JWJACOBLAW https://www.jwjacoblaw.com JWJACOBLAW Mon, 08 Jul 2019 12:42:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/cropped-slide1-32x32.jpg JWJACOBLAW https://www.jwjacoblaw.com 32 32 5 Tips for Estate Planning Around Divorce – Part 2 https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/5-tips-for-estate-planning-around-divorce-part-2/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/5-tips-for-estate-planning-around-divorce-part-2/#respond Thu, 25 Apr 2019 11:58:22 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1325 In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the first two critical estate planning updates you must consider if you are getting divorced. Here, in Part 2, I will cover the last three of these must-do planning tasks. Because getting divorced can be overwhelming on so many different levels, updating your estate plan often takes […]

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In Part 1 of this series, I discussed the first two critical estate planning updates you must consider if you are getting divorced. Here, in Part 2, I will cover the last three of these must-do planning tasks.

Because getting divorced can be overwhelming on so many different levels, updating your estate plan often takes a back seat to other seemingly more-pressing priorities. But, failing to update your plan for divorce can have negative consequences, some of which you may have never even considered before.

In fact, it is critical that you update your plan as soon as you know the split is inevitable. This is something your divorce attorney probably will not think to bring up, but it is literally one of the most critical matters you need to handle if you are ending your marriage.

Last week, I discussed the first two estate planning changes you must make – updating your power of attorney documents and beneficiary designations – and today I will share the remaining three.

3. Create a new will

In Florida, your will is automatically revoked by default after the divorce is final. However, you should not wait until the divorce is over before creating a new will, because once you file for divorce, you may not be able to change the provisions in your current will during the divorce proceedings.

As previously mentioned, Florida law considers you to be legally married until the judge signs the final judgment ending the marriage. This means if you die or become incapacitated while the divorce is still ongoing and you have not updated your estate plan, your soon-to-be-ex spouse could end up inheriting everything or take complete control of your legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.

As such, before filing for divorce is the best time to rethink how you want your assets divided upon your death. This most likely means naming new beneficiaries for any assets that you would have previously left to your future ex and his or her family. And unless it is your wish, you will probably no longer want your ex – or any of his or her family – listed as your will’s executor or administrator, either.

Updating your will as soon as possible once divorce is inevitable will ensure the proper individuals inherit the remaining percentage of your estate should you pass away while your divorce is still ongoing.

In light of this uncertain legal landscape, it is critical that you consult with me as soon as you know divorce is on the horizon. I can help you understand the law and how to best navigate it when creating your new will – whether you do so before or after your divorce is over.

4. Amend your existing trust or create a new one

If you have a revocable trust set up, you will want to review and update it, too. In addition to reconsidering what assets your soon-to-be-ex spouse should receive through the trust, you will probably want to replace him or her as a successor trustee (if they have been assigned that power).

If you do not have a trust in place, you should strongly consider creating one, especially if you have minor children.

Trusts provide a wide range of powers and benefits unavailable through a will, and they are particularly well-suited for blended families. Given the likelihood that both you and your spouse will eventually get remarried – and perhaps have more children with a new spouse – trusts are an invaluable way to protect and manage the assets you want your children to inherit.

By using a trust, for example, should you die or become incapacitated while your kids are minors, you can name someone of your choosing to serve as successor trustee to manage their money until they reach adulthood, making it impossible for your ex to meddle with their inheritance.

Beyond this key benefit, trusts afford you several other levels of enhanced protection and control not possible with a will. So, you should at least discuss creating a trust with me before ruling out the option entirely.

5. Revisit your plan once your divorce is final

During the divorce process, your main planning concern is limiting your soon-to-be ex’s control over your life and assets should you die or become incapacitated before the divorce is final.

Accordingly, the individuals to whom you grant power of attorney, name as trustee, designate to receive your retirement benefits, or add to your estate plan in any other way while the divorce is ongoing, are often just temporary.

Once the divorce is final and your marital property has been divided up, you should revisit all of your estate planning documents and update them accordingly based on your new asset profile and living situation. From there, your plan should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances, particularly following major life events, such as getting remarried, having additional children, and/or when close family members pass away.

Do Not Wait. Act Now!

Even though divorce can be one of life’s most difficult transitions, it is vital that you make the time to update your estate plan during this trying time. Meet with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® to review your plan immediately upon realizing that divorce is unavoidable.

Putting off updating your plan during a divorce can make it legally impossible to change certain parts of your plan, so take action now. And if you have yet to create any estate plan at all, an impending divorce is the perfect time to finally take care of this important life task. Contact me today to get the process underway with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

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5 Tips for Estate Planning Around Divorce – Part 1 https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/5-tips-for-estate-planning-around-divorce-part-1/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/5-tips-for-estate-planning-around-divorce-part-1/#respond Thu, 25 Apr 2019 11:57:10 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1322 Did you know the current divorce rate among married couples in America is 40-50%? Wait, what!? Yes, that’s right. Half of all Americans will get divorced in their lifetime. Divorce can be traumatic for the whole family. Even if the process is amicable, it involves many tough decisions, legal hassles, and painful emotions that can […]

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Did you know the current divorce rate among married couples in America is 40-50%?

Wait, what!?

Yes, that’s right. Half of all Americans will get divorced in their lifetime.

Divorce can be traumatic for the whole family. Even if the process is amicable, it involves many tough decisions, legal hassles, and painful emotions that can drag out over several months or years.

While you probably do not want to add any more items to your to-do list during this trying time, it is absolutely critical that you review and update your estate plan as soon as possible once you know the split is inevitable.

Florida law considers you to be legally married until the judge signs the final judgment ending the marriage.

This means if you die while the divorce is still ongoing and you have not updated your estate plan, your soon-to-be-ex spouse could end up inheriting everything. Maybe even worse, in the event you are incapacitated before the divorce is final, your spouse would be in complete control of your legal, financial, and healthcare decisions.

Given the fact that the relationship is ending, you probably do not want soon-to-be-ex spouse having that much control over your life and assets. If that is the case, you must take action.

Unless they also handle estate planning, your divorce attorney is probably not thinking about these matters on your behalf. This could be problematic as updating your estate plan is one of the most critical matters you need to handle if you’re ending your marriage (Side note: My law office provides family law counseling and services in addition to family estate planning. Just sayin’!).

When divorce is on the horizon, the following are a few of the most important updates you should consider making to your estate plan as soon as possible:

1. Update your power of attorney documents for healthcare, financial, and legal decisions

If you are incapacitated during the divorce proceedings, who would you want making life-and-death healthcare decisions on your behalf? If you are in the middle of divorce, chances are you will want someone other than your soon-to-be-ex making these important decisions for you. If that is the case, you must take action. Contact me now – do not wait until it is too late.

Similarly, who would you want managing your finances and making legal decisions for you? In light of the impending split, you will most likely want to select another trusted individual if things are anything less than friendly between you and your soon-to-be-ex. Again, you have to take action if you do not want your spouse making these decisions for you.

2. Update your beneficiary designations

Failing to update beneficiary designations for assets that do not pass through a will or trust – such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts – is one of the most frequent, and tragic, planning mistakes made by those who get divorced.

For example, if you get remarried after your divorce but have not changed your retirement account or life insurance beneficiary designation to name your new spouse, your ex-spouse could end up with your retirement savings upon your death.

Daaaaaaaaamn! Not good.

Most retirement plans allow you to freely change your beneficiary without your current spouse’s written approval, such as Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) and qualified pensions. However, for a 401(k) retirement plan, no matter what, you must first receive your current spouse’s written approval before naming someone else as your beneficiary. As such, you can opt to move funds out of a 401(k) into another retirement account, but this is not always advisable or even possible, so you must contact an estate planning lawyer before making this decision.

Furthermore, in Florida, like most other states, once a spouse files for divorce and until the divorce is final, neither party can legally amend their beneficiaries without the other spouse’s written permission. Given this, if you are anticipating a divorce, and if permitted by law and/or the account administrator, you may want to consider changing your beneficiaries prior to filing divorce papers. If your divorce is already filed, you should consult with me to see if changing beneficiaries is legal and in your best interest.

Finally, if naming new beneficiaries is not an option for you before the divorce proceeding are started, once the divorce is finalized it should be your first estate planning priority. In fact, put it on your to-do list right now!

Next week, I will continue with Part 2 in this series on the critical estate planning updates that you should make when divorce is inevitable.

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Consider Your Estate Plan Before You Travel https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/consider-your-estate-plan-before-you-travel/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/consider-your-estate-plan-before-you-travel/#respond Tue, 16 Apr 2019 11:49:49 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1317 Already thinking about your summer vacation plans? Heading abroad for your honeymoon? Invited to a friend's destination wedding...

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Already thinking about your summer vacation plans? Heading abroad for your honeymoon? Invited to a friend’s destination wedding?

Preparing to travel entails lots of planning: packing luggage, buying plane tickets, making hotel reservations, and confirming rental vehicles. One thing many people forget to do is ensure their estate planning documents are up-to-date. Traveling – especially in foreign destinations – means you will likely be at greater risk than usual for illness, injury, and even death.

In light of this reality, it is critical to have your estate plan legally sound and updated to avoid any legal nightmares if something should happen to you while you are traveling. The following are four (4) most important estate planning tasks to take care of before you depart:

1. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date

Some of your most valuable assets, like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, do not transfer through a will or trust. Instead, they have beneficiary designations that allow you to name the person(s) you would like to inherit the asset upon your death. It is vital that you name a primary beneficiary and at least one alternate beneficiary in case the primary dies before you. Moreover, these designations must be regularly reviewed and updated, especially following major life events like marriage, divorce, and having children.

2. Create power of attorney documents

Outside of death, unforeseen illness and injury can leave you incapacitated and unable to make critical decisions about your own well-being. Given this, you must grant someone the legal authority to make those decisions on your behalf through power of attorney. You need two such documents: (i) medical power of attorney, and (ii) financial durable power of attorney. A medical power of attorney gives the person of your choice the authority to make your healthcare decisions for you, while a durable financial power of attorney gives someone the authority to manage your finances. As with beneficiary designations, these decision makers can change over time, so before you leave for vacation, be sure both documents are up to date.

3. Name guardians for your minor children and/or pets

If you are the parent of minor children, your most important planning task is to legally document guardians to care for your kids in the event of your death or incapacity. These guardians are the people whom you trust most to care for your children – and potentially raise them to adulthood – if something should happen to you. Given the monumental importance of this decision, I have created a comprehensive system called the Kids Protection Plan® that guides you step-by-step through the process of creating the legal documents naming these guardians. You can get started with this process right now for free by visiting my user-friendly website.

Similar to naming guardians of minor children, you can also name legal guardians and caretakers of your beloved pets. With the proper legal documents in place, you can rest assured that your furry family members will always be taken care of.

4. Organize your digital assets

If you’re like most people, you probably have dozens of digital accounts like email, social media, cloud storage, and cryptocurrency. If these assets are not properly inventoried and accounted for, they will likely be lost forever if something happens to you. At minimum, you should write down on paper the location and passwords for each account, and ensure someone you trust knows how to access this information and what to do with these digital assets in the event of your death or incapacity.

Complete your travel plans now

If you have travel plans, be sure to add these four (4) items to your to-do list before leaving. And if you need help completing any of these tasks—or would simply like me to double check the plan you have in place—consult with me as your Personal Family Lawyer®.

While I normally recommend you complete these tasks no less a month before you depart, if your trip is sooner than that, call and let me know you need a rush Family Wealth Planning Session and I will do my best to fit you in as soon as possible. Contact me today to get started.

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Who is Your Life Insurance Policy Beneficiary? (Part Two) https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/who-is-your-life-insurance-policy-beneficiary-part-two/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/who-is-your-life-insurance-policy-beneficiary-part-two/#respond Mon, 08 Apr 2019 11:46:45 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1313 In the first part of this series, I discussed the first three of six questions you should ask yourself when selecting a life insurance beneficiary. Here I will cover the final half. Selecting a beneficiary for your life insurance policy sounds pretty straightforward. But, given all of the options available and the potential for unforeseen […]

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In the first part of this series, I discussed the first three of six questions you should ask yourself when selecting a life insurance beneficiary. Here I will cover the final half.

Selecting a beneficiary for your life insurance policy sounds pretty straightforward. But, given all of the options available and the potential for unforeseen problems, it can be a more complicated decision than you might imagine.

For instance, when purchasing a life insurance policy, your primary goal is most likely to make the named beneficiary’s life better or easier in some way in the aftermath of your death. However, unless you consider all of the unique circumstances involved with your choice, you might actually end up creating additional problems for your loved ones.

Last week, I discussed the first three of six questions you should ask yourself when choosing a life insurance beneficiary. Here I will cover the remaining three:

4. Are any of your beneficiaries minors?

While you are technically allowed to name a minor as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, it is a bad idea to do so. Insurance carriers will not allow a minor child to receive the insurance benefits directly until they reach the age of majority—which can be as old as 21 depending on the state.

If you have a minor named as your beneficiary when you die, then the proceeds would be distributed to a court-appointed custodian tasked with managing the funds, often at a financial cost to your beneficiary. And this is true even if the minor has a living parent. This means that even the child’s other living birth parent would have to go to court to be appointed as custodian if he or she wanted to manage the funds. And, in some cases, that parent would not be able to be appointed (for example, if they have poor credit), and the court would appoint a paid fiduciary to hold the funds.

Rather than naming a minor child as beneficiary, it is better to first set up a trust for your child to receive the insurance proceeds. That way, you get to choose who would manage your child’s inheritance, and how and when the insurance proceeds would be used and distributed.

5. Would the money negatively affect a beneficiary?

When considering how your insurance funds might help a beneficiary in your absence, you also need to consider how it might potentially cause harm. This is particularly true in the case of young adults.

For example, think about what could go wrong if an 18-year old suddenly receives a large sum of money. At best, the 18-year old might blow through the money in a short period of time on clothes, jewelry, cars, or on their friends. At worst, getting all that money at once could lead to actual physical harm (even death), as could be the case for someone with substance-abuse issues. Now, these are worst case scenarios. However, we can probably agree that no 18-year old is prepared to manage a windfall of cash in their pocket!

To help mitigate these potential complications, some life insurance companies allow your death benefit to be paid out in installments over a period of time, giving you some control over when your beneficiary receives the money.

However, as discussed earlier, if you set up a trust to receive the insurance payment, you would have total control over the conditions that must be met for proceeds to be used or distributed. For example, you could build the trust so that the insurance proceeds would be kept in trust for beneficiary’s use inside the trust, yet still keep the funds totally protected from future creditors, lawsuits, and/or divorce.

6. Is the beneficiary eligible for government benefits?

Considering how your life insurance money might negatively affect a beneficiary is absolutely critical when it comes to those with special needs. If you leave the money directly to someone with special needs, an insurance payout could disqualify your beneficiary from receiving government benefits.

Under federal law, if someone with special needs receives a gift or inheritance of more than $2,000, they can be disqualified for Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Since life insurance proceeds are considered inheritance under the law, an individual with special needs should never be named as beneficiary.

To avoid disqualifying an individual with special needs from receiving government benefits, you should first create a “special needs” trust to receive the proceeds. That way, the money will not go directly to the beneficiary upon your death, and instead it will be managed by the trustee you name and dispersed per the trust’s terms without affecting benefit eligibility.

The rules governing special needs trusts are quite complicated and can vary greatly from state to state, so if you have a child or family member who has special needs, meet with me to ensure you have the proper planning in place, not just for your insurance proceeds, but for the lifetime of care your child may need.

Make sure you have considered all potential circumstances

These are just a few of the questions you should consider when choosing a life insurance beneficiary. Consult with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® to be certain you have thought through all possible circumstances.

And if you think you may need to create a trust—special needs or otherwise—to receive the proceeds of your life insurance, meet with me, so I can properly review all of your assets and consider how to best leave behind what you have in a way that will create the most benefit—and the least challenges—for the people you love. Schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session today!

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Who is Your Life Insurance Policy Beneficiary? (Part One) https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/who-is-your-life-insurance-policy-beneficiary-part-one/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/who-is-your-life-insurance-policy-beneficiary-part-one/#respond Thu, 04 Apr 2019 11:37:07 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1308 Selecting a beneficiary for your life insurance policy sounds pretty straightforward. After all, you are just deciding who will receive the policy’s proceeds when you die. But as with most things in life, selecting a life insurance beneficiary is a bit more complicated. It can help to keep in mind that naming someone as your […]

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Selecting a beneficiary for your life insurance policy sounds pretty straightforward. After all, you are just deciding who will receive the policy’s proceeds when you die.

But as with most things in life, selecting a life insurance beneficiary is a bit more complicated. It can help to keep in mind that naming someone as your life insurance beneficiary really has nothing to do with you. Instead, it should be based on how the funds will affect the beneficiary’s life when you are no longer here.

It is very likely that if you have purchased life insurance, you did so to make someone’s life better or easier in the event of your death. However, when you consider all of the unique circumstances involved with your choice, you might actually end up creating additional problems for the people you love.

Given the potential complexities involved, here are a few important questions you should ask yourself when choosing your life insurance beneficiary:

1. What are you intending to accomplish?

The first thing to consider is the “real” reason you are buying life insurance. On the surface, you may think it is the responsible thing for adults to do. But, I recommend you dig deeper to discover what you ultimately intend to accomplish with your life insurance.

Are you married and looking to replace your income for your spouse and kids after death? Are you single without kids and just trying to cover the costs of your funeral? Are you leaving behind money for your grandkids’ college fund? Are you intending to make sure your business continues after you are gone? Or perhaps your life insurance is in place to cover a future estate-tax burden?

The real reason you are investing in life insurance is something only you can answer. The answer is critical, because it is what determines how much and what kind of life insurance you should have in the first place. And by first clearly understanding what you are actually intending to accomplish with the policy, you will be in a much better position to make your ultimate decision—who to select as beneficiary.

2. What are your beneficiary options?

Your insurance company will ask you to name a primary beneficiary—your top choice to get the insurance money at the time of your death. If you fail to name a beneficiary, the insurance company will distribute the proceeds to your estate upon your death. If your estate is the beneficiary of your life insurance, that means a probate court judge will direct where your insurance money goes at the completion of the probate process.

The probate process can tie your life insurance proceeds up in court for months, or even years. To keep this from happening to your loved ones, be sure to name, at the very least, one primary beneficiary.

In case your primary beneficiary dies before you, you should also name at least one contingent (alternate) beneficiary. For maximum protection, you should probably name more than one contingent beneficiary in case both your primary and secondary choices have died before you. Yet, even these seemingly straightforward choices are often more complicated than they appear due to the options available.

For example, you can name multiple primary beneficiaries, like your children, and have the proceeds divided among them in whatever way you wish. Furthermore, the beneficiary does not necessarily have to be a person. You can name a charity, nonprofit, or business as the primary (or contingent) beneficiary.

It is important to note that if you name a minor child as a primary or contingent beneficiary (and he or she ends up receiving the policy proceeds), a legal guardian must be appointed to manage the funds until the child comes of age. This can lead to numerous complications (which we will discuss in detail next week in Part Two), so you should definitely consult with an attorney like myself if you are considering this option.

When selecting your beneficiaries, you should ultimately base your decision on which person(s) or organization(s) you think would most benefit from the money. In general, you can designate one or more of the following examples as beneficiaries:

  • One person
  • Two or more people (you decide how money is split among them)
  • A trust you have created
  • Your estate
  • A charity, nonprofit, or business

3. Does your state have community property laws?

If you are married, you will likely choose your spouse as the primary beneficiary. But, if you live in a state that does not have community property laws, such as Florida, you can technically choose anyone: a close friend, your favorite charity, or simply the person you think needs the money most.

However, if you do live in a community property state, your spouse is generally entitled to at least half the policy proceeds and will have to sign a form waiving his or her rights to the full amount of insurance money if you want to name someone else as beneficiary. Currently, community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Next week, we will continue with Part Two in this series discussing the remaining three questions to consider when naming beneficiaries for your life insurance policy.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, I can guide you to make informed, educated, and empowered choices to plan for yourself and the ones you love most. Contact me today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

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Warning: Proceed With Caution Before Agreeing to Serve as Trustee https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/warning-proceed-with-caution-before-agreeing-to-serve-as-trustee/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/warning-proceed-with-caution-before-agreeing-to-serve-as-trustee/#respond Tue, 26 Mar 2019 11:32:51 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1304 Being asked by a family member or close friend to serve as trustee for their trust upon their death can be an incredible honor. At the same time, serving as a trustee can be a massive responsibility—and the role is not for everyone. In fact, depending on the type of trust, the assets held by […]

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Being asked by a family member or close friend to serve as trustee for their trust upon their death can be an incredible honor. At the same time, serving as a trustee can be a massive responsibility—and the role is not for everyone.

In fact, depending on the type of trust, the assets held by the trust, the specific terms of the trust, and the named beneficiaries, the job can require you to fulfill a wide range of complex (and potentially unpleasant) duties over the course of many years. In addition, trustees are both ethically and legally required to properly execute those duties, or face liability.

Given this, agreeing to serve as trustee is a decision that should not be made lightly. Sometimes the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to politely decline the job. Remember, you do not have to take it. Depending on who nominated you, declining to serve may not be an easy or practical option, or you might enjoy the opportunity to be a trustee if you understand what it entails.

It is best to make your decision about serving as trustee with eyes wide open. The following is a brief look at what the job will likely entail, along with some situations where you might want to seriously think twice about agreeing.

What trustees do

A trustee’s duties can vary depending on the size of the estate, the type of trust, and the trust’s specific instructions. Every trust comes with a few core requirements, primarily revolving around accounting for, managing, and distributing the trust’s assets to its named beneficiaries.

Regardless of the type of trust or the assets it holds, some of a trustee’s key responsibilities include:

  • Identifying and protecting the trust assets
  • Determining what the trust’s terms actually require you to do
  • Managing the trust assets for the term specified and distributing them properly
  • Filing income and estate taxes for the trust
  • Communicating regularly with beneficiaries
  • Being honest, highly organized, and keeping detailed records
  • Closing the trust when the trust terms specify

Ultimately, trustees have a fiduciary duty to properly manage the trust in the best interest of all the trust beneficiaries. Consult with me for more in-depth details regarding the duties and responsibilities a specific trust will require of you as trustee.

Can you get help?

Generally, you are not expected to take on the responsibility of trustee by yourself. Often, trustees are granted permission in the trust to seek assistance from outside professionals to fulfill their duties. Remember, you do NOT need experience in law, finance, or taxes to serve as trustee. And while you will not be able to profit from the job, you are able to be paid for your role as trustee.

Many trustees, especially family members, choose not to accept any payment beyond what’s required to cover the trust expenses. Yet, this all depends on your personal situation and relationship with the trust’s creator and beneficiaries and, of course, the nature of the assets in the trust. In either case, you will not have to use your own funds to get the job done.

Signs the trustee role might be a bad idea

Given the sense of loyalty and responsibility that is often involved, it might feel difficult to turn the trustee role down. But for a number of reasons, saying “no thanks” can sometimes be the best decision, not only for you, but for all parties involved.

This is an entirely personal decision and one you will ultimately have to make for yourself after considering all of the factors. The following are examples of red flags that can signal the role might be better fulfilled by someone other than you:

  • Your job, family, and/or health situation is such that you will not be able to give the job the time and attention it deserves. Some trusts can require far more work than others, and if the role would seriously impede your own life, you might consider declining.
  • You do not get along with the beneficiaries. If there are underlying conflicts or bad blood with the people you’ll be required to serve, this could make the job incredibly difficult and unpleasant for everyone.
  • The trust’s terms are vague and/or unclear, leaving you in the position to make difficult decisions you do not feel qualified to make. Such grey areas are especially troublesome when it comes to distributing trust assets to young adult beneficiaries, who might not be the most responsible with their spending and/or lifestyle.
  • It is not clear exactly what assets the trust creator (grantor) owned, and/or the estate is highly unorganized. Tracking down and managing unorganized and/or poorly funded assets can be a massive undertaking—and potential liability.
  • Lawsuits are likely or already underway. As trustee, it is your duty to defend the trust against lawsuits, and just doing this can be a huge expenditure of your time and energy. If a lawsuit against the trust is successful, it could seriously reduce the trust’s value, making your job more challenging.

I can help you decide

Given the serious nature of a trustee’s responsibilities, you can meet with me as your Personal Family Lawyer® for help deciding whether or not to accept the job. I can offer a clear, unbiased assessment of what will be required of you based on the specific trust’s terms, assets, and beneficiaries.

And if you do decide to accept the trustee role, I can guide you step-by-step through the entire process, ensuring you effectively fulfill all of the grantor’s wishes with minimal risk. Serving as trustee can be a lot of work, but if you go into the job with eyes wide open and have the proper guidance, it can be an immensely rewarding experience.

Contact me today to learn more!

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Luke Perry’s Untimely Death Demonstrates the Importance for Young Adults to Plan for Incapacity https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/luke-perrys-untimely-death-demonstrates-the-importance-for-young-adults-to-plan-for-incapacity/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/luke-perrys-untimely-death-demonstrates-the-importance-for-young-adults-to-plan-for-incapacity/#respond Fri, 22 Mar 2019 11:24:05 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1299 In late February 2019, Luke Perry, who became famous starring in the 1990s TV series Beverly Hills 90210, suffered a massive stroke at age 52. He was hospitalized under heavy sedation, and five days later, when it became clear he would not recover, his family decided to remove life support. Perry died on March 4th, […]

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In late February 2019, Luke Perry, who became famous starring in the 1990s TV series Beverly Hills 90210, suffered a massive stroke at age 52. He was hospitalized under heavy sedation, and five days later, when it became clear he would not recover, his family decided to remove life support.

Perry died on March 4th, 2019 surrounded by his two children—21-year-old Jack and 18-year-old Sophie—along with his fiancé, ex-wife, mother, siblings, and others.

Whether or not you were a Luke Perry fan, it is hard not to be somewhat shocked when someone so young, successful, and seemingly healthy passes away so suddenly. In these moments, the fragile impermanence of life becomes glaringly obvious. It is life’s way of reminding us that incapacity and death can strike at any time, no matter who you are.

Such reminders can make you feel extremely vulnerable. And they can also be a precious reminder to make the most of life now.

Reminders of the fleeting nature of life should motivate you to savor life now AND take the proper action to protect the ones you love through proper estate planning. And while we do not yet know exactly what levels of planning Perry had in place, it appears he was thoughtful and responsible enough to have at least covered the basics.

Planning for incapacity and death

Perry was reportedly inspired to create his own estate plan following a fairly recent health scare. In 2015, after discovering he had precancerous growths during a colonoscopy, Perry created a will, leaving everything to his two children. Since Perry was worth an estimated $10 million, divorced with kids from the first marriage, and about to be married again, creating a will was the very least he could do.

But wills are just a small part of the planning equation. Wills only apply to the distribution of your assets following death, and even then, your will must go through the court process known as probate for your assets to be distributed. Because a will only comes into play upon your death, if you are ever incapacitated by accident or illness as Perry was, it offers neither you nor your family any protections.

In Perry’s case, he was incapacitated by a stroke and on life support for nearly a week before he died. During this period, the fact Perry had a will was irrelevant because he was still alive. But given how events unfolded, it appears Perry had other planning vehicles in place to prepare for just this situation.

The power over life and death

During the time he was incapacitated, someone was called upon to make crucial medical decisions for Perry’s welfare, while his family was summoned to his side. It is likely that Perry designated someone to serve as his medical decision-maker by granting them medical power of attorney. He may have also created a living will, which would provide specific instructions to this individual regarding how to make these medical decisions.

Granting medical power of attorney gives the person you name the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. The document that does this is known as an advance healthcare directive, and it is an absolute must-have for every adult over age 18.

Perry was put on life support for nearly a week, and then he was removed from it and allowed to die without ever regaining consciousness—and without any apparent conflict between his loved ones. This indicates that someone in his family likely had the legal authority to make those heart-wrenching decisions over Perry’s life and death.

Without medical power of attorney, if any of Perry’s family were in disagreement over how his medical care should be handled, the family may have needed a court order to terminate life support. This could have needlessly prolonged the family’s suffering and made his death even more public, costly, and traumatic for those he left behind.

The power over your money

Along with medical power of attorney, every adult should also have financial durable power of attorney. In the event of your incapacity, financial durable power of attorney is an estate planning tool that gives the person you choose immediate authority to manage your finances, such as paying your bills, collecting government benefits, and overseeing your bank accounts.

We cannot be sure at this point whether or not Perry put in place durable power of attorney, but since this planning document goes hand-in hand with medical power of attorney, it is almost certain he did. Yet seeing that Perry was only incapacitated for five days before his death, a durable power of attorneymay not seem totally necessary in his case.

But what if Perry’s incapacity had lasted a lot longer?

Given that Perry could have lingered on life support for months or years, it is crucial that someone he trusted had the authority to manage his finances during his incapacity. Without durable power of attorney, the court will choose someone to manage your finances, and that someone might be a person you wouldn’t want anywhere near your life savings or checkbook.

What’s more, that someone could even be a “professional” who gets paid hefty hourly fees to handle things, even if you have family members who want to serve.

Learn from Perry’s example

While Perry’s death is certainly sad, if it inspires you to put the proper estate planning in place, it can ultimately prove immensely beneficial. Whether you already have a basic plan in place or nothing at all, meet with me to get educated about the specifics necessary to keep your family out of court and out conflict if and when something happens to you.

I will help ensure that in the event of your incapacity, or when you die, your loved ones will have the same protections Perry’s had—and more. Contact me today to attend one of my live educational events or get started with a private Family Wealth Planning Session.

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Make A List, Check It Twice: Do Not Overlook This Important Step in Your Estate Planning https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/make-a-list-check-it-twice-do-not-overlook-this-important-step-in-your-estate-planning/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/make-a-list-check-it-twice-do-not-overlook-this-important-step-in-your-estate-planning/#respond Tue, 12 Mar 2019 11:19:43 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1296 In prior articles, we discussed what happens to your Bitcoin and other digital currency after your death, what happens to your social media accounts after your death, and the importance of including your digital assets in your estate plan. The recent death of the CEO of QuadrigaCX, a major cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, demonstrates a […]

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In prior articles, we discussed what happens to your Bitcoin and other digital currency after your death, what happens to your social media accounts after your death, and the importance of including your digital assets in your estate plan. The recent death of the CEO of QuadrigaCX, a major cryptocurrency exchange in Canada, demonstrates a basic, yet often-overlooked, tenet of effective estate planning:

In the event of your incapacity or death, if your heirs do not know how to find or access your assets, those assets are as good as gone. In fact, it is as if those assets never existed at all!

While it might not be that big of a deal if the assets in question are not worth much money, in the case of QuadrigaCX’s owner, Gerald Cotten, the lost assets were purportedly worth $145 million, representing the vast majority of the company’s crypto holdings.

The hefty sum effectively vanished after Cotten died without leaving instructions for how to access the digital currency’s security passcodes. The crypto holdings were owned by some 115,000 clients, who used the exchange to buy and store their digital coins.

An untimely death and a cold wallet

According to an affidavit filed in a Canadian court, Cotten, age 30, died suddenly of complications related to Crohn’s disease while traveling in India during December 2018. In January 2019, QuardigaCX filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors, including all of the customers with crypto stored in the company’s electronic vault.

Ironically, the digital assets were lost in part because Cotten followed a security practice designed to safeguard the funds. Most of the company’s cryptocurrency holdings were stored in a “cold wallet,” or one that is not connected to the Internet. The use of a cold wallet is a common practice, since “hot wallets,” or those connected to the internet, are a frequent target of hackers.

This typically would have been a prudent measure, but Cotten reportedly stored the cold wallet on an encrypted laptop that only he knew how to get into.

According to Cotten’s widow, Jennifer Roberston, following multiple searches, she has been unable to find the passwords that will open the laptop and provide access to the company’s cold wallet. QuadrigaCX even brought in IT experts to get into Cotten’s laptop, but so far, all attempts have been unsuccessful.

Canadian financial authorities and independent auditors are currently investigating the case, with some even speculating that Cotten’s death was faked as part of a nefarious scheme connected to QuadrigaCX. Whether it ultimately turns out to be a simple case of carelessness or something more malicious, the lesson remains the same:

From cryptocurrency to safety deposit boxes and everything in between, your family must know how to find and access every asset you own, otherwise it could be lost forever.

In fact, there is a total of more than $58 billion of unclaimed assets from across the country held by the State Department of Unclaimed Property. Much of that massive sum got there because someone died and their family did not know they owned the asset.

Incomplete estate planning

Another puzzling fact is that upon first glance, Cotten was diligent in his estate planning. Indeed, Cotten named Roberston as his estate’s executor and left her instructions for the complete distribution of his assets, including a private jet and multiple properties in Canada.

He even left behind $100,000 for the care of his two dogs—yet he managed to forget to include the passcodes that would unlock his company’s vast crypto assets. I believe that most people holding crypto assets have not taken the proper steps to ensure their heirs will know how to access these assets upon their incapacity or death.

Given this, if you own any digital currency like Bitcoin, be sure to call this law office to make certain these assets have been correctly included in your estate plan. Indeed, if you have any assets that might potentially be overlooked in the event of your incapacity or death, contact Jordan now.

Easily avoidable

What makes this loss so tragic is that it could have been so easily avoided. Whether your estate is valued in millions or thousands, your plan must include a comprehensive inventory all of your assets. And as Cotten’s case shows, this inventory must also include detailed instructions for how your heirs can find and access every asset.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, a comprehensive asset inventory like this is a standard part of every estate plan that Jordan creates. And whether it is cryptocurrency, social media accounts, or online payment platforms like PayPal, this inventory will include detailed instructions for accessing all of your digital assets and their passcodes. Contact Jordan today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

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7 Events That Require a Review of Your Estate Plan https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/7-events-that-require-a-review-of-your-estate-plan/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/7-events-that-require-a-review-of-your-estate-plan/#respond Wed, 06 Mar 2019 11:09:13 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1293 Even if you put a totally solid estate plan in place, it can end up proving worthless if it is not properly updated. Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal – it should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances. No matter who you are, your life will inevitably change: families change, laws […]

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Even if you put a totally solid estate plan in place, it can end up proving worthless if it is not properly updated. Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal – it should continuously evolve along with your life circumstances.

No matter who you are, your life will inevitably change: families change, laws change, assets change, and goals change. In the absence of any major life events, we recommend reviewing your plan annually to make sure its terms are up to date.

Yet, there are several common life events that necessitate an immediate review and update to your plan— that is, if you want it to actually work and keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. To this end, if any of the following seven events occur, contact Jordan right away.

1) You get married: Marriage not only changes your relationship status, it changes your legal status. Regardless of whether it is your first marriage or fifth, you must take the proper steps to ensure your plan properly reflects your current wishes and needs.

After getting hitched, some of your most pressing concerns include: naming your new spouse as a beneficiary on your insurance policies and retirement accounts, granting him/her medical power of attorney and/or durable power of attorney (if that is your preference), and adding him/her to your will and/or trust.

2) You get divorced: Since divorce can be so overwhelming, estate planning often gets overshadowed by the other dramatic new changes happening. But failing to update your plan for divorce can have devastating consequences.

Once divorce proceedings start, you will need to ensure your future ex- is no longer eligible to receive any of your assets or make financial and medical decisions on your behalf—unless that is your wish. Once the divorce is finalized and your property is divided, you will need to adjust your planning to match your new asset profile and living situation.

3) You give birth or adopt: Welcoming a new addition to your family can be a joyous occasion, but it also demands entirely new levels of planning and responsibility. At the top of your to-do list should be legally naming both long and short-term guardians for your child. Our Kids Protection Plan offers everything you need to complete this process for free right now.

Once you have named guardians, consider putting planning vehicles, such as trusts, in place for your kids. These documents can make certain the assets you want your child to inherit will be passed on in the most effective and beneficial way possible for everyone involved. Consult with us to learn which planning strategies are best suited for your family.

4) A loved one dies: The death of a family member, partner, or close friend can have major consequences for both your life and estate plan. If the person was included in your plan, you need to update it accordingly to fill any gaps his or her absence creates. From naming new beneficiaries, executors, and guardians to identifying new heirs to receive assets allocated to the deceased, make sure you address all voids the death creates as soon as possible.

5) You get seriously ill or injured: As with death, illness and injury are an unavoidable part of being human. If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness or are involved in a life-changing accident, you may want to review the people you’ve chosen to handle your healthcare decisions as well as how those decisions should be made. The person you want as your healthcare proxy can change with time, so be sure your plan reflects your current wishes.

6) You relocate to a new state: Since estate planning laws can vary widely from state to state, if you move to a different state, you will need to review and/or revise your plan to comply with your new home’s legal requirements. Some of these laws can be super complex, so consult with us to make sure your plan will still work exactly as you desire in your new location.

7) Your assets or liabilities change significantly: Whenever your estate’s value dramatically increases or decreases, you should revisit your plan to ensure it still offers the maximum protection and benefits for yourself and your loved ones. Whether you inherit a fortune, take out a new loan, close your business, or change your investment portfolio, your plan should be adjusted accordingly.

Count on us for guidance and support

You can count on The Law Office of Jordan W. Jacob as your Personal Family Lawyer® to ensure your estate plan is regularly reviewed and updated at all times. In fact, we have built-in processes to make sure this happens—be sure to ask us about them.

What’s more, rather than looking at the process as yet another task you have to accomplish, we encourage you to look at an annual review as a meaningful ritual that lets you see where your family has been and where you plan to go. No matter how you look at it, a regular review will put you at ease, knowing your family is protected and provided for no matter what happens. Contact Jordan today to schedule your review.

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Reclaim Your Role as Your Child’s Primary Influence – Part 2 https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/reclaim-your-role-as-your-childs-primary-influence-part-2/ https://www.jwjacoblaw.com/reclaim-your-role-as-your-childs-primary-influence-part-2/#respond Thu, 21 Feb 2019 10:53:26 +0000 https://jwjacoblaw.com/?p=1287 In the first part of this series, I discussed how today’s children are increasingly influenced more by their peers than their parents. In today’s society, the once-unbreakable bond between parent and child is being increasingly eroded. This disconnect is wreaking havoc on children’s psychological development, while making parents feel powerless to get through to their […]

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In the first part of this series, I discussed how today’s children are increasingly influenced more by their peers than their parents.

In today’s society, the once-unbreakable bond between parent and child is being increasingly eroded. This disconnect is wreaking havoc on children’s psychological development, while making parents feel powerless to get through to their kids.

In more than 20 years of work and research, world-renowned family physician and child-development expert Gabor Maté discovered that a mix of social, economic, and cultural changes following WWII are a leading factor in this detachment. These changes have made it difficult for parents to provide the level of attention and intimacy needed for their relationship with their kids to remain strong.

And to fill this void, children are increasingly turning to their peer group for role models and mentors—often with disastrous results.

“They [children] are not manageable, teachable, or maturing because they no longer take their cues from us,” says Maté. “Instead, children are being brought up by other immature children who cannot possibly guide them to maturity.”

Last week, we discussed how a lack of intimacy in the parent-child relationship has led kids to bond more intensely with their peers. Here, in Part 2, we will look at the devastating effects these peer-centered relationships can have, and how parents can reclaim their role as the main influence in their children’s lives.

The crisis of the young

For evidence of just how unhealthy it can be when a child’s relationship with his or her peers matters more than the relationship they have with their parents, Maté points to the dramatic rise in violence, suicide, and mass shootings among today’s youth.

“The crisis of the young has manifested ominously in the growing problem of bullying in the schools and, at its very extreme, in the murder of children by children,” says Maté. “Such tragedies are only the most visible eruptions of a widespread malaise, an aggressive streak rife in today’s youth culture.”

Maté found that in the vast majority of childhood suicides, the key trigger was how the children were treated by their peers, not their parents. When kids consider acceptance from their peers as their primary source of fulfillment, rejection and bullying can be utterly Earth-shattering.

“The more peers matter,” says Maté, “the more children are devastated by the insensitive relating of their peers, by failing to fit in, by perceived rejection or ostracization.”

While youth bullying and violence are certainly nothing new, Maté believes the expanding influence of the Internet and social media makes today’s kids far more vulnerable.

“Technology and social media, which are very much geared and marketed toward strengthening the peer culture, give kids an additional power to do each other significant emotional harm,” says Maté.

The missing element

Outside of the obvious reasons why peers make terrible parenting substitutes, the crucial element missing from peer relationships is unconditional love.

“Absolutely missing in peer relationship is unconditional love and acceptance, the desire to nurture, the ability to extend oneself for the sake of the other, the willingness to sacrifice for the growth and development of the other,” says Maté.

Unconditional love is the most potent force in the parent-child bond, laying the foundation for the relationship’s strength, intimacy, and influence. Without unconditional love, the parenting relationship becomes no different than any other.

Just about anyone is capable of caring for another person as long as they fulfill their expectations. But outside of marriage, the family—chiefly, the parents—is typically the only source for this critically important factor.

Maté notes that some of today’s common disciplinary techniques can unintentionally signal to the child that parental love is only available if certain conditions are met. As an example, Maté explains how putting a child who’s throwing a tantrum into timeout can make it feel like the parent’s attention and love are merely conditional.

“Timeout withdraws your relationship from the child,” says Maté. “They learn they are only acceptable to you if they please you. The relationship is seen as unstable and unreliable because it’s showing them you’re not available for them when they’re most upset.”

While this example is quite literal, Maté says that any behavior or action by the parent that threatens to undermine the unconditional nature of the parent-child relationship can be harmful. Without the underlying trust that their parents will be there for them no matter what, a children’s primary source of safety and trust becomes a source of insecurity.

When kids are in a state of insecurity, it is easy for them to become defensive and enter into fight or flight mode. This makes them extremely difficult to communicate with, much less develop the level of intimacy needed for a close parental bond to form.

Reclaim your influence

To prevent children from seeking attachment from outside sources, Maté says parents must make their kids an offer that is too good to refuse.

“Our challenge as parents is to provide an invitation that’s too desirable to turn down, a loving acceptance that no peer can provide,” says Maté.

Rather than resorting to special parenting techniques, Maté stresses that the best thing parents can do to become closer with their kids is to simply take pleasure in being with them.

“A real relationship with kids doesn’t depend on words; it depends on the capacity to be with them,” says Maté. “Welcome their presence with your body language and energy. Express delight in the child’s very being.”

And your most challenging job as a parent is to do this even when they are pushing your every button, as all kids inevitably do.

No matter how your children are behaving, consider a way to show them that they are loved and accepted unconditionally. This may go against everything you learned from your parents, but consider doing it anyway. And if you find this particularly difficult, take Mate’s advice and think back about what you would have really wanted from your own parents in such a situation.

“The ultimate gift is to make a child feel invited to exist in your presence exactly as he or she is at the moment,” says Maté. “Children must know they’re wanted, special, valued, appreciated, and enjoyed. For children to fully receive this invitation, it needs to be genuine and unconditional.”

When children get this level of acceptance, they naturally desire to become closer with whomever is offering it. Rather than fearing or being threatened by their parents, children want to be with them. They want to follow them.

Once this unconditional relationship is established and/or restored, Maté says that parents will be able to parent intuitively.

“If we know how to be with our children and whoto be for them, we need much less advice on what to do,” says Maté. “Practical parenting approaches emerge spontaneously from our own experience. We don’t have to resort to techniques or manuals—we act from understanding and empathy.”

Express your love with estate planning

Estate planning is one of your chief responsibilities as a parent, but it is also one of the greatest expressions of your unconditional love. You can use estate planning to show your children that you love them unconditionally, that you are here for them no matter what, and you can even begin to involve them in the process right now to varying degrees depending on their age.

Indeed, the planning process itself can be an opportunity to enhance your connection with your kids. Communicating clearly about what you want to happen in the event of your incapacity or death (and talking with your children about what they want) can foster a deeper bond and sense of intimacy than just about anything else you can do.

Though such conversations can feel awkward, as your Personal Family Lawyer®, I can help guide and support you in having these intimate discussions in an age-and-stage appropriate way with your children. My clients consistently share that after undergoing our estate planning process, they feel a deeper sense of connection with their children.

While estate planning is not likely to completely fix your relationship with your kids, it can be an important first step in regaining that all-important sense of intimacy and trust Maté describes. Contact me today to learn more.

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