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NEWSLETTER, October 2012

A newsletter from Law Offices of David A. Bernstein  

How to Talk to Your Spouse About Estate Planning

As Personal Family Lawyers®, we see it every day:  one spouse is more motivated that the other to establish an estate plan, either because he or she just inherited a tidy sum or because one is a planner by nature and the other is a procrastinator.

If this situation sounds familiar, you are not alone!
So how do you get a spouse who is seemingly disinterested in planning your estate to get on board? 

First, explain that you want their involvement in making these important decisions.  Tell your spouse why it is important to plan, with reasons like:

  • You could be missing opportunities to increase your assets and have a healthier retirement (especially with the current record high estate and gift tax exemptions that are set to expire at the end of this year!).
  • If you have minor children, they must be protected by naming temporary guardians thorough a Kids Protection Plan® and long-term guardians in your will.
  • If you want your children or grandchildren to have something after you’re gone, that must be planned in advance.
  • If you are concerned about long-term health care costs, estate planning can help you plan for these.

If you’re the planner in the family, you will probably be the one who needs to do the heavy lifting by gathering all the information about your finances, including all assets and debts.  Then have a talk with your spouse about:

  • Who should receive the assets – beneficiaries of retirement and bank accounts, who gets the art collection, etc.?
  • Who should be named as temporary and long-term guardians of your minor children?
  • Who should be named as executor of your estate?
  • Who should be named to make medical and financial decisions for each of you in case you become incapacitated?

Often times, gathering the necessary information and having serious conversations with your spouse is enough to motivate them to move forward with this important preparation. When both decision-makers are on board, you're ready to contact a Personal Family Lawyer® about preparing your estate plan.

Whatever you do, don’t let a procrastinating spouse hold you back from beginning the process of protecting your children and your family’s financial future.  Your persistence can be the difference in getting the estate plan you know you need prepared. Call our office today to schedule a time to sit down and talk. 

Things You Should Never Put in Your Will

A will is a vital estate planning document, and allows you to distribute your assets and property according to your wishes.  However, there are several items that should NOT be included in a will:

Property held in a living trust or joint tenancy – property deeded to a living trust cannot be willed to someone else, and a will cannot change the right of survivorship in joint tenancy, which passes to the joint tenant by law.

Accounts with designated beneficiaries – financial accounts and life insurance proceeds go to beneficiaries who are designated by you via a designated beneficiary form, and cannot be given to someone else through a will. 

Contingency gifts – leaving assets that are contingent on the beneficiary performing a duty or act (like marrying or attending college) is not always legal.  Generally speaking, you cannot “manage from the grave” by making an inheritance contingent on someone getting married, changing their religion, etc.

Provisions for those with special needs – this should be done via a special needs trust.

Provisions for pets – pets do not have the legal ability to own property, so consider establishing a pet trust to care for your pet(s).

Funeral instructions – since a will may not be read until after the funeral, leave instructions for your funeral arrangements in a letter of instruction or discuss your wishes with loved ones.

If you’d like to learn more about establishing your personal estate plan, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk with a Personal Family Lawyer®. 

5 Reasons Baby Boomers Need to Pay Attention to Estate Plans Now

Baby Boomers – the biggest generation now on the verge of being the biggest group of inheritance recipients -- must answer the call to make prudent decisions on a staggering amount of inherited wealth.
Boomers who have not yet made an estate plan will have an added impetus for doing so.  And Boomers who have an estate plan that may be several years old need to review that plan to ensure it aligns with changes in their lives.

Here are five reasons why Boomers need to make and review estate plans now:

Changing relationships.  Your beneficiary list needs to be reviewed in light of your current status and any changes in family structure or relationships.

Adult children.  The minor children you may have provided for in an earlier estate plan have now grown and flown the nest – do they still need the protections you had in place for them?  Have they matured into financially responsible adults, or do you need to add new protections in a trust for them?

Your health.  As you age, you learn a lot more about your own health.  Do you have a health care directive in place to protect yourself in case of incapacity?  Are you going to live longer than you thought you would when you drafted your first estate plan?

Your property.  Any sales, loss or acquisition of property needs to be properly accounted for in your estate plan.  As we age, we tend to accumulate more.  What plans do you have for it?

Your legacy.  It may now be financially feasible -- and wise -- to give while you are still living.

If you’d like to learn more about creating a personal estate plan, call our office today to schedule a time to sit down and talk with a Personal Family Lawyer®.  We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth 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.


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