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    Joshua and Laura Meier Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys Focused on Helping Families with Young Kids
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    Category Archives: Blended Families

    Why Your Old Trust May Lock Your Family Into Nightmare Scenario!

    Last week, I was talking with a couple at my son’s baseball game, when the wife mentioned that they had set up their revocable living trust up back in worried couple2005. The couple said they were concerned it needed to be updated.

    Aside from the major life changes they’d had since then, including having more children, and moving out of state, there was a larger red flag that went up for me when I heard the date of the trust.

    Basically, for many years, including 2005, the common structure for trusts for married couples was called the A/B Trust. This meant that upon the death of the first spouse, the trust was divided into two sub-trusts: Trust A for the surviving spouse, and Trust B for the late spouse.

    The main reason for this mandatory split structure was to mitigate estate taxes, a likely problem for couples back then because the amount of money the government would allow you to pass at a death without triggering estate tax was significantly less than it is today. Due to changes in law and changes in the tax exemption, the need for the A/B Trust as a tax avoidance strategy became less necessary.

    The other problem is that for the assets and real property put in Trust B, the family will not receive a “step-up” in basis for capital gains tax purposes upon the death of the surviving spouse. This means the beneficiaries of a Trust B can be stuck with significant capital gains tax on assets or real property if there was significant appreciation between the death of the first spouse and the death of the surviving spouse.

    There are however some benefits of having an A/B Trust, such as asset protection for the late spouse’s assets and real property in Trust B, and a guarantee those assets and real property will only pass upon the surviving spouse’s death to the beneficiaries the couple had chosen together.

    New laws and planning techniques such as the Clayton Election Trust, now afford couples many benefits of the A/B Trust without the negative tax consequences, or at least provides them a choice between realizing tax advantages versus asset protection depending on what’s right at the time. Talk to your Newport Beach Family Estate Planning Lawyers about replacing your old A/B trust with a Clayton or Disclaimer trust today. It literally may save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run!

    Meier Law Firm is now offering a free trust review of any trust as long as you contact our office by May 1, 2017 to schedule your appointment.   Be sure to mention this article to receive the free review.  Call (949) 718-0420.

    Smart Families Plan with Logic, Not Emotion

    When it comes to family, money, and death, it’s hard not to feel emotional. And while emotion can be a great motivator for helping us act, it can also cloud oupset-coupleur judgment or prevent us from making decisions that are best for ourselves or our loved ones.

    As an estate planning attorney, I have seen my fair share of emotions. That’s why I keep a tissue box in hand’s reach at my office anytime I meet with my clients. My favorite story is when I had a young couple come in to name permanent guardians for their baby and after they both logically agreed that the wife’s mother was not a suitable choice, the wife then broke down in tears and sobbed until her husband leaned over to me and said “just put her mother down as the guardian.”

    Here are 3 tips for helping you make important estate planning decisions for your family without letting emotion get in the way:

    1. Involve a Third Party. Whether it’s a counselor, an attorney, or a pastor, having an educated neutral third party present to help you talk through a decision can help temper your emotions. It’s best to use a third party who will not be personally affected by your decision, who is well-educated on the topic at hand, and can provide you real life insight on how your decision will likely play out. You’re also more likely to put on a good game face for the third-party than you would have had you made the decision with just your spouse or alone.
    2. Use an Objective Process For Making a Decision. Having objective criteria for making a decision can be tremendously helpful. When we help parents name guardians for their children, we take them through an easy three step process that helps them objectively decide on a guardian, rather than just relying on emotion. For example, we have parents identify their top three priorities when it comes to raising their kids. Then we ask them if the people they have in mind for raising their kids meet that objective criteria.
    3. Don’t Let Other People’s Feelings Influence Your Decisions. Many of our clients are so worried about hurting other people’s feelings when it comes to choosing who should serve in key roles under their estate plan. They think their oldest son will feel hurt if he is not chosen as the trustee, even if he cannot handle large sums of money. They think one sister will be devastated if the other sister is chosen as a guardian. While people’s feelings are important, they should never trump making a decision that it truly best for your children or other beneficiaries.

    Making important decisions for your family, especially ones that can be life lasting, requires the help and guidance of a trusted family attorney. Call your Newport Beach estate planning law firm today and learn how our easy process can help you make important decisions that will benefit your family for a lifetime.

    To get started on making important decisions for your estate plan, call our Client Services Director, Bonnie Johnson, at 949.718.0420 or email her at and request our free guide “How to Choose a Trustee”, or if you’re ready to get started on making decisions ask Bonnie to schedule a planning session with a Meier Law Firm attorney.

    What Parents are Learning From the Bobbi Kristina Brown Nightmare

    bobbi-kristina-brownThe Bobbi Kristina Brown nightmare is highlighting for parents how complicated things can quickly become if your young adult child becomes seriously injured. In light of the media frenzy surrounding Bobbi Kristina’s fight for life, including the strange circumstances surrounding her injury, her continuation on life support, and her boyfriend’s alleged prevention of visitation by Bobbi Kristina’s father, parents are now asking if something like this could happen in their own family.

    The best things parents can do to prevent a situation like Bobbi Kristina Brown’s is to encourage their young adult child to make their medical wishes known in advance by executing these powerful legal documents:

    1. Execute a medical power of attorney. Young adults should legally designate who they want to make their medical decisions if they cannot. This is especially important if you and your young adult child’s other parent are divorced, or if your young adult child has a significant other they are not married to. By having your young adult child appoint a medical decision maker in advance, all of your energy can be spent on looking after your young adult child’s care and recovery, rather than on legal disputes and uncertainty.
    2. Exercise a HIPAA authorization. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, doctors and hospitals cannot release a patient’s medical information to others unless the patient has signed a HIPAA authorization in advance that lists people who the patient would want the doctors or hospitals to talk to in an emergency. Without this important legal document, parents do not have an automatic right to access their young adult child’s medical information or speak to their doctors, even in a life-threatening emergency!
    3. Execute a Living Will. This is perhaps the most important document any adult should execute, as it directly addresses one’s wishes for life and death. You can imagine how painful it would be if you were faced with the decision of removing your own child from life support. Having your young adult child execute a living will is the best way for them to have certainty, and you to have clarity, during a time of great duress.

    For more information on helping your young adult child legally make their medical wishes known, or to make your own medical wishes known, contact your Newport Beach Estate Planning Law Firm. We believe that having medical directives is so important that any person who calls to schedule a planning session with Meier Law Firm, and mentions this article, will receive a free copy of Laura Meier’s new book, Good Parents Worry, Great Parents Plan. Call 949.718.0420 today.

    6 Cases When a Trust is Better Than a Will in Orange County

    A will is one of the most basic estate planning documents, and everyone should have one to make sure that there is no question about what would happen to your assets and kids if something happens to you.  But there are some cases when having a trust in addition to a will is imperative; here are six of them: decision

    Avoiding probate or conservatorship.  A trust will bypass the probate process, saving the people you love time and money.  To carry out instructions in a will, a probate must be opened in the county court and that means your family is stuck dealing with the Court if you get hospitalized or after you die.

    Providing for a person with special needs.  If you have a child or another dependent with special needs, a trust commonly known as a Special Needs Trust can protect assets for a special needs person without jeopardizing their qualification for government benefits.  A will allows you to transfer assets to a special needs person, but will not protect those assets.

    Privacy.  Since a will undergoes probate in Orange County, it becomes public record.  A trust is private.

    Blended families.  If you are part of a blended family, a trust can give you the flexibility you will want to make sure that children from prior marriages are provided for in the way you want.

    Out-of-state property.  If you own property in another state besides {city/state}, you can more easily transfer ownership via a trust than a will.  Transferring out-of-state property in a will usually means additional legal expenses because you could have probate in multiple states and that is no fund for the people you love.

    Asset protection.  If you want to protect the assets you leave your loved ones from creditors (including bankruptcy and divorce) a trust is the way to do it. It’s a gift you can give your loved ones that they could not easily (or at all) give themselves.

    If you would like to learn more about the use of trusts to pass on what you care about to the people you love, call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys at the Meier Law Firm today to schedule an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session!

    Estate Planning for the Blended Family

    blended familyWith so many remarriages in America today, you or a family member may be part of a blended family. Balancing the needs of everyone in a blended family can be a complicated task, especially when it comes to estate planning. It is not unusual for blended families to avoid addressing how family members will be treated for inheritance purposes, even when they all get along well.  However, as any estate planning attorney will tell you, having no plan for your blended family is not a good plan at all.

    Overall, an effective estate plan for a blended family will ensure that:

    • Any ex-spouses do not inherit;
    • The children are protected;
    • Your current spouse is provided for;
    • Any estate taxes are minimized.

    Estate plans are as individualistic as the families they cover, so it is always advisable to consult with an expert before finalizing your plan.  Although there are many online resources and books on the subject, estate planning for the blended family does not make a good do-it-yourself project.

    Let me encourage you to get the individual attention you deserve from your Laguna Beach Estate Planning Lawyer to create an estate plan for your blended family. We have helped many blended families create a plan that works beautifully for their unique circumstances. We warmly invite you to call our office today and schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.

    We normally charge $750 for an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, we’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call Meier Law Firm today at 949.718.0420 and mention this article.

    Trust Solutions for Blended Families in Newport Beach

    studies show a senior widower is much less likely to stay single than his
    female counterpart… [and that] often leaves the question of how the father can
    protect the children’s inheritance if there is a second wife in the picture. In
    that case, a trust may be a man’s best friend, according to advisors.

    Family on HillMixed families and second
    marriages are increasingly common, and while that’s all well and good (it’s
    modern life) it does create some sticky situations. Like no other era, children
    are not simply ranked from eldest to youngest, and the centuries-old laws set
    out to privilege marriage may end up muddying the waters and hurting the
    children (adult or otherwise) of previous marriages. If you and your family
    have come together differently, then it simply makes sense for you to plan
    differently and appropriately in light of your unique challenges.

    Financial Advisor recently took up
    the issues facing a specific type of blended family – one created when a senior
    widower remarries. The role of the widower is statistically proven to be one of
    the most likely to give rise to challenging situations. More than 60 percent of
    men (compared to less than 20 percent of women) are involved in a new romance
    or remarried within two years of the passing of their first spouse.

    What many fail to recognize is
    that a new set of legal arrangements automatically apply upon remarriage, the
    implications of which may conflict with previously agreed upon intentions.
    Proper estate planning can eliminate, or at least mitigate, these unintended
    consequences. Of course, as Financial
    states, the revocable trust “may be a widow’s best friend.” A trust
    arrangement can put legal muscle behind your intentions and ensure they are
    carried out as you plan.

    Any individual or family
    entering a blended family situation should consider framing assets and rights
    from the outset, and a revocable living trust is one of your most powerful tools
    to do so.

    Contact your Newport Beach
    estate planning attorneys at Meier Law Firm to discuss all of your estate planning

    Reference: Financial Advisor
    (October 16, 2012) “A Trust May Be A Widower's Best Friend

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