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...
These are just a few reasons why it is important for you to know the following about estate planning:
Minor children can be legally protected with a Kids Protection Plan, which provides parents with important legal tools to name short- and long-term guardians, provide instructions and guidelines for those guardians and execute medical powers of attorney that allow you to dictate medical care for your minor children in case they are injured and you are not with them.
A will and a living trust are both essential estate planning tools, and although both can be used to transfer assets upon death, they serve separate purposes. A living trust can take effect while you are alive or after death. It allows you to hold assets for your benefit during your life, which may prove useful if you become incapacitated in the future. A living will can also be beneficial if you own real estate in another state. A will only takes effect upon death, and is used to appoint guardians for minor children, cover assets that are not part of a living trust and create trusts that kick in after death.
Women need to execute financial and healthcare durable powers of attorney and consider choosing a member of the family if that person is willing to assume the responsibility of making financial and/or medical decisions on your behalf in case of incapacity. And, if you are married or partnered, make sure your spouse or partner does the same because you’ll be the one who is handling things if anything happens to your spouse/partner and you want it to be as easy as possible.
Last week, we shared the first part of our series on the importance of estate planning for those without children. If you haven’t read it yet, you can do so here. Here in part two, we discuss the other risks involved for those who forego estate planning.
Someone will have power over your health care
Estate planning isn’t just about passing on your assets when you die. In fact, some of the most critical parts of planning have nothing to do with your money at all, but are aimed at protecting you while you’re still very much alive.
Advance planning allows you to name the person you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re incapacitated and unable to make decisions yourself.
For example, if you’re temporarily unconscious following a car accident and unable to give doctors permission to perform a potentially risky medical treatment, it’s not always clear who’ll be asked to make that decision for you.
If you have a romantic partner but aren’t married and haven’t granted them medical power of attorney, the court will likely have a family member, not your partner, make that decision. Depending on your family, that person may make decisions contrary to what you or your partner would want.
Indeed, if you don’t want your estranged brother to inherit your property, you probably don’t want him to have the power to make life-and-death decisions about your medical care, either. But that’s exactly what could happen if you don’t proactively plan.
It establishes the expectations in the relationship and enables employers to deal with similar situations consistently. Typically, employers do not intend for the handbook to create any obligations that could be enforced by their employees. However, a poorly drafted employee handbook could open the door to contractual liability.
Inadvertent Alteration of At-Will Employment Relationship
The problem that arises most frequently from an imprudently written employee handbook is the unintentional creation of limitations on the at-will employment relationship. In the absence of an employment contract to the contrary, employees are generally employed “at will”. This means that they can be terminated for any reason (including no reason or even a bad reason—unless it’s illegal) at any time without any warning. The at-will employee may also quit at any time and for any reason.
The potential for litigation emerges when employee handbooks contain language that can change an at-will relationship into one in which the employee can only be terminated “for cause”. This can happen when the handbook includes provisions that an employee could reasonably believe provide job security. For example, the following types of provisions could limit an employee’s at-will status:
But the fact is, it can be even MORE important to do estate planning if you have no children.
Some of the common thoughts behind this mistaken belief may take one of these forms:
“If I die, everything will pass to my spouse anyway, so why bother?”
“I’m single with little wealth, so who cares who gets my few meager assets?”
“Estate planning is an expensive hassle and it doesn’t even benefit me because I’ll be dead, so I’m better off letting a judge handle things.”
This kind of thinking ignores several basic facts about both estate planning and life in general. Regardless of your marital status, if you don’t have children, you face potential estate-planning complications that those with children do not. And this is true whether you’re wealthy or have very limited assets.
Without proper estate planning, you’re not only jeopardizing your personal property, but you’re putting your life at risk, too. And that’s not even mentioning the potential conflict and expense you’re leaving for your surviving family and friends to deal with. So if you’re childless, consider these three inconvenient truths before you decide to forego estate planning.
Engaging your business in the local community through volunteerism and charitable giving can have a positive impact both on your business and in your community. The more public-facing your business is and the larger your staff grows, the more opportunities your business will have to be the good guy as employees and community members seek support from your business. When yet another adorable uniform-clad kid comes in selling popcorn or cookies, or a service-dog organization brings in the big brown puppy dog eyes to seek a donation, you may need an escape hatch. Having a community-engagement policy in place will benefit your business by promoting community engagement, supporting your employees, and making it easier to say “no.”
Community Engagement Can be Good for Your Business
Every time a customer or prospect sees your business name or logo, you reinforce your marketing efforts and increase your brand awareness. Being active in the community can provide “stealth” marketing and goodwill opportunities, and even position you and your business as a community leader. Seek out a charity you want to align your business with. Look for a charity of a size that will meaningfully benefit from the amount or type of contribution the business will make. Here are some ideas to get you started:
However, estate planning can be even more critical for those in committed relationships who are unmarried.
In the first part of this series, we discussed the estate planning tools all unmarried couples should have in place. Here, we’ll look at the final two must-have planning tools.
Because your relationship with one another is frequently not legally recognized, if one of you becomes incapacitated or when one of you dies, not having any planning can have disastrous consequences. Your age, income level, and marital status makes no difference—every adult needs to have some fundamental planning strategies in place if you want to keep the people you love out of court and out of conflict.
Last week, we discussed wills, trusts, and durable power of attorney. Here, we’ll look at two more must-have estate planning tools, both of which are designed to protect your choices about the type of medical treatment you’d want if tragedy should strike.
3. Medical power of attorney
In addition to naming someone to manage your finances in the event of your incapacity, you also need to name someone who can make health-care decisions for you. If you want your partner to have
any say in how your health care is handled during your incapacity, you should grant your partner medical power of attorney.
But the reality is every adult, regardless of age, income level, or marital status needs to have some fundamental planning strategies in place if you want to keep the people you love out of court and out of conflict.
In fact, estate planning can be even more critical for unmarried couples. Regardless if you’ve been together for decades and act just like a married couple, you likely aren’t viewed as one in the eyes of the law. And in the event one of you becomes incapacitated or when one of you dies, not having any planning in place can have disastrous consequences.
If you’re in a committed relationship and have yet to get—or even have no plans to get—married, the following estate planning documents are an absolute must:
1. Wills and trusts
If you’re unmarried and die without planning, the assets you leave behind will be distributed according to your state’s intestate laws to your family members: parents, siblings, and possibly even other, more distant relatives if you have no living parents or siblings. The state’s laws would provide NO protection for your unmarried partner. Given this, if you want your partner to receive any of your assets upon your death, you need to—at the very least—create a will.
A will details how you want your assets distributed after you die, and you can name your unmarried partner, or even a friend, to inherit some or all of your assets. However, certain assets like life insurance, pensions, and 401(k)s, are not transferred through a will. Instead, those assets will go to the person named in the beneficiary designation, so be sure to name your partner as beneficiary if you’d like him or her to inherit those assets.
However, there could be an even better way.
But fewer people are aware they should exercise the same level of caution when it comes to restricting their loved one’s access to firearms.
This was one of the findings of a May 2018 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine covering firearm ownership among Alzheimer’s patients. The study noted that even though 89% of Americans support restricting access to firearms for those with mental illness, there’s been little attention focused on limiting firearm access among elderly dementia patients.
Indeed, there are currently no federal gun laws prohibiting the purchase or possession of firearms by persons with dementia. And only two states—Hawaii and Texas—have laws restricting gun access for dementia patients.
A ticking time bomb
This lack of attention comes despite an increasing number of incidents involving elderly dementia patients shooting and killing family members and caregivers after confusing them for intruders. And with so many Baby Boomers now entering retirement age, this dangerous situation could get much worse.
In fact, the number of people with dementia is expected to double to around 14 million in the next 20 years, with the vast majority of those over age 65. Since nearly half of people over 65 either own a gun or live with someone who does, it’s clear that firearm safety should be a top priority for those with elderly family members—even if they don’t currently have any signs of dementia.
That said, just talking about restricting someone’s access to guns can be highly controversial and polarizing. Many people, especially veterans and those in law enforcement, consider guns—and their right to own them—an important part of their identity.
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.
In the first part of this series, we discussed the importance of including your digital assets in your estate plan. Here, we’ll talk about the best ways to get started with this process.
With so much of our lives now lived online, it’s vital you put the proper estate planning provisions in place to ensure your digital assets are effectively protected and passed on in the event of your incapacity or death.
However, because many types of online assets have only been in existence for a handful of years, there are very few laws governing how they should be dealt with through estate planning. And due to their virtual and often anonymous nature, just locating and accessing some of these assets can be extremely difficult for those you leave behind.
Given these unique challenges, last week we discussed some of the most common types of digital assets and the legal landscape surrounding them. Here, we offer some practical tips to ensure all of your digital property is effectively incorporated into your estate plan.
Best practices for including digital assets in your estate plan
If you’re like most people, you probably own numerous digital assets, some of which likely have significant monetary and/or sentimental value. Other types of online property may have no value for anyone other than yourself or be something you’d prefer your family and friends not access or inherit.