Posts

Know the Difference: Wills vs. Trusts

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.

Will characteristics:

  • 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.)

Trust characteristics:

  • 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.

When Something Is NOT Better Than Nothing- Part 2

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.

  1. Does it include back-ups?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Act now

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.

Living a Happier Life

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.

Guardianship: Keeping Up With the Kardashians

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.”

Lessons learned

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.

 

What Happens To Your Facebook Account When You Die?

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:

  1. Do nothing.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

 

 

 

I Don’t Have Kids, So Why Do I Need Estate Planning? Part 1

It’s a common misconception to think that if you don’t have kids, you don’t need to worry about estate planning. But the fact is, it can be even MORE important to do estate planning if you don’t have kids.

Some of the common thoughts behind this mistaken belief may take one of these forms:

“If I die, everything will pass to my husband anyway, so why bother?”

“I’m single and I’m not rich, so who cares who gets my few meager assets?”

“Estate planning is an expensive hassle and it doesn’t even benefit me because I’ll be dead, so I’m better off letting a judge handle things.”

Consider these three inconvenient truths before you decide to skip estate planning.

Someone will get your stuff

Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, in the event of your death everything you own will be passed on to someone. Without a will or trust, your assets will go through probate, where a judge and state law will decide who gets everything you own. In the event no family steps forward, your assets will become property of your state government.

Why give the state everything you worked your life to build? And even if you have little financial wealth, you undoubtedly own a few sentimental items, including pets, that you’d like to pass to a close friend or favorite charity.

However, it’s rare for someone to die without any family members stepping forward. It’s far more likely that some relative you haven’t spoken with in years will come out of the woodwork to stake a claim. Without a will or trust, state laws establish which family member has the priority inheritance. If you’re unmarried with no kids, this hierarchy typically puts parents first, then siblings, then more distant relatives like nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Depending on your family, this could have a potentially dangerous—even deadly—outcome. For instance, what if your closest living relative is your estranged brother with serious addiction issues? Or what if your assets are passed on to a niece who’s still a child and likely to squander the inheritance?

If your estate does contain significant wealth and assets, this could lead to a costly and contentious court battle, with all of your relatives hiring expensive lawyers to fight over your estate—which is exactly what’s happening with Prince’s family right now.

Finally, even if you have a spouse and your assets are passed to him or her, there’s no guarantee they’ll live much longer than you. In the event of their death without a will or a trust, everything goes to his or her family. What if you don’t want your spouse’s sister, brother, parents (or the new spouse he or she marries after you die) inheriting what you’ve worked so hard for?

Next time, we’ll continue with part two in this series on the value of estate planning for those without kids: how you could be leaving yourself at risk.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why she offers a Family Wealth 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 Myrna’s office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

The Key Differences Between Wills and Trusts

Image result for paperwork

Many people, when they think about estate planning, focus on a will. But wills aren’t the only option, and there’s a lot more to an estate plan than just a will.

Luckily, if you use other tools, such as trusts, you can help keep our loved ones out of court. How do you know whether a will or trust is best for your personal circumstances? The best way is to meet with an attorney for a planning session, to review your goals and needs. From there, you can make the right choice for the people you love.

In the meantime, here are some key differences between wills and trusts:

When they take effect

A will only goes into effect when you die, but a revocable living trust takes effect as soon as it’s signed and your assets are transferred into the name of the trust. A will directs who will receive your property at your death, and a trust specifies how your property will be distributed before your death, at your death, or at a specified time after death. This is what keeps your family out of court if you become incapacitated or die.

Because a will only goes into effect when you die, it doesn’t protect you if you become incapacitated and are no longer able to make decisions about your financial and healthcare needs. If you do become incapacitated, your family will have to petition the court to appoint a conservator or guardian to handle your affairs, which can be expensive, time consuming, and stressful.

However, with a trust, you can appoint someone to manage your medical and financial decisions for you. This helps to keep your family out of court, which is a huge deal during emergencies when decisions have to be made quickly.

What property they cover

A will covers any property solely owned in your name. A will does not cover property co-owned by you with others listed as joint tenants, nor does your will cover assets that pass directly to a beneficiary by contract, such as life insurance.

A trust can cover property that has been transferred, or “funded,” to the trust or where the trust is the named beneficiary of an account or policy. So if an asset hasn’t been properly funded to the trust, it won’t be covered, so it’s critical to work with an attorney who can help you properly fund your trust.

Unfortunately, many lawyers set up trusts, but don’t make sure that assets are properly re-titled or beneficiary designated, and the trust doesn’t work when your family needs it.

Administration

In order for assets in a will to be transferred to a beneficiary, the will must pass through the court process called probate. The court oversees the will’s administration in probate, ensuring your property is distributed according to your wishes, with automatic supervision to handle any disputes.

Because probate is a public proceeding, your will becomes part of the public record upon your death, allowing everyone to see the contents of your estate, who your beneficiaries are, and what they’ll receive.

But trusts don’t have as much court involvement, which saves time and money. And because your trust doesn’t get recorded with the court, its contents stay private.

Cost

Wills and trusts do differ in cost—not only when they’re created, but also when they’re used. Generally, will-based plans are a lot cheaper than trust-based plans. For example, depending on the options you choose, you might spend an average of $1,500 for a will-based plan. With a trust-based plan, depending on the options you choose, you could spend about $4,000 to set it up. But wills have to go through probate, where attorney’s fees and court costs can add up, especially if the will is contested. That can cost a lot more than setting up a trust in the first place. In addition to the financial costs, think of how much time it is spent in administering a will through the probate process.

The probate process in Florida is not a fast process. Your loved ones could have to wait for months before getting permission to access certain accounts, receive their inheritance or get Court permission to sell property. With a properly funded trust, you can save a lot of time.

When you meet with attorney Myrna Serrano Setty, she’ll carefully analyze your assets and help you design an estate plan that offers maximum protection for your family’s particular situation and budget.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents, she helps her clients make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for themselves and their loved ones. Contact her firm at (813) 514-2946 to get started.

The Last Will and Testament of a Procrastinator

If you don’t have a Will, the State of Florida has one for you. And you may not like it! It is called intestate succession and the consequences are serious. This is an example.

Last Will and Testament of Paul Procrastinator

I, Paul Procrastinator, a resident of Tampa, Florida, am using the default settings set by my home state of Florida.

Article One: My family consists of my Second Wife and my children from my first marriage. Some of my children are minors and some are grown up with their own families.

Article Two: I direct the Probate Judge to appoint anyone of his or her choosing to administer all property in my name and distribute it under the terms of this Will.

Article Three: I direct that the Administrator pay all my debts, including taxes, probate fees, administrative fees, and attorney’s fees.

Article Four: I leave one-half of my home to my Second Wife and one-half to my children from my first marriage. But my Second Wife can decide if she wants to use the home for her lifetime, and then the home goes to my children after she dies. She only gets 6 months after my death to decide.

Article Five: I leave one-half of my cash to my Second Wife and one-half to my children from my first marriage.  If any of my children are minors, their share will be held by a Guardian. The guardian may be anyone of the Probate Judge’s choosing, even my First Wife.

Article Six:  I will let my Second Wife and my children decide which items of my personal property, such as my boat, my golf clubs, and my great-grandma’s antique jewelry, they should get. They can figure it out.

Article Seven: When each of my minor children reaches age 18, I direct that his share be then paid to him outright, regardless of his financial or emotional maturity.

Article Eight: If my Second Wife does not survive me, I direct that her share be added to my children’s shares. If none of my children survive me, I direct that my home and the rest of my property go to my Second Wife, leaving nothing for my grandchildren.

Article Nine: If I am not survived by my Second Wife or any of my children, I direct the Probate Court to look for my closest blood relatives and divide my estate among them in a way which gives an equal share to them or their descendants. If no relatives are located, I direct that all of my property go to the State.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Don’t let the state of Florida draft your Will. Don’t accidentally disinherit your children or grandchildren. We can help. Call us today at (813) 514-2946 to get started on your estate plan. 

Crypto Currency – What Happens When You’re Not Around?

Related image

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about Bitcoin. What you may not know is what “cryptocurrency” means, and how it affects your estate planning. Maybe you’ve even got yourself some Bitcoin, but haven’t given thought to what would happen to your digital currency in the event of your death or incapacity. As a new technology, cryptocurrency can be a bit confusing, and few law firms are talking about this yet.  But we are!

Today’s article will dive in with some initial thoughts, and then we’ll get deeper in future articles.

  • If you had purchased $100 of Bitcoin in 2010, you would have over $4,000,000 today.  Let that sink in.
  • There are now over 800 digital currencies available, though Bitcoin is the most well-known.
  • Each one operates a bit differently, and with a different purpose.
  • What they all have in common is that they are digital currencies, in the form of “tokens” that you can now buy (or invest in) and in some cases use to exchange for goods and services.

For example, more and more providers of goods and services are accepting Bitcoin as payment method, just as they would cash or credit. A few are even  accepting the lesser known currency called Ripple (XRP).

For today, I want to cover what you need to have in place to ensure that if you become incapacitated or die, and you are holding digital currency, you will be prepared.

Unfortunately, if you have not planned for the transfer of your digital currency at the time of your incapacity or death, it could literally be lost to the ethers. And, if you invested in Bitcoin back in the day before it got popular, that could potentially be millions of dollars lost to your loved ones.

There are two things for you to consider if you are holding digital currency:

  1. Do your loved ones, or whoever you would like to leave your digital currency to, know that it exists?
  2. Do they know how to access it and cash it in or hold onto it?

If you are holding your currency in an exchange, such as coinbase, with 2-factor authentication, it could be very difficult for your loved ones to access your currency. (And if your loved ones can’t access your iPhone, there’s other problems too (see our article about digital access)! We offer our clients access to a cloud-based digital account administration system.  Having that in place would allow the executor of your estate to handle all digital accounts, not just crypto accounts. But if you prefer the traditional route, store that information offline.

Here’s the thing, if you lose those codes, or your loved ones can’t find them, it’s the same as all of your currency being gone.

You can read more about the different storage options for cryptocurrency here.

Bottom line: if you have cryptocurrency and you want your loved ones to have it after you are gone, you should probably call us so we can make sure it’s not lost upon your incapacity or death. As one of the first law firms actively tackling the crypto-currency issue, we want to make sure our clients are ahead of the curb on this as well.

This article is a service of attorney Myrna Serrano Setty. Myrna doesn’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love.  That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy 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 to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.