Estate Planning Articles

Some of these articles have been written by our law firm and other articles are written by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and compliments of our law firm. Any feedback or questions about the articles can be addressed by contacting our office.

DOMA’s Impact on Estate Planning for LGBT Couples

Many in the LGBT community and nationwide are celebrating the Supreme Court’s rulings in U.S. v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry. What questions do these rulings raise, and how will they affect your estate plan?

The Importance of Advanced Directives – The Terri Schiavo Story

Terri Schiavo spent over ten years in a persistent vegetative state following a heart attack. During that time, her husband and parents waged an emotionally and financially draining legal battle that made it all the way to the President’s desk. It all could have been avoided had Terri executed an advance directive prior to her collapse back in 1990.

Taking Care of Your Spouse After You Are Gone

It is not uncommon that a loved one is being cared for by a spouse close in age, so it is important to ensure they will continue receiving care even after their spouse is gone. An estate planning attorney can advise and assist with taking the necessary step to secure the future of your loved ones, especially those in need of special care and assistance.

Family Feud – Don’t Let This Be Your Legacy

New Year’s is a time for resolutions. This year, resolve to keep harmony in your family both now and in the years to come. Proper estate planning helps to ensure your family’s peace of mind.

Fair Does Not Always Mean Equal: Avoiding Conflict in Inheritances

As parents, one of the challenges we face is ensuring our children feel as though they’re treated fairly and loved equally. What many may not realize, however, is that sometimes accomplishing this doesn’t include equal divisions, especially after they’ve reached adulthood. This is also sometimes the case with Estate Planning. While it’s designed to efficiently distribute your assets after your death, it’s also meant to see your final wishes implemented. The challenge is making sure your children understand that after assessing the dynamics and factors associated with your family and the needs of each family member, your final wishes may appear to be unfair, even though your goal was always to address the needs of each child versus the collective family.

Women and Estate Planning – Debunking the Myths

Not long ago, women rarely took much interest in estate planning for several reasons. Today, however, the need for estate planning is even greater if you are a woman. Debunking some of the common myths surrounding the concept of women and estate planning is a good place to start.

Estate Planning for Young Adults

Estate planning for an 18-year-old isn’t something most people think about, but there are certain documents you need to create in case something happens to a young adult. An estate planning lawyer can help.

What’s the Big Deal about Probate Avoidance?

You may have heard friends and family members discussing the need to avoid probate; however, you may not understand why avoiding probate is so important. Now is the time to learn more about probate avoidance so you have plenty of time to start including appropriate strategies in your estate plan.

How Will Life Insurance Policies Impact Medicaid Eligibility?

Like most seniors, you probably own at least one life insurance policy. Will that policy interfere with your eligibility for Medicaid benefits if you need them down the road? If you are unsure, now is the time to learn how Medicaid evaluates life insurance policies.

What You Need to Know about Asset Protection

You likely worked hard, saved wisely, and invested prudently to acquire the assets you now have. Now, all you need to do is to protect those assets. To accomplish that goal, you need to understand how and why your assets might be at risk as well as learn more about asset protection tools and strategies.

Will Baby Boomers Have Anything Left to Pass Down?

The Baby Boomers are reaching retirement. Some of them are financially ready for retirement; however, many are not. Even more have failed to plan their estate. No one likes to dwell on their own mortality, but failing to plan for it can have a significant financial impact on the next generation.

Medicaid Planning – Planning to Get Approved

There is a very good chance that you, or your spouse, will need long-term care at some point down the road. To help pay for that care you may need to qualify for Medicaid. There is a right way, and a wrong way, to approach Medicaid planning in anticipation of qualifying. The wrong way could land you in prison. Proper planning can protect your assets without jeopardizing your eligibility for Medicaid.

Traditional or Roth – Which Type of IRA Is Right for You?

Ideally, retirement planning should begin early in your life and should be part of your overall estate plan. Like many people, you may consider including an IRA in your retirement plan. However, is a Traditional IRA or a Roth IRA more appropriate for you? To make an informed decision, you need to know more about both types of IRAs.

Can I Keep My Small Business and Still Qualify for Medicaid?

You have worked hard to make your small business a success. Will all your hard work go down the drain if you (or your spouse) need to qualify for Medicaid? The good news is that you will likely be able to keep your small business and still qualify for Medicaid.

My Attorney Just Retired – What Now?

Hiring an estate planning attorney has its challenges, especially if your current attorney is preparing to retire or relocate. Here are a few tips that can help you make the transition.

How Can I Continue to Help My Nursing Home Spouse and Pass Down an Inheritance to My Children?

Are you torn between passing down assets to your children and caring for your spouse in a nursing home? Are you worried about how to continue to provide care for your spouse after you are gone without jeopardizing your spouse’s Medicaid eligibility? The good news is that it is possible to provide continued care to your spouse after you are gone, pass down assets to your children, and not jeopardize your spouse’s eligibility for Medicaid.

What You Need to Know about Medicaid Estate Recovery

Will you be forced to sell your home in order to qualify for Medicaid? Will the state take your home when you die if you get help from Medicaid while you are alive? Medicaid planning can help you avoid both of these unfortunate outcomes.

Preparing for Your First Estate Planning Consultation

Many people put off estate planning because of the uncertainty of what it means and what it encompasses. It’s not an overwhelming or time-stealing process, though it is crucial for ourselves and our families.

The Ties that Bind: Grandparents and Grandchildren

There are few things more precious than the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Be sure you leave them with more than just memories. Proper estate planning is a great way to make the most of your gifting efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gifting and Medicaid Eligibility

Here are just a few of the common misconceptions surrounding gifting and Medicaid eligibility… I can just give away my assets and tell Medicaid I don’t have any. My spouse will end up without anything if I need Medicaid to help pay for my nursing home care! I waited too long and now Medicaid planning can’t help me

Is Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance a Good Idea?

Is a long-term care insurance policy a wise addition to your estate plan? Ask yourself if you can afford to pay over $200,000 out-of-pocket for long-term care. If not, you may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance because that’s what the average stay in a facility will cost you; however, don’t sign on the dotted line until you understand how long-term care (“LTC”) insurance works.

The Hidden Benefits of Home Ownership

Do you know what your home’s value is? Not just the home’s market value, but all the myriad of ways you can benefit from being a home owner? Though you may not realize it, the benefits of home ownership go far beyond the value of the equity you have in the home

How to Lend a Hand and Save Taxes

While you may not be able to physically lend a hand, one of the ways you can help a cause at home or overseas is through gifting. However, choosing to donate to a reputable charity or foundation is just the first decision. Find out more about charitable gift giving, including how to structure your gifts in such a way that not only helps you save taxes but allows you to provide for your loved ones and contribute to a greater cause.

I was Appointed Trustee of a Trust. Now What Do I Do?

Did you just find out you are the Trustee of a Trust? If so, you are probably feeling honored, and maybe a bit intimidated if this is your first time acting as a Trustee. In this article, find out what a Trustee’s role is within the Trust as well as the duties and responsibilities of a Trustee.

How Likely Is That To Happen?

Don’t leave your future, your children’s, or your estate’s future up to chance. Learn about the odds of incapacitation and death, and how a comprehensive estate plan can tip the balance in your favor.

Owning Overseas Property Increases the Need for Estate Planning

Like many Americans you may own property outside of the United States. Whether you inherited an ancestral family home, purchased a vacation retreat, or are currently living in a home you own oversee, owning property in another country makes estate planning a bit more complicated and increases the importance of having a well-thought-out estate plan in place.

When Roles Reverse and Your Parents Need Your Help

The aging process can be difficult for those who witness it, and when it comes to our parents, we see it evolve first-hand as they come to rely on us for their needs over the years. What can we do now to make sure they’re better prepared for the future?

Gifting to Benefit Minor Children

For most families, especially those with considerable assets, gifting is a great way to reduce their taxable estate while providing even greater benefits for minor children.

Next Generation Planning for Your Family Business

Many business owners spend so much time working in the business on day-to-day tasks that they forget to ask one essential question: "What will happen to my business after I'm gone?" Most family-owned businesses fail to outlive their owners. Learn how you can help your business survive you.

Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know

Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Loaning Family Money – What You Need To Know Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys People lend money to family members for a variety of reasons.

Estate Planning is Essential for Same-Sex Couples

For most people, dying without an estate plan means burdening loved ones with added inconvenience, delay and expense. For same-sex couples, however, dying without an estate plan can spell disaster. Find out why and learn what you can do about it.

Five Things Every Woman Should Know About Estate Planning

Women’s roles in society and within the family have shifted dramatically over the past several generations and women have more earning power than ever before, yet too many wives take a backseat to their husbands when the subject of estate planning comes up. Here are five things every woman should know when it comes to estate planning.

Five Non-Tax Reasons You Need an Estate Plan

Estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to reduce their estate taxes, right? Wrong! Only a tiny percentage of Americans need to worry about estate taxes but every adult needs an estate plan. Find out why.

Why Everyone Needs an Estate Plan

People tend to think of estate planning as something that only the wealthy or the elderly need to do. In truth, regardless of your age, your situation in life, or your level of wealth, estate planning accomplishes a few universal goals.

Planning for the Worst-Case Scenario

Sometimes, in an attempt to avoid thinking about the worst, we miss the opportunity to do the best for our loved ones. A comprehensive estate plan can help you confront your fears in a way that will ease your family’s responsibilities, should the unexpected happen.

Insurance: The Missing Link in Your Estate Plan?

Insurance has a number of uses as an estate planning tool. It helps protect and preserve your estate, giving you more to pass on to your loved ones. It also has special characteristics that allow you to position your estate for sophisticated estate planning. Learn about the basic categories of insurance and how they strengthen your estate plan.

Why Your Trust Shouldn't be Short and Sweet

The draft of your new Trust makes you wonder if your estate planning attorney gets paid by the word. Is all this verbiage really necessary? In fact, a good plan has many points to cover.

Tax Breaks for the Sandwich Generation

It can be a surprise to find yourself caring for elderly parents at the same time that you’re raising your own children. The emotional demands of these multiple roles are often coupled with financial challenges as well. That’s why it’s important to know when you can claim your aging or ill parent as a dependent for income tax purposes.

Trusts and Income Tax: Who Pays?

As Trusts gain popularity, a question comes up more and more often: who pays the income tax on a Trust? It seems like a simple inquiry, but the answer can be hard to pin down. So, who does pay income tax on a Trust? Here is the answer, in a nutshell.

A Quick Guide for Basis

You might have heard the word basis used in reference to taxes. Learn the definition of basis and how it can make a big difference in your estate plan.

What Does It Mean To Be a Trustee?

If you’ve been chosen to serve as a Trustee, what responsibilities can you expect? Learn about the basic duties that come with this important and sometimes daunting job, and find out where you can go for guidance.

Avoid These Four Asset Protection Pitfalls

The estate planning process presents a number of opportunities for using asset protection strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones. Learn about asset protection, and avoid these four common pitfalls.

Expecting the Unexpected

Life is full of surprises. None of us have a crystal ball, and this means it is unreasonable to create an estate plan without flexibility regarding your long-term wishes for your loved ones. When you build flexibility into your estate plan with a power of appointment, you can empower your spouse or children to stand in your place and make decisions based on your family’s changed circumstances.

The Accidental Spouse

Could you be married and not even realize it? If you live in a state that recognizes common law marriage, you could be married even without a marriage license or an official ceremony. Find out how common law marriage affects your estate plan and what you can do about it.

I Have an Estate Plan: Do I Still Need My Attorney?

Your estate plan is prepared. Your Living Trust is in place and properly funded, you have a Pour-Over Will just in case, and your incapacity plan is ready and waiting in the event you need it. Is it time to part ways with your attorney? Not at all! In fact, your relationship with your estate planning attorney has just started.

Why a Trust Makes Sense - Even If Your Child Is Not a Child

If your children have reached adulthood, you might assume it's best to leave them their inheritances outright, with no restrictions. However, you want to make sure your children enjoy flexibility in accessing and using their inheritances while minimizing the impact of taxes, divorce, lawsuits, and other threats. Therefore, it might be better to leave their inheritances in a Trust.

Planning Your Estate With Privacy in Mind

When you use a Will to plan your estate, much of your personal information becomes public after your death. A Trust can help you accomplish your estate planning goals while shielding your personal affairs from prying eyes.

Your Family Deserves More Than an Estate Plan

If you want to leave a true legacy, a traditional estate plan is not enough. With Legacy Planning, you can pass on your values, wisdom, and family heritage along with your nest egg. You can also provide your children's inheritances with just the right amount of protection from the threats and challenges of life.

Helping Your Parents Age Gracefully

Your mom and dad have always been there to guide you through life's challenges. Now, the tables are turning. Learn some strategies for gently helping your parents plan for the challenges they're likely to face as they age.

What to Expect When You're Inheriting

Most of us have daydreamed about inheriting money, but the reality of inheriting often doesn't match our dreams. In the real world, an inheritance can bring with it a number of questions and worries. Here we address four common concerns about inheritances.

Five Estate Planning Myths

Estate planning is on everyone's "should do" list, but it rarely seems to make it to the top of the "to do" list. Perhaps this is because of all the myths surrounding the estate planning process. Here are five common estate planning myths, along with the truths behind them.

Does a Roth Make Sense for You?

Choosing between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA can have significant tax and estate planning consequences. Whether a Roth is the right option depends on a number of factors, including an account owner's current income, anticipated post-retirement income, and estate planning goals.

The Estate Tax Is Not the Only Consideration in Estate Planning

The U.S. Congress continually debates the estate tax, often considering whether or not it should be done away with entirely. Many people think this tax is a cornerstone of estate planning, so if it's eliminated, they don't need an estate plan. Nothing is further from the truth. This article explains why.

Getting Value Out of Giving with Charitable Trust

You've heard the maxim, "It's better to give than to receive." Americans take this aphorism to heart, especially as it relates to contributions to charity. Did you know that our tax laws actually encourage charitable giving? This article will explain gift-giving options from small to large, each with tax-savings implications.

Leaving a Ranching Legacy

Ranch life comes with its own particular challenges and rewards. Therefore, ranch families have even more need for professional advice than other families when it comes to finding the most effective means of passing on their assets, which may be more substantial than they suppose. This article explores various means that can be employed to create an estate plan which minimizes taxes and distributes assets equitably.

There's No Time Like the Present to Review your Plans

Time passes quickly. Life brings change. While these may seem like platitudes, they reflect the truth of most people's lives. This article will encourage you to recognize a new life stage as an opportunity to review and fine tune your estate plan.

Is Your Ex-Spouse Really Out of Your Life?

Divorce is bad enough, but did you know that your children and new spouse can suffer financial devastation if you do not remember to change your estate planning documents after a divorce?

Choose Your Estate Planning Practitioner Wisely

Who should you entrust with planning your estate? Unfortunately, the estate planning industry can be a mixed bag. Along with licensed, qualified attorneys there are unqualified, or even unlicensed, individuals producing cookie-cutter estate plans that may or may not work as intended. Find out why you should choose your estate planning practitioner wisely.

Look After Your Spouse Even After You're Gone

You and your spouse have worked hard to save for your golden years. But have you planned for a long, secure retirement if one of you outlives the other? Here’s how paying attention to certain key financial areas can set both of you up for a secure, worry-free retirement.

Short and Sweet is Not Always Better

When you compare a do-it-yourself living trust with one that was prepared by a qualified estate planning attorney, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is that the attorney-prepared trust is long. And it might not be so easy to read. There’s a good reason for this. This article discusses the reasons why planning for contingencies with an attorney drafted estate plan is the better choice. When it comes to estate planning, there’s any number of contingencies to prepare for.

Practical Strategies for Protecting Your Privacy

We’re all exposed to invasions of our privacy, large and small, during our lifetimes and even after death. These practical strategies make it easier to shield your family’s personal affairs from prying eyes.

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

When you really think about it, your true wealth is much more than just your accumulated assets or material possessions. With the right plan, you can protect and preserve your true wealth and create a legacy for your family that will last for generations to come.

Estate Planning Without a Crystal Ball

When you are planning your estate, it is important to remember that circumstances rarely stay the same over long periods of time. A plan that worked for your family when the kids were little may very well be obsolete by the time they've started families of their own. This is why it's important to ensure that you build flexibility into your plan.

Puppy Love: Planning Your Estate With a Pet Trust

Increasingly, pet owners are not just worried about providing for our pets during our lifetimes, we want to ensure that they get all the love and care they need after we’re gone, too. This article discusses the estate planning benefits a Pet Trust can provide for your furry and feathered animal companions.

Help! My Attorney No Longer Practices Law

It's not something we often stop to think about, but attorneys experience life changes like anyone else. They may change careers or experience an illness or disability, or they may retire or even pass away. This article discusses the steps you should take if your estate planning lawyer no longer practices law.

Planning Your Estate? Don't Forget Insurance

The term "estate planning" usually calls to mind the process of creating a Will, establishing a Living Trust, or naming a guardian for young children. One piece of the estate planning puzzle that might not be readily apparent, though, is insurance. Learn how insurance in its many forms plays an important role in the estate planning process.

Parenting Your Grandchildren? You Need a Solid Estate Plan

According to data collected in the 2010 census, 4.9 million children under age eighteen live in grandparent-headed households. If you are in this growing number of grandparents returning to your “parent” role again, one of the pressing responsibilities that accompany your job as caregiver is to make sure you have a plan for your grandchildren in the event that something happens to you. And because you’re older now than you were the first time around, planning becomes even more important. This article reviews why it is imperative to have an estate plan in place and what a basic plan should include.

What to Expect When You're Inheriting

At some point in our lives, we all dream of receiving an inheritance. We envision buying a new car, finally being able to afford private schools for the kids, or maybe even taking a trip around the world. But the reality of inheriting money or property often differs from our dreams. The process of settling an estate and distributing a deceased person’s assets can be time consuming. During this process you may have questions about taxes on various types of assets you may be inheriting, such as IRAs, valuable collectibles, and other property. This article provides a summary on what you can expect during this process if you’re anticipating an inheritance.

Helping Your Parents Through Their Twilight Years

As a child, your parents were there to guide and support you as you faced life’s challenges and obstacles in your path growing up. Similarly, as your parents age, and become less independent, they will rely on you as they face new challenges in their twilight years. This article examines how planning well in advance is important to ensure that no matter what lies ahead, their care and financial affairs will be looked after. Regardless of their financial means, if they are wealthy or of more modest means, there is a plan that can meet the specific needs of your family.

One Big Happy Family: How to Avoid an Estate Dispute

Picture this… You’re at the end of your long, fulfilling life and you’re ready to say goodbye to your loved ones and leave this world in peace. And then… your family declares war on each other. This scenario plays out all too often even in the closest of families. This article examines helpful ways to plan and avoid divisive family disputes after you are gone.

10 Essential Estate Planning Facts

An alarming 55% of American's don't have an estate plan in place. Procrastination is a common excuse. However, for many people it's a lack of knowledge about estate planning, including the benefits, their options and the protections it offers them and their families. This article reviews 10 essential estate planning facts that will arm with you with enough knowledge to cross estate planning off your "to do" list.

Why are Roth's Such a Big Deal?

A Roth IRA has some important distinctions from a traditional IRA, and, depending on your tax bracket, your retirement needs, and your estate planning goals, a Roth could be a better choice for you. So, what's the difference between the two types of IRAs? This article explores how each IRA works and which option can best fit your personal needs and goals.

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