non-financial estate planning issues

10 Non-financial Planning Issues You Should Consider

Effective planning doesn’t just involve money…

We tend to do things a little differently around here. After years of doing planning the traditional way (and seeing ways that the process could be improved), I started my own firm. Not only is it important for me to educate you about planning financially, I also want you to think about the non-money planning issues that are often overlooked by more traditional estate planning.

Not planning for non-financial issues can be just as tragic as not planning for more traditional money issues. This lack of planning can lead to poor quality of life for you, extra stress for your kids and loss of a legacy.

Here are 10 non-financial planning issues to consider and their solutions:

1. Healthcare. Who will make your healthcare decisions if you can’t? And will they know when to “pull the plug”? When they do pull the plug, will your organs be donated? Solution: You need to cover the proper legal authority through a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. Also, have conversations with your family about your wishes so they know, without a doubt, how you want them to act on your behalf.

2. Pets. Without a plan, your special dog may be bounced around from relative to relative or even put down because there is nowhere for him to go. Solution: Your will or trust can specify who will care for your pet and how the pet’s expenses will be paid after you are gone. (Which reminds me of one of my favorite estate planning jokes.)

3. Wisdom. What does your family stand for? What values were important to your parents and grandparents? Will your grandkids know about those? Solution: Take the time to reflect on these things and write them down. You can find resources for where to start online, or even hire someone to help you at the Association of Personal Historians.

4. Online or computer stuff. More and more of our lives are being lived online – Facebook, online photos, emails with your grandkids.  How will your family access that info after you’re gone? In this day and age it’s important to have a plan for this. (Read a real life story about it here.) Solution: You can store the information yourself in a safe deposit box, you can use one of the newly formed companies out there (SecureSafe or PasswordBox), or your attorney can keep the information for you.

5. Family heirlooms. Grandma’s old table, the shotgun with the homemade stock, the family Bible that’s over 100 years old. What will you pass on? And will you pass along the story that goes with it? Antique shops are filled with stuff that has some value to a stranger, but could have been priceless to family members, if only the story behind the item had been preserved. Solution: Take the time to clearly communicate your wishes or preserve the stories behind those special items. You can include the history of family items as part of your “special stuff list” or in a separate letter your family will get after you’re gone.

6. Guardians for kids. If people who don’t share your values end up raising your minor children, then the money you leave won’t really matter. Solution: Our free Kids Guardianship Kit is a great resource for knowing how to choose a guardian, and even includes a Child Raising Priorities Checklist to help you through the process.

7. Sibling relationships. If you become disabled and one child is the primary caregiver, will the rest of the family be prepared? Will the caregiver feel like no one else is helping out? Will the other siblings feel like the caregiver is overspending your money? Only you can know the answers to these questions. Solution: As part of our process we will discuss with you how to best choose helpers and how to make sure they know what to do when the time comes. Good planning helps avoid misunderstandings between siblings.

8. Burial wishes. Do you want to be cremated or have a visitation? What will your obituary say? Will you plan it out or leave it to your kids to decide (or fight about) during a time of grief and high stress? Creating a funeral plan or burial plan can be a real gift to your family and make the time of remembering you more meaningful. Solution: In Illinois, you can specify your wishes in your Disposition of Remains document, which provides binding burial instructions.

9. Living arrangements. If you’re near the end of your life, sick and unable to care for yourself, all the money in the world won’t matter if your living arrangements are not what you want for yourself. How important is it that you remain living on your own? Are there certain facilities you absolutely do not want to be placed in? Solution: As part of your disability instructions in your living trust, you can be very specific about how you want to be cared for and where you want to live.

10. End of life issues. Do you want to be kept alive with a feeding tube? Ventilator? Will your family know what your wishes are? If you are 85 years old with terminal cancer, would you want heart surgery just to prolong your life a few weeks or months? Solution: Your living will and healthcare power of attorney give the legal authority and instructions on those issues. But it is also very important to discuss these difficult issues with your family so they understand your preferences.

See our Infographic illustrating these issues HERE.

We are always happy to talk with you about any questions or concerns you might have. Just give us a call at 217-726-9200. And if you want to learn more about the process of planning, feel free to check out our next Intro to Edwards Group workshop. This 1-hour workshop is a great way to learn about our unique process, why it’s so effective and how our pricing works, etc.

The Value of Family Traditions

Ah, the holidays… a time when Michelle and I enjoy spending extra time with family. Family history and traditions mean a lot to us. Part of that family history involves names. Here are some interesting name connections in our family:

1. Otis – Bailey and Cole are the 5th generation in my dad’s family with a middle initial of “O.” My dad’s grandfather had the middle name Otis. My dad and grandpa had the middle name Oscar. Now I am David Otis and 4-year-old Cole has the middle name Otis as well. We kept it going with Bailey Olivia.

2. Bailey – Michelle’s Grandma Wilson had a maiden name of Bailey. Now Bailey is named after the family line.

3. Hall – Michelle’s maiden name is Hall. Her Grandma Hall was named Hall even BEFORE she was married. As she used to say, she was a “Hall and married a Hall.” Then came a lifetime of confusion about her maiden name and married name being the same!

4 generations picHere I am, circa 1971, with my Great Grandma Hise (whose husband had the middle name Otis), Grandma Edwards (holding me) and my father.

Does your family have a special naming history? Or any other traditions? This time of year is definitely a time when we think more often about those things that make our families unique and special. We’d love to hear about your family traditions. Share it on our Facebook page, and we might even feature it in a future email newsletter!

 

The Funny Birthday Hat: 5 Reasons Why Family Traditions Are Important

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen the birthday hat. I wore it for my birthday a couple weeks ago. It’s really tall and colorful — kind of like something The Cat in the Hat would wear, only this hat has Mickey Mouse on it.

Like many families, we have our own special traditions. Family traditions are one of the things that make working with families so wonderful. No two are alike. Each one is special.My family’s birthday hat came about because my mom saw a similar tradition she liked with a friend of hers, so when my brother and his wife went to Disney, they found the perfect hat to start our family’s tradition. They bought it and carried it around the park all day. And then they hand carried it on the plane so it wouldn’t get squished! My mom received it as a Christmas present in 2005, and we’ve been celebrating with it ever since.

When Bailey was nearing her 4th birthday, my dad asked her what she wanted. She said, “I want to eat ice cream and wear the funny hat!” She recently turned 7 and she’s still wearing the hat for her birthdays.1475853_786756528004826_823737416_n

Why are family traditions so important? Here are 5 quick reasons:

1. They create memories that last a lifetime.
2. They give family members a stronger sense of belonging.
3. They help impart the family’s values.
4. They give children/teens a sense of security.
5. They keep generations in contact and give them something in common.

Family traditions have even been linked to higher family strength and higher family satisfaction. What special family traditions do you have for celebrating the milestones of life?

 

gamble estate plan

Do You Like to Gamble? 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.

4 Reasons to Plan Ahead

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 the step-mom and step-kids, between nieces and nephews. Good planning will make it easier 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. We would be more than happy to chat with you.

Top Five Regrets of the Dying (and other interesting stuff we found around the web…)

You may have noticed that we live and breathe estate planning around here. We’re subscribed to many a list on the topic and are constantly attending conferences to brush up and make sure we’re at our best for our clients. We also surf the web a lot. Periodically we like to share with you some of the interesting articles we come across.

The Top 5 Regrets in Life from Those About to Die: A hospice nurse shares what she sees everyday.

Good Will Hunting: Wills aren’t just for the wealthy. If you have kids and a house, you definitely need one.

With Gravestone Barcode, Tomorrow Never Dies: how the latest trend of placing barcodes on headstones can preserve more than just names and dates.

Baseball, family legacies and estate planning

Cutest little Cards fan ever!

Baseball — it’s a family legacy. I just finished Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Wait Till Next Year, and while it might seem like a good title for Cubs’ fans, in this memoir Goodwin recounts growing up in Brooklyn during the 50’s and rooting for the Dodgers. For me, my baseball legacy is as a Cardinal fan, coming down from my grandfathers on both sides of the family. Much like Goodwin, my father taught me how to keep score when I was a kid, and I still like to keep score when I go to a game. Now, I have the pleasure of passing this legacy down to my kids. Bailey will already tell you she’s a Cardinal fan! And even though Cole can’t talk, he does have a Cardinal hat and t-shirt.

Estate Planning and Baseball

Here are a couple of interesting things I recently saw about baseball and estate planning:

Estate Fight Over Autographed Baseballs: One brother takes autographed baseballs from his parents’ house after his dad’s death. The other brother calls the cops and has him arrested. Read the full article HERE.

Catch a Ball, Get a Tax Bill: Did you hear about the guy who caught Derek Jeter’s home run ball for his 3000th hit? He gave the ball back, got lots of free stuff and now may face a tax! Why is that? Well, prizes generally considered income. Just like the Oprah audience who won a free car then got a tax bill for them. Good news on the Jeter baseball though, Miller Beer has offered to pay the fan’s tax bill!

What sports or family traditions are you passing on to your kids and grandkids? And what planning have you done for your autographed baseballs and the rest of your wealth?

$14 Million Gone In Just 12 Years! What will your kids do with their inheritance?

Check out this stunning article about blown inheritances:

Family’s Fall from Affluence is Swift and Hard

You might expect a story about blown inheritances to exclusively belong to the twenty-something crowd, but in a recent article from The New York Times we see that it can happen to anyone, no matter their age. Quick money can disappear just as quickly as it appears!

Are your loved ones ready to inherit from you? What would they do with the money? Would they have any left after just a few years? What if there was a way to help them handle your hard-earned money after you’re gone?

An effective estate plan does more than just transfer the money. A good estate plan also sets your family up for success and helps them be prepared for whatever may come their way.

Take a quiz here on our website to see if your family is ready. And even if you think they’re ready, you may want to reconsider after reading this article again!

Estate Planning: What’s in your tool box?

What tools do you want to use?

Is this the first question that your contractor asks you when you decide to hire him to build a house?

Or, if you’re car stops running and you take it to the mechanic to be fixed, do you quiz him on which tools he plans to use in repairing it?

When you need surgery to save your life, do you make sure you learn all about the different scalpels and various medical instruments to be used by the doctor?

No? You don’t focus on those things?

Well, then why do people focus more on the estate planning tools than on what they want to accomplish with their plan?

Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, various other planning or tax strategies. All of these are just tools. Tools in the tool box of an estate planning attorney who is there to help you build the kind of plan you want. If the plan looks and does what you want, then does it really matter what tools were used to get there?

The division of labor is much clearer in some of the other professions – doctor, contractor, mechanic, etc. But with law, it seems that attorneys have fed the confusion by hyping and selling certain “tools” instead of promoting their process of helping clients build a plan that works for them. Sure, some clients want to understand the tools, and that’s fine.

But, remember, the tools are not what’s important. What is important? Having your wishes, goals, and dreams carried out, in a way that allows your wisdom and values to be communicated as well.

My clients are already the experts on what they need to know. They know their families, values, what’s important to them. I am the mechanic with the tool box, and I can use whatever tools are necessary to help you carry out your plan.

So, if you want to work with me on your planning, please keep in mind that we want to focus our energy on the house we are building, not what kind of hammer is being used to build it.

Wealth Transfer or Wealth Reception – Part #1

You might ask yourself:  How do you define a successful estate plan?  or How do you define a successful life?

I help clients carry out the goals they have for themselves and their families. However, I always want to make sure clients have developed goals with a full understanding of what all can be accomplished with good planning. Sometimes they limit themselves and don’t explore some of the most important planning issues, until I prompt them to think a little broader.

Traditionally, many planning issues have focused only on the transfer of wealth. But most of us would probably agree that just avoiding probate or saving some tax money is not all that is required to have lived a succesful life. Isn’t there more to life than that? And there’s more to estate planning too.

There are so many more issues that clients want to address, once they hear about the possibilities. I think a good plan will carry out the goals you would have completed during your life, with enough time and resources. But since our time on earth is limited, we plan so our influence can continue.

1. If you could plan in a way that would protect your loved ones from risk or harm, would you be interested in hearing more about it?

2. If you could plan in a way that would set up your loved ones for greater success in the future, would you be interested in hearing more about it?

3. Is the focus of a plan simply to transfer the wealth, or to help that wealth accomplish the greatest good in our families and in the community?

4. What is money worth, except for what it can accomplish?

5. What could your money accomplish in those who survive you? Those you care the most about?

6. If you could communicate your wisdom, and your loved ones would apply it, what frustrations could you spare them?

7. What if you were able to transfer both your wisdom and your wealth, in what ways could that benefit those who survive you? How would it be better than just transferring one or the other?

9 ways to cause a dispute after you die – probate and trust administration nightmares

Often we get calls from someone who is facing a mess because a loved one died and failed to plan properly. So, my advice is this: If you want to create a mess for your family, don’t leave it to chance. Do it right and plan the mess yourself.

Here are 9 ways you can create a mess after you die

1. Don’t organize your assets. Assume that what you own will fit in with your legal documents. Somehow by accident it will work out.

2. Don’t talk about what you are planning to do. So your wife and your kids (some maybe from a previous marriage) can both assume they knew what you wanted. Leave it vague enough so no one really knows, and there certainly is no legal guidance. And be sure to keep your financial situation secret, from your kids and even your wife. They don’t need to know yet.

3. Name an executor or trustee without much thought. Just name the obvious choice, regardless of their track record for honesty or handling money. Even though trustees sometimes run off with the money or mishandle investments, that probably won’t happen to you. Even though the person you chose has never shown themselves to be up to such a task, they will step up and do fine. Right? And certainly don’t ask yourself one of the best questions – “would I trust this person with my checkbook today, while I’m still alive?”

4. Don’t pay for professional legal advice. Just do it yourself. Type up (or hand write) your own trust or will. Fill out those IRA beneficiary forms, even customize them yourself without knowing the law. I’m sure it will work out somehow.

5. Make promises to family members. You know, about what you plan to leave them. Then don’t do it that way. They will understand. I’m sure they won’t want to fight in court about whether your wishes were written down wrong or whether you were in your right mind. They will understand that you didn’t keep your promise.

6. Talk about your estate in vague terms. Say things to your wife like, “you will be taken care of” and “you won’t want for anything.” Say things to your kids like, “you will be treated fairly.” Don’t talk specifics, but just talk about generalities, so the people listening to you can
assume what they want to about what you plan to leave to them.

7. Don’t use a professional trustee. Such as a bank. You don’t want to spend money on something like that, where a professional will know how to get the job done and make sure that your wishes are carried out in a way that’s legal and proper. Much better to leave it to friends or family members who may not exactly know what they’re doing, incurring extra taxes or making messes that need to be cleaned up later.

8. Use your plan to give the family chances to learn to get along better. Create your plan in a way that creates conflict among your loved ones. For instance, name your spouse and a kid from a prior marriage as co-trustees. I’m sure they’ll get along well enough to be able to sort out your estate.

9. Name a family member as a trustee of the funds you leave behind for someone else. Put your trustee in a difficult situation after your death where they have to refuse to give some of your money to another family member, particularly when it’s someone from the other side of the family. And be sure not to give clear guidance about when and how that person should be able to access funds. This will put the maximum pressure on the trustee and increase the hard feelings of the person asking for the money. No matter how the trustee decides, someone will feel either mistreated or pressured.