to appear to favor any of his children. Thankfully though, he is making this difficult decision now.

All too often, inadequate instructions can cause conflict among family members and yes, sometimes even lawsuits (See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article, "Brother sues brother over Packer Tickets.").
While these are hard decisions, understanding the rules can streamline the process.

Green Bay Packer Ticket Policy requires that the owner of every season ticket be either an individual or a business (no co-ownership allowed). This bears noting because if you have multiple beneficiaries, they may not agree on a single individual owner and in the absence of agreement, no transfer occurs.

Without any direction from a season ticket holder, upon their passing, season tickets will likely first go to a surviving spouse, and if no spouse, then to surviving children. Remember, if the surviving children, cannot agree on a single child owning the tickets, no transfer takes place.

If you have put in place a will or a trust, you can specify who you desire to take ownership of the Packer tickets. Importantly, your will or trust can also list alternate beneficiaries, if your first choice, passes away before you.

In endeavoring to assist individuals, the Packers organization has also put together a Season Ticket Transfer Form to memorialize your desires and pass your tickets to your chosen beneficiary.

For more tips and suggestions on ensuring all of your assets, including your Packer tickets, pass smoothly to your chosen beneficiaries, come to our final seminar of 2016 at the Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce Building in downtown Kaukauna on Saturday, December 3rd at 10:00 am. Refreshments will be provided. For information on how to sign-up, click here!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Including Digital Assets In Your Wisconsin Estate Planning

Making a Plan for Your Digital Assets

According to an old 2011 McAfee study, on average, Americans value the digital assets they own across multiple digital devices at approximately $55,000.  As technology races forward, I'm sure that number has grown exponentially.  Unfortunately, a vast majority of us have not planned for what happens to these assets after we’re gone. 

Estate planning for digital assets is growing as fast as technology, and involves issues of security, privacy and legacy planning.  Wisconsin finally passed a new law in 2016 to provide access to limited digital assets by a personal representative, but it doesn't cover everything. For planning purposes, digital assets can include:

•    Email accounts
•    Photos
•    Documents and files
•    Websites and blogs
•    Social networking accounts
•    Music and books
•    Online shopping accounts
•    Banking and bill pay accounts

Practical issues that should be considered when planning for the disposition of digital assets include:

•    Who will access and control the accounts following your death
•    How your executor or agent will get access 
•    How your digital assets can be transferred to beneficiaries if desired
•    How fiduciaries will know where to find all the information on your digital assets

There are two steps you should take to protect your digital assets, with the guidance of a Personal Family Lawyer®:

Inventory digital assets.  Make a list of all your accounts and assets, including user names and passwords, answers to security questions and any other necessary information that will allow your executor or fiduciary to access the information. 

Include digital assets in your Wisconsin estate plan.  Include specific enabling provisions in your estate plan that covers the management and disposition of all of your digital assets if you become incapacitated or die.  

If you would like to discover the difference a comprehensive plan can make in protecting your family and your wealth, give us call.  Click on The Estate Planning Group logo on the right to visit our website and learn more, or to submit a contact request if you're ready to get started.  

We're your Appleton, Kaukauna and Green Bay estate planning attorneys who make a difference with our client family.  We are proud to be home to Wisconsin's only licensed Personal Family Lawyer® and Family Business Lawyer®.