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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: Estate Plan Review

    For Estate Planning, There is No Fix –It-And-Forget-It

    It’s hard to believe that people who spend a lifetime working hard to accumulate wealth spend little or no time planning for what will happen to it after they pass, especially if children are in the picture.  Yet a recent Consumer Reports survey tells us that 86% of people have not reviewed or updated our estate documents in the past five years.

    A lot can happen in five years – your life, the law and your assets will change —  and your estate plan needs to reflect the changes in your life or those of your beneficiaries.  Here’s what needs to be evaluated at least once a year with the help of a Personal Family Lawyer®:

    Title to your assets.  The most important part of your legal planning isn’t necessarily the legal documents your lawyer prepared (though they are important), it’s how your assets are titled.  If your assets are not titled right (and stay that way), your estate plan won’t work and the documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. This must be reviewed every year.

    Your will and trust(s).  These legal documents determine who gets your assets and who will take care of making sure that it happens the way you want. People marry, divorce and fall out with family members all the time.  Children are born and sometimes, tragically, die.  Property is bought and sold.  In other words, life changes and so should your will and trust, to reflect the changes in your life.

    Your health care directive.  Your health care directive names someone to serve as your agent in case you are unable to make your own health care decisions.  Is the person you originally named still willing and able to serve?  If for some reason they were not able to serve when needed, have you named a back-up?

    Your financial power of attorney.  This is the person who will handle your finances in case you are unable to do so, and there should be a back-up named for this function as well.  If you are over the age of 65 and have a number of different bank and brokerage accounts, it may make sense to consolidate those accounts to make managing your finances easier.

    Your guardian nominations.  As your children grow, the people you named to raise them may not continue to make sense.  And, you absolutely need to have named guardians for the immediate term, so your kids are never taken into protective custody by strangers, and those folks can change frequently as the people in your kids’ lives will likely change regularly.

    If you would like to create or update your estate plan, call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys at the Meier Law Firm today to schedule an Achiever Your Dreams Planning Session.

    10 Tips to Ensure Family Harmony Over Your Estate Plan

    When your children were small, you no doubt suffered the challenge of keeping peace in the family.  We see this same scenario play out time after time among adult siblings when a messy estate causes family rifts. Here are 10 tips to help prevent your children from fighting over your estate: meier family

    1. Talk to children about your estate plan. It may be a difficult discussion to have, but you need to have it. If you find it too difficult, enlist the help of your estate planning attorney to go over the details of your estate plan with your children and answer their questions.
    2. Write your children a letter. If you can’t face a face-to-face discussion, put it in writing with as much detail as you are comfortable providing to your children. You can frame the discussion in general terms and ask for their input.
    3. Email your children your estate plan summary. Your estate planning attorney will usually provide you with a summary of your estate plan that doesn’t disclose actual dollar amounts. Ask your estate planning attorney to copy your children on an email with the summary and ask for their input.
    4. For complex estates, consider a mediator. If you have a complicated estate that may include valuable collections or a family business, consider engaging the services of a professional mediator who can meet with you and your children separately to identify any potential issues and then meet with you together to iron out those issues.
    5. Use equal treatment. If possible, leave your children an equal inheritance outright; most family fights result from children being treated unequally.
    6. If you establish a trust for children, name each child as a co-trustee of their own trust at a certain age. Choose a reasonable age for when you feel a child will be able to participate in managing their own trust so they can learn about handling an inheritance with the help of the main trustee.
    7. Consider staggered distributions from a trust. To help a child learn how to manage a substantial inheritance, estate planning experts often advise staggering distributions over a period of time (i.e., age 25, 30, etc.).
    8. Provide children with option to remove or replace main trustee. Similar to arranged marriages, you never know if children and trustees will make a go of the relationship. Give children limited power to remove and replace a trustee with another qualified trustee.
    9. Allow children to name their own co-trustee. If your children are competent adults, give them the power to name the independent co-trustee of their trust.
    10. Include mediation instructions in your estate plan. Your estate planning attorney can add mediation language so that if a dispute arises, your children will not be tied up in emotionally and financially draining litigation.

    The best way to ensure your estate plan doesn’t lead to a family feud is to meet with your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys at the Meier Law firm for an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you to provide for and protect the financial security of your loved ones.

    5 Reasons Why You Need to Review Your Estate Plan

    Creating an estate plan to protect your financial future and that of your family is just the first step in the estate planning process. Once those documents are executed, you will still need to review your plan annually to ensure it continues to reflect your needs and achieve your goals. Here are 5 reasons that can trigger the need to review your existing estate plan:

    mother daughter

    Family changes. Marriage, divorce, birth and death are four family changes that should prompt an estate plan review. If one of your beneficiaries dies, you will need to remove them from your estate plan. A new child or grandchild means adding beneficiaries. If your daughter gets a divorce, you will likely want to remove her ex from your estate plan but keep their children in. These circumstances can also trigger changes to those people designated as guardians, executors or health care agents.

    Health changes. The state of your own health may dictate changes to your estate plan, especially when it comes to long-term care. You may want to help a family member who has no other resources for long-term care, or if you yourself suddenly need long-term care, you may need to provide a trustee with new instructions on the kind of care you want – i.e., staying at home with in-home help or paying to live in a senior living facility.

    Work changes. You may suddenly want – or need – to retire, which could necessitate withdrawing from your IRA funds to support yourself instead of contributing more. If you have a family business, you may want to sell it or convert a sole proprietorship into an LLC or corporation, which could mean a significant change for your estate plan.

    Market changes. If the total value of your estate has fluctuated by more or less than 20 percent, this should prompt an estate plan review. A significant gain could provide you with assets you may want to gift to children or grandchildren to reduce or remove estate taxes.

    Law changes. Tax law changes all the time, so reviewing your plan at least once a year is the best way to either take advantage of any new changes that could benefit you, or revise your plan so these changes do not adversely impact your estate.

    To review an existing estate plan or create one for yourself and your family, call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys at the Meier Law Firm today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    Hollywood Legend Lauren Bacall Leaves Large Estate and Two Potentially Large Headaches for Heirs

    Legendary Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall died on August 12, 2014, leaving behind an estate estimated at $26.6 million and three children who face a couple of potentially serious problems that could have been avoided through effective estate planning. Home estate

    Bacall, who was married to Humphrey Bogart and Sam Robards, passed away in her New York City apartment, which at a $10 million valuation constitutes a sizeable part of her estate.  Bacall used a will as the governing document of her estate plan instead of a revocable living trust, so the division of her estate is public record.

    Her will was made public a mere 10 days following her death because her children plan to auction off her artwork this fall.  As a resident of New York, Bacall’s estate will be subject to both state and federal estate taxes.  A trust left to her by Bogart will also be subject to tax based on its valuation.

    Unfortunately, her estate only included $100,000 in liquid assets at the time of her death, so her heirs face a potentially serious liquidity problem when it comes to paying these taxes. This is probably the reason behind the rush to auction her artwork. Her family has only nine months from the date of her death to pay estate taxes.

    Although Bacall directed in her will that her apartment be sold, there is no guarantee that it could sell in time to pay the estate taxes. Life insurance is one of the most common ways to ensure there is sufficient liquidity to pay taxes and other expenses.

    Besides the financial assets, Bacall left her children the right to her likeness and other intellectual property associated with her illustrious career.  (She did request that her children not sell her personal effects, letters and memorabilia in her will.) This could be of significant value in future years, and the IRS could come after the heirs for taxes based on that value.

    There could also be issues that arise regarding the management of this intellectual property in the coming years, which could lead to litigation as it has in the cases of other Hollywood greats, like Michael Jackson. To help avoid this, the family could establish a trust or family entity to manage these assets and make decisions on how they will be used in the future.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of wealth to the next generation. Call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    The Last Important Gift to Give Your Family

    As hard as it is for all of us to “plan” for our deaths, doing so is one of the best things you can do for your family.  Adding to their grief and pain by giving them no clue as to where to find your personal and business paperwork should not be a memory you leave behind.Family washing dog

    Gather the following information in a folder and let your family know where they can find it in case you die unexpectedly or have a health crisis:

    Advisors – Provide the name and contact information of any financial advisors, including attorneys, estate planners, CPAs, accountants, etc.

    Bank Accounts and Safety Deposit Boxes  – Bank name and account numbers for each bank where you have an account.  Include PIN numbers for online banking.  If you have a personal banker, include his or her name as well, with contact information.  If you have a safety deposit box, record the name of the bank, the box number as well as contents of the box and location of the key.

    Investment And Retirement Accounts – For investment accounts, provide the name of the brokerage, your personal broker, the location of your statement file, account and PIN numbers.  For retirement accounts, provide contact information for plan administrators as well as account and PIN numbers.

    Insurance  – For all your policies – health, home, car, life, long-term care – provide the name and contact information for the agents as well as account numbers.

    Health care – For your health care providers, give contact information for physicians, Medicare information and any other gap coverage you may have.

    House – If you still have a mortgage on your home, provide information on your lender and payment due dates.  Also provide the location of deeds and property titles.  Include contact information for any home service providers – cleaning help, lawn care, etc.

    Credit Cards – Make a photocopy of both sides of each credit card and provide balance and payment information.

    Vehicles – Provide information on where titles and registration information are kept. Make a photocopy of your driver’s license as well.

    Personal – Include a list of your friends and neighbors with email and phone contact information as well as all your email account log-ins and passwords.

    This last bit of planning on your part will go a long way toward helping your family cope in the immediate aftermath of your death or incapacitation.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours plan for the safe, successful transfer of your wealth to the next generation.  Call your Newport Beach estate planning attorneys today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family to ensure your legacy of love and financial security.

    Vacations Are the Perfect Time for Families to Talk About Estate Planning

    If you are like most Americans, you will probably be spending at least some of your vacation time this summer with older family members. While there are few perfect times to talk with parents about their estate plan, the relaxed times you spend together on vacation can be one of them.

    Family on VacationHere are some tips on how to conduct this critical conversation:

    Find a good place to start. One of the best ways to ease your parents into a financial discussion is to bring up your own. Tell your parents that you were looking into your own estate plan and wondering if they had already executed their own. Sometimes you can use scare tactics to good effect – there are lots of stories about celebrities or others who have neglected to plan and paid the price with dire consequences.

    Take it easy. If you feel that parents may need some help with organizing their financial lives, be reassuring rather than applying pressure. Let them know that you want to make sure their financial independence is kept intact for as long as possible. Take things one step at a time, such as extending an offer to help them use online bill pay or assist them with organizing their information at tax time.

    Respect boundaries. Many parents feel uncomfortable discussing their finances with their children. If you face this obstacle, let your parents know that you at least need to know where to find their important documents when it becomes necessary, but that you aren’t attempting to control them in anyway. You simply want to help and make things as easy as possible for you and your siblings when something does happen.

    Sometimes initiating a conversation with parents about estate planning can be easier with the help of a Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorney at Meier Law Firm. We can help with an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session. Call our office today at 949.718.0420 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

    What’s Changed In Your Life?

    Estate planning is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Your life changes, your assets change, the laws change — and if your plan doesn’t change, your family gets caught holding the bag. The people you love most end up bearing the brunt of your failure to act.

    Conducting a proper review of your estate plan will help identify the potential need to update your plan because of:

    Life transitions:  Have any babies been born, loved ones died, people gotten divorced or married?   If so, you need to revisit your plan.

    Changes in the law:  Changes in federal and state tax laws may require updates to your healthcare and financial powers of attorney. State regulations can also be revised to open up new wealth planning strategies that should be a part of your estate plan.

    Changes in assets:  Has your net worth gone up or down?  Have you invested in any new assets, such as businesses, opened new bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate or anything similar?  If so, your plan needs to be revisited.  And the spreadsheet of assets you have for your family (you DO have one, right?) needs updating.

    Funding of assets and beneficiary designations:  One of the most common mistakes people make is not properly completing the transfer of assets into a trust within their estate plan.  Another common error is having beneficiary designations that are inconsistent with the distribution language in the estate plan.  We recommend a review of those matters at least annually.

    If you do not review your plan and update it regularly, then your plan will not work the way you want and your family will have to deal with the consequences.

    If you would like more information about creating or updating your estate plan, call your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Meier Law Firm to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $950 for an Estate Plan Checkup but if you are an existing client, we’ll waive that fee and if you are coming to us for the first time, we can waive all but $200 of the fee. Call 949.718.0420 today and mention this article.




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    Meier Law Firm | 2103 Vista Entrada, Newport Beach, CA 92660
    phone: 949.718.0420 e-mail: office@meierfirm.com