Estate Planning and Legacy Law Center, PLC

What Estate Planning Awareness Means for You

The third week of October is National Estate Planning Awareness Week (Oct. 15-21, 2018). Estate planning is important for everyone regardless of wealth or family status because if you become incapacity or pass away without an estate plan, you are leaving the distribution of your assets subject to state law – and the results may not be what you want or expect.

Estate Planning Explained

Estate planning includes the growth, protection, and transfer of a person’s wealth through the creation and maintenance of an estate plan. The concept of estate planning is important and twofold: (1) to have a strategy that will maintain your financial security during your lifetime, and (2) to ensure that your intended transfer of property and assets occurs upon your death. Both of these issues are analyzed through the lens of the unique situation of the family and the possible expense of different methods used in the estate plan.

Benefits of Estate Planning

There are several benefits to having an estate plan. At a minimum, an estate plan provides clear written guidance to your loved ones on what to do with your assets when you are deceased. But perhaps the most important reason is to be in control of how your family is provided for in the event of your death or incapacity. Estate planning can address several issues including:

  • Who will raise your minor children,
  • Who will inherit your assets and how they will be distributed,
  •  Who will care for loved ones who are unable to care for themselves,
  • Who will care for your pets, and
  • Who will receive your life insurance and other insurance proceeds.
  • Finally, good estate planning can ease the time-consuming, administrative strain placed on your family during an already difficult time.

Estate Planning Statistics

According to studies, 6 in 10 adults have not put a will in place. And, while many have likely heard that it is wise to avoid probate – the legal process by which the assets of a deceased are disposed of under court supervision – many do not understand why probate should be avoided. Three main issues with probate include: (1) the tying up of the decedent’s assets for months or even years while the probate is open, (2) the cost, sometimes as much as 5 percent of the estate’s value is spent on attorney and court fees alone, and (3) the loss of privacy in the probate process when it comes to the decedent’s financial information.

There are many financial and legal tools that may be used in the estate planning process. Contact us today to discuss your situation and learn about your specific options.

Trusts - The Swiss Army Knife of Estate Planning

To the general public, a trust may seem like an advanced tool only for the wealthiest among us. But, the reality is that trusts are a foundational estate planning tool with a solid history for being highly effective in ensuring a person’s wishes are carried out. The process begins with the maker of a trust – commonly referred to as the trust maker, grantor, settlor, or trustor – transferring his or her ownership of certain assets to the trust. A trustee is then appointed to manage these assets for the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) of the trust. In a “standard” revocable living trust, you are the trust maker, the trustee, and the beneficiary while you are alive. Then your designated successor trustee and beneficiaries take over upon your passing.

Types of Trusts

There are a broad variety of trusts and options available to you to fit your estate planning needs – no matter what they are.

Revocable Living Trusts. These trusts are the foundation of many estate plans. They contain your instructions for how your assets will be handled upon your death or incapacity, which go into effect while you are still living. Since these trusts are revocable, you can change or cancel provisions at any time during your life.

Incentive Trusts. These trusts typically contain provisions to encourage or discourage certain behavior and promote family values. In order for the beneficiary to receive funds from the trust, he or she must adhere to the particular requirements set forth by the grantor.

Beneficiary Controlled Trusts. In this scenario, the beneficiary – typically the grantor’s child or grandchild – is also the trustee. He or she has the discretion to distribute assets to him or herself for health, maintenance, education, or support. There is a co-trustee, who can be removed by the beneficiary/trustee, with the authority to access the trust for the benefit of the beneficiary beyond his or her health, maintenance, education, or support.

Asset Protection Trusts. These trusts offer perhaps the strongest financial protection against creditors, lawsuits, and judgments. In some types of asset protection trusts, the trust maker can also be a beneficiary, allowing him or her to still receive the benefits of the assets. Protective legal language and proper management of the trust are critical when you use these trusts.

Offshore Trusts. An offshore trust is similar in nature and effect to other trusts, except that it is generally created in a jurisdiction where the laws are more favorable to settlors looking for privacy and asset protection. Notably, as long as the jurisdiction recognizes the legal concept of a trust, a trust may be located in any country. That being said, these trusts are subject to close scrutiny and extensive reporting requirements imposed by the U.S. government. As a result, they are really only appropriate for sophisticated, high net worth individuals, couples, and families.

Life Insurance Trusts. This is an irrevocable trust that is set up specifically to own a life insurance policy. Ownership in an existing life insurance policy may be transferred to the trust or the trust can purchase the policy directly. The settlor cannot serve as the trustee and he or she relinquishes any right to dissolve the trust or make any changes to it. These can be a great fit for anyone with a large life insurance policy and whose estate is subject to estate taxes.

Testamentary Trusts. This trust does not become effective until the grantor passes away. Testamentary trusts are generally made within a will. The will becomes effective immediately, but the trust is not created until the maker of the will dies. Unlike living trusts, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate – the legal process by which a court oversees the distribution of assets from a deceased’s estate.

Seek Professional Advice

Estate planning may feel complicated, but it can be an enlightening and easy process when you have the right guide. Contact us today for an estate plan that best suits your needs as well as protects your family.

Estate Planning Considerations for Benefits Open Enrollment

The fall, generally late-October or early-November, is the time when employers send out summaries of employee benefits offered by the company and give employees the option to enroll in these benefits. These can generally include retirement plan options, health care, dental, vision, short and/or long-term disability, and life insurance coverage. Your employer may pay 100 percent of the premiums, split the costs with you, or you may have to pay all of the premiums yourself. Below are several considerations you should keep in mind once open enrollment begins.

Benefits Explained

When considering any retirement plan offered through your employer such as a 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan, you will need to consider: what percentage of income you choose to contribute and whether the contribution must be made pre-tax, after-tax, or to a Roth plan (if available). How much you can contribute, and whether pre- or post-tax, depends on your specific financial circumstances. Remember to also consider any “matching” contributions your employer may make since these contributions can help improve your overall retirement savings.

Healthcare benefits may include the ability to enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA), in addition to enrolling in the usual healthcare, vision, and/or dental coverage. HSAs allow plan participants to set funds aside, tax-free, for health care costs.

Employer-provided life and disability insurance coverage will provide your beneficiary with a stated amount of money if you die while employed by your employer or become disabled. The coverage generally expires when you no longer work for that employer.

Perhaps the most important thing to do during your employer’s open enrollment period is to review the employer-provided benefit package to determine what should remain and what should be changed. If you do not understand the options being provided to you, contact human resources right away for more information.

Beneficiary Designations

While you are reviewing your benefit package, you should consider your beneficiary elections or those who will inherit these assets upon your death or incapacity. A primary beneficiary is the first to inherit. Should he or she pass before you, or with you, assets would then go to any secondary beneficiary you have designated. These are often referred to as contingent beneficiaries.

Even if you have previously enrolled, you must review your beneficiary designations on your employer-provided benefits to ensure they are still how you want them. Benefits that may require a beneficiary designation are life insurance policies, retirement accounts, health savings accounts (HSA), as well as disability insurance.

If there are any new providers for your employer-sponsored benefits, this means that the insurance company has changed. Keep in mind that your previously chosen beneficiaries, and possibly coverage, may not have carried over. It is always better to review these documents, even if you are not planning any changes.

Estate Planning Concerns

If you are contemplating any changes to your beneficiaries, give us a call so we can ensure your beneficiary designations work as expected with your current estate plan or so we can properly prepare a plan that carries out your ultimate goals for you and your family. Once you have updated your beneficiaries, make sure to obtain written confirmation of this from your employer’s human resources department and share this information with us. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re here to help.

Big "Life Changes" Often Mean "Big Estate Plan Changes"

Many people who put together an estate plan do so when they start a family – assuming they put an estate plan together at all during their lifetime. While putting an estate plan together is a good thing to do, many people make few updates once the plan has been created, despite other key life events happening over the years. This is a major mistake that can place your hard-earned money and assets into a costly probate or into the wrong hands. To make sure you do not run into these issues and your wishes are followed in the event of your death or incapacity, below are nine life decisions or events that should get you thinking about updating — or creating — your estate plan right away.

 

Important Life Decisions

There are several important life decisions that you should factor into your estate plan. They include:

 

  • Getting married: Estate planning after tying the knot does not have to be complicated. Simply updating your beneficiary information, purchasing a life insurance policy, and updating emergency contact information are all things that should happen right away. You should also consider preparing a will and a living will. As your marriage progresses, it may make sense to consider a revocable trust as well. Having discussions with your spouse about how you want your estate to be managed depending on different scenarios is also important.
  • Getting divorced: While couples do not plan for divorce, many spouses go through this process. For many, the emotional toll and legal complexities of divorce can be overwhelming. Oftentimes estate planning is overshadowed by the divorce, resulting in unintended consequences. Making sure you make changes to your estate plan as soon as your divorce proceedings have been finalized will make sure your ex will not end up with the house, life insurance proceeds or other assets of yours.
  • Buying life insurance: These policies are present in virtually all estate plans and serve as a useful source of liquidity, education-expense coverage, and financial support for your family or loved ones. Make sure to list all beneficiaries under the policy and make sure to update them as time passes.
  • Buying a new home: When you purchase or refinance a home or other real estate, you should always make sure the asset is titled appropriately. If you use a trust, sometimes a lender will take a property out of a trust during a refinance. The key is to make sure your title furthers your goals.
  • Having a child: While adding another member to your family is an exciting time in your life, it is not an excuse to forget to update your estate plan. A new child necessitates major revisions to your estate plan. This not only affects who will inherit your estate upon your death but will also require you deciding who will be the guardian of your children if you should die before they become adults. As your child grows and matures — and more children are added — your estate plan will likely continue to change.
  • Starting a business: If you start a business or ownership interest changes in a current business, you need to understand what impact these changes have on your estate plan. Even more, there may be tax implications that could affect your heirs without proper planning ahead of time.
  • Death of a loved one: The passing away of someone listed in your will is often overlooked in estate planning. These individuals may be named guardians to your children, have an inheritance allocated to them, be designated as emergency contacts, or may be named as executors of your estate. Leaving the role vacant can have terrible unintended consequences and necessitates transitioning new people to fill the void left behind by your loved one’s death right away.
  • Moving to another state or country: When you change your residency from one state to another, you must review your estate plan to make sure it conforms with local laws. The same is true if you move to another country. Likewise, if you have property in more than one state or country, special attention must be paid to how those assets will be distributed according to your estate plan and applicable law.
  • Change in work benefits: Whether this happened through a promotion, demotion, or your employer just changed the benefits they offer, this could impact the type amount of assets you have available. Look at your estate plan to see if your goals are still achievable or if you can do more with what you have.

 

Estate Planning Advice

Planning based on your life stages is important because your circumstances over the years will surely change. If you have any questions about estate planning — or have had to make a recent big decision in your life — contact us to learn more about your options.

Your Fall "Legal Affairs" Checklist

On this first day of fall, it’s an excellent time to review your affairs. Below is a checklist to ensure your planning meets your needs and is up-to-date:

 

  1. When was your power of attorney last updated? A power of attorney is a valuable legal document, no matter what the circumstance. Not only is it flexible and can be prepared to meet your particular needs, but it can be made effective immediately or when you are unable to manage your own affairs. It is vital to review it periodically and replace it with a new one as necessary. This need may arise if you need to name a new person to help you or if you need to add or remove powers from the document.
  2. Does your trust/will still match your wishes? Once a will or trust is created, many people simply put it in a safe place and forget about it. There are several reasons to review and update these estate planning instruments (and others) including marriage or divorce, birth or adoption of a child, a recent windfall of cash or assets, the purchase or sale of a home, or a recent move to another state or country. Your life changes so your will or trust must change too to ensure that your needs and desires continue to be met.
  3. Is your business paperwork in order? Whether you own an LLC, corporation, or another type of business entity each year paperwork must be filed with the secretary of state and potentially other government agencies.  Make sure all of your documents have been updated, fees have been paid, and licenses have been renewed. If they are not yet due, make sure to calendar these deadlines as to not miss them.
  4. Have you met with your tax advisor recently? End-of-year planning is important any year when it comes to your taxes and potential liability, but this is especially true now in light of the 2017 tax changes passed by Congress. The IRS has been busy releasing regulations and new forms so tax season will be much different next year. Learn about your options under the law ahead of time so you are not hit with a not-so-nice surprise come tax season.
  5. Have you met with the rest of your professional team? Whether the market is a bear or bull, it is important to meet with your financial advisor to go over your investment results annually and put together an investment strategy for the upcoming year. For legal questions, it’s important to meet with your attorney before a legal situation becomes difficult to manage.

 

These are just some of the items you should focus on when considering your personal matters and ensuring your legal life is up-to-date.

 

Do Not Delay

 

There are several reasons to review and update your legal matters, including your estate plan. Before you make any decisions be sure to contact your estate planning attorney and the rest of your professional team. Understanding how your wishes are affected by applicable law will help make you make a more informed decision and protect you and your loved ones. Give us a call today.

5 Tips for Successfully Receiving an Inheritance

If you recently received an inheritance, or are expecting to receive one in the near future, it has likely triggered mixed emotions in you. You have lost a loved one and also experienced monetary gain. Studies show that a third of Americans who received an inheritance completely spent it within two years of receipt. Below are five practical steps for you to follow to maximize and protect your inheritance.

 

  1. Take your time. Allow yourself to be emotionally ready. Making decisions on what to do with your inheritance while you are experiencing challenging emotions is not optimal. Be sure to commit to self-care — whether counseling, meditation, or family and spiritual support to help you work through this process.
  2. Get advice. Before you make any major decisions — such as paying off debt, investing in a business idea, or something else — make sure you seek professional financial advice. This is especially true if you have never managed a large amount of money before. Of note, an inheritance may affect your ability to receive certain benefits, so working closely with an attorney can help minimize any impact it may have.
  3. Strings attached. Understand whether or not there are any restrictions to receiving your inheritance. Whether you are being given the assets outright, relying on trustee discretion as to the distribution timing and amount, or something in between, your estate planning attorney can help provide solutions for you. The estate planning attorney can also assist you if you are subject to a state inheritance tax.
  4. Update your estate plan. An inheritance will change your asset level and mix. Therefore, your personal estate plan needs to be reviewed and possibly adjusted to make sure you are fully protecting yourself and your loved ones.
  5. Great expectations. If you are yet to receive the inheritance but it is on the horizon, consider working with the relative that will leave assets to you and your estate planning attorney. Creating an “inheritor’s trust” instead of leaving the assets to you outright — although a difficult topic to discuss — can provide long-term asset protection and preservation for you.

 

How We Can Help

 

Receiving an inheritance can be bittersweet and emotions may run deep during this time. But putting your inheritance to work to help achieve your short-term and long-term financial goals is a great way to avoid misusing these assets. Being informed is half the battle, so give us a call right away to learn more about your options under the law.

Do Your Parents Have an Estate Plan?

If you find yourself in the “sandwich generation” (someone who is caring for both your children as well as your parents simultaneously), you need to know whether or not your parents have put together an estate plan. While it is still your parent’s choice to make estate planning decisions, having a plan — no matter how late in life it is created — is an absolute must.

 

The thought of speaking with your parents about their finances and estate planning probably makes you want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Nonetheless, having this conversation is the key to helping make sure your parents are able to live their golden years without financial worries and that their wishes are carried out after their death.

 

Estate Planning for Your Parents

 

Talking about the future with your parents — including their estate matters, finances, and memorial wishes — is one of the most important conversations you can have with them. And, the earlier you address this, the better off all of you will be. Below are some key topics you need to discuss with your parents to make sure their estate planning is in proper order:

 

  • A team effort: If your parents have legal and financial professionals that help with their matters, make sure to get a full list of these individuals’ contact information. You should also have the contact information of your parents’ doctors, in the event end-of-life decisions need to be made for them.
  • Last will and testament and a trust: If your parents do not have a will written up, they likely do not have any other estate planning documents. If they do have wills in place make sure to confirm how long ago they were drafted, who the executor will be, and where the original documents are located. A trust may also be appropriate depending on your parent’s circumstances and wishes. Stress to them that you do not need to read the terms, but that you should know where they are so you can help ensure their wishes are carried out.
  • Advanced directives: Make sure your parents have living wills and powers of attorney so that someone will be able to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so. Also ensure you understand their respective feelings about end-of-life decisions, such as life support, and how their financial and medical affairs should be handled should they become incapacitated.
  • Insurance policies: Find out what insurance policies your parents have and where the policies are located in the event one or both become incapacitated. This includes knowing about health insurance (private or Medicare), life insurance, homeowners, auto insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care policies.
  • Financial and investment accounts: Your parents should also consider compiling a list of their brokerage, bank, and mutual fund accounts as well as the account numbers. This will make things easier if someone needs to step in and assist with financial matters due to their death or incapacity.

 

Why Estate Planning Matters

 

Failing to put together an estate plan often leads to chaos, unnecessary costs and taxes, potential hurt feelings, delays in distribution of assets, and even unexpected outcomes after death.  For example, if your parents hold some assets in joint tenancy with a child who lives nearby but does not include other children, the distribution of the asset becomes distorted. When joint tenancy is used instead of an estate planning tool like a trust, adult children left behind will be offended as a result of the parents’ asset distribution.

 

Do not let fear or discomfort keep you from sitting down and having this important estate planning conversation with your parents. As estate planning attorneys, we can give you and your parents advice on what options are available to them so that their wishes are followed upon their death.

Financial Planning. Tax Planning. Legacy Planning. Estate Planning

Most folks have at least heard of an estate plan. But fewer realize that a simple will is not enough to prepare for your future. In fact, a combination of plans – financial, tax, legacy, and estate – are vital to your financial well-being and protection of your assets and family. All of these plans are closely linked, affecting one another but also serving different purposes.

 

Different Plans for Life Success

 

Contrary to popular belief, in order to get to where you want to go in life you need multiple plans, each intended for a specific area of your life.

 

Financial plan: The purpose of a financial plan is to grow your wealth. It defines your goals and objectives, determines what choices you need to make to achieve them, and creates a checklist so that you can meet your goals. Financial plans focus on sustaining your cash flow so that you are able to live the life that you want. Your financial plan may also involve saving for short and long term goals. In addition to investments and insurance, you may also take advantage of any benefits from your employer, including retirement fund contribution matching and group life insurance. Through a financial plan, you can also put together the necessary foundation so that your family is financially prepared in the event of an emergency.

 

Tax plan: Tax planning is analyzing your financial situation through a tax lens. Specifically, the purpose of tax planning is to make sure you are taking advantage of all opportunities to minimize your tax bill. For example, you may contribute to retirement plans or decide to sell or buy certain investments as part of your tax plan. Not surprisingly, tax planning and financial planning are closely intertwined. This is because taxes play a large part of many people’s annual expenses.

 

Estate plan: Estate planning is the process of arranging your legal affairs so people you trust are authorized to make decisions for you when you can’t and so that your assets are distributed to the beneficiaries you choose upon your death. Generally, an estate plan includes several legal strategies that protect your wealth and loved ones.  It will also ensure that someone you trust can help you if you can’t make your own decisions. This is one of the most important plans a person can create to ensure their final property and health care wishes are followed and that the loved ones left behind are provided for in their absence.

 

Legacy plan: A legacy plan is just what it sounds like — a plan to proactively create and take control of the legacy that you will leave behind. Legacies are built and a plan can help you accomplish this. Without a legacy plan, you may drift through your life reacting to circumstances as they arise without intentionally thinking about them. You may also miss opportunities to share meaningful lessons or values with your loved ones. A legacy plan enables you to consciously shape how you will be remembered after you die. This could include charitable giving, sharing family history, as well as conveying moral and spiritual values.

 

Bringing it All Together

 

It is important to have several advisors to help you properly craft your financial, tax, legacy, and estate plans for your life and beyond. An attorney’s role is to create and oversee the legal structure that serves as the vessel through which your plans achieve your goals. A wealth or financial advisor’s role is to handle the financial planning aspects to make sure you are on track to meet your goals. An accountant integrates tax planning through careful analysis of the latest tax laws applicable to your particular situation. Your clergy or spiritual advisor can provide you help in crafting your legacy plan. In short, not only should you have all of these plans, but you should also consult with professionals to help you create and execute them successfully. Give us a call to look at everything to be sure you have covered all of your bases.

Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced

Consider this story. Beth’s divorce from her husband was recently finalized. Her most valuable assets are her retirement plan at work and her life insurance policy. She updated the beneficiary designations on both to be her two minor children. She did not want her ex-husband to receive the money.

 

Beth passes away one year after her divorce. Her children are still minors, so the retirement plan and insurance company require an adult to be appointed to receive the inheritance Beth left behind. Who does the court presumptively look to serve as the caretaker of this money? Beth’s ex-husband who is now the only living parent of the children. (In some states, this caretaker of the money is called a guardian, whereas in others it is the conservator. The title does not matter as much as the role, which is to manage the funds on behalf of a minor, since the minor is not legally able to handle significant assets or money.)

 

Sadly, stories like Beth’s are all too familiar for the loved ones of divorced people who do not make effective use of the estate planning tools. Naming a beneficiary for retirement benefits or life insurance, or having a will can be a good start. However, the complexities of relationships, post-divorce, often render these basic tools inadequate. Luckily, there is a way to protect and control your children’s inheritance fully.

 

Enter the Trust

A trust allows you to coordinate and control your estate in a way that no other tool can. For those who are not yet familiar, a trust is a legal arrangement for managing your property while you are alive and quickly passing it at your death. There are a few key players in the trust. First, there is the person who created the trust, often called the Trustmaker, Grantor, or Settlor (this is you). Second, there’s the Trustee who manages the assets owned by the trust (usually you during your life and then anyone you select when you are no longer able to manage the assets). Finally, the Beneficiaries are the people who receive the benefit of the trust (usually you during your life, and then typically children or anyone else you choose).

 

How a Trust Protects Your Children’s Inheritance after a Divorce

A trust protects your children’s inheritance in a few distinct ways:

  1. Since you select the Trustee, you can choose someone other than your ex-spouse to manage the assets. In fact, you can even state that the ex-spouse can never be a Trustee, if you wish. If Beth had a trust, she could have named her brother to be Trustee after her death. Her brother (rather than her ex-husband) would then be in charge of the children’s inheritance.
  2. Since you select the Beneficiaries, you can determine how the trust assets can be used for them. You may have long-term goals for your beneficiaries, such as college, purchasing of a first home, or starting a business. When you share your intent, your Trustee can invest the assets appropriately and ensure your legacy is used the way you want, rather than the assets being potentially wasted or used in a thoughtless way. If Beth had a trust, she could have instructed how she wanted the inheritance used, rather than leaving it to the whims of a court and her ex-husband.
  3. A fully funded trust avoids probate, so your children do not have to deal with the cost, publicity, and delay that is all-too-common in probate cases. Although “plain” beneficiary designations, like the one that Beth used, also avoid probate, they may still open the door for a guardianship or conservatorship court case, especially when your children are minors. A fully funded trust avoids these guardianship and conservatorship cases. This means more money for your intended beneficiaries and less for the lawyers and courts.

 

If you are divorced, it is essential to make sure your plan works precisely the way you want. Every situation is unique, but we are here to help design a plan that achieves your goals and works for your family. Give us a call today.

 

Not Married? You’re not alone - but you still need a plan.

Approximately half of America’s population over the age of 16 is unmarried. While much of the discussion involving estate planning focuses on married couples, this topic is just as important for a single person. In fact, many times it is even more important that a single person have a well-coordinated estate plan. This is because the default laws governing estates often work poorly for people without a spouse and may not adequately provide for a significant other or unmarried partner. Having a cohesive and well-drafted estate plan will ensure that you protect and provide for those you truly care about upon your death.

Evolving Estate Planning
It is important to understand that your estate plan can change over time. You may eventually experience life changes like getting married, having children, or buying your first home that will necessitate changes to your estate plan. Although life is constantly changing, it is best to get in the driver’s seat early when it comes to estate planning.

If you die without a will — referred to as intestate — all of your possessions will be distributed according to the default laws of your state. While most state laws have a married person’s assets go to their surviving spouse and children, the same is not true for unmarried individuals. Generally, state law provides that a single person’s assets are passed on to their next of kin. This includes children, parents, and siblings. Noticeably absent for many unmarried people are provisions providing for a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend. And, if there are no surviving close relatives, the assets will likely go to the state. To avoid the state dictating what happens to your assets, it is vital that you have a properly drafted estate plan put together.

As an Unmarried Person, How You Own Things Is Very Important
There is an increasing number of couples that are not getting married, and other individuals who are deciding to remain single. For this group, estate planning is important because taxes and other financial benefits tend to favor those who have tied the knot. It also brings up the need to be very careful about how assets are titled.

How your assets are titled and how the beneficiary designations are prepared will impact how your assets will be distributed upon your passing. The most common ways to hold title to property is tenants in common (TIC) and joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS). Property that is held as TIC means that each owner owns an interest in the property. At the death of one owner, that interest is transferred according to his or her estate plan, or intestate succession if there is no estate planning. This is not an ideal way for unmarried couples to own property because at the death of one of them, the other person will end up as joint owner with the deceased’s next of kin. JTWROS is one option for unmarried couples because when one owner dies, the property automatically transfers to the surviving owner. There are several other planning strategies that can be beneficial for unmarried individuals — involving tax benefits, retirement plans, wills and trusts, and healthcare powers of attorney — if the right estate plan is carefully crafted.

Speak to an Estate Planning Attorney
If you do not have an estate plan yet, you should contact a knowledgeable estate planning attorney today. Whether you are married, single, or cohabiting with a partner, these professionals can help you craft a comprehensive financial plan that is tailored to your personal situation and assists you in protecting those you care for the most. Give us a call today at 407-647-PLAN so that we can help!