If something unexpected happens to you and you haven't planned for everyone you love and everything you have, the State of California has a default plan for you.
Sound scary? Well, it can be. Those you love would have to deal with the red tape and bureaucracy of government procedures and regulations.
We at Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory help you understand the legal and financial consequences of not having a comprehensive Estate Plan to protect your loved ones ... and more.
Before meeting, we'll ask you to complete a Family Wealth Worksheet, which will help you understand what you own and what needs to be decided for the well-being and care of your loved ones and cherished belongings. We'll meet for a Family Wealth Planning Session™, where we spend some time together reviewing this document. You'll learn about our Planning for Life process and we will both decide if it makes sense to work together to design an estate plan that will best suit the needs of your family.
The foundation of your estate plan will often include a revocable living trust, which when done properly and maintained over time, should help your family to avoid the cost and delay of probate and minimize or eliminate estate taxes.
At Sky Unlimited Legal Advisory, we do not offer a "one size fits all" estate plan. We form a working relationship with our clients. We educate you, take the time to get to know you and your family. We will discuss your concerns, your goals, and will gladly and patiently answer all of your questions. Our goal is to create an estate plan that is exactly right for you.
Our services include a no-charge three-year review to ensure that as your lives change, so will your estate plan to safeguard your assets for maximum protection.
The strategies that are appropriate for protecting your assets are different for every family. Check out our proven process that gives you peace of mind...
You’re probably anxious to check estate planning off your life’s to-do list, and these forms offer a seemingly quick and inexpensive way to handle this important task.
Last week, we shared the first part of this series discussing the hidden dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. In part two, we cover one of the greatest risks posed by DIY documents.
You may even realize such generic plans aren’t as high quality as those drafted with an attorney’s help, but with your hectic schedule, a DIY will is just way more convenient. Besides, having “something” in place is better than having nothing, right? Unfortunately, this is one case in which SOMETHING is not better than nothing.
Indeed, the false sense of security offered by DIY wills can lead you to believe you have things covered and no longer have to worry about estate planning. The reality, however, is that such generic forms could end up costing the loved ones you leave behind more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.
In this way, DIY wills and other legal documents are among the most dangerous choices you can make for the people you love. In part one, we discussed the many ways DIY plans can fail to keep your family out of court and out of conflict, and here we’ll explain how these generic documents can leave the people you love most of all—your children—at risk.
She penned the touching essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the New York Times as a final love letter to him. The essay took the form of a heart-wrenching yet-humorous dating profile that encouraged him to begin dating again once she was gone. In her opening description of Jason, she writes:
“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”
What followed was an intimate list of attributes and anecdotes, highlighting what she loved most about Jason. It reads like a love story, encompassing 26 years of marriage, three grown children, and a bond that will last forever. She finished the essay on Valentine’s Day, concluding with:
“The most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.”Just 10 days after the essay was published in March 2017, Amy died at age 51.
Finding meaning again
Amy’s essay immediately went viral, and Jason received countless letters from women across the globe. Although he has yet to begin a new relationship, Jason said the outpouring of letters gave him “solace and even laughter” in the darkest days following his wife’s death.
Just over a year later, Jason wrote his own essay for the Times, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me,” in which he expressed how grateful he was for Amy’s words and recounted the lessons he’d learned about loss and grief since her passing. He said his wife’s parting gift “continues to open doors for me, to affect my choices, to send me off into the world to make the most of it.” Jason has since given a TED Talk on his grieving process in hopes of helping others deal with loss, something he said he never would’ve done without Amy’s motivation.
Yet many of us put more effort into planning for our vacations than we do to prepare for a time when we may no longer earn an income.
Whether you’ve put off planning for retirement altogether or failed to create a truly comprehensive plan, you’re putting yourself at risk for a future of poverty, penny pinching, and dependence. The stakes could hardly be higher.
When preparing for your final years, it’s not enough to simply hope for the best. You should treat retirement planning as if your life depended on it—because it does. To this end, even well thought-out plans can contain fatal flaws you might not be aware of until it’s too late.
Have you committed any of the following three deadly sins of retirement planning?
1. Not having an actual plan
Even if you’ve been diligent about saving for retirement, without a detailed, goal-oriented plan, you’ll have no clear idea whether your savings strategies are working adequately or not. And such plans aren’t just about calculating a retirement savings number, funding your 401(k), and then setting things on auto-pilot.
Once you know how much you’ll need for retirement, you have to plan for exactly how you’ll accumulate that money and monitor your success. The plan should include clear-cut methods for increasing income, reducing spending, maximizing tax savings, and managing investments when and where needed.
What’s more, you should regularly review and update your asset allocation, investment performance, and savings goals to ensure you’re still on track to hit your target figure. With each new decade of your life (at least), you should adjust your savings strategies to match the specific needs of your new income level and age. The plan should also take into consideration unforeseen contingencies, such as downturns in the economy, health emergencies, layoffs, and inflation.
Failing to plan, as they say, is planning to fail.
Such forms are typically quite inexpensive. Simple Wills, for example, are often priced under $50, and you can complete and print them out in a matter of minutes.
In our uber-busy lives and DIY culture, it’s no surprise that this kind of thing might seem like a good deal. You know estate planning is important, and even though you may not be getting the highest quality plan, such documents can make you feel better for having checked this item off your life’s lengthy to-do list. But this is one case in which SOMETHING is not better than nothing, and here’s why:
A false sense of security
Creating a DIY Will online can lead you to believe that you no longer have to worry about estate planning. You got it done, right?
Except that you didn’t. In fact, you thought you “got it done” because you went online, printed a form, and had it notarized, but you didn’t bother to investigate what would actually happen with that document in place in the event of your incapacity or when you die.
In the end, what seemed like a bargain could end up costing your family more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.
Creating a DIY Will can lead you to believe that you no longer have to worry about estate planning. In the back of your mind, you might even promise that one day you’ll revisit and update your plan with something better, but chances are, having done “something” will lead you to put this off until it’s too late.
By doing nothing, on the other hand, at least you won’t be lulled into a false sense of security, and estate planning will still be at the top of your life’s to-do list, as it should be until you handle it properly.
But unless your plan also includes your digital assets, there’s a good chance this online property will be lost forever following your death or incapacity.
What’s more, even if these assets are included in your plan, unless your executor and/or trustee knows the accounts exist and how to access them, you risk burdening your family and friends with the often lengthy and expensive process of locating and accessing them. And depending on the terms of service governing your online accounts, your heirs may not be able to inherit some types of digital assets at all.
With our lives increasingly being lived online, our digital assets can be quite extensive and extremely valuable. Given this, it’s more important than ever that your estate plan includes detailed provisions to protect and pass on such property in the event of your incapacity or death.
Types of digital assets
Digital assets generally fall into two categories: those with financial value and those with sentimental value.
Those with financial value typically include cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, online payment accounts like PayPal, domain names, websites and blogs generating revenue, as well as other works like photos, videos, music, and writing that generate royalties. Such assets have real financial worth for your heirs, not only in the immediate aftermath of your death or incapacity, but potentially for years to come.
Digital assets with sentimental value include email accounts, photos, video, music, publications, social media accounts, apps, and websites or blogs with no revenue potential. While this type of property typically won’t be of any monetary value, it can offer incredible sentimental value and comfort for your family when you’re no longer around.
Indeed, your credit score is one of the main factors determining your access to loans, credit cards, housing, and sometimes even jobs.
From late payments that were actually made on time and paid debts that are still listed in collections to fake accounts opened in your name by identity thieves, there are all kinds of errors that can end up in your report. What’s more, even if the mistakes were made by the banks, lenders, and/or credit bureaus, they have no obligation to fix them—unless you report them.
Given this, it’s vital to monitor your credit score regularly and take immediate action to have any errors corrected. Here, we'll discuss a few of the most common mistakes found in credit reports and how to fix them.
Finding and fixing errors
The first step to ensure your credit report stays error-free is to obtain a copy of your report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can get free access to your reports and even helpful credit monitoring services from companies like CreditKarma.com.
Check each of the reports closely for errors. Some of the most common mistakes include:
No matter what the reason, it’s important to diligently wind down a business before moving on.
Here are five steps to take:
1. Reach consensus
If you’re a sole proprietor, then the only consensus you need is your own. However, if you’re a partnership, limited liability company (LLC), or corporation, you’ll have to reach a consensus with your business partners on how and when to dissolve.
Make sure that everything is in writing (this cannot be stressed enough) and follows whatever guidelines are applicable to your articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other organizational documents.
2. Seek counsel
Just as you would seek experienced counsel when starting a business, you should do the same when shutting one down. Dissolution is a multi-tiered process. Everything must be identified, addressed, and resolved. This includes canceling licenses and permits, as well as filing legal and tax documents with courts, creditors, and government authorities.
Williams’ children said their father set up a trust that bequeathed the items to them and that his wife of three years was acting against his wishes. Could this have been avoided?
At the beginning of 2015, there was a court fight brewing in San Francisco over the disposition of some personal property from the estate of comedian/actor Robin Williams, who committed suicide the previous year. His wife of three years claimed his three children from prior marriages took certain items from the Tiburon residence where she lived with Williams.
According to the children, these items were part of the inventory of personal property conveyed by certain trusts established for their benefit. Williams' trust granted his children his memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry as well as some other specific personal items, according to court documents.
His widow, Susan Williams, claimed that since they lived together in their own house in Tiburon, and there was a separate residence in Napa, it stands to reason he wanted the children to receive items from the Napa residence and she was to receive the property from the Tiburon home.
Attorneys for the two sides appeared to offer conflicting characterizations of the court case. Susan Williams’ attorney said she was just seeking a clarification from the court; the attorney for the children said she has accused them of stealing items belonging to her.
All you have to do is fully accept the fact that one day you’re going to die.
“I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.” -Upajjhatthana Sutta
The unavoidable nature of death is a basic tenet found in every religion. Indeed, the acceptance of death is so important in Buddhism that “impermanence,” or the fact that everything born eventually dies, is at the top of the Buddha’s list of the three universal characteristics of existence.
Before religious practice, Tibetan Buddhists chant, “The whole world and its inhabitants are impermanent. The life of human beings is like a bubble. Death comes without warning; this body too will be a corpse.”
Such teachings may seem morbid, but they’re actually designed to awaken you from denial and inspire you to fully appreciate life because you never know when it will end.
“How sad it is that most of us only begin to appreciate our life when we are at the point of dying.” -Sogyal Rinpoche
Numerous individuals have discovered that contemplating and accepting their own mortality is a powerful source of happiness. It may seem counterintuitive, but this isn’t something only found in religious teachings; it’s also been demonstrated by modern science.
Countless healthcare professionals report that people facing terminal illness often experience an incredible sense of peace and fulfillment in the days and weeks before they die. Many of them describe the acceptance of death as a life-changing event, confessing they never knew what it meant to live until they knew they were going to die.
But there are a few more benefits of a living trust that can help you do much more than that, if it’s set up right:
Asset protection for heirs. One of the most significant benefits of a living trust is to protect inherited assets for heirs. For example, minor children are not allowed by law to inherit property.
Instead, a guardian is appointed by the state to hold the property for them until they reach the age of 18. However, most parents would agree that even 18 is too young to manage a significant inheritance. Executing a living trust allows you to control how and when an inheritance is distributed and to name a trusted person to serve as trustee. In addition, a living trust can be especially useful in protecting assets from spendthrift heirs, creditors or an heir’s potential divorce, if it’s set up right.
Most living trusts we see distribute assets outright to kids at 25, 30 and 35 instead of keeping assets in trust for the life of the beneficiary -- while giving the beneficiary control of the assets -- via a lifetime asset protection trust. This type of planning is still fairly unknown to most attorneys, but we’ve got specific training to ensure that what you leave to your kids will not be at risk from their future divorce, lawsuit, bankruptcy or other creditor matter.
Ensure none of your assets are lost. The vast majority of the time that a living trust is created, one of the most important and valuable aspects of creating the trust are lost -- and that’s making sure that when you become incapacitated or die that your loved ones stay out of Court and the assets you’ve worked so hard for make it to the people you love aren’t lost along the way.