Do you have a New Year’s resolution? How about Estate Planning? Believe it or not, it can improve your relationships!
During the holidays, you’ve probably spent a lot of time with your family and friends. During these moments, you realize just how important these relationships can be. And as we grow older, you begin to realize how precious little time we have to spend with one another.
Life is short. So use this time to talk about estate planning so that you can ensure that you and your loved ones are provided and cared for no matter what happens. Though death and incapacity can be uncomfortable subjects to discuss, with a comprehensive plan in place, you’ll almost certainly experience a huge sense of relief and peace.
Planning requires you to closely consider your relationships with family and friends—past, present, and future—like never before. This process can be the ultimate forum for heartfelt communication and prioritizing what matters most in life.
Indeed, communicating clearly about what you want to happen in the event of your incapacity or death (and asking your loved ones what they want to happen) can foster a deeper bond and sense of intimacy than just about anything else you can do.
Here are just a few of the valuable ways estate planning can improve the relationships you cherish most:
1) Estate planning shows that you really care.
Taking the time and effort to carefully plan for what will happen to you in the event of your incapacity or when you die is a genuine demonstration of your love. It would be far easier to do nothing and simply let you family and friends figure it out for themselves. After all, you won’t be around to deal with any of the fallout.
But planning in advance shows that you truly care about the welfare of your loved ones, even when you’re no longer around to benefit from their love and companionship. Such selfless concern and forethought equates to nothing less than a final expression of your unconditional love.
2) Estate Planning inspires honest communication about difficult issues.
Sitting down and having an honest discussion about life’s most taboo subjects—incapacity and death—is almost certain to bring you and your loved ones closer. By forcing you to face immortality together, planning has a way of highlighting what’s really important in life—and what’s not.
In fact, our clients consistently share that after going through our estate planning process they feel more connected to the people they love the most. And they also feel more clear about the lives they want to live during the short time we have here on Earth.
Planning offers the opportunity to talk openly about matters you may not have even considered. When it comes to choices about distributing assets and naming executors and trustees, you’ll have a chance to engage in frank discussions about the reasons for your choices.
While this can be uncomfortable, clearly communicating your feelings and intentions is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships. In the end, it might just be the first step in actively addressing and healing any problems that may be lurking under the surface of your relationships.
3) Estate Planning builds a deep sense of trust and respect.
Whether it’s the individuals you name as your children’s legal guardians or those you nominate to handle your own end-of-life care, estate planning shows your loved ones just how much you trust and admire them. What greater honor can you bestow upon another than putting your own life and those of your children in their hands?
Though it’s often challenging to verbally express how much you love your family and friends, estate planning demonstrates your affection in a truly tangible way. And once these people see exactly how much you value them, it can foster a deepening of your relationship with one another.
4) Estate Planning creates a lasting legacy
While estate planning is primarily viewed as a way to pass on your financial wealth and property, it can offer your loved ones much more than just financial security. When done right, it lets you hand down the most precious assets of all—your life stories, lessons, and values.
In fact, the wisdom and experience you’ve gained during your lifetime are among the most treasured gifts you can give. Left to chance, these gifts are likely to be lost forever. In light of this, we’ve built in a process, known as Family Wealth Legacy Passages, for preserving and passing on these intangible assets.
With this service, which is included in every estate plan we create, we guide you to create a customized recording in which you share your most insightful memories and experiences with those you’re leaving behind. Family Wealth Legacy Passages can not only ensure you’re able to say everything that needs to be said, but that your legacy carries on long after you—and your money—are gone.
The heart of the matter
We can help guide and support you in having these intimate discussions with your loved ones. And as our Family Wealth Legacy Passages service shows, we offer a wide-array of customized planning options designed to enrich your family and friends with far more than just material wealth.
With our help, estate planning planning doesn’t have to be a dreary affair. When done right, it can put your life and relationships into a much clearer focus and ultimately be a tremendously uplifting experience for everyone involved.
This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents. Myrna helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why our firm offers a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session for free.
Older parents are becoming more common, driven in part by divorce and remarriages and fertility treatments. Comedian and author Steve Martin had his first child at age 67. Singer Billy Joel just welcomed his third daughter. Janet Jackson had a child at age 50. Later-in-life parents have some special estate planning and retirement considerations.
Update Your Plan
Make sure you have an estate plan and that the estate plan is up to date. One of the most important functions of an estate plan is to name a guardian for your children in your will. This is especially important for parents having children later in life. If you don’t name someone to act as guardian, the court will choose the guardian. Because the court doesn’t know your kids like you do, the person they choose may not be ideal.
Consider a Trust
In addition to naming a guardian, you may also want to set up a trust for your children so that your assets are set aside for them when they get older. If the child is the product of a second marriage, a trust may be particularly important. A trust can give your spouse rights, but allow someone else — the trustee — the power to manage the property and protect it for the next generation. If you have older children, a trust could provide for a younger child’s college education and then divide the remaining amount among all the children.
Another consideration is retirement savings. Financial advisors generally recommend prioritizing saving for your own retirement over saving for college because students have the ability to borrow money for college while it is tougher to borrow for retirement. One advantage of being an older parent is that you may be more financially stable, making it easier to save for both. Also, if you are retired when your children go to college, they may qualify for more financial aid. Older parents should make sure they have a high level of life insurance and extend term policies to last through the college years.
When to take Social Security is another consideration. Children can receive benefits on a parent’s work record if the parent is receiving benefits too. To be eligible, the child must be under age 18, under age 19 but still in elementary school or high school, or over age 18 but have become mentally or physically disabled prior to age 22. Children generally receive an amount equal to one-half of the parent’s primary insurance amount (PIA), up to a “family maximum” benefit. You will need to calculate whether the child’s benefit makes it worth it to collect benefits early rather than wait to collect at your full retirement age or at age 70.
This article is a service of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she guides her clients and educates them about how to protect what matters most. And that’s why Myrna offers a Planning Session, to help you get more financially organized than ever before and to make the best decisions for the people they love. Call our office at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a meeting with Myrna.
In the weeks before her death from ovarian cancer, author Amy Krouse Rosenthal gave her husband one of the most treasured gifts a person could receive.
She penned the touching essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the New York Times as a final love letter to him. The essay took the form of a heart-wrenching yet-humorous dating profile that encouraged him to begin dating again once she was gone. In her opening description of Jason, she writes:
“He is an easy man to fall in love with. I did it in one day.”
What followed was an intimate list of attributes and anecdotes, highlighting what she loved most about Jason. It reads like a love story, encompassing 26 years of marriage, three grown children, and a bond that will last forever. She finished the essay on Valentine’s Day, concluding with:
“The most genuine, non-vase-oriented gift I can hope for is that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins.” Just 10 days after the essay was published in March 2017, Amy died at age 51.
Finding meaning again
Amy’s essay immediately went viral, and Jason received countless letters from women across the globe. Although he has yet to begin a new relationship, Jason said the outpouring of letters gave him “solace and even laughter” in the darkest days following his wife’s death.
Just over a year later, Jason wrote his own essay for the Times, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me,” in which he expressed how grateful he was for Amy’s words and recounted the lessons he’d learned about loss and grief since her passing. He said his wife’s parting gift “continues to open doors for me, to affect my choices, to send me off into the world to make the most of it.” Jason has since given a TED Talk on his grieving process in hopes of helping others deal with loss, something he said he never would’ve done without Amy’s motivation.
Toward the end of his essay, Jason gave readers a bit of advice for how they can provide their loved ones with a similar gift:
“Talk with your mate, your children, and other loved ones about what you want for them when you are gone,” he wrote. “By doing this, you give them liberty to live a full life and eventually find meaning again.”
Preserving your intangible assets
This moving story highlights what could be the most valuable, yet often-overlooked aspect of estate planning. Planning isn’t just about preserving and passing on your financial wealth and property in the event of your death or incapacity. When done right, it equates to sharing your family’s stories, values, life lessons, and experiences, so your legacy carries on long after you (and your money) are gone.
Indeed, as the Rosenthals demonstrate, these intangible assets can be among the most profound gifts you can give. Of course, not everyone has the talent or time to write a similarly moving essay or have it published in the New York Times, nor is that necessary.
We recognize the enormous value these assets represent, along with the inherent challenge of documenting our life experiences. Given this, in our estate plans, we’ve built in a process, known as Family Wealth Legacy Passages, for preserving and passing on your unique treasures and gifts.
Family Wealth Legacy Passages
Our Family Wealth Legacy Passages (included in all of our estate plans) guide you to create a customized recording in which you share your most insightful memories and life lessons with those you leave behind. We’ve developed a series of helpful questions and prompts to make the process of sharing your life experiences not only easy, but enjoyable. And this isn’t something you have to do on your own—which you know you wouldn’t get around to—as we do it with you as an integral part of your planning services.
In the end, your family’s most precious wealth is not money, but the memories you make, the values you instill, and the lessons you hand down. And left to chance, these assets are likely to be lost forever.
If you want to pass down a truly meaningful legacy, one that can provide the kind of inspiration Amy’s letter did for Jason, contact our firm. Our customized estate planning services will preserve and pass on not only your financial wealth, but your most treasured family values as well. Start by scheduling a Planning Session, where we’ll discuss what kind of assets you have, what matters most to you and what you want to leave behind.
According to the children, these items were part of the inventory of personal property conveyed by certain trusts that their father had established for their benefit. Williams’ trust granted his children his memorabilia and awards from the entertainment industry, along with other items.
Ambiguity? Or Theft?
His widow, Susan Williams, claimed that since they lived together in their own house in Tiburon, and there was a separate residence in Napa, it stands to reason he wanted the children to receive items from the Napa residence and she was to receive the property from the Tiburon home.
Attorneys for the two sides appeared to offer conflicting characterizations of the court case. Susan Williams’ attorney said she was just seeking a clarification from the court. But the attorney for the children said she had accused them of stealing items that belonged to her.
The Robin Williams’ estate underscores the need to specify exactly which personal items you are giving to family members by trust or will so there is no ambiguity once you pass. It’s this ambiguity that causes family in-fighting and costs excessive amounts of time, money and energy, even (and maybe even especially) when the estate is of small value.
Blended Families Need to be Clear
Especially in a blended family situation, like with Robin Williams’ family, it’s important to be extremely clear about whether children from a prior marriage should receive any money or other assets at the time of your death or if they should wait for all inheritance until the death of your spouse.
This is one of the situations that is most likely to result in strife and complication after death, and it’s so straightforward and easy to deal with ahead of time.
The best way to learn about protecting your family is to talk with us about a Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones. Contact us at (813) 514-2946 to learn more about how you can get this valuable session for free.
Do you know the differences between “will” and “trust”? Both are useful estate planning devices that serve different purposes, and both can work together to create a complete estate plan.
- A will goes into effect only after you die
- A will only covers property that is in your name at your death
- A will passes through a court process called Probate. In Probate, the court oversees the will’s administration and ensures the will is valid and the property gets distributed the way the deceased wanted.
- Because a will passes through Probate, it’s a public record.
- A will allows you to name a guardian for children (Note: Our firm recommends that in addition to this, you use a stand alone guardian nomination.)
- A trust can be used to begin distributing property before death, at death or afterwards.
- A trust covers only property that has been transferred to the trust. In order for property to be included in a trust, it must be put in the name of the trust.
- A trust passes property outside of probate, so a court does not need to oversee the process, which can save time and money.
- A trust remains private Unlike a will, which becomes part of the public record, a trust can remain private.
Consult with a qualified attorney to advise you on how best to use a will and a trust in your estate plan.
This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we guide our clients to help make things as easy as possible for themselves and their families in case of death or disability.
In part one of this series, we discussed the hidden dangers of do-it-yourself estate planning. In part two, we cover one of the greatest risks posed by DIY documents.
Maybe you think that you can save time and money with DIY documents you find online. You’re probably anxious to check estate planning off your life’s to-do list. These forms may tempt you because they seem quick and easy. And you’re busy, so why not? Unfortunately, this is one case in which SOMETHING is not better than nothing.
But DIY wills lead to the false sense of security that you have things covered. But the reality is that those generic forms could end up costing your loved ones more money and heartache than if you’d never gotten around to doing anything at all.
In this way, DIY wills and other legal documents are among the most dangerous choices you can make for the people you love. These generic documents can leave the people you love most of all—your children—at risk.
Children at risk
First, it’s probably distressing to think that by using a DIY will you could force your loved ones into court or conflict if you become incapacitated or die.
Second, if you’re like most parents, it’s probably downright unimaginable to think about your children’s care falling into the wrong hands. But that’s exactly what could happen if you rely on free or fill-in-the-blank wills found online, or even if you hire a lawyer who isn’t equipped or trained to plan for the needs of parents with minor children.
Naming and legally documenting guardians involves a number of complexities that most people aren’t aware of. Even lawyers with decades of experience frequently make at least one of six common mistakes when naming long-term legal guardians.
If wills drafted with professional help are likely to leave your children at risk, the chances that you’ll get things right on your own are pretty much zero.
What could go wrong?
If your DIY will names legal guardians for your kids in the event of your death, that’s great. DIY documents are too risky! Consider these factors.
- Does it include back-ups?
- If you named a couple to serve, how is that handled? Do you still want one of them if the other is unavailable due to illness, injury, death, or divorce?
- What happens if you become disabled and are unable to care for your children? You might assume the guardians named in the DIY will would automatically get custody, but your will isn’t activated if you become disabled.
- What if the guardians you named in the will live far away? It would take them a few days to get there. If you haven’t made legally-binding arrangements for the immediate care of your children, it’s highly likely that they will be placed with child protective services until those guardians arrive.
- Even if you name family who live nearby as guardians, your kids are still at risk because it’s possible they might not be immediately available if and when needed.
- And who even knows where your will is or how to access it?
The Kids Protection Plan®
To help ensure your children are never raised by someone you don’t trust or taken into the custody of strangers (even temporarily), consider creating a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®, which our firm is trained in.
Get the right “something”
Protecting your family and assets if you die or become incapacitated is too important to do on your own. No matter how busy you are or how little wealth you own, the potential disasters of DIY documents are simply too great.
Plus, proper estate planning doesn’t have to be super expensive, stressful, or time consuming. We offer options for all budgets and asset values.
Also, many of our clients actually find the process highly rewarding. Our systems provide the type of peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’ve not only checked estate planning off your to-do list, but you’ve done it using the most forethought, experience, and knowledge available.
If you haven’t done any planning yet, contact us to schedule a Planning Session. This evaluation will allow us to determine if a simple will or some other strategy, such as a living trust, is your best option.
If you’ve already created a plan—whether it’s a DIY job or one created with another lawyer’s help—contact us to schedule an Estate Plan Review and Check-Up.
No matter what you do, make sure have a “something” that’s actually better than nothing. Contact us and we’ll provide you with that level of confidence—and so much more.
This article is a service of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.
That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make the best choices for the people you love. Call our office today to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session for free.
Want to know a proven way to live a more fulfilling life?
All you have to do is fully accept the fact that one day you’re going to die.
“It is only in the face of death that man’s self is born.” -St Augustine
Countless healthcare professionals report that people facing terminal illness often experience an incredible sense of peace and fulfillment in the days and weeks before they die. Many of them describe the acceptance of death as a life-changing event, confessing they never knew what it meant to live until they knew they were going to die.
The same is true for many who undergo a near-death experience (NDE). After staring death in the face, they report that their lives have much greater meaning. They frequently make dramatic life changes because they know without a doubt that any day, even today, might be their last.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the key to happiness is to be fully present in each and every moment. This advice is also derived from acceptance of death. By accepting that death is inevitable, we’re inspired to embrace every second of our lives with more gratitude and joy because we know that our existence is so fleeting.
If you’ve been avoiding thinking about and preparing for death, you may be missing out on an incredible opportunity. What all of these experiences show us is that death is an essential part of what makes life so sweet.
One of the biggest steps in accepting death is to prepare for it with proper estate planning. And proper estate planning is needed, regardless of how big or small you think your estate is, because no matter what, your family is going to have to handle whatever you have when you’re gone.
Indeed, facing life’s greatest fear head-on and using it as a chance to protect and provide for your family is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and those you love.
If you’re ready to begin truly living your life, start by working with us to properly plan so that you can save your family from confusion and conflict. Contact us today to get started by scheduling a Planning Session.
This article is a service of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Call us today and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 for free.
You might not be a big fan of this famous family, but the Kardashians recently demonstrated impressive wisdom in protecting their minor children using estate planning.
During a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloé Kardashian was preparing to give birth to her first child, daughter True. Khloé was second-guessing her first choice to name her sister Kourtney as the child’s legal guardian in case anything ever happened to her or the baby’s father.
During her pregnancy, Khloé spent a lot of time with her other sister Kim and her family. Watching her interacting with her own kids, Khloé really connected with Kim’s mothering style and pondered if she might be a better choice as guardian.
“I always thought Kourtney would be the godparent of my child, but lately I’ve been watching Kim, and she’s been someone I really gravitate to as a mom,” Khloé said.
To make things more challenging, Kourtney always assumed she’d be named guardian and said as much. Over the years, Khloé had lots of fun times with Kourtney and her family. So Kourtney thought her own passion for motherhood would make her the natural choice.
For guidance, Khloé asked her mother, Kris Jenner, how she chose her kids’ guardians. Kris’ answer was to compare how her two sisters’ raised their own children.
“You just have to think,” Kris told her, “‘Where would I want my child raised, in which environment? Who would I feel like my baby is going to be most comfortable and most loved?’”
In the end, Khloé chose Kim over Kourtney. She explained her decision had nothing to do with her respect or love of Kourtney. But it was merely about which style of parenting she felt most comfortable with.
“Watching Kim be a mom, I really respect her parenting skills—not that I don’t respect Kourtney’s, I just relate to how Kim parents more,” said Khloé. “I just have to make the best decision for my daughter.”
Khloé’s actions are admirable for several reasons. First off, far too many parents never get around to legally naming a guardian to care for their children in the event of their death or incapacity. Khloé not only made her choice, but she did so before the child was even born.
Khloé also took the time to speak and spend time with her sisters beforehand, so the family understood the rationale behind her decision. Khloé was lucky her choices were close family members, so she had ample opportunity to experience both of their parenting styles.
Depending on your life situation, you might not be able to spend that much time vetting your choice. But at the very least, you should sit down with each of your top candidates to openly and intimately discuss what you’d expect of them as your child’s new parents.
Avoid conflict and court
Furthermore, with multiple family members vying for the guardian role, Khloé’s quick action may have prevented a potential nightmare. If she’d delayed naming a guardian and something happened to her, Kourtney, Kim, and even other family members could’ve gone to court seeking guardianship of her daughter.
This could have led to years of contentious legal battles that not only cost the family huge sums of money, but the potential hardship imposed on the children can be incalculable. Even if you think something like this would never happen to your family, why take the risk, especially when it’s so easy to avoid?
Get started now
While the Kardashians are rich and famous, you too can provide the exact same level of protection for your kids, even with minimal financial resources. It’s important as soon as it’s physically possible to choose someone who will step in to raise your children if you cannot. You must also legally document your choice and make sure the individual you’ve selected knows what to do if they’re called upon.
Many parents have no idea how to go about making this critical decision, much less create a legally binding plan, so they never get around to doing it. And even parents who have legally named a guardian (even with a lawyer’s help) often make at least one of six common mistakes that leave their children at risk.
That’s because most lawyers aren’t aware of all that’s involved with planning for the well-being and care of minor children after their parents’ death or incapacity. But at Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A., we’re dedicated to legal planning for the unique needs of families with young children.
And if you’ve already named guardians on your own or with a lawyer, we can review your existing legal documents. We’ll determine whether you’ve made any of the six common mistakes that leave your kids vulnerable and help you fill those gaps.
Beyond naming legal guardians, can create a comprehensive estate plan with all of the necessary legal documents to ensure the protection and well-being of your entire family and assets, no matter what happens. Contact us now.
Will your Facebook account haunt your loved ones after you’re gone? Without proper planning, your post-mortem Facebook presence can haunt the loved ones you leave behind, with harmful results.
If you’re active on social media, Facebook is probably a big part of your life. Does social media seem trivial to you? If you think about it, your Facebook account is basically a virtual diary of your daily life, making it a key part of your legacy—and one you’ll likely want to protect.
Since about 8,000 Facebook users die every day, the company has created a few options for dealing with your account once you’re gone. While it’s possible for you to take care of this on your own, many people are working with legal professionals like us to incorporate these digital assets into their overall estate plan to ensure their legacy is properly preserved and protected.
Here are your options:
Unless Facebook is notified of your death, it assumes you’re still alive, and your profile remains active indefinitely. While this might not seem like a big deal, your profile will continue to be included in Facebook searches, “People You May Know” suggestions, and birthday reminders.
Your friends and family likely won’t want to be constantly reminded of your absence, and even worse, ex-friends and/or trolls will be able to post potentially hurtful messages on your timeline.
Delete the account.
In your settings, notify Facebook that you’d like to have your account permanently removed from its servers upon your passing. Alternatively, a friend, family member, or your executor can make the same request after your death. This will completely delete your profile and all of its associated content from Facebook for good.
Also, one of these individuals can request that your account’s content be downloaded and saved before the profile is deleted. Content that’s eligible for download includes wall posts, photos, videos, profile info, events, and your friend list. But Facebook won’t allow any third-party to access or download your personal messages or login information.
Memorialize the account.
Facebook lets you designate a family member or friend as a “legacy contact” to manage your memorialized account. This contact will be allowed to pin a final message to the top of your timeline, announcing your death or providing funeral information. The contact can also respond to new friend requests and update your cover and profile photos. The legacy contact won’t be able to log in as you or see any of your private messages.
Preserve your legacy.
Since social media and other digital property are such an important part of your life, you should work with us as to ensure that these assets are protected by your overall estate plan. We can help you name a digital executor, who can quickly and easily manage your Facebook account and other social media upon your death. We can also help you inventory all of your other digital assets and make certain they pass to your loved ones seamlessly.
Furthermore, through our Family Wealth Legacy Interviews, we allow you to create a customized recording, sharing your values, stories, and life lessons with the loved ones you leave behind. Our estate plans include a Family Wealth Legacy Interview component. That’s because your estate planning is about more than just your STUFF. It’s also about your real wealth: your values, your insights and your experiences. Contact us today to learn more.
This article is a service of the Law Firm of Myrna Serrano Setty, P.A. We don’t just draft documents, we help you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today at (813) 514-2946 to schedule a Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.
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