david edwards estate planning elder law

Stop Thief! 10 Things That Can Steal From Your Estate

If you’ve ever been robbed like I have, you know that awful feeling of violation and loss of control. More than the material things that are stolen, the loss of peace of mind and sense of security can have lasting effects.

When I had just started practicing law, I came home one night and saw muddy footprints on the carpet. I thought, “When did I track in mud?” Then it hit me — someone had broken a window and robbed my apartment! They didn’t get much; I didn’t have much for them to take. When it comes to your estate, there is a lot at risk.

As estate planning attorneys, we can’t protect your home, but we will work to protect your wealth and your legacy — protect it from thieves who could steal it.

What Is Robbery?

Robbery is when something of value is taken. When talking about estate planning, you can be robbed of money, but also so much more. You can be robbed of peace of mind, relationships, or even memories. There is a lot at stake if you don’t plan ahead.

Ten Thieves That Can Rob Your Estate

When creating a plan, it’s important to keep in mind these ten things that can do real damage to your plan:

  1. The IRS — Will your heirs pay unnecessary taxes? Well qualified estate planning attorneys should make sure your assets are set up to avoid issues like double taxation.
  2. Lack of organization — If you don’t have a plan for your wealth, you can’t control what happens to it.
  3. A spouse’s remarriage — If your spouse marries again, what will happen to your children’s inheritance? If your spouse has more children, will your wealth be divided among them as well?
  4. Your kids not being ready for wealth — If you were to die tomorrow, would your children be able to manage their newfound wealth? A thorough plan includes how much your kids get and when.
  5. Your kid’s divorce later in life — Estate planning attorneys make sure your wealth goes where you want it to go, regardless of the marital status of your children.
  6. A lack of training and communication with your family about your plan — I knew of a woman in her 70’s who lived by herself. Her husband had passed away a few years earlier. She had a daughter and two sons. One day she fell, broke her hip and had a mild stroke. She could no longer care for herself. The daughter who lived in town began to help her out. This daughter was never very good with money, but the family thought it made sense to grant her the Power of Attorney because the other kids lived out of town. As the daughter continued to care for her mom, many items from the house disappeared. Her brothers thought she was taking the stuff, but she adamantly denied it. Unfortunately, after the mother’s death, the siblings never spoke again.
  7. A lack of professional guidance you can trust — A very blessed man had been married 30 years to the love of his life. She was never considered a “stepmother” but a truly loving mom to his children. He completed a “do-it-yourself” estate plan. When he passed away, the family found his plan vague, confusing and lacking detail. His wife remembered him saying, “You’ll never want for anything.” His kids remembered hearing, “You will be treated fairly.” As the plan unfolded, both his wife and his kids thought the other side was being greedy and not honoring his wishes. On the brink of court, after two years and lot of legal fees, they compromised and settled the dispute. Sadly, the stepmom and the step kids never spoke again.
  8. Future lawsuits or liability — If you own a business, is your liability insulated from the business’ liability? What happens if your beneficiaries are ever sued? Estate planning attorneys can provide answers and solutions for these types of issues.
  9. Nursing home costs — The skyrocketing costs of aging in America necessitate your plan include provisions for long-term care for you and/or your spouse.
  10. Outdated legal documents — Effective estate planning attorneys help you keep your plan current so it can do what you intend for it to when the time comes.

What Would You Do If You Knew a Thief Was Coming?

When my old apartment was robbed, I didn’t expect it. It just came out of the blue. I have a friend who was in a different situation a while back. She lived in a great neighborhood. It was always very safe and quiet. But there was a time when houses started getting burglarized. Week after week, it was someone else. Would her house be next? She couldn’t know for sure, but she took steps to protect herself by installing a security system.

Nobody likes to think about it, but Benjamin Franklin told us only death and taxes are certain in this life. You know the time will come eventually. What estate planning “security system” do you have in place? If something isn’t right with your plan, would you even know it? Effective estate planning attorneys create and review existing plans to protect all you’ve worked so hard for.

Take Action Now: Update Your Beneficiary Designations

It is vitally important that you review all your beneficiary designations (life insurance, 401(k)s, etc.) every 2 years, or sooner in cases of births, deaths, marriages, divorce, job changes or retirement. Read on to see real court cases that show why it is so crucial.

We talk about beneficiaries A LOT around here, and the following court cases will show some of the reasons why, but first, let’s review what a beneficiary is and why it’s so important.

There are a few financial planning tools that are not passed down in wills. Things like life insurance and 401(k)s are passed down to whomever you write on the beneficiary designation form when you sign up for them. And sadly, many people NEVER change those names ever again despite the changes in their life circumstances. There are a significant number of people who take the time to care for their loved ones by taking out life insurance policies, but then don’t pay attention to who really owns it or who the beneficiary is. The tragic consequences of this oversight, impact those they love most.

Life is not a fairytale. Things do not automatically work out for the best. The law is the law, and therefore, will not be swayed by what seems reasonable for your family. These two federal cases illustrate that:

In Hearing v. Minnesota Life Insurance Company, a single father named his sister as beneficiary of his life insurance policy so the sister could take care of the daughter. He intended to change the beneficiary to his daughter once she turned 18. But he never got around to it. Sadly, the father died and the sister claimed the life insurance. Despite a handwritten note stating that he wanted his daughter to be the new beneficiary, the court found that the only thing that mattered was the name on the beneficiary designation. The sister, not the daughter, got the $100,000 pay out.

Again, in The Lincoln National Life Insurance Company v. Ruybal case, we have another “sister” situation. A single dad named his sister beneficiary because she was supposed to take care of the kids. Upon death, the decedent’s sister, his executor, and the two daughters all claimed the life insurance. The court ruled in favor of the sister, noting that, “Anyone attacking the right of a named beneficiary to receive the proceeds of an insurance policy has the burden of proving that the beneficiary is not entitled thereto.” In other words, the sister was on the form – plain and simple. Would it have been more fair for the estate or the daughters to get the money from the policy? Probably. But it is not the duty of the courts to do the reasonable thing. It is their duty to uphold and interpret the law. It is your duty to keep up to date with your beneficiary designations.

As you can see in each of these real-live cases, the court ordered payment to the named beneficiary, even to the detriment of the children of the deceased.  The clear message from the courts in these decisions is that the named beneficiary of a life insurance policy will get the death proceeds regardless of what other competing claims exist, or what one’s sense of fairness seems to dictate.

This means the burden is yours to keep up with your beneficiary designations. It is vitally important to make sure they are up to date. At the very least, you should review your beneficiary designations every 2 years. But in the case of the following life events, you should review your beneficiary designations right away:

  • Family events such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces all should trigger a review of ALL beneficiary designations.
  • Work events such as changes in business, change of job or retirement ALL should trigger reviews.
  • External events such as significant tax changes or other legal changes should also trigger a review.

Some mistakes are just not fixable. Please, double check your beneficiary designations if you have not done so recently. Edwards Group clients can rest easy because we help make sure assets are set up properly (and stay that way through our Dynasty Membership program). Join us for an introductory workshop to hear more about how we can help with estate planning.

Advice for Those Who Haven’t Planned Yet

Michelle and I don’t gamble very often. But when we do, watch out!

A few years go, the kids went to the grandparents’ and we spent the weekend in St. Louis. We were staying near Laclede’s Landing at a new hotel near the Lumiere Place Casino. The evening after we checked in, we headed out to do some serious gambling.

We stopped at the penny slots and started playing. About 10 minutes later, we hit a big jackpot! Being up all of $12, we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Do you enjoy gambling? We find that most of our clients don’t like to roll the dice about their planning. Instead, they want to tie it down so they can have real peace of mind.

Not planning ahead to protect your family and your assets is gambling.

What will happen if you die suddenly? What will happen if you need long term care?

Leaving things to chance is a gamble and the losses can be HUGE.

With good planning, you can have real peace of mind and not gamble that these vitally important things will just work out. By planning ahead, you can avoid these 4 hardships:

1. Stress. You wouldn’t purposefully place extra stress on your spouse or your kids, would you? But a lack of planning on your part can do just that, leaving everyone to wonder, “What should we do? Who do we contact?” Good planning makes it easier on your loved ones by providing a clear plan.

2. Delay. Messy estate plans take longer to wrap up, causing the stress and extra work of an estate to drag on and on. Good planning helps things get wrapped up as quickly as possible.

3. Conflict. Lack of planning can lead to arguments in the family. Arguments between siblings, between step-mom and step-kids, between nieces and nephews. Good planning will make it easy on the family, making less to fight about and less stress that can lead to conflict.

4. Loss of life savings. Lack of planning can result in the loss of your wealth — to the nursing home, to probate expenses, to taxes, to creditors or to wild spending by your heirs. Good planning will protect what you have worked so hard for.

If you’re interested in learning more about effective planning, check out one of our upcoming workshops. They are a free and no pressure way to get started! And, as always, if you have any questions at all or are unsure of what your next step should be, give us a call at 217-726-9200. Tarina would be more than happy to chat with you.

Get comfortable — no high-pressure sales tactics here

I remember a phone call I had with a company who sells software to law firms. Their product seemed like something that might be helpful, and I was interested to learn more. I spent an hour on the phone with this guy and things looked good — until the salesman ruined it.

In the last 5 minutes he got really pushy. I told him to give us a couple weeks to think about how this would fit with our firm and then check back with us. But he wouldn’t let it go. I’m sure he was following some sales training tactics he had been taught. Those tactics completely backfired.

I don’t want to be pushed into something I’m not sure about. I like to have time to think things over before I spend money. And I think most everybody feels that same way.

Nobody wants to be pressured into buying something they don’t really want or need.

And that’s one thing you’ll find about Edwards Group if you get to know us — I’m not a very “good” salesman. And I don’t want to be.

Why?

Because I don’t really want to sell you anything. What I want to do is educate you about the ways we can help your family.

We do things a little differently around here. Not everyone is a good fit to work with our firm. That’s why we focus so much of our attention and effort on making sure you’re educated about your options and the way things work before any payment is ever exchanged.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you don’t have to worry about being put in an uncomfortable situation or being coerced into agreeing to something that isn’t a good fit for your family.

Because I’m not a good salesman, you can be sure that if you decide to work with us, we’ll form a great team who can work together to protect your family.

And because of that, you don’t have to worry about wasting your hard-earned money on a plan that doesn’t fit your family or was designed with another family in mind. Each of our plans are designed in collaboration with you, with the unique needs of your family as the guiding force in the process.

We understand that meeting with a lawyer can be intimidating. That’s another part of the reason we’ve designed our process the way we have. We don’t mind if you take a little time to get to know us first.

Our free, no pressure workshops are a great way to learn more about the planning needs your family may have. They are also a great way to get to know our firm better. If, after attending a workshop, you would like to take the next step, you will receive $200 off your initial meeting fee.

Not ready to talk to a person yet? We have put a lot of our time into developing a website that contains helpful information about all aspects of planning. You’ll find hundreds of articles about estate planning, trusts, Veterans benefits, Medicaid and Medicare on our website. Feel free to use the search button to quickly get to what you need.

No matter what, I hope that you will take the time to learn about ways to protect your family and your assets. The other side of our practice involves helping people who didn’t plan properly clean up the mess that’s left behind. My sincere desire would be for every family to have effective planning strategies in place and for no family to have to experience the effects of bad planning. Take a step in the right direction today by attending a workshop, giving us a call, or signing up for our weekly email newsletter.

Estate Planning is Like… Working a Puzzle

Bailey and I bought some puzzles at our neighborhood garage sale a while back. We started work on a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, but something was wrong. Pieces were missing — a lot of pieces! In fact, we counted and there were only 57 of the 100 pieces there. We did what we could, but the puzzle was useless and ended up in the trash.

This reminded me that estate planning is just like a puzzle. And you know how much I like to compare everything in life to estate planning! (Read how estate planning is like your favorite board game here.) If you’re missing pieces in your plan (or you got a “bargain” on your plan) then your life can be thrown into chaos when someone dies, faces a stroke or struggles with dementia and needs to go into long-term care. Our process is so thorough that we make sure there are no missing pieces to the puzzle. When the time comes to use your plan, all the pieces will be there in working order. No surprises.

The best way to find out if your plan has all its pieces, and to see if Edwards Group is right for you, is to attend one of our Intro to Edwards Group workshops. At this 1-hour workshop you’ll learn why you need a will or trust, the 4 reasons why most plans don’t work, and how our process avoids these problems. Check out the upcoming dates here and be sure to call Tarina at 217-726-9200 to save yourself a seat. And just for attending this free workshop, you’ll receive $200 off your Initial Meeting Fee if you decide to schedule one.

If you have nagging doubts about your plan, or huge worries that you don’t even have a plan, give us a call today and take your first step towards peace of mind.

Can your estate plan pass the Down Low test?

What a Child’s Game Can Teach us About Planning…

In our house, the “Down Low, Too Slow” game is very popular. It goes like this:

Give me five (hand slap)

Way up high (another hand slap)

Down low (pull hand away before it can get slapped)

Too slow!!

It always gets a laugh out of the kids. Even after the 10th time in a row!

“Up High, Down Low” is also good estate planning advice. A good plan will include:

  1. NOW – look at your situation, finances, family. What are your goals and risks?
  2. UP HIGH – look at the older generation. When the older generation passes, will they be leaving you an inheritance that could create estate tax problems for you? Will they face nursing home costs that could impact the family? Will their lack of planning give you more stress later or more conflict with other siblings?
  3. DOWN LOW – look at your kids and grandkids. What is their financial situation? How will an inheritance impact them? Will they be ready for it? Will your daughter-in-law spend it all? Will it lead to extra taxes for the kids?

A good estate plan considers those older and younger than you. If you’re not sure about the state of your plan, give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’ll be happy to chat with you.

5 Reasons You Need a Trust

Trusts are a very valuable planning tool. When people think about estate planning, most people think about wills. While wills are the most basic/common tool for estate planning, trusts are an incredibly effective way to plan for things that wills can’t address. Trusts can be used to:

  1. Organize your assets so it’s easier on your family later. (Read about two types of asset organization mistakes here.)
  2. Set out instructions for when you’re not able to make your own decisions — either upon disability (like a stroke) or death.
  3. Keep things private. (All wills are public record.)
  4. Protect assets from creditors, divorces, kids who don’t know how to manage money and even future lawsuits you can’t anticipate (like car accidents).
  5. Reallocate assets to maximize long-term care benefits such as Medicaid or VA benefits.

If you’re ready to get started protecting what you’ve worked so hard for, call us at 217-726-9200 to schedule an initial appointment with one of our attorneys. If you want to learn more without any obligation, our free 1-hour workshop, “Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started” is a great way to learn about the basics of wills and trusts while finding out why our approach is so unique and effective. After attending the workshop, if you decide to work with us, you’ll receive $200 off your Initial Meeting fee.

estate planning quiz

Estate Planning Quiz: 8 Questions to Help You Know Where You Stand

The following quiz helps you identify weak spots in your estate planning. For many people an estate plan just means a will, but oftentimes that is not enough to accomplish the goals you have or to protect your loved ones. Honestly answering these 8 questions will help you know if your plan needs more work.

  1. How old is your will? (Changing life circumstances, such as marriages, divorces, etc. can impact old wills.)
  2. Who would manage your finances if you had a stroke?
  3. Is your legal and financial information organized and easy to find?
  4. Do you know whether your estate would avoid probate court? (A time-consuming and expensive process.)
  5. Do you know whether you will owe estate taxes?
  6. If you have an IRA or Annuity, do you know when (or if) your family will have to pay taxes on it?
  7. If something happened to you tomorrow, would your family know what to do?
  8. Are your loved ones (kids, grandkids, etc.) as good with money as you are?

If you don’t know the answers to some of these questions, it’s time to learn more about effective estate planning.

Here are some next action steps to take:

  • Explore our website. Our website is here to be an educational resource to anyone who wants to learn more about effective estate planning. We are passionate about helping people plan because we see the good that can come of it when it’s done properly, and, unfortunately, we see everyday the heartbreak that ineffective (or no) planning can cause.
  • Sign up for our e-newsletter. Our bi-weekly newsletter aims to help people learn more about planning and learn more about Edwards Group. Through this weekly email we share insights and stories about proper planning and why it’s so important. We also know that trust is vital in forming a strong relationship with our clients, so we help people get to know us by sharing things like vacation pics from David‘s latest family trip.
  • Attend a free workshop. Education is a core foundation of Edwards Group, so in addition to our website and e-newsletter, attending one of our free workshops is another great way to learn more about effective planning. This value is so important to us, that you will receive $200 off your Initial Meeting fee just for attending our introductory workshop on estate planning — Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started.
  • Get started today. If you’re ready to jump right in and get started, all you have to do is call us and schedule an Initial Meeting with an attorney. At the Initial Meeting, we will review your concerns and goals, then the attorney will help you understand the unique risks facing your family. Call 217-726-9200 and one of our team members will happy to help you get started.
  • Hope things will just work out. This is, frankly, the easiest thing to do, and sadly, the worst thing you can do for your family. Estate plans aren’t really about you and what happens when you die. They are about what type of life your family will have after you’re gone. Procrastination is the greatest threat to protecting your family. We have designed our process to make it as easy as possible for people to take the next step, but we can’t pick up the phone for you… If the unthinkable happens, will your lack of planning make things harder on your family?

As always, we’re just a phone call away. If you’re unsure of what your next step should be, or even if you need a next step, we’d be happy to chat with you on the phone. We are passionate about helping families just like yours, and it is all we do everyday.

Business Exit Planning Event – Illini Country Club, March 7 at 4:30 pm. You’re invited!

Sikich Logo

Business Exit Planning Event

Edwards Group LLC is very happy to be a co-sponsor of a special event coming up – for business owners and their advisors.  Please RSVP and join us if you can.

 

Sikich LLP and Edwards Group LLC invite you to attend
Business Exit Planning event
for advisors and business owners
March 7 at 4:30 pm
Illini Country Club, Springfield
Joining us will be John H. Brown as the presenter. John is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author of two books, How to Run Your Business So You Can Leave It In Style and Cash Out. He is also the founder of the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), a membership organization for planning professionals based in Golden, Colorado.
FREE BOOK!
Each attendee will receive a copy of John’s book, How to Run Your Business So You Can Leave It In Style.

The event will last approximately 1.5 hours and will present a clear and concise picture of the Exit Planning Process. John’s other topics include:

  • Current perspective of exit planning trends and strategies in closely held businesses around the country.
  • Use of the Seven Step Exit Planning Process.
  • The roles and opportunities of Exit Planning for professional advisors.
  • Importance of assembling an Advisor Team to provide Exit Planning to business owners.

Date:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Time:

4:30 pm – 6:00 pm

Reception – 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Location:

Illini Country Club

1601 Illini Road

Springfield, IL

To Register:

There is no cost to attend, but space is limited.
Please RSVP to Krystal at (217) 726-9200 or krystal@edwardsgroupllc.com.  Reservations can also be made at Sikich (Jen Tibbs at (217) 862-1835 or jtibbs@sikich.com.)

 

What can Hollywood teach us about estate and trusts?

My excitement about estate planning is typically only shared by other attorneys or advisors, but it seems that Hollywood is catching on to how interesting estate planning can really be.

 

The Descendants

This new movie, starring George Clooney, tells the story of a long-standing family land trust in Hawaii. It looks really interesting and is definitely on our list of things to see. Check out more about it here.

Hawaiian Trust Ends After 107 Years

The movie, The Descendants, is quite similar to a real life situation involving trusts holding land in Hawaii that recently ended after 107 years! Get the fascinating details of the true story here.

The Ultimate Gift

Another movie to check out is The Ultimate Gift. When young Jason Stevens’ grandfather dies he thinks he’s just getting cold hard cash, but he ends up with much more. This movie with James Garner, Brian Dennehy and Abigail Breslin will help you think about how estate planning can impact lives, far beyond just financial. Find out more at http://www.theultimategift.com/

And if you find yourself at home with nothing better to do, you could always check out Investigation Discovery’s new show The Will, which looks at famous estate disputes. Whether we like to think about it or not, estate planning is all around us and affects everyone at some point in their lives. Show your loved ones how much you care by establishing a thoughtful and effective plan. Call us at (217) 726-9200 to schedule a free initial consultation today!