Archive for the ‘Estate Planning’ Category

A New Year’s Plan

Monday, January 1st, 2018

The New Year is a great time to make resolutions and set goals.

But goals probably won’t be met unless we also have a plan of how to get there. If we are traveling to DisneyWorld, the goal is to get to the magic kingdom. But we can’t get there unless we know which road to take and calculate how long it will take us to get there. We might need to stay overnight on the way, so we need to find a hotel and make advance reservations. We might be lucky and just find a great hotel at a great price right where we want to stop at the end of the day. But, we might also be unlucky and find that we get tired of driving just after we go through the last town for 100 miles. If we plan ahead, we’ll know for sure that we have a room when and where we want one.

Now is a great time to think about what you want to do in the coming year, and to make the plans to ensure you get what you want.

Are you a young parent who does not yet have a Will or estate plan? Do you know who will take care of your children if anything happens to you?

Or are you an older person who’s children have grown up and are out of the house? Have you updated your will or estate plan to take these changes into account?

Are you thinking about starting a new business this year? do you know what steps you need to go through to get that accomplished?

Has your family life reached the stage that you just can’t stand it any longer? And you want to make sure that you and your children are protected financially?

Are you finally going to purchase that house this year?

One of my personal goals this year is to lose weight (yes, again). This time I have a plan of how to approach it and monthly mini-goals along the way so that I can adjust what I’m doing if it doesn’t seem to be working for me. And I have it on paper so I can touch it and read it every day to make sure I’m on track.

Another goal I have is to make sure that my own estate plan is up to date. My plan includes reviewing my living will to make sure that I haven’t changed my mind about any of my previous decisions. It also includes checking to make sure that any investments I’ve made this past year are included and that things I’ve sold are removed from my trust documents.

I have goals for my business and what I want to accomplish this year. My plan includes pieces on marketing, new subject areas and customer service. And I set milestones for each month so I can check my progress to make sure I’m still going in the right direction.

As you can see, I have lots of goals (and plans) for this new year.

If you need help with any legal aspects of your plans for this new year, call the office at 757-234-4650 and we can set up an appointment to discuss your goals and how to get there.

Keep copies of contracts!

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

I know you’ve heard it before….”An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!”….But what about a written contract?

If you don’t have a copy to prove that it ever existed, it can be just like an oral contract.

Yes, oral contracts can be upheld. But it’s much harder to prove the agreement when there isn’t a writing.

And sometimes, there was a written contract, but we ‘trusted’ the other person and tossed our copy of the contract because we don’t want to accumulate clutter. This can be a problem when you need to prove that the contract ever existed, or when you need to prove one of the clauses in the contract.

Also, if you ever sign a mortgage loan document, make SURE to get a copy of the entire contract. And make sure that your copy contains the same terms as the copy you signed and gave back to the loan broker (or notary).

I like to trust people, but there are some very not-nice folks out there these days who are trying hard to make a living. And sometimes, those people do things that aren’t quite right.

There are also companies that are being bought or sold and perhaps with a name change.  In the process, their copy of the written contract may be lost by mistake.

It’s always better to be safe.

So protect yourself and keep copies of the contract. At least until the contract has been totally performed.

And yes, that means that you should keep your home mortgage contract for 30 years (if that’s the length of your mortgage) or until you receive notification that the mortgage has been paid off.

You can contact Beavers Law, P.C. by calling our office at 757-234-4650 or by visiting us on the web at www.BeaversLaw.com

Don’t I need a trust?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

You’ve probably heard that ‘everyone’ needs a trust. And that’s just not true.

The right answer is ‘it depends’.

It depends on what you own. It depends on what you want to do with what you own. It depends on why you might want a trust. It depends on your tax situation.

Anyone can give you a trust document. You can even fill out some fields online and have one printed for you for very little cost.

The big problem with this approach is that you don’t get the advice that you need to make an informed decision. It may be that a trust is just not right for your situation.

That’s why I recommend seeing an attorney and taking the time to explain what you really want. And then the attorney can customize an estate plan to fit your needs and wants.

It may cost a little more now, but it can save a lot later…..in money as well as in confusion and frustration.

Things are changing.

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

I love the start of a new school year!

When I was growing up, the start of a new school year was when things changed. I got a new teacher, got new clothes, got new school supplies, moved into a new grade and often found new friends.

That’s why I suggest this time of year to review your estate planning needs.

If you already have an estate plan (with the appropriate medical directives, powers of attorney, will and perhaps a trust), this is the time when you should take a few minutes and think about what changes have occurred since you last considered the plan.

Do you have a new spouse? (or are you now unmarried?) Do you have new children/grandchildren? Have your children left the home for lives of their own? Have you purchased a new home? Have you moved to another locality? Have you purchased or sold any items that should be considered in your gifting scheme? Have you changed jobs?

If any of these have occurred, you should consider a review of your estate plan.

Also, even if none of these changes have occurred, you should consider a review of your plan if it has been at least 3 years since your plan was established. Why? Because laws change and you want to make sure that your plan is taking advantage of the newest legal rules.

At Beavers Law, P.C., we will be happy to review your existing estate plan to make sure it fits your needs today. Call us today at 757-234-4650 to schedule this review!

Why do I need an ‘advanced directive’?

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

I hear this question a lot. Along with the question ‘What happens to my basic directive when I get an advanced directive?’ Even I had some trouble with the terminology when I first heard it (before I became a lawyer). Then I looked more closely.

It isn’t an ‘advanced’ directive, it is an ‘advance’ directive. That’s right, ‘advance’ as in ‘before’. And just like you plan what to pack in advance of your vacation, you should plan what sorts of medical treatment you would want before you need it. After all, there is a good chance that when the time comes, you won’t be able to tell people yourself.

If you are on life support, you won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be kept alive with machines doing all the work. You won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be fed through a feeding tube when there is no chance of you ever waking up. And you won’t be able to tell the doctor that you want pain killers, even if that means that you might die a little sooner.

That’s what the ‘advance directive’ is all about.

Remember that case in Florida where the woman’s husband and her parents went to court fighting over whether or not she should be kept alive by mechanical means, even after her brain function had totally stopped? The people who loved her the most spent a lot of time (and a lot of money) fighting over what she would have wanted.

It would have been much easier on everyone if she had written an ‘advance directive’ to let people know what she really wanted.

It’s a nice thing to do for our loved ones. If we are in the position to need this directive, the people we love are probably already in a very emotional state. And that’s not a good time to have to make these decisions.

It is much better to make these decisions before the time comes. In Advance of when the decision is needed.

That way, you can be sure that everyone understands your wishes. There is no problem with how one person thought you might want to proceed, because you are telling them what you want. You are making sure that your wishes are heard.

Yes, I think everyone should have an advance directive to tell the people we love how we want them to proceed. It is so much easier for them to follow our wishes when we have taken the time and effort to make sure those wishes are in writing.

Where Should I keep my Will?

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Your Will is a very important document that will be used to tell the Court how you want your assets to be divided in the event of your death.

Also, if you have minor children, your Will tells the Court who you want to have guardianship of your children in the event of your death. And of course, you Will names the person you want as the executor of your estate.

The Will really has no meaning until you die. Of course, if you have died, you won’t be around to tell anyone where to look for this very important document.

So that brings up the question….Where should I keep my Will?

In some states, a safe-deposit box in a bank can’t be opened until after the Executor gets the ‘letters’ from the court. But how do you know who the executor is without the Will in the first place? So in those states, your safe deposit box at the bank is a bad place to keep the Will.

Fortunately, in Virginia, the bank will allow the safe-deposit box to be opened for the express purpose of trying to locate the Will. If the Will is found in the box, the bank will make a copy of the Will, along with an inventory of the contents of the box, and you may take the original of the Will to Court while the copy and all of the contents (as well as the inventory) are left in the box.

I’ve also heard people say they leave all of their important papers in a zip-lock baggie in the freezer compartment of their refrigerator. That probably wouldn’t be my favorite place. The argument is that the freezer will probably be safe in the event of a fire or other disaster in the home, and they think people will know to look there. Personally, I only look in the freezer when I’m looking for ice cream!

You could leave the original Will with the attorney. But what happens when you haven’t been back to that attorney for a few years, and nobody in the family is aware of the attorney’s name or phone number? I guess each attorney could review the list of death notices every day to see if their client has died, but that’s just not going to happen.

My recommended place for your Will is in a fireproof box in your home.

The most important thing to remember is that wherever you decide to keep your Will (and all of your important papers, such as the deed to your house), you should make sure to tell your loved ones where they are!

I generally give my clients a binder with flexible sides so that it can forced to fit into a smaller space. This binder contains all of the estate planning documents in one place. I also include a section on ‘Important Contact Information’ so that my client can put in the names and phone numbers of all of the insurance agents, investment advisers, life insurance policy numbers, (etc.) as well as the contact information for all family members. That way, the loved one only has to pick up one binder and all of the information needed will be right there! I also suggest that my clients include a section on what they want to have done with their remains. That way, there is no question in the family about what you really would have wanted.

So, what is the right answer to my question, Where Should I keep my Will?

Wherever your loved ones will look for it!

Are you prepared?

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Thursday was a difficult day in the world of celebrity news. But it is also a good view on what happens when we either are, or are not, prepared for end-of-life events.

On the prepared side, we all heard about the death of Farrah Fawcett. Since she had cancer and knew it was terminal, there were plans already in place so that the TV specials and news items that documented her life were all ready to go. Things seemed to go more smoothly for those that needed to act.

On the un-prepared side, we also all heard about the death of Michael Jackson. However, in Michael Jackson’s case, nobody thought that he would die so soon. The family was not prepared for his passing and the news media was not prepared to present the TV specials that would document his life.

Being prepared does not make a death more or less tragic. The loss of a loved one is always tragic.

But if you have prepared in advance, it can make things much easier on those that are left behind.

Even if we aren’t movie-stars, our passing will have a huge impact on our family and friends. I think we owe it to them to be as prepared as possible.

If you’d like to discuss what you can do to help your family become prepared for your inevitable passing, call our office to schedule an estate planning session.

How do I choose a guardian for my children?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

One of the really difficult things any parent has to consider is who to name as the guardian of their children.

Of course, we all hope that we remain alive and competent and we are able to raise our children ourselves. But sometimes Life Happens and our children are left without us. This is going to be a tough time for the kids anyway. And if you haven’t named a guardian, there will be even more turmoil as the courts try to decide who should be the person to raise your children.

In most states, the natural (or adoptive) parents are the legal guardians. That means that even if you have full legal custody of your children after a divorce, if something happens to you, the other spouse will become the child’s default guardian. Even if you decide that this is a good idea, what about the situation where that other parent is also not available?

Assuming you have agreed that you need to name a guardian, how do you choose?

You can make a list of the people that you will consider for this important role. (You might also make a list of people that you do NOT want to be guardians).

Then make a list of your own parenting style and what you think is important in your children’s lives. Do you want your children to attend the same church that you attend now? Do you want your children to be able to have a big yard to play in? Do you want your children to be with other children? Or perhaps you want your children to be the only children in the family? Do you want your children to learn how to cook? or work on cars? or be able to use the newest technology?

Then take the list of people on your first list and rank them according to the criteria on your second list.

The person on your list with the highest ranking number is probably the one you should choose.

What do you do then? You should contact your attorney to make sure that you have the correct legal documents to ensure that your choice is known.

And did you know that you can choose one person for the ‘personal’ care of your children and another person to be in charge of your children’s finances?

We all try to make sure our children are safe and that their physical needs are met when we’re around. We also need to make sure that their needs are met if something happens to us.

If you’d like to discuss this important aspect of parenting, contact the office at 757-234-4650 to set up an appointment!