Saturday, September 24, 2016

How To Reduce the Risk of Identity Theft When a Loved One Dies

A new trend in identity theft – afterlife identity theft – is on the rise, with thieves scouring obituaries for personal information to steal the identities of those who have passed.  When you lose a loved one, it is important to take quick action and notify a number of institutions and government agencies about the death to help prevent afterlife identity theft.

The National Funeral Directors Association provides a list of government and credit reporting agencies, creditors and banks for notification, including:
     Social Security Administration
     Veteran's Administration (if the decedent formerly served in the military)
     Defense Finance and Accounting Service (military service retiree receiving benefits)
     Office of Personnel Management (if the decedent is a former federal civil service employee)
     U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (If the decedent was not a U.S. citizen)
     State Department of Motor Vehicles (If the decedent had a driver's license)
     Credit card and merchant card companies
     Banks, savings and loan associations and credit unions
     Mortgage companies and lenders
     Financial planners and stock brokers
     Pension providers
     Life insurers and annuity companies
     Health, medical and dental insurers
     Disability insurers
     Automotive insurer
     Mutual benefit companies
     All three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
     Any memberships held by the decedent (ex: health clubs, professional associations, clubs, library etc.)
The NFDA recommends that you notify these entities first by phone followed by a written confirmation, where you will need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate, the decedent’s Social Security number and, if you are the executor or administrator of an estate, the verification of your appointment by a probate court.  Be sure to ask the funeral home you are using if they can provide notification services for you, as many do.

If you would like to have a talk about protecting your loved ones through estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Life & Legacy Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Planning For What Happens Last

Seth Godin is a well known and oft-quoted American entrepreneur who has authored 13 best sellers that have been translated into 33 languages. Recently, he wrote a post on his blog at that is a must-read for everyone. I am reprinting it here in its entirety, so you can take a few moments to digest this important message from Seth:

How do you want to die?

Let's assert that you're almost certainly not going to be the very first person to live forever.

Also worth noting that you're probably going to die of natural causes.

The expectations we have for medical care are derived directly from marketing and popular culture. Marcus Welby and a host of medical shows taught us about the heroic doctor, and more than that, about the power of technology and intervention to reliably deliver a cure.

It's not a conspiracy--it's just the result of many industries that all profit from the herculean effort and expense designed to extend human life, sometimes at great personal cost.

Hence the question: Do you want to choose whether or not you will be a profit center in the ever scaling medical-industrial complex? One percent of the population accounts for 30% of all health care expenditures, and half of those people are elderly.

Most of that care is designed to prolong life, regardless of the cost, the pain or the impact on the family. A lot of doctors are uncomfortable with this, but they need you to speak up and make a choice (in advance) about what you'd like. Some people want the full treatment, intervention at all costs.

If that's your choice, go for it. But be clear, in writing, that you'd like to spare no expense and invest in every procedure, even if it's pointless and painful. Don't be selfish and let someone else have to guess.

On the other hand, you have the right to speak up and stand up and clearly state if you'd prefer the alternative. Many people prefer a quiet dignity that spares them and their family pain and trauma. But you have to do it now, because later is too late.

The web makes it easy to generate and sign a simple form.  Go find the forms state by state. (If those pages are down, try a search on "health care proxy" and the name of your state.) [A reader also suggests MyDirectives.] [And consider the Five Wishes.]

One drawback to the online and generic forms is that they are often not filled out correctly, completely or clearly, so take your time - this is important, after all.

There are two critical components: assigning an individual to be your health care proxy, and then telling that proxy, in writing, what you'd like done (and not done) to you when the time comes.

If every person who reads this sits down with his or her family and talks this through (and then tells a few friends), we'll make a magnificent dent in the cultural expectation of what happens last.

It's free, it’s not difficult, it takes five minutes. Do it today if you can, whatever your wishes are. Don't make the people you love guess and then live with the memory of that guessing.

While we don't often want to dwell on such details, the end comes whether you plan for it or not. Planning merely makes it better.

# # #

Seth is right. You need to plan. We are here to make sure you do it right and your family has the guidance they need when you can't be there. Form documents can’t do that. Your family deserves more. Call our office, mention this article and we will prepare a free health care proxy for you at the conclusion of your Family Life & Legacy Planning Session. The regular $750 fee for the planning session will be waived for the first 3 to book with us in October at our Appleton or Kaukauna office.

The Estate Planning Group, Appleton, Kaukauna, Kimberly and Green Bay Estate Planning Attorneys

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Taking The Complexity Out Of Estate Planning

Remember that old joke: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time. At the heart of that gag is the truth about how you tackle any seemingly complex task, taking it one step at a time so as not to overwhelm yourself.

Many people neglect to create an estate plan because they see it as the proverbial elephant...too big, too complex – they don’t know where to begin. But if you approach estate planning in a systematic fashion, it takes the complexity right out of it – especially with the help of a knowledgeable Family Business Lawyer®.

Here are a few tips on how you can reduce the complexity in creating an estate plan:

Identify your assets and add up the value. Be sure to include your retirement accounts, life insurance, potential inheritance, savings, property ownership, etc.  Also consider personal property of value, collectibles, vehicles, equipment you may own, and the like.  Keep in mind that your heirs will have to sort all of this out once you're gone, so don't leave anything out.  A thorough accounting of your overall assets is a good start, and will allow you to get a better picture of what will need to be dealt with in the planning.  (Don't be discouraged if this makes it seem more complex - there are good ways to deal with all of it so it is not a burden for others later!)

Consider a trust. Trusts are simply vehicles for passing assets without the need for probate court oversight or intervention.  Done right, a trust is a great tool to deal with everything you identified in the first step above.  They can provide protection of assets from creditors, protection from heirs future divorces, bankruptcies, lawsuits, or even spendthrift behaviors.  They are also a great mechanism for maintaining privacy and allowing your assets to pass to your heirs without the expense and hassle of probate, which can tie up assets for a year or more. They can also help avoid estate taxes and protect certain assets from nursing home costs under some circumstances.

Decide who you trust to to act as your agent(s). You will need to appoint a person or persons to act as your decision maker, or "agent," under a power of attorney in case you are unable to make those decisions yourself, if you become incapacitated or have a terminal illness. This applies for health care decisions under a Health Care Power of Attorney, and for financial oversight under a Durable Financial Power of Attorney.

Understand what a Will does and does not do.  A will is often the cornerstone of an estate plan, providing the legal means to pass assets and property to heirs, and to name a guardian for minor children and appoint the people you need to carry out your wishes after you are gone – i.e., who will administer your estate and who will safeguard your assets for minor children.  But a will does not protect assets into the future and does not keep your family out of probate court.

If you would like to have a talk about estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We can schedule a Family Life & Legacy Planning Session where you will learn how to ensure your family and your wealth are taken care of no matter what happens.