Cinderella and estate planning

7 Important Things Cinderella’s Father Could Have Done Better

The secret to avoiding disaster in the Magic Kingdom — plan ahead.

So much of parenting is about planning and anticipating problems BEFORE they happen. And trips to Disney World are no exception. We know from experience that our kids get worn out if they days are too long. So, now we purposely build in days to quit early and have some down time back at the pool. On our most recent trip, I was reminded once again of how disastrous bad estate plans can be when minors are involved. Cinderella’s father made her life even more difficult by not anticipating what would happen if he died. Keep reading to find out what he could have done differently.

7 Important Things Cinderella’s Father Could Have Done Better

You’re probably familiar with the age-old story — Cinderella’s mother dies when she’s a young child, leaving just her and her father. Sadly, while Cinderella is still a minor, her father dies after remarrying a woman with two children of her own. His estate is left to his widow. (A regular occurrence in the real world.) And we all know what happens next: the wicked stepmother takes control of the estate of the benefit of herself and her own daughters. Treated as a servant in her own home, Cinderella is reduced to befriending rodents and birds.

Unfortunately, attorneys see these sorts of real life disasters everyday. The parents of modern day Cinderella’s aren’t bad people. They just failed to properly plan. They certainly didn’t wish for bad things to happen to their children. But that’s what happens when you don’t plan for things that are common to the human experience. (Like death.)

Here are 7 estate planning actions Cinderella’s father could have taken to better protect her once his wife died:

  1. Name guardians who share his values. See our Child Raising Priorities Checklist to help you decide what’s most important to you.
  2. Leave instructions for the guardian about how he wants her raised. This could include schooling preferences, where he wants her to live, religious upbringing, etc.
  3. Don’t think of planning as “all or nothing.” All of the father’s assets didn’t have to go only to the second wife OR only to his child. He should have considered dividing the assets between the spouse and Cinderella.
  4. Name an “outside” helper. Even in the best of circumstances, putting a stepparent in control of the stepchild’s money (or vice versa) can lead to frustration or awkwardness. A professional trustee (such as a bank, CPA or attorney) could have better balanced the interests of both Cinderella and her stepmother.
  5. Prioritize key needs for Cinderella such as future educations costs, wedding expenses, a down payment for a home, etc. Setting aside priority funds in a trust will make sure they are not spent on other things.
  6. Pass on a non-financial legacy. Cinderella’s father could have done a better job in transmitting his values, traditions, stories, faith and experiences, and this should have been especially important because Cinderella was so young when her mother died. By passing on a non-financial legacy, he could have insured that her mother’s things — photos, jewelry and other important “belongings” or memories were passed to Cinderella and not the stepmother. Read about 10 Non-financial Planning Issues You Should Consider here.

The type of planning that best protects minors when the unthinkable happens requires attorneys to act as counselors for the client. This also often involves collaboration with other professional advisors. By working as a team, these professionals who deal with real life Cinderella stories everyday can develop solutions for issues such as a creditor protection, remarriage protection, guardianship and special needs.

An estate plan is not really about YOUR DEATH. It’s about your CHILDREN’S LIFE if you’re not there to protect them anymore. You do everything you can to protect them right now — bike helmets, the best car seats, safe cars, healthy food, etc. but what if the unthinkable happens? Will all your protection go away if you go away? Preparation now avoids extra heartbreak and tragedy later. Read a real life story about lack of planning and the death of a young mother here.

Oftentimes, this is the single hardest activity a parent will engage in. We give guidance in person when clients go through this process with us. As always, feel free to give us a call at 217-726-9200 if you have any questions!

12 Duties of a Helper: What Do Executors, Trustees, Guardians and Powers of Attorney Really Do?

Every estate plan needs a good helper(s). Choosing those helpers can be tough. Your trustee, guardian, power of attorney or executor will be responsible for making decisions when you become disabled (like from a stroke or dementia) or pass away. But what exactly are they responsible for?

Your helper(s) will take on many financial, legal and managerial responsibilities on your behalf.

Here are 12 specific duties of a helper:

  1. Sell assets like cars, house or property
  2. Make tax decisions and file tax returns
  3. Pay bills
  4. File claim forms on IRAs, annuities and life insurance
  5. Follow the instructions of your Trust
  6. Make decisions about your care (at home, assisted living or nursing home)
  7. Manage investments
  8. Meet with attorneys and accountants
  9. Sign legal documents
  10. Negotiate sales of any property
  11. Referee disputes between other family memebers
  12. Tell beneficiaries “no” when they ask for money

It is especially important to choose a helper that you trust to manage your finances, as this will become a majority of their responsibility. A great way to decide if you have chosen the best helper is to look at how they currently manage their own life. How does it make you feel to envision your helper stepping in and managing your life right now? If it makes you nervous, perhaps it is best to reconsider whom you have chosen.

We are here to help you through the difficult decision-making process of choosing a trustee, executor, power of attorney or guardian. We guide people through this process all the time helping them know what they should consider when making this very important decision.

We have been through this with many families before, whereas the average family has only been involved in this process once, maybe twice. Let our experience guide you to peace of mind when it comes to choosing the right helper for your estate plan.

Learn more by reading “7 Types of Helpers to Watch Out For” here. Or check out “3 Myths About Choosing a Helper for Your Plan” to find out some common misconceptions about who you should choose.

3 Myths About Choosing a Helper for Your Plan

We’ve talked previously about what a “helper” is and why it’s so important to not only choose one, but choose a good one. Whether it’s as a trustee, executor, power of attorney or guardian, it’s very important that you choose someone who is up to the task.

Here are 3 myths about choosing a helper that you should avoid:

1. “I need to name my oldest child.”

While it is historically conventional to name your oldest child as a “helper” in estate planning, we challenge that convention when it’s not the best choice. If your oldest child is not your most responsible child, or if your oldest child has extenuating circumstances in their life (like a special needs child) that would prevent them from carrying out the duties of a helper, then it is perfectly acceptable to choose a child other than your firstborn.

2. “I should name all of my kids as co-executors.”

In an effort to be “fair,” many people think that naming their kids as co-executors is a good idea. David generally does not recommend this option. Read here to find out why.

3. “My kids will figure things out without me.”

This may seem like the easiest option, but it is generally the worst option for your children. The stress and aftermath of a parent’s death is easily one of the hardest times in life. By leaving all of the hard decisions to your kids, you’re heaping an unbelievable amount of extra stress and pressure on them. Good families are destroyed by bad estate planning. We see it everyday.

So what factors should you consider when choosing a helper? Read this article, Every Estate Plan Needs a Good Helper to find out. Also, check out “12 Duties of a Helper” to learn more about what exactly executors, trustees, guardians and powers of attorney do. And if you need help making this decision, that’s part of our unique approach to planning – we walk our clients through the process, helping them think of every detail. Give us a call today at 217-726-9200 or attend one of our upcoming workshops.

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 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.

Season Tickets and Estate Planning: When Is It Time to Reevaluate?

The email from the University of Illinois said, “We still have not received your payment to renew your 2012-13 Men’s Basketball season tickets.” But that still didn’t change our decision.

I always had season tickets during college and most of law school. And after a bit of a break, started them again in 2003. But, as life unfolds, situations change and priorities change. Now with kids, 2 and 5, along with a busy law firm, plus trying to find time for my wife here and there, it just didn’t make sense to continue the tickets. As most of you may have noticed last year, we gave an awful lot of them away just because we couldn’t go to the games.

As life unfolds, we need or want different things. And, here comes the estate planning connection: as life unfolds, the type of estate plan you need may change. If you have an old will or trust, it might not fit you as well as it once did. Here are some things in life that should lead to a review of your plan:

  1. Inheritance
  2. Death of a spouse
  3. Changes in your health
  4. Marriage or divorce
  5. Children with marriage problems 

We are here anytime you need a review of your plan. Like I always say, “Estate planning is ALL we do ALL the time!” Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to set up an appointment.

Start Protecting Your Kids Now

“I know we need to do a will or trust, and name guardians for our children, but the potential cost is a real concern.” — Jennifer P.

People often ask us how much it will cost to do a plan. While we realize this is the number one concern for young families, we can’t really answer that until we meet with the family and learn more about their situation. Every situation, and every family is unique. I can say that we’ve never turned a young family away because they couldn’t afford to do planning.

At Edwards Group we work with young families to come up with a solution they can afford. We offer flexible payment plans and even accept credit cards. I have a young family myself, so this is something I’m very passionate about.

Get Started for FREE

You can also start planning today without hiring an attorney. This is especially easy to do at our firm. Here are four things you can do right now:

  • Attend our free workshop, “Kids: What Parents Need to Know About Wills, Trusts and Guardianship,” on October 26 at 4pm.
  • Download our Kids Guardianship Kit, and learn about the 4 types of guardianship and how to choose a permanent guardian for your kids.
  • Schedule a free consultation with me. That’s right! You can meet with me for FREE. We’ll sit down, discuss your situation and then I’ll make suggestions for creating an effective plan to protect your kids. Just call our client coordinator at 217-726-9200.

How much would you pay to keep your kids safe?

We understand that planning can be difficult for young families, but we also know that when something’s important, there is usually a way to make it happen. I have a friend who was in graduate school with two young children. Money was really tight, but she still found a way to scrape together money to buy the best car seats money could buy! Why? Because they might get into an accident, and the children might need that protection. Estate planning is the same way. You hope you’ll never need it, but when the time comes, you most definitely want an effective plan in place.

I believe our process is the best parent-focused estate planning in Central Illinois, and I want everyone to learn about it. Pass along this email, and bring a friend to our upcoming workshop, “Kids: What Parents Need to Know About Wills, Trusts and Guardianship” on October 26 at 4 pm. Just call 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

And the winner is…

Congratulations to the Pecori-Robinson family of Springfield!! They were the lucky winners of the Edwards Group Kids Guardianship Kit drawing for two season passes to Knights Action Park. The dad, Greg, is a member of the Illinois State Police S.W.A.T. team (Yay for our community heroes!), and mom, Gina, loves staying at home with her two boys Antek, 3, and Niko, 1. The family is very excited to use the passes and spend some quality family time outside this summer.

Since downloading the kit, Greg and Gina have talked about guardianship issues together and found the kit very useful in guiding their discussions about the sensitive issues that everyone faces when making such difficult decisions. They especially found that the Child Raising Priorities Checklist, included in the free kit, gave them important information to think about in deciding who could best raise their children should the unthinkable happen.

The kit is completely free and provides practical information about the four types of guardianship you should be aware of as a parent, gives guidance through the difficult decision of choosing a permanent guardian and other tips regarding unique situations such as those of divorced parents. There are no strings attached to this offer. It is just great information that can help you make one of the most important decisions you will make as a parent. Don’t put it off any longer! Get started today by downloading the Kids Guardianship Kit!

Name Guardians for Your Kids

Have you taken steps to protect your kids?

The Kids Guardianship Kit is your resource to choose and name guardians for your kids if something happens to you. I know, it’s hard to picture anyone else raising our kids. And hopefully that will never happen. But if it does, you want to be the one in control of the situation. You know best who should raise your kids (and who shouldn’t!).

Who is best to finish the job you started as a parent? Don’t leave it to chance or risk family members fighting over who should be guardian. Be clear about your wishes.

Download the kit right now by submitting your info below.

What is the Kids Guardianship Kit? Your kit will include:

1.  Types of Guardianship. Do you know the 4 types of guardianship? This 1 page info sheet will explain each of them.

2.  How to Choose a Permanent Guardian for Your Child. Tips for tackling this difficult choice.

3.  Child Raising Priorities Checklist. Things to think about as you decide who would best raise your kids.

4.  Tips and Frequent Questions. What if I am divorced from my child’s parent? And other questions.

CLICK TO SEE KIT’S TABLE OF CONTENTS With each kit we also include Dave’s popular article “Naming Guardians for Your Kids:  11 Easy-to-Understand Facts Every Parent Should Know”



We will never share your email address with anyone. But, yes, you will receive email updates from time to time from Edwards Group LLC on how to best protect your family. You are free to unsubscribe at any time.

Please, not another blog about Michael Jackson!

There are 2 kinds of people in the world. Some can’t get enough of the Michael Jackson saga. Others are complaining about how all the real news in the world is being drowned out by old Michael videos and talking heads analyzing his dysfunctional family. If you’re in the 2nd group, my apologies. But below is more great information about Michael and his estate planning.

Also, if you want another interesting take on Michael’s estate plan, check out the blog post of my colleague Victor Medina – “Michael Jackson’s Estate Plan – What He Did Right!”

MICHAEL JACKSON: Part Two

1. Don’t you want to avoid confusion? With Michael, there was a time period where it wasn’t clear whether he had a Will or not. In fact, his mom went to court and told the judge there was not a Will and asked that she be given power as the administrator. Now things change once the Will is presented to the court. Good planning will avoid this limbo period where people are wondering if there is a Will and where it is. Good planning will make sure that the right people know how to quickly get their hands on legal documents that you have prepared.

2. Who is a good choice as guardian of your kids? Michael’s mom is 79 years old. His youngest child is 7. If I have my math right, she will be 90 years old when he gets out of high school. Is she the best option as guardian? Under Illinois law, do you know who is qualified to raise your kids? Anyone over 18 who is not a felon but is U.S. citizen. So from that pool of people, the judge has to pick someone who is in the best interest of the child. In Illinois, the court will lean strongly toward following the parent’s wishes in naming a guardian, but is not absolutely required to name the guardian you list in your Will. If you properly name a guardian in writing, then your choice has “prima facie” validity. This means that the court presumes that your guardian choice is best, but the court may approve someone else if evidence shows that is better.

3. What about the other parent? The mother of 2 of Michael’s kids, Debbie Rowe, is to have nothing to do with them, according to his family at a press conference. She was not named as a guardian. I am assuming that she gave up all her parental rights because (in Illinois) the other surviving parent will continue to be the child’s guardian, regardless of what the Will said, unless their parental rights had already been terminated.

4. No planning = 18 year old with money. I assume that Michael’s trust provides for his children and gives instructions about how their money will be managed and when and how they can spend it or take control over it. But, if he had no plan or they couldn’t find the documents, then the law (at least in Illinois), is that kids get their money at age 18. Would your 18 year old high school senior be ready to receive your wealth (home, retirement plan, life insurance, etc.)?

5. Don’t be distracted by the big numbers. Don’t get caught in the trap that only rich people like Michael need to do estate planning. We should just call it “planning” and get rid of the term estate. Every person, regardless of their wealth or family situation, should do some kind of planning for when they are disabled or pass away. Good planning to make things easier, better, cheaper, smoother, quicker – for you now and your family later. Even doing nothing is a plan in itself.

6. End up like Elvis? Part 1. Michael was afraid he would end up dying young like Elvis. Hopefully Michael’s estate won’t end up like Elvis. When Elvis died, his estate was worth about $10 million, but by the time expenses, taxes, lawyers, and probate fees were all paid, there was less than $3 million left.

7. End up like Elvis? Part 2. Despite Elvis’ lack of planning for his death, his family has done very well with the family business. A few years ago, the family sold most of their Elvis rights for $100 million. From being worth $3 million to over $100 million in 30 years. Not bad. I say do both – set up good planning that handles your estate properly now, but also sets up your family for greater success later. Elvis’s family overcame bad initial planning to successfully grow the family wealth. Don’t make your family have to overcome that obstacle.