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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: Guardian

    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 bjohnson@meierfirm.com 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.

    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.

    Why Everyone Needs an Agent

    Everyone needs an agent – and not the Hollywood type. An agent is someone you designate to handle your estate after you’ve gone or who can make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Here are the kinds of agents everyone needs:smiling woman

    Executor – an executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes for distributing your assets as listed in your last will and testament. You can choose a family member, a trusted friend or even a professional to fill this role.

    Guardian – if you and your spouse die before your children reach adulthood, a guardian is the person you designate to take care of your minor children as well as handle their finances. Sometimes people decide to split the roles – one guardian to raise the children and another to handle the finances.  Choosing a guardian (as well as a backup in case your first choice cannot serve) ensures your kids are taken care of by the people you know, love and trust, no matter what. One of the best ways to protect your children is to have a comprehensive Kids Protection Plan®. Without it, your children are at risk of being taken into the care of strangers if the people you’ve named as permanent guardians don’t live nearby or if your legal documents cannot be located.

    Durable Power of Attorney – this person is designated by you to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become disabled or otherwise unable to manage your financial affairs.

    Power of Attorney for Healthcare – also known as a healthcare proxy, this is the person you designate to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself and is an important decision when creating your advance medical directives. Their powers can be invoked if you become disabled and unable to make your own decisions about your health care, so your choice should be someone you know will carry out the wishes you have expressed in your advance medical directives or Living Will. They also need to be able to stand up for you if family members have different ideas than you do about your medical treatment.

    One of the main goals of our law practice is to help families like yours, plan for the protection of yourself and your family through thoughtful estate planning. Call your Newport Beach Estate Planning Attorneys today at Meier Law Firm today to schedule an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best strategies for you and your family.

    Before You Take Off for Summer Vacation, Take On These 5 To-Dos

    It’s no surprise that Americans spend more time planning their summer vacations than they do planning their estate.  After all, a vacation is a trip you want to go on, while the eternal “trip” is not.

    However, wouldn’t you travel with more peace of mind if you knew you had taken the necessary steps to protect your family if something unthinkable should happen to you?  That’s why you need to tackle these five important tasks before you go on that much-deserved summer vacation:Couple at Beach

    Guardians for minor children — if you have children under the age of 18, you must name a guardian or guardians to ensure that they will never be left in the hands of strangers or people you wouldn’t want raising them.  You can name short-term guardians in case of emergency, and then plan for long-term guardianship.  We recommend a full Kids Protection Plan® to ensure there is no gap in your kids care, ever and no matter what.

    Beneficiary review — if it’s been awhile since you updated your beneficiary forms for retirement accounts, life insurance or other assets, it’s time for a review — especially if there has been a major change in your life.  Make sure insurance and retirement accounts are never passed on to your minor children, outside of a Trust.

    Estate plan review — if you have experienced a birth, death, marriage, divorce or other life-changing event since you last updated your estate plan, you need to be sure those changes are reflected by updating your plan.

    Advance healthcare directive — if you become incapacitated and can’t make your own health care decisions, have you named someone who you can depend on to carry out your wishes?  If not, you need to execute an advance health care directive that includes a durable power of attorney and a HIPAA release so your medical information can be shared.

    Insurance update — is your life insurance still sufficient to meet the needs of your family?  If not, then you should revise your policy before you go.

    If you haven’t done any of these things, it’s time to take care of business.  Call your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Meier Law Firm to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can identify the best ways for you to protect and provide for your family.

    Choosing Guardianship

    Father-SonChoosing someone to raise your children if something happens to you is hard to even think about. However, naming guardians is a must. 

    Newport Beach Family Trust Attorney Laura Meier tells ParentingOC Magazine that if parents don’t legally name permanent guardians, a judge would have to choose who would raise their children.

    Luckily, there are three easy steps for you to follow for choosing guardians.

    • STEP ONE: Write down all of the potential people (individuals or couples) who could potentially serve as guardians.
    • STEP TWO: Then write down the top three qualities that you would want them to have (i.e. age, religion, lifestyle, etc.).
    • STEP THREE: Compare both sheets of paper. Rank in order the “potential people” you listed from your first choice down to the last choice, based on your top three priorities.

    This won’t be a seamless process, but to avoid prolonging it, here are the six most common mistakes people make when naming guardians.

    • Naming a couple to act as guardians, (when you really don’t want both people,) and you haven’t said what should happen if the couple divorced or one of the partners in the couple died.
    • Only naming one possible guardian.
    • Considered financial resources when deciding who should raise your children.
    • Only having a Will, which means the court will distribute your money—it’s totally public and doesn’t protect your money from divorce or lawsuits.
    • Not excluding anyone who might challenge your guardian decisions.
    • Only naming guardians for the long-term and not making any arrangements for the short-term if you were in an accident. Your children could end up in temporary foster care until your permanent guardians arrive.

    After you have made your decision, the next step is to make your guardianship legal. You have to legally document your wishes. This should be done in your family estate plan that ensures your family’s complete financial, medical, physical and emotional care and protection. Contact your Newport Beach Estate Planning Lawyers today and discover how estate planning can help you protect your children.

    Greatest Wealth Transfer in History Underway – What’s Your Plan?

    Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History - Wheelbarrow of MoneyA new study from the Boston College Center on Wealth and Philanthropy shows that the greatest wealth transfer in history is currently underway, with more than $59 trillion passing to heirs, charities and Uncle Sam between now and 2061.

    The majority of this wealth — $36 trillion — is being passed directly to heirs and another sizeable chunk — $27 trillion – will be passed to charity, either through final estate bequest or total lifetime gifts.

    And even though the study notes that the transfer of $59 trillion is the largest in history, it estimates that the final figure will likely be much higher than that.

    So what is your plan for either transferring or receiving inherited wealth?

    If you don’t have one – and far too many of you don’t – we encourage you to start planning now, since in our view your estate plan is more of a process than a static document. Our relationship with our clients continues long after your estate planning documents have been signed.

    As your life changes and your family grows, you will find that our legacy planning will play an important role in how you choose to transfer wealth to future generations. We keep all your estate planning documents accessible to you in an electronic file, and schedule timely reviews so that we can furnish you with three very important services:

    1. We ensure that all your assets are owned correctly so your family isn’t stuck dealing with an expensive, unnecessary, and public Court process. Establishing a Trust once and then never looking at it again isn’t the answer — regular updating and assurance that all your assets are documented and owned properly is.

    2. We make sure that the guardians you have named for your minor children, the trustees you have chosen to carry out the terms of your trust, and the agents you designate to make health care decisions for you in case you cannot make them yourself are still the people you want in charge.

    3. We help you record your values, experiences, family history and other important intangibles you want to pass on to future generations so they are never lost. Our estate plans cover far more than just your money, focusing on what matters most — your values, insights, stories and experience. The things most often lost when someone dies.

    Call your Newport Beach Trust and Estate Planning Attorneys at Meier Law Firm today to schedule a time for us to sit down and have an Achieve Your Dreams Planning Session, where we can help you look at what would happen now if something were to happen to you and ensure everything passes to your loved ones in the way you want.

    Who Makes Your Children’s World Go Round?

    laura and kate- merry go round

    Laura and her daughter Kate

    Most people think of estate planning as something only the rich or the elderly need. That misconception could not be further from the truth.  Every adult needs some form of basic estate planning, or as most people refer to it —a will, a trust, or guardianship papers.  And while all adults need some form of basic estate planning, there is one group of people who actually need estate planning more than the rich or elderly, and that is families who have young children.

    As an estate planning attorney, and also as a mom of four young kids, I fully get that parents make their children’s world go round.  We feed them, we bath them, we take them to sports, we cuddle them, we discipline them, we pour our insights and beliefs into them, we try and be better people for them, and we never ever ever stop worrying about them. There is nothing we would not do for them! They count on us to make their world go round.

    When parents of young children become incapacitated or die, their child’s world as they know it ends, at least temporarily, until someone else is transitioned in to take over.  For parents who do have not actively planned for the “just in case something happens to me” scenario, this temporary or transition period can last years as the courts try and sort out who will raise the kids and what to do with their late parents’ money. Eventually, the courts will sort through it, and the transition period will end.  Unfortunately, however, the consequences from parents not having done their estate planning can negatively impact their children for their lifetime.

    If you are a parent of a young child, let me encourage you to take care of your estate planning now, before something really does happen. Through proper estate plan, you can make sure that your child’s world would always go round, no matter what happens in life.

    Contact Meier Law Firm today to see how we can help you can start getting the protections your young family needs.

    [Webinar Invite] What would happen to your kids if something happened to you?

    Have you ever wondered what would really happen to your little ones if something happened to you? Have you or your clients, family, or friends asked this difficult question? The scary reality is that if you have not named permanent guardians for your kids, then your kids could end up in temporary foster care until a judge decided who would raise them!

    No parent ever wants their child in foster care or to have a court battle over who should raise them!  You can make sure your kids would be raised by the people that you love and want to raise your kids by naming permanent guardians for them NOW.

    Join local attorney and dad, Joshua Meier, for a FREE 20 minute online Kids Guardian Workshop on Tuesday July 31, 2012 at 11:30am where you can name permanent guardians for FREE, right from the comfort of your own home!

    Plus, I will show you an easy three-step process for choosing guardians for your kids, and how to avoid the six common mistakes parents (and their lawyers) make when naming guardians.

     

    Register now on the Meier Law Firm Events Page.

    "Meier Law Firm's Kids Guardian Workshop was wonderful! It was personal and easy to understand." Mom, Norwalk, CA

    "I had been thinking about all of the topics discussed, but now after attending the workshop, I am finally taking a step toward getting the process started." Mom, Lakewood, CA

    "Meier Law Firm's Kids Guardian Workshop was a huge eye-opener for me. As difficult as it is for me to trust someone and choose a permanent guardian, I know it is better now to have one, than not." Mom, Long Beach, CA

    "Excellent workshop with simple advice to name guardians." Mom, Cerritos, CA

     

    Visit our events Testimonial Page to read what other great parents have to say about the workshop.

     

    Take 20 minutes to have the peace of mind of knowing that your kids will be safe and with people they love if anything happened to you.

    We’ll see you and other great local parents on Tuesday!

    Joshua

    p.s. Be sure to forward this e-mail to your friends and family who have minor kids—everyone in California is invited to attend!

    Register Today!

    Last Chance! Register Now to Name Permanent Guardians For Your Kids For Free!

    Join top OC business and estate planning attorney and mom of three great kids, Laura K. Meier, this Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:30am for a Free 20-Minute Online Webinar to discover why you must name permanent guardians for your kids so they would never be in temporary foster care or have a judge decide who would raise them, if something happened to you!

    Plus, Laura will show you an easy three-step process for choosing guardians for your kids, and how to avoid the six common mistakes parents (and their lawyers) make when naming guardians.  You will leave the Online Workshop with FREE legal documents naming permanent guardians for your kids, plus the peace of mind of knowing you’ve named guardians “just in case”! 

    Register now on the Meier Law Firm Events Page.

    Be sure to invite your friends and family!

    Register Now to Name Permanent Guardians For Free Online this Thursday!

    Join top OC business and estate planning attorney and mom of three great kids, Laura K. Meier, this Thursday night, April 26, 2012 at 8pm ONLINE, and discover why you must name permanent guardians for your kids so they would never be in temporary foster care or have a judge decide who would raise them, if something happened to you!

    Plus, Laura will show you an easy three-step process for choosing guardians for your kids, and how to avoid the six common mistakes parents (and their lawyers) make when naming guardians.  You will leave the Online Workshop with FREE legal documents naming permanent guardians for your kids, plus the peace of mind of knowing you’ve named guardians “just in case”! 

    Register now at www.meierfirm.com/webinars.html.

    Be sure to invite your friends and family!




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