Comprehensive Wealth Planning is More Than a Legal Service

After the birth of a child, life seems to become very REAL very FAST. Previously care-free couples suddenly realize that without their trusted eye watching every move, their “bundles of joy” are very vulnerable. This is exactly the time to consider the concept of guardianship.

Whom would you trust to take care of your child if you were not available? What if you were out of town, on vacation, or attending an out-of-state meeting or business function when an accident or unexpected illness occurred? If you have written and executed a proper Will, this document will allow you to direct who should be legally appoint a guardian for a minor child.  Wills must go through the Probate process. Probate is a lengthy and public court process. To better protect yourself and your children while you are alive, you should accompany any Will with a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) and an Advance Directive. These documents can be used immediately upon signature to support you in case of an emergency, and allow you to appoint the proper parent or guardian for your minor children. If you do not appoint a person whom you trust to care for these cherished loved ones, you can be sure that the person whom you trust the least will be the person who volunteers. Or worse, upon your death or incapacity, the State will step in through the Foster Care program.

Are you sure your teens are learning what they need to learn in order to be “wealthy” teens? Schools today are so over burdened with educational standards that they are not teaching children what they need to know to be good stewards of money. You may want to teach them, but do they listen to you at this point? Are you “cool” enough to present these concepts in a way that will take hold in their minds? You probably do not want to hand over large sums of money to them at this age, but shouldn’t they understand how to handle money, and have their lives reinforce these concepts so that by the time they turn 18 you do not become their perpetual meal tickets?

We created a program called Creating Wealthy Teens which helps teens learn the simple financial concepts they need to know before they start out on their own. This program teaches simple budgeting, balancing a checkbook or debit card account, saving towards future goals/purchases with dollar cost averaging, understanding how credit cards really work, and participating in money markets (owning a piece of Starbucks instead of consuming Starbucks). These valuable concepts help teens become good stewards of their own money, and perhaps become the future owners of Fortune 500 Companies. . . rather than becoming part of the I.N.E.E.D.Y.O.U. generation.

Attend the Creating Wealthy Teens Seminar (or purchase the “$pelling It Out” binder from our office as a gift)

Once your children reach the age of 18, they are ADULTS in the eyes of the law. You will need to be designated as their legal representatives in order to handle their medical and financial issues. Claiming your children as dependents is not sufficient. The UNFORTUNATE facts are:

  • Accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults;
  • A quarter million adults aged 18 to 25 are hospitalized each year.

Are your kids contemplating European internships, or working out-of-state? Just moving out-of-the-house is enough!—you will no longer be considered their legal guardian. Provide yourself a sense of security and peace of mind SO YOU CAN ENJOY their college experience.

Call Grace TODAY to get these important legal protections in place!

Durable Power of Attorney Seminar TBA, or call to schedule one at your group or church.

A family that is actively planning for an immanent divorce is a rare thing. Most divorces are surprises — at least to one of the spouses. That doesn’t mean the inevitable sense of loss and grief should be accompanied by an error in estate planning.

If already in place, an estate plan cannot be changed during a divorce. The automatic stay that is granted by the court once a Petition for Dissolution is filed protects most of the financial and estate documents in place , in order to safeguard all parties until the divorce decree is awarded. Few family law attorneys have the experience to handle the changing financial circumstances divorcing families will experience once a divorce takes place. Their focus is generally on spousal and child support. But it is equally important to consider life insurance beneficiary designations, retirement plan designations, future financial planning, and changing guardianship needs for minor children. An effective estate planning attorney should be consulted before the property settlement is finalized, so that each spouse can be protected from agreeing to a divorce decree without considering the the proper protections each spouse will need once they become a single parent.

After a divorce, all estate and financial plans should be re-evaluated to ensure that they continue to fit the new family dynamics.  Statistics show that the care-giving spouse usually loses 40% of their wealth after a divorce.  One should not say “I’ll agree to anything just to finish this divorce” as it may cost you dearly in the end.

Business planning can take many forms when it comes to estate planning. First, a business owner must consider his or her business assets as actual “assets” when drafting a living trust. Many people overlook or make mistakes transferring ownership of their business as they are watching the net profit instead of the business’s value. This “business asset” is like real estate, it must be transferred to another party according to its business formation structure, but one must remember it is likely worth more than its net profits. Often a business consultant will value a business as worth 3 times it’s gross receipts.  Goodwill is a valuable asset to any established business but this does not show up in a businesses net profits.  Partnerships will pose different issues than corporations and S corporations, LLC’s and sole proprietorships. Considerations go beyond simply transferring the asset to the appropriate party in succession. One must also consider how the business will operate during a transition, and how it will retain key employees.

Often overlooked is the operation of a business between business “partners” without a special legal agreement for a dissolution. Many people have loose or informal business arrangements which they have left undocumented or which they plan to document “someday.” In these cases, the question is what estate plans these “partners” have considered, if any, to assure that their business interest will not be tied up in another party’s probate proceeding for several years. If you don’t know what your business partner’s plans are, you will likely be a part of the estate litigation that ensues when these questions have to be resolved in the future. Costly time, legal fees and energy can be avoided if these plans are made a part of the estate plan in advance.

Many families have invested in real estate together, believing nothing will ever happen to any of them. They have not considered what happens to the real estate in the event of a divorce or in the advent of incapacity of any of the owners. They have not changed deeds of ownership to document their arrangements, and thus have not protected themselves legally from unknown circumstances that may occur.

Ms. St. Clair has extensive real estate and corporate experience outside of estate planning which she draws upon to support her clients when they are deciding how to handle these arrangements. In addition, she is experienced in business planning and formation, and utilizes her general counsel skills to provide guidance to clients in retaining key employees and creating employee benefit plans.

How you plan for incapacity can be up to you. Should you become incapacitated, do you want your authorization to be immediate in time, or only after a specific event or level of care need takes place? A Power of Attorney allows you to designate a person, or persons, to act on your behalf if you are unable or unavailable. Our typical Trust package comes with two of these documents; one governs your personal property and one takes effect for health care decisions (sometimes referred to as a Living Will). Being “unavailable” can take on many forms. It can mean that you are incapacitated and mentally incompetent, but it can also mean that you were in an accident or traveling out of the country. You can choose when these documents will be effective and how they will work. A Power of Attorney and a Living Will can provide invaluable assistance and save you thousands of dollars if you become “unavailable” while conducting your affairs.

Seniors are very susceptible to cyber-hackers. Often seniors are targeted by scammers and these scammers are very charming, disarming their “scam-ees” with stories of suffering and hardship. They can easily sway a senior and prey on feelings of compassion and responsibility. We hear daily about the “scam of the week,” but people, especially seniors, still fall for these rouses, despite the press given to them. What can you do to protect your loved ones from falling victim to these unscrupulous con-artists?

Staying in touch can help, but it does not create full protection. Seniors should not agree to give unsupervised access of their checking accounts and private information, including investment accounts, to un-monitored persons. Memory and cognitive problems can increase issues, even when dealing with trusted creditors, because seniors tend to over-pay (writing too many zeros on a check) and over click (re-authorizing and repeating credit card charges, visiting and revisiting sites). In addition, memory issues can indicate the onset or presence of other diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s (see our Resources Page regarding The Early Signs of Alzheimer’s).

But how do you keep your seniors protected when you do not live with them? These and other questions can be answered in our senior cyber-security seminars. See the Events page for our upcoming programs.

Next Steps: These plans are always more effective when you involve a trusted advisor who can make sure nothing falls through the “cracks.” Contact us today to get your family started on your path to peace of mind.

Many people are experiencing the need for creating Special Needs Trusts (SNT). Dealing with a child with special needs can be emotionally rewarding as these children show unconditional love to their parents and caretakers. However, families can also experience financial challenges while trying to retain special state and federal benefits. While the typical use for the SNT can be to protect children with disabilities, these aren’t the only reasons for the use of a SNT. Taking preventive measures early on can help avoid certain challenges one will face in dealing with these “special needs”. SNT’s can be useful in planning for those with disabilities, birth abnormalities, addiction and substance abuse considerations, behavioral conditions, mental illness and seniors with health conditions that arise later-on in life.