david edwards estate plan

Secrets: 5 Things Your Adult Children Need to Know About Your Estate Plan

Parenting often involves keeping secrets, especially when the kids are little — remember all the secrecy surrounding Christmas or birthdays?

Back when my daughter was 4 years old my wife and I kept a big secret from her. For her 5th birthday we surprised her with a trip to Disney World in conjunction with an estate planning conference! (She was excited about the first, while I was pretty excited about the second.) It was hard to keep the secret at times, but it sure was a fun surprise when we pulled it off.

Estate Plan Secrets

Secrets can be fun. But where estate planning is concerned, they most definitely are not. Sometimes it’s hard to know what our kids may or may not know about our plan. Walt Disney’s daughter was once asked by kids at her school what it was like to be his daughter: She came home that night indignant, telling her dad, “You never told me you were Walt Disney!” Sometimes things that seem obvious to us might not be so obvious to our kids.

5 Things Your Kids Need to Know About Your Estate Plan

What do your kids know or not know about your estate plan? Here’s a quick checklist to consider:

  1. Burial — Do your kids know whether you want to be cremated or buried? If you want to be buried, where do you want to be buried? Have you already purchased a cemetery lot?
  2. Who to Call — Do your kids know who your attorney is or how to get a hold of him/her? Can he help tie up loose ends or was he only used to fill out forms and make them official during planning?
  3. Assets — Do your kids and/or family know what your assets are? If you suddenly have a stroke or heart attack can they easily find that information?
  4. End of Life — Are they clear about your wishes for ending treatment and “pulling the plug?” Do they know how you feel about organ donation?
  5. Your Plan — Do they know where to find your will, trust and/or powers of attorney? (And if they’re in your safe deposit box or home lock box, can they get in? Do they have the key or the combination?) Will your kids be surprised by your plan? (How you divided assets or whether you gave to charity…) Unfulfilled expectations can mean conflict between your kids or lifelong heartache for a child who misreads a plan as being a symbol of how the parent felt about them.

5 Tips to Make Sure There are No Secrets About Your Estate Plan

  1. Talk. Have conversations with your kids about aging, death and what will happen. There are good conversation starter resources at EngageWithGrace and The Conversation Project. You can also read our post on the subject HERE. The holidays, when families gather together, are a good time to get these conversations started.
  2. Find an experienced attorney. Work with an attorney who keeps your plan up to date through a membership program or a maintenance plan. That way, even if you don’t want to share all of your financial information with your kids now, the attorney will have it to provide them with later. Read about our program HERE.
  3. Don’t assume. Recognizing if your kids will know what to do or how to do it once you are gone can be really hard. Tell them what you expect now. Things like which advisor to rely on or “take care of your little sister” can go a long way.
  4. No surprises. Give your kids the overview of your plan, so they know what to expect. News such as, “I’m going to leave your brother the farm,” is better with an explanation from you now. Your attorney can help with this, providing as much or as little detail as you want.
  5. Don’t just fill out a form. Include purpose statements in your will or trust. Tell why you did what you did, or explain that “it is my intent” that the plan work a certain way.

Estate planning works much more smoothly when there are no secrets or surprises. Save your family a lot of money and heartache by doing a little work now. Read about how to avoid an estate battle after you’re gone HERE.

5 Estate Issues You and Your Family Should Plan For

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

When it comes to estate planning, this quote from Benjamin Franklin could not be more true. Oftentimes, people don’t think of estate planning, or the issues related to it, until it is too late. As a firm who deals only with estate planning issues, we have seen our fair share of terrible problems that could have been prevented by planning ahead and creating an effective estate plan. Dave says it all the time, “Bad estate plans break up good families.”

Taking advantage of David’s unique perspective, in this post we’ll explore the most common problems he encounters every day — problems that could be avoided by just planning ahead. Here are 5 key issues you should consider as you create an effective estate plan:

“Assets? What assets?”

You might be surprised at how often those left behind have no idea about life insurance, stocks, bank accounts, etc. Discovering these “hidden” assets takes time, money, patience and a lot of detective work. And despite any dreams you once had of being Joe Friday, the last thing you want to do while mourning the loss of a loved one is play detective.

“Attorney? What attorney?”

Oftentimes those left behind have no idea if an attorney is needed, or if an attorney has already been consulted. Does looking in the phone book and calling the first attorney whose ad catches your fancy seem like the best way to handle your loved one’s estate after they’re gone? Many of our clients’ families meet us before they need us, ensuring that a trusting relationship is already in place and decreasing stress and anxiety when the time comes to execute the estate.

“Equal? What’s equal?”

Many people plan on just having their children split things equally upon their death. It seems like a beautifully simple and fair way to handle things, but when emotions run high and money or cherished possessions are at stake, things seldom go down the way you would expect. We often see conflicts between family members who have different ideas about how to handle things — conflict that could have been avoided with more in-depth preparation. We’ve also seen that seemingly good ideals like “equal” puts some adult kids at a disadvantage.

“Taxes? What taxes?”

Did you know your lack of planning could cost your family money? Without proper planning, they could end up paying extra income tax on IRAs or annuities (or pay them earlier than necessary). We see this quite often. To avoid this, you should get specific advice regarding your tax deferred accounts, both now and after death.

“Issues? What issues?”

There are a lot of unique circumstances that arise when dealing with minors or even young adult children. Are your kids prepared to responsibly handle what you’re leaving them? Have you distributed the wealth in such a way that the younger children will have adequate care for the proper amount of time? As experienced estate planning attorneys, we see the ramifications of families not being fully prepared all the time. We hate seeing this and don’t want any family to have to go through it. Our firm is experienced in thinking through every issue your family needs to consider when creating an effective plan.

So what do you imagine for your family after you’re gone? Do you imagine them having no idea what or where your assets are? Do you imagine them knowing exactly who to call or struggling to figure out who your attorney is? Do you imagine great stress and distress in the middle of their grief as they scramble to figure out what needs to be done? Surely not. Planning ahead is not being morbid or pessimistic. It is protecting and caring for those you love. (Get our free checklist, What to Do When a Loved One Dies, here.)

Find out more about effective estate planning by attending our free workshop, Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started. If, after attending the workshop, you decide to set an Initial Meeting, you’ll receive $200 off the fee.

3 Proven Essentials That Will Make Your Plan Successful

Every estate plan has three elements that determine whether it succeeds or fails.

The ultimate measure of a plan’s success is, “Does it do what I want it to do in my absence?” With the following three components in place, your plan is much more likely to succeed.

1. Rules and Instructions

Successful planning means your wishes will be carried out, even when you are not there to do it yourself. Sometimes your wishes need to be carried out while you are alive but too sick to make decisions. Eventually, your wishes will be carried out after your death.

Even though some decisions may be challenging to make, you are the best person to create the rules and instructions. Why? Because you are the #1 expert on your family and your values. Nobody else understands your family or your values like you do!

The rules and instructions to be made will include decisions around medical care (including end of life) and your finances (bill paying while you are sick, or distributions or inheritance rules after your death).

The rules and instructions you set up need to reflect who you are. You want it to be more than a fill-in-the-blank document with your name typed in. Make sure your plan reflects who you are and your family’s unique circumstances.

2. Who’s in charge?

Having rules in place is not enough to make sure your plan is successful. You also need someone to carry out the rules and instructions. That person needs to be able to:

  • follow your wishes (and not just do whatever they want)
  • take action (and not procrastinate)
  • get legal or tax advice when needed (and not think they know it all)
  • deal with family disagreements gently but firmly.

The person you choose to carry out your wishes is your “helper” (executor, trustee, power of attorney). Choose wisely because the helper you select will make or break your plan.

3. What’s in the bucket?

Once you have the rules and instructions in place, and a helper to follow through on those rules, there is one remaining issue that will determine if your plan is a success.

To what do we apply the rules and instructions?

This is one of the most common problems with estate planning. Many people have assets and asset instructions that conflict. Perhaps their Last Will & Testament is inconsistent with their beneficiary designations. Maybe they have a Trust but nothing in the Trust. (Yes, this happens quite often.)

Your plan will not work unless it is clear which assets are governed by your instructions and your helper.

There are a surprising number of people who go through the effort of creating a Trust, but then they don’t put anything IN the Trust. We like to think of a Trust as a bucket. If nothing is in the bucket, or there are important assets missing from the bucket, then the plan will not work as you hoped.

To continue reading more about what makes a successful estate plan, check out our article and free resource: 6 Estate Planning Pitfalls to Avoid (Reasons Why Most Estate Plans Fail, Costing You Time, Money and Extra Stress)

To learn more about the basics of estate planning, take a look at our upcoming workshop, Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started. At this 1-hour workshop you’ll learn if a Will or Trust is right for you, the clear step-by-step process for getting organized and planning, and if Edwards Group is a good fit for you.

Halloween 2016

At Edwards Group we expect our clients to share some pretty personal information with us in order to prepare the best plan possible for their families. That’s part of the reason it’s so important for us to share our families with you.

Everything we do centers around taking care of families and making life a little easier for families dealing with the stresses of aging or grieving.

Here are our annual Halloween pics of the Edwards Group children!

3 Things That Can Ruin Your Estate Plan

Don’t be caught with an out of date will. Keep the 3 L’s of estate planning in mind.

You’ve finally finished creating your will with your attorney – congratulations! It’s a big undertaking. You’re probably thinking it’s time to stash it in a safe place and forget about it. As long as your attorney has a copy, you’re okay right?

Wrong.

It’s important to update your will at least every three to five years (sometimes more often as laws or circumstances change). Taking the time to update your will can ensure that your legacy gets passed on according to your wishes and can also eliminate family disputes upon death. If you’re not sure whether your will needs to be updated, it’s best to follow the 3 L’s of estate planning. Many of the changes any estate plan faces can be summed up by examining the following 3 things: life, law and learning.

Life

What has changed in your family, your health, your job status or your finances since your last will was created? Have you purchased property or a business? Have you sold a business or property? Have you purchased a new car, boat or art? A lot can happen in 3 to 5 years, especially as we age. A great example would be if a divorce or remarriage happens within the family. This can impact family members emotionally and can restructure family organization. A timely update to your will can help you avoid family conflict and lengthy court time for your family after you have passed away. Life changes warrant an updated will. (When it comes to life changes, don’t forget your beneficiary designations on things like life insurance!)

Law

What legal or tax changes have occurred in federal or state law since your will was drafted? Have your federal tax laws changed? Have your inheritance or death tax laws changed? These are all questions to consider as your will ages. Changes in federal or state law can directly impact your will. Changes in the law warrant an updated will.

Learning

What have you learned since your last will about your family and how they handle money? Perhaps you’ve learned that your beneficiaries mishandle their own money and tend to overspend. Or maybe they’ve gotten a big promotion at work and seem too busy to allot time to executing your will. What legal strategies do estate planning attorneys have now that may not have been available or common when you did your last will? Learning new things can warrant needing to update your will or trust.

If it has been some time since you last thought about your will, it’s probably time to consider an update. Life happens, laws change, and the most effective estate plans continue to evolve over time. If you have questions or concerns about your existing will, please feel free to call us at 217-726-9200 or email us at info@edwardsgroupllc.com with your questions. We will be more than happy to help you. If you’d like to learn more about our Dynasty Program, which helps Edwards Group clients make sure their plans are up to date and evolve over time, click here.

The St. Louis Rams & Beneficiary Designations

When the rules are in writing, you have to follow them. Unless you’re the NFL. 

I am a St. Louis Rams fan. Loyal from the time they arrived in St. Louis after failing to get a new stadium in Los Angeles. Like all Rams fans, I was really upset when they left St. Louis, even after witnessing a decade of historically bad football.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, the lease the Rams had allowed them to relocate to Los Angeles this past January. The Governor of Missouri appointed a task force to try and negotiate a new, long-term stadium deal to keep the Rams in St. Louis. The task force ultimately came up with an actionable proposal on a new riverfront stadium for the Rams.

But after the proposal was submitted, the NFL’s assigned committee recommended that teams in San Diego and Oakland (two cities that essentially had no stadium proposals) be allowed to move to L.A., instead of the Rams. Throughout the task force’s work, it appears the Rams’ ownership was uncooperative. They did not meet with the task force, talk to the media, or talk to the fans. All of this was in apparent disregard of the NFL’s relocation guidelines requiring good-faith negotiations and attempts to maximize fan support in their current home community.

In spite of all this, the league allowed the Rams to relocate to L.A.

It seems laughable to suggest that the NFL relocation guidelines were followed. An owner who refuses to take part in negotiations is not negotiating in good faith, and an owner who refuses to talk to fans or the media for four years after his intention to move has become public, is not operating in a manner that would maximize fan support.

As the Rams made the number one pick in the NFL draft this year, the fans in Los Angeles got to cheer on their new quarterback. I thought to myself: based on the NFL’s own guidelines, he should have been St. Louis’ new quarterback. I didn’t like seeing something end up in the wrong place because it seems unfair. 

Estate Planning Involves Written Rules That Have to be Followed

Unfortunately, we see unfair things all the time in our firm. In the estate-planning world, unlike the club of pro football owners, we can make written rules and trust that they will be followed. Unfortunately, too often people don’t pay close attention to the rules that are put in place through their own plans and beneficiary designations.

For example, in 1996, a man named Warren Hillman named his wife as beneficiary on his federal employee’s life insurance policy. They later divorced, and Mr. Hillman remarried four years later, but he never updated his beneficiary designation. When he died, his widow sought to claim the payout, but she was denied because she wasn’t the beneficiary. The dispute over that policy made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2013 the court ultimately granted the death benefits to the ex-wife because she was the listed beneficiary. (Read about more court cases involving problems with beneficiary designations on life insurance policies here.)

It’s pretty easy to picture an ex-wife enjoying money that a widow thought was rightfully hers; the same way I picture the fans in L.A. enjoying the sun and the Rams. Every day, we help clients coordinate their beneficiary designations with their estate plan to make sure everything ends up in the place you desire. After you’re gone, the best way to make sure your family knows your wishes is to leave them in writing. 

Be Sure to Update Your Beneficiary Designations in Writing

Your things (and your family) are far more important than a football team. Therefore, it is vitally important that you make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date and your estate plan is current.

Life is constantly changing, and when it does, your plan needs to be updated to reflect those changes. At Edwards Group, we have a special program that helps make sure your plan stays up to date. Read more about our Dynasty Program here.

If it’s been a while since you’ve updated your plan, give us a call at 217-726-9200 or plan to attend one of our upcoming workshops.

 

 

Introducing: Edwards Group LLC Youtube Channel

Scheduling an initial meeting or attending a workshop can be a great way to learn about the legal tools available to you. But with the hectic nature of everyday life, watching a YouTube video can be a quicker and more efficient way to access basic estate planning information. Edwards Group is launching a YouTube Channel to help you accomplish your estate planning goals, regardless of how busy your everyday life is. Please click on the topics below to learn more from the Edwards Group’s Youtube Channel:

What is a trust?

What types of trusts are available to me? 

How can I find and pay for a good nursing home?

What is an Elder Law Attorney?

 What can I expect during the estate planning process?

What is life-care planning?

Why You Need Long-term Care Planning

One of the most important things an estate planning/elder law attorney can help you accomplish is taking good care of your loved ones as they age. Good elder law attorneys will also help find ways to pay for care. David Edwards, Estate Planning Attorney at Edwards Group LLC, explains how long-term care planning can help you accomplish these goals in the video below:

Scheduling an appointment or attending a workshop will help you learn more about the legal tools available to you. Your initial meeting with Edwards Group will last about 45 minutes. During that time you’ll talk with David to decide if he can be of any help to you and your family. Please contact Tarina at Tarina@EdwardsGroupLL.com to schedule an appointment today.

Don’t be like Prince. Make sure you have a Will.

Sadly, celebrity deaths often provide a good opportunity to review what not to do when it comes to estate planning.

Imagine being worth $300 million and not even having a Will

The recent death of the eccentric singer, Prince, offered another opportunity to see what not to do when it comes to estate planning.

Despite being worth an estimated 300 million dollars, the 57-year-old performer died without so much as a Will.

So, how on earth did that happen? Unfortunately, the greatest threat to an effective estate plan is doing nothing. And that’s what A LOT of people choose to do when it comes to planning. It’s “easier” to do nothing. It’s “easier” to just wait and see. It’s “easier” to think, “I’m young. Nothing is going to happen to me yet.” It’s “easier” to assume things will just work out.

Dying Without a Will is a Nightmare for Your Loved Ones

Assuming things will just work out is really not easier. If you approach your estate plan like Prince, and die without a Will (which is called intestate), then your family will HAVE to go to court (an unpleasant process called probate). Your family will most likely DISAGREE about how things should be handled. Your family will be at the mercy of a stranger, sitting on a bench to make IMPORTANT decisions. Even if your family gets along now, chances are, if you die without an effective plan in place, the process will tear them apart. And if your family already doesn’t get along… well, there is virtually no chance they will ever be able to repair the damage that’s been done.

Don’t do this to your family! Don’t expect them to take care of your affairs after you’re gone. Don’t expect that a judge will make the same decisions you would have made. Don’t expect that everything will just work out. It rarely does. We see it everyday.

You can avoid all this by taking action. And the first step is easy — check out our monthly no-pressure workshops. Our Intro to Edwards Group: Wills & Trusts Orientation is a great, no-risk, first step to take.

Call us at 217-726-9200 to save yourself a spot at an upcoming workshop. They tend to fill up. Take action today. Protect your family.

(Video) What is an elder law attorney?

As people live longer and longer, it is more and more important to have an experienced elder law attorney on your side. If you have a loved one who is aging, or are concerned about the issues of aging for yourself or a spouse, please read on to find out what elder law attorneys do and how to choose a good one…

Elder law attorneys work with families to solve problems related to aging. They meet with, and help, clients reach goals related to finances and healthcare. They often collaborate with other professionals such as financial advisors, life insurance professionals and tax professionals to ensure an effective comprehensive plan for clients.

In addition to general estate planning, elder law attorneys should have expertise in helping plan for incapacity (due to things like a stroke) or long-term care needs. When it comes to long-term care planning, elder law attorneys coordinate private and public resources to ensure the client’s right to quality care.

Founding attorney, David Edwards, explains a little about elder law attorneys in the short video above.

How do you choose a good elder law attorney?

Because elder law is a specialized field, it is important to ask some specific questions of any elder law attorney you are considering working with. It is important that you feel you can trust the attorney and his/her staff, otherwise you may not end up with effective solutions for your goals.

5 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney

  1. How many Medicaid applications have you processed? Was the firm able to protect assets in most of these cases? Have you ever been turned down for an application?
  2. Are you accredited with the VA? As with many government programs, there are fairly strict standards that protect citizens from those looking to take advantage of seniors or Veterans. In order to be involved with a VA application, an attorney must be accredited by the VA.
  3. Have you done VA apps for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care? Each one is slightly different. Experience matters when it comes to the type of app your family might need.
  4. Do you have staff solely focused on helping families with long-term care issues? Helping families apply for public programs to offset the skyrocketing costs of long-term care is a very involved process. It’s probably no surprise that the bureaucracy of the process can be overwhelming (and tricky) for those who are not experienced with it. Mistakes during the process are very costly – emotionally and financially.
  5. Does the firm have free information to help families get started? This is a big decision.  Like we said above, you must be sure you can trust the attorney you choose to work with. Taking advantage of free educational materials or free workshops is a great way to get to know the attorney. It’s also important to get to know his staff along with the general feel and philosophy of the firm. Not every family is a good fit for every attorney. It is a very personal decision.

You can read more about choosing an elder law attorney at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website. Or, be sure to take a look at these additional articles on our website:

7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-home Care

I just ate a cheeseburger.

At this point in the year, many of us are abandoning our New Year’s resolutions, but there’s still hope…

by Chris Flynn, Attorney

Well, we’re a few months into 2016, which means we’re also past the point where many people have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. (I’ve started eating cheeseburgers again despite the 15 or 25 pounds I’d planned to lose this year.)

Estate Plan Organization

A common resolution in the beginning of the year is to “get organized.” I have file cabinets at home that I’ve been mindlessly throwing documents into for years. I keep meaning to clean them out. I know they hold important papers, but can’t imagine trying to actually locate any one of them. With no immediate need to know where specific paperwork is, it’s always easy to put it off for another day instead of taking a couple hours to make sure the big things are in place.

And sadly, if I never do take care of those file cabinets? My family will be left to dig through the piles of junk I’ve gathered over the years trying to figure out what’s important and what’s been left for them.

Would it help your children to know where stuff it? To easily know what bank accounts, investment accounts and insurance policies you own? To get things handled quickly and privately and as automatically as possible when you die?

We can help with this! In just a few meetings, you can know what you have, where your accounts are, where your assets are going when you die, and have it all in one place so that you or your loved ones can access it whenever it’s neededBig Red Binder web version

When you set up a trust with Edwards Group LLC, you’ll leave with The Red Binder. In it, we’ll have all the documents needed to ensure easy administration of your accounts and assets during your disability or after your death.

The Red Binder

Some of the contents of The Red Binder include:

• A Trust, stating what happens with all of your assets upon your disability or death.

• A Will, ensuring that any “straggling” assets get handled in accordance with your trust.

• Powers of Attorney, ensuring that the right people (of your choosing) have the ability to help you when you need it.

• End-of-life and burial wishes, so your family knows what you want and can avoid disputing it later.

• A summary of your plan and a summary of your assets.

In our office, Senior Asset Coordinator Laura Peffley (pictured above with clients), is constantly helping clients get their assets consolidated into one trust. If you simply have an account statement or can print one, she can usually work with that. If you can’t find a deed to your house, she can help you track it down. And ultimately, we can map out a plan together to ensure all of your assets go where you want, when you want.

Procrastination is the Enemy of Estate Plans

Even if you’ve already abandoned some of your resolutions at this point in the year, we can still help you tackle this one today. Procrastination is the single greatest threat to an effective estate plan. Don’t put it off any longer. Planning protects those things most important to you, and we make it easy to take the first step with the following options:

  1. Attend one of our free workshops. We have two regular workshops, one of which is an introduction to estate planning. It’s a great, no-pressure way to get started. And you’ll receive $200 off your Initial Meeting fee just for attending.
  2. Give us a call at 217-726-9200. Tarina, our Client Coordinator, loves helping people and answering their questions. In fact, she was a client before she ever started working at Edwards Group, so she has a unique perspective that many find helpful.
  3. Schedule an Initial Meeting. If you know you’re ready to get started and want to stop putting it off any longer, just give us a call to schedule a 45-minute meeting where an attorney will review your concerns and goals. The attorney will also help you understand the unique risks that your family faces. By the end of the meeting, you should understand your planning options, what they will cost and if Edwards Group is the right firm for you. Clients find this meeting to be very valuable in helping them understand their options.

Get back on board with getting organized by calling us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for a workshop, ask questions or schedule an Initial Meeting.