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...
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.
In fact, earning big money is often even more possible when in your “growing up” years because most people are a lot more willing (and able) to take risks before they get bogged down with the “realities” of life.
While the old adage of “a penny saved is a penny earned” is applicable when you are talking about slowly growing a nest egg, incremental saving is usually an impractical route to millionaire status.
Many self-made millionaires in their 30s maintain that working smart and working hard can bring you from just making ends meet to a 7-figure income in as little as a decade. Focusing on these steps at any age can set you on the path to riches quickly.
Expand Your Earnings
Think big. Working a typical 9-5 schedule likely won’t make you a millionaire. Find ways to boost your income. Get creative and consider ways to make money on the side, start to create passive income streams, and start a business.
Many self-made millionaires have several streams of earned income, “passive” income and investment income. Multiple income streams can get you on the fast track to 7-figure status.
Invest Your Money
Saving is important, but it won’t launch you into millionaire status by your 40s. Elon Musk, famed tech billionaire, invested all his proceeds from his sale of Zip2 (which was the basis for PayPal). Instead of spending the money or putting it in savings, Musk, then just in his late-20s, invested every penny back into his next business ventures and even had to borrow money to pay his rent.
Musk’s strategy of investing rather than spending is tried and tested. Grant Cardone, another self-made millionaire, recalls he was still driving a Toyota Camry when he made his first million because he was putting everything he made back into his businesses.
An agent is someone you designate to handle your estate after you’ve gone or who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Here are the kinds of agents everyone needs:
An executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes for distributing your assets as listed in your last will and testament. You can choose a family member, a trusted friend or even a professional to fill this role.
If you and your spouse die before your children reach adulthood, a guardian is the person you designate to take care of your minor children as well as handle their finances. Sometimes people decide to split the roles – one guardian to raise the children and another to handle the finances. Choosing a guardian (as well as a backup in case your first choice cannot serve) ensures your kids are taken care of by the people you know, love and trust, no matter what. One of the best ways to protect your children is to have a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®. Without it, your children are at risk of being taken into the care of strangers if the people you've named as permanent guardians don't live nearby or if your legal documents cannot be located.
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely overhauled the tax code, and if you’ve yet to take full advantage of the benefits offered by the new tax law, now is the time to do so.
To qualify for some TCJA’ tax benefits, you’ll need to act by December 31, so don’t wait to get started. The following 4 tips could save your family big money on your 2019 tax bill. That said, there may be other strategic opportunities for savings, so contact your Personal Family Lawyer® to be certain you haven’t missed any.
1. Rethink itemization
Under the new tax law, itemizing your deductions might no longer make sense. That’s because the TCJA increased the standard deduction up to $12,200 for individuals and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly. So, if you're filing a joint return, you need more than $24,400 in itemized deductions to make itemization worth it.
The law also places new limits on itemized deductions, including a $10,000 cap on property taxes, and the elimination of state and local income-tax deductions.
Given these changes, taking the standard deduction might be the best option, but other factors, such as your health expenses and charitable giving, could affect your decision, so consult with us and/or your CPA to make sure.
2. Maximize contributions to retirement accounts
By maximizing your contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(ks), you can not only save for retirement, but also reduce your taxable income for 2019.
While Daniel shared these processes in the context of the impending death of a parent, the reality is that your parents are heading toward death, even if there is no official diagnosis. And starting these processes when mortality isn’t immediately on the table is even better.
1. Help them make a timeline of their life
Create a timeline of all the big events in their life, starting with birth and their earliest memories up to the present. This is a great way to get to know them even better while you still can. Recalling their life through these stories can help them harvest the gifts, relive the good times, and identify any areas that still feel unresolved.
There are apps for creating timelines, but it’s easily done with pen and paper. Create the timeline by writing “birth” on the far left of the page, and draw a horizontal line going towards “death” on the far right. Experiences are placed on the line chronologically in the order they occurred. Positive experiences are depicted as vertical lines going up from the horizontal line, and difficult experiences as lines going down. Write short descriptions to correspond with each experience.
One way to help prompt memories is to ask questions about different people, places, and things from their past: romantic relationships, jobs, and places they lived. Going through old photos, letters, and music can also trigger meaningful memories.
When documenting their life events, positive experiences can simply be recalled and enjoyed. For the negative ones, you can ask them what they learned from the experience and write that lesson in the description. In this way, you can find beauty and meaning in all of it.
In the first part of this series, we discussed a unique planning tool known as a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust. Here we explain the benefits of these trusts in further detail.
While most lawyers will advise you to distribute the assets you’re leaving to your kids outright at specific ages and stages, based on when you think they will be mature enough to handle an inheritance, there is a much better choice for safeguarding your family wealth.
A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust is a unique estate planning vehicle that’s specifically designed to protect your children’s inheritance from unfortunate life events such as divorce, debt, illness, and accidents. At the same time, you can give your children the ability to access and invest their inheritance, while retaining airtight asset protection for their entire lives.
Last week, we discussed how Lifetime Asset Protection Trusts differ from the standard way that most revocable living trusts and wills distribute assets to beneficiaries. Today, we’ll look at the Trustee’s role in the process and how these unique trusts can teach your kids to manage and grow their inheritance, so it can support your children to become wealth creators and enrich future generations.
Total discretion for the Trustee offers airtight asset protection
As mentioned last week, most trusts require the Trustee to distribute assets to beneficiaries in a structured way, such as at certain ages or stages. Other times, a Trustee is required to distribute assets only for specific purposes, such as for the beneficiary’s “health, education, maintenance, and support,” also known as the “HEMS” standard.
We referenced this planning tool in the context of how it could have protected Clare Bronfman, the heiress to the multi-billion-dollar Seagram’s fortune, who was manipulated into blowing much of her $200 million inheritance by financing the cult-like group known as Nxivm.
Yet Clare’s case was quite extreme in terms of both the amount of her inheritance and the circumstances that wiped out her wealth. Though an LAPT would have almost undoubtedly protected both her and her family’s fortune, this planning vehicle can benefit families with far less wealth than Clare’s—and offer asset protection from far less outlandish threats.
Indeed, LAPTs are primarily designed to protect your loved ones and their inheritance from much more common threats, such as divorce, serious debt, devastating illness, and unfortunate accidents. At the same time, LAPTs can provide your heirs with a unique educational opportunity in which they gain valuable experience in managing and growing their inheritance while enjoying airtight asset protection.
To demonstrate how LAPTs can provide protection to families of all asset profiles, here we’ll describe another true story involving a tragic—yet much more relatable—life scenario. While the following events are entirely true, the individual’s name has been changed for privacy protection.
The flooded penthouse
Eric was staying at a friend's apartment in New York City. The apartment was the penthouse of the building, and Eric decided to run himself a bath. While the bath was running, another friend called and invited Eric to go out with him, which he did.
At about 2 a.m., Eric came back to the apartment and discovered he made a huge mistake and left the bath running when he left the apartment. The resulting flood caused more than $400,000 in damage to the apartment and the one below it.
While there was insurance to cover the damage, the insurance company sued Eric for what's known as "subrogation,” meaning the company sought to collect the $400,000 they paid out to repair the damage Eric caused to the property.
But without taking the proper precautions, the wealth you pass on is at serious risk of being accidentally lost or squandered. In some instances, an inheritance can even wind up doing your kids more harm than good.
Creating a will or a revocable living trust offers some protection, but in most cases, you’ll be guided to distribute assets through your will or trust to your children at specific ages and stages, such as one-third at age 25, half the balance at 30, and the rest at 35.
If you’ve created estate planning documents, check to see if this is how your will or trust leaves assets to your children. If so, you may not have been told about another option that can give your children access, control, and airtight asset protection for whatever assets they inherit from you.
In our planning process, we always offer parents the option of creating a Lifetime Asset Protection Trust for your children’s inheritance. A Lifetime Asset Protection Trust safeguards the inheritance from being lost to common life events, such as divorce, serious illness, lawsuits, or even bankruptcy.
But that’s not all they do.
Indeed, the best part of these trusts is that they offer you—and your kids—the best of both worlds: airtight asset protection AND use and control of the inheritance. What’s more, you can even use the trust to incentivize your children to invest and grow their inheritance.
And you might be surprised to learn that there are a variety of settlement options available besides the most common method—a lump-sum payout.
Depending on the life insurance company and policy, these options may be selected by the policyholder ahead of time or chosen by the beneficiary upon the insured’s death. Whether you’re the policyholder or beneficiary, it’s important that you understand these options in order to maximize the policy’s financial benefit and reduce potential taxes.
Here are six popular life-insurance settlement options:
1. Lump-sum: The beneficiary receives the full death benefit all at once in a single payment.
2. Interest Income: The insurance company retains the original death benefit and makes interest-only payments to the beneficiary. The original benefit may be paid in full to the beneficiary after a certain time period or to a contingent (alternate) beneficiary upon the primary beneficiary’s death.
3. Fixed Amount: The beneficiary is paid a fixed amount on a regular basis until the total death benefit (plus any interest accrued) has been paid out. If the beneficiary dies before all of the funds have been paid, a contingent beneficiary may receive the remaining amount.
4. Fixed Period: The beneficiary receives regular payments of both principal and interest over a fixed period of time, typically up to 30 years. If the beneficiary dies before the time period is over, the remaining balance may pass to a contingent beneficiary.
5. Life Income: The beneficiary receives guaranteed payments over the remainder of his or her life. The amount of the payments is determined by the insurance company and based on the beneficiary’s age and gender. The payments continue until the beneficiary dies. If he or she dies earlier than expected, the insurance company keeps the unpaid amount.
And as this ugly drama plays out in the courtroom and tabloids, it highlights the single-most costly estate-planning mistake a parent can make.
Hussle, 34, whose given name was Ermias Ashgedom, was gunned down outside his South Los Angeles clothing store in March. His alleged killer, Eric Holder, was arrested and indicted for murder a few days later. The rapper’s death is particularly tragic, as his debut album, Victory Lap, was recently nominated for a Grammy Award.
Yet even more tragic is what’s happening to Hussle’s kids. Because Hussle never named legal guardians, the decision of who will raise his two children—daughter Emani, 10, and son Kross, 2—is now up to the court. And this mistake is already having terrible consequences.
In addition to not naming guardians for his kids, Hussle also failed to create a will, which makes their guardianship even more contentious. Hussle’s estate is estimated to be worth $2 million, and under California law, in the absence of a will, that money is to be split equally between his two kids.
Given that both children are minors, however, they’re ineligible to access their inheritance until they reach the age of majority. This means that whoever ultimately wins guardianship of the children will likely gain control over their money as well.
Caught in the middle
Guardianship of Hussle’s son Kross, while still undecided, is currently not a source of conflict. Kross’s mother is actress Lauren London, who was Hussle’s longtime girlfriend, and Kross had been living with London at the time of his father’s death. She petitioned the court for her son’s guardianship, and there’s little doubt she’ll get it.