Estate Planning

Estate Planning

Estate planning involves distributing your assets after death to such people or causes according to your wish with minimum legal complications and the least tax incidence. And estate planning is not just for the wealthy; nor is it something to be contemplated when you reach the ripe old age of eighty.

Anybody, irrespective of age, with considerable assets and the desire to provide for dear ones even after death would be doing a great service by planning one’s estate. And the best time to plan your estate is now when you are still alive and have the requisite mental health to make rational decisions. An estate plan made during an illness affecting contracting capacity can be challenged, complicating matters for beneficiaries. Remember, death or a debilitating illness affecting your legal capacity to contract might strike you any day; therefore, you should prepare for that eventuality beforehand. ¿da

The first step in planning your estate is to take stock of all your material possessions (technically referred to as ‘estate’), and then determine their value. Typical items comprising the estate include: house(s) and land; bikes, cars, planes and boats; cash-in-hand; savings accounts, pension accounts; certificates of deposits; stocks, bonds, and mutual funds; insurance and annuities; employee benefits; jewelry, furniture, art collections; ownership rights/interests in businesses; and claims against others. Mind you, the list is not exhaustive and your debts and obligations to others are also a part of your estate.

Next, line up the details of your beneficiaries – names, addresses, and ages. In addition, you should determine who should be the trustees/guardians in case the beneficiaries are minors at the time of planning the estate. Also, you must identify an executor of the estate. It would be easy if you line up pre and post nuptial agreements, divorce decrees, previous wills, deeds of real estate property, and latest tax returns before you consult a professional estate planner.

Though small estates might be easy to plan, it is advisable to take the help of professional estate planners, including attorneys and CPAs, to explore all the possibilities to reduce tax incidence.

Remember, estate planning is not a one-time affair. Any change in your marital status, death of beneficiaries, a birth of a child, or changes in the law will require a review of the plan.

Bankruptcy Tips And Helpful Alternatives

Bankruptcy Tips And Helpful Alternatives

Before you file bankruptcy, it is a good idea to look into other alternatives if at all possible. New bankruptcy laws make it more difficult to file than it used to be.
Why Has Filing For Bankruptcy Doubled?
From the period of 1994 to 2004, filing for bankruptcy has doubled. Bankruptcy filing has spun out of control with consumers being targeted with easy credit. This has become a major cause for bankruptcy cases.
New Bankruptcy Laws?
There is now a new law for bankruptcy that was passed called the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act”. People struggling to pay their credit debts are now going to have to deal with this new bankruptcy law.
Bankruptcy Can Stay On Your Credit Report For 10 Years
Filing for bankruptcy can be on your credit for up to a decade. It’s a good idea to look into alternatives for bankruptcy. Buying anything on credit can be a real challenge for many years after you file bankruptcy.
Alternatives To Filing Bankruptcy
Contacting creditors is an alternative to bankruptcy. Instead of filing for bankruptcy, you work out payment options with your creditors. In many cases they are very willing to work with you. It’s to their advantage to keep you as a customer. The creditors know the alternatives for bankruptcy will bring them more profits if you don’t file for bankruptcy.
Getting a debt consolidation loan is a good alternative for bankruptcy. Financial services can combine all your debts into one loan payment every month. A consolidation loan as an alternative for bankruptcy, can help pay off debts. For bankruptcy consolidation loans, you can shop online for the best terms and rates. Lenders are very competitive to earn your business online.
You may also consider a debt workout for bankruptcy alternatives. With a debt workout, an attorney contacts your creditors and makes arrangements. In most cases the monthly payments will be less than if the credit account was settled in full. For some cases they want the payment in full, but over a longer period of time than originally stated on the credit agreement.
Bankruptcy alternatives are a good idea to consider, before you rush off to file for bankruptcy. If you look into some of these alternatives, at least you will know you tried your best to avoid bankruptcy. Having bankruptcy on your credit report for 10 years can be a long time.
How To Find A Bankruptcy Lawyer?
If you have decided there is no alternative to filing bankrupty,you may be asking yourself, “how do I find a good bankruptcy lawyer? The best way to find a good bankruptcy lawyer is through referrals. Family members and friends who filed bankruptcy in the past can refer you to a good bankruptcy lawyer. The yellow pages in a phone book is another great place to find reputable bankruptcy lawyers. Another invaluable place to find a good bankruptcy lawyer and services in on the Internet. When you search for a lawyer, try to find a lawyer that deals with your type of bankruptcy. You can get free advice with the first meeting.
Is The Law Firms Bankruptcy Lawyer Experienced?
Find out if your type of bankruptcy case is right for the law firms lawyer. Has the bankruptcy lawyer handled similar cases in the past? Take time to look over the alternatives to bankruptcy with your lawyer. There may be a way out of bankruptcy. A good bankruptcy lawyer can give you free advice on what chapter bankruptcy you should file. Bankruptcy lawyers will have you fill out a bankruptcy evaluation to see what is right for your debt and financial situation. To save yourself from wasted time and frustration, discuss in detail, options available to you with your bankruptcy lawyer.
What Information Will I Need For A Bankruptcy Lawyer?
With your first visit, it’s important to bring everything you can on the first consultation. You will need a list of all the creditors and how much you owe for your bankruptcy lawyer to consider. This includes any insurance, medical bills, auto loans, taxes, student loans and any personal loans. Your bankruptcy lawyer can give you the advice you need with this important information. This will make the filing process easier if you do decide to file bankruptcy.

Why A Will Is Not Enough To Save Anna Nicole Smith’s Baby Daughter?

Why A Will Is Not Enough To Save Anna Nicole Smith’s Baby Daughter?

With much discomfort I have been forced to watch the Anna Nicole Smith probate proceedings and much more information than I wanted to know about Anna Nicole’s life events. Her reported death is everywhere: on TV, in print, magazines, online and everywhere else you can imagine. The media has made a circus of showing the legal battle going on in open court about the six-year-old will and interpretation thereof.


Would you want this to happen to you? The legal battles over the Anna Nicole Smith’s estate will go on for years. An unintended myriad of problems and a legacy left behind about her life living and beyond the grave.

A will does not avoid probate. A will does not eliminate the estate tax. If you die with a will or without a will your personal and real property has to go to probate. If you have property in more than one state, each states’ probate court has jurisdiction to probate the will.

What’s probate? Probate is a public process whereby a local court of jurisdiction (probate court) assumes the responsibility of determining who gets what. The court will determine the legitimacy of your will? Was it written with undue influence? Is it the last will? Who is the true executor (i.e. the person who will make the distributions under court jurisdiction)? Did it assign custody for minor children?

The probate court will take inventory of your personal and real property. In addition, the probate court will assign and investigate claims made against your property from potential and real creditors and even assign accountants and lawyers to drag the process.


There are two legitimate reasons for having a will. The will enables:

(1) The assignment of a custodial guardian of minor children.
(2) The assignment of an executor.

The assignment of choosing a guardian for your minor children is the most important aspect of having a will. Choose your custodian well, based on the love of your children as if you were going to be there. Traditionally, you would not choose the executor of your will to be the guardian of your minor children.

There’s a balance to be had between the Executor and the Guardian of your children. The Executor would have some degree of control if there were to be any uncontemplated issues, later in time. All other aspects of the will can be highly contested by anyone having an interest in the outcome of any distributions. Even a very well drafted will becomes a public document and must go to probate in each state where the decedent had property.

Anna Nicole’s will is a public document; even you can get a copy if you’re interested. Final disposition and battle over her estate is going to play before our eyes for years to come. Is this what you would want?


What can you do to avoid the type of media circus over your assets? Can you avoid leaving this painful legacy? An absolute and resounding YES.

Aside from the custody of minor children, a will does not provide any type of safety net over your assets. Only a Trust will avoid this public disclosure of what should be a private matter between you and your assets you leave behind.

A Trust is a Contract. If you choose to be private about your private matter, a Trust, any Trust, will avoid probate; revocable or irrevocable, grantor or non-grantor type Trusts will avoid the probate process. A Trust is not just for the rich. Any one with $200,000 or more should have a Trust.

A perfect Trust for under $500,000 is a living Trust, or a revocable Trust to avoid the probate process. Any one with significant assets should have an Irrevocable Trust. While any Trust will avoid the probate process, only an Irrevocable Trust will avoid the probate process and avoid the inheritance tax or the estate tax.


With a Revocable Trust the word “revocable” means that you have sufficient strings to revoke the contract; nullify and void it. While it will avoid going to probate and drag your dirty linen through the public process, it will not avoid the inheritance/estate tax, because on the date of your death you still owned your assets in your name.

For purposes of taxation and civil liability the “revocable” strings attached, means that you did not give up power to control and “own” on a long-term basis your assets; therefore, you are the “deemed” owner of the assets. The Estate Tax is based on what you own in your name at the date of your death. So, the Probate Process is about who gets what; the Estate Tax is about who owns what and what’s it worth for the purpose of taxation.

The estate tax is based on the “fair cash value” of your property of personal estate or real estate at the time of your death not at the time you bought it. Items that are included in your estate are cash, CD’s, real estate, investment accounts, IRA’s, vacation spot, art, jewelry, antiques, boats, planes or anything of value that could be converted to cash or near cash. Only an Irrevocable Trust avoids both the Probate Process and the Estate/Inheritance Tax.


An Irrevocable Trust is a Contract whereby you give up “any ownership claims” against your assets repositioned/transferred from you to your Irrevocable Trust. The key to dissolve your ownership claims is with an Independent Trustee.

Your “Trustee” must be “independent.” The Trustee cannot be you or any one related to you by blood or marriage. It could be your son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or any in-law, but it would not be prudent. I do not recommend it since it could cause disharmony of your family unit. Death changes people; money changes people. It’s not worth the risk of forever splitting your family for the love of money. Choose your independent Trustee well.

As mentioned before, no matter how well drafted, a will must go to probate where it becomes a public document for every interested party to view and review. The only method of avoiding the probate process is to have your possessions and valuable assets titled to a Trust.

Though the tragedy of Anna Nicole Smith and her baby daughter’s plight cannot now be avoided, we can learn from this situation and apply remedial steps to our own life. Here are some things for you to consider in your life:

– All Trusts, revocable or irrevocable, grantor or non-grantor avoid Probate.
– A will does NOT avoid Probate.
– A will does NOT avoid Estate Taxes.
– Only an “Irrevocable Trust” avoids Estate/Inheritance Taxes.

The Pros and Cons of Finding Attorney Services Online

The Pros and Cons of Finding Attorney Services Online

Getting the best attorney services is sometimes a dilemma to us. Where will we look for the best attorney services? Will we be able to get the best one around? Can we afford to hire the best? These are just few of the questions that haunt us every time getting attorney services came up. And the worst thing is that, if we don’t know whether we can trust an attorney or not. What we can do is to arm ourselves with the right information about attorney services and we’re good to go.

Now, finding a reliable attorney services can be daunting. You need to make several trips to the business districts to visit several attorneys’ offices so you can compare on their offers. But, if you are not into making such trips and want a more convenient way of getting attorney services, the World Wide Web is where you should be. Yes, you can find just about anything on the Internet. And finding attorney services online is just among the things that you can do using this technology.

However, you have to be aware of the consequences of getting attorney services through the web. The following are some things which you can consider before deciding to go online for attorney services;

The Benefits of Attorney Services Online

• With online attorney services you’d be able to get legal services at the convenience of your home

• You can initiate the transaction anywhere and anytime you want

• You don’t have to wear preppy and formal clothes for meeting with your attorney

• On the web, you can find as many legal directories as you can in just a few clicks; making you able to compare many services within minutes

• You are not compelled to hire the attorney right away unlike when you’re meeting with them personally. You tend to feel that you are obligated to hire him/her since you’ve already meet him/her in person.

The Downside of Attorney Services Online

• The chances of dealing with fraud attorneys are high

• The risks of hiring unreliable attorney services are greater than when you know the firm personally

• You are faced with thousands of choices; hence, you tend to get confused on which attorney services to choose.

• You cannot see whether the attorney is sincere on helping you or not

There you go; the pros and cons of getting attorney services online. But you know what; you may not experience the cons of this and still get the best services that you need. How? Just by being wise in the way you choose.

No matter where you opt to hire attorney services, the best thing to do s you could get the best one, is to ask for referral. Yes. Ask your friends or relatives whether they know of attorney services firm that is reliable and can give you the kind of services that you need. They may have worked previously on some attorneys with good records and refer them to you.

Another thing that you need to consider before hiring an attorney, whether online or not is to meet with him or her before finalizing the deal. This way, you can decide whether the attorney services he or she offered will suit your needs. Lastly, you need to hire attorneys that are experts on the case that you need legal services for. Like, if you need to settle a divorce case, you have to hire someone who is knowledgeable about divorce and can guarantee you the best services that he or she can offer.

Charitably Offering to Certain Groups Might Trigger Legal Trouble

When an individual provides to a charity, she or he must think about certain factors and issues that could end up being legal concerns such as taking part in charities that are frauds or those that include prohibited activity either to acquire loan or to disperse it.

Involvement in Betting

Some charities operate in combination with or are included in gambling activities. While this is not always prohibited, some can lead to legal concerns if the gambling occasion has no backing for rewards. Without a financial backer, valid prizes or legal ways to track the charity for tax purposes, the individual that offers or gets involved could discover that the charity was void or locally unlawful. This might not come back to bite the giver legally or through possible infractions of the law unless he or she became part of the procedure in preserving the fake charity and learnt about the void scheme.

Participation in the Fraud

If a charity is a fraud to get cash from individuals without any possibility of giving out prizes or other products, those involved can deal with legal repercussions such as official criminal charges. Involvement in these scams is prohibited, and the least the person can deal with is usually a small fine. The more fancy the scam, the more most likely the individual involved in the process can face imprisonment in a regional prison or other penalties depending on the judge or jury involved in these matters. If the crime ends up being a felony, the charitable giver that is also a participant in the scam will need a criminal defense lawyer.

The Invalid Lottery and Raffle

Lotteries and raffles usually require a local license for the occasion to take location legally. Legal problems can emerge if the occasion is void. This might invalidate all charity participation gotten through the lotto or raffle. The occasion planner may need to get the license in a local workplace. Without this document, the raffle or lottery may happen in infraction of regional laws. The occasion planner might face possible fines, and all contributing celebrations might lose any access to invoice of the lotto or raffle since it was invalid at the time of offering the cash or participation.

Bingo Charities

Some charities need more getting involved such as bingo events. While bingo is a type of betting, it is typically legal because it is social gaming involving the involvement of multiple others. There are regional and city standards and guidelines that might conflict with the law as well such as necessary city ordinances, an authorization to bet or if under aged children are at the event getting involved. Somebody included in the gambling occasion of bingo where law enforcement shows up could face fines and other charges depending on the particular circumstance and how illegal the event was.

Auctions and Charitable Giving

Auctions are different from raffles, lotteries and bingo events since they do not involve gambling or the need to obtain a license. Charitable providing with these is often hard to procedure since the individual normally purchases something. He or she can use up items at a lowered rate, provide products and donate the profits and even pay for something depending on the occasion and the state. The occasion organizer might require to check local and city laws and comprehend how to tape-record the charitable contribution for the provider. An invoice of participation is very important for the giver to avoid what might appear as scams without the receipt.

Participation in Fundraising

Donations to fundraising events can end up being difficult for the giver if those included are also running a fraud. Often, the occasion is run by a company or business. Other times, it is a particular individual that is attempting to obtain funds in an illegal manner. The person that takes part in providing to a charity event can offer a big contribution that can assist run the occasion behind the fundraising event for months or years. However, scams and schemes can trigger issues for the giver to consist of when contributing to somebody online.

Legal Assistance for Donating Charitably

The individual providing donations to a charity may require to talk to a tax legal representative to ensure she or he is able to count the occasion validly on tax documents. Preventing infractions to these processes is essential for anyone associated with charitable donations over a particular limit based upon state and federal laws for the year.

What You Should Know About Probate

What You Should Know About Probate

Death is never easy to deal with and knowing what to expect in probate will ease your concerns and allow you to think only of your dying loved one. The definition of probate is legally settling the deceased’s property, also known as their estate. When a death occurs, the debts, property, possessions and money of the deceased will need to be dealt with in a legal manner and according the wishes of the deceased. There are few instances when probate is not needed in the event of a death. If the person is married, in most cases without a legal will, everything belonging to the deceased will be transferred to their spouse upon their death. If a will does not exist, the courts will need to ensure that all the property left by the deceased is legally distributed.

If a will does exist, the will names a person chosen by the deceased as an executor of the will. This is generally a family member or an attorney. The executor is responsible for following the instructions the deceased has written into the will and ensure that the probate process is followed as they wish.

When it comes to probate, the process will take place in what is known as probate court. What will happen during probate will depend on where you live. However, the general aspects of probate court are as follows. The entire purpose of probate is to ensure that your debts are paid and your assets are properly transferred to your loved ones. Upon the death of a person, the executor is sworn in as such. All creditors, the public and heirs are notified of the death. Then all the property is inventoried and finally the estate is distributed in an orderly fashion.

It is important that you understand there are some possessions or property that cannot be presented to the courts. A good example is a life insurance policy. If there is a beneficiary listed on the policy then this will transfer to that beneficiary. The only time this will not occur is if the named beneficiary is also deceased and no other beneficiary is named. Other types of assets and property that cannot be presented to the courts include anything that is payable upon death to named beneficiaries. These instances do not require probate because the deceased has already named who these assets are to be released to.

Does My Revocable Living Trust Avoid Ancillary Probate?

If fully moneyed, your revocable living trust avoids both probate, in your state of house when you pass away, and ancillary probate, in any other state where you own property. If you don’t fund your trust, it will NOT avoid probate anywhere.

The term “supplementary probate” is used to explain probate in a state other than the state of your last residence. If you own a home in Florida in your specific name, but you live and pass away in New York, ancillary probate will be held in Florida and probate will be held in New York.
Ancillary probate suggests two lawyers (one certified in each state), 2 courts and 2 executors or administrators (one in each state), two sets of charges, and, possibly, even two different sets of beneficiaries (if state intestacy laws apply.)

You can completely avoid probate and secondary probate with a totally moneyed revocable living trust. “Completely funded” means that all of your assets have been funded, or transferred, into the trust.
Non-retirement properties with titles have the titles changed to the name of the trust. For instance, Brad Pitt’s checking account would not stay in his name, Brad Pitt, but rather would be moved to the name of his trust, Brad Pitt, Sole Trustee, or his successors in trust, under the Brad Pitt Living Trust, dated June 3, 2011.

In addition, Brad Pitt’s retirement possessions, life insurance coverage, and annuities would not name Angelina Jolie as the recipient, but instead would name Brad’s trust, Brad Pitt, Sole Trustee, or his followers in trust, under the Brad Pitt Living Trust, dated June 3, 2011. In this manner, all possessions would be managed by the arrangements in the trust.
Assets that frequently cause supplementary probate are time shares, getaway houses, condos, and any personal effects such as home furnishings and automobiles owned in another state.

If you wish to avoid probate and ancillary probate, make certain that your revocable living trust is totally funded and talk to a certified estate planning lawyer.

Florida Estate Taxes

Lots of states enacted estate tax programs which supplemented the federal estate income tax laws. Referred to as “pick-up” taxes, state estate tax programs usually picked up where federal taxes left-off. Hence, because most estates did not owe federal income taxes, a small number of Floridians paid state pick-up estate taxes.

According to the pick-up tax program, estates with overall gross worths below federal estate income tax limitations were not required to pay Florida estate taxes. Nevertheless, the Florida Legislature removed most pick-up taxes after Congress amended the federal Internal Income Code to offer state death tax credits to qualified taxpayers. How do these estate tax law changes affect residents?
Residents who are required to submit federal estate tax returns on the estates of decedents who passed away prior to Dec. 31, 2004, should likewise submit Florida estate tax returns. For estates required to submit federal estate tax returns for deaths that occurred after this date needs to submit an “Affidavit of No Florida Estate Tax Due When Federal Return if Needed” if they did not owe federal taxes however merely needed to submit them. For personal agents of estates who are not needed to pay or submit federal estate tax returns, Florida law requires them to file an “Affidavit of No Florida Estate Tax Charge.”

This implies that whether you are required to submit an estate tax return in Florida depends upon whether you are required to file one with the Irs. Pursuant to the Internal Earnings Code, you are not required to file an estate tax return as a personal representative unless the value of the decedent’s estate goes beyond the yearly limit as established by Congress. For the 2011 tax year, the estate tax filing threshold is $5 million.

An Absence of Estate Planning

Do you have a legal plan in location in case you should end up being psychologically handicapped or in the event of your death? If not, your household may face a long and demanding time in court. When you do not have an estate plan to handle end-of-life problems such as the circulation of your property and guardianship for your kids, state law takes control of and decides the fate of your estate.

The law that governs an estate without an estate plan is called intestacy and this law will determine who gets what, who cares for your kids and even who will supervise the process of distributing your properties.
That means that if assets need to be sold to settle existing debts, your family will not always have a say in which assets get offered. If you have antiques or family heirlooms, they might end up in auction rather than in your household’s hands.

Not having an estate plan will also impact your kids’s well-being. If both you and your spouse die without a guardian plan in place, the court will choose who gets custody of your children. The individual chosen may not raise your children as you would like, or your children might even enter state care if nobody is readily available to take them. By planning ahead, you can select an appropriate and ready guardian for your children.
When more than one marriage happens, your estate planning can get a little insane as you take into consideration your existing spouse or partner, kids with an ex-spouse, and step-children. What takes place if you don’t have a plan? Your step-children or a domestic partner might be excluded of receiving any property or money. Other family members that are not immediate family may also be shut out of your estate.

What if you end up being psychologically unsound? Your estate plan can likewise include a plan for your care. This medical file might also determine your wishes concerning life support. No medical estate plan in place will suggest that intestacy laws and the court will decide who makes medical choices for you.
If the concept of the government making decisions for you alarms you, and you wish to ensure your family is well taken care of after your death, make sure to produce an estate plan today.

Estate Planning Guide When Legally Separating

In some circumstances, a couple might choose to different lawfully, rather of divorcing. While a legal separation consists of very similar arrangements to a divorce there are certain estate planning issues that legally separated couples have actually that a separated couple does not. It is very important to talk to your estate planning attorney if you intend on getting a legal separation.

Medical Choices. When a spouse is disarmed, it usually falls to the other partner to make medical decisions for the incapacitated one. If you and your partner are getting lawfully separated, you may not want your spouse to have this right anymore. The only method to assure that someone else has the right to make medical choices on your behalf is to produce an advance medical regulation such as a health care power of attorney or healthcare proxy.
Spousal Shares. Couples are lawfully entitled to inherit from each other if the other ought to die. The quantity they inherit differs by state, however is generally called a “spousal share.” If you are getting separated and your will leaves your partner more than the required spousal share, you need to consider changing your will so that your spouse is entitled to get only the amount ensured by law.

Guardians. If you’re getting a separation and you have minor children, you’ll wish to collaborate with your spouse to name replacement guardians ought to either of you die. Even if spouses are engaged in a contentious separation, you must try to put your differences aside, for as long as it requires to pertain to an arrangement about the care and well-being of your kids so you can choose guardians of whom you both approve.