Estate Planning 101: Starting to Put Your Ducks In a Row
By: Lorri Gifford
Before we get started on this month’s topic I’d like to ask… what is the last gift that you gave to yourself that made you feel special. If it takes you more then ten seconds to answer this I invite you to do something for yourself that makes you feel that way. For me, buying myself fresh flowers makes me feel special. Yesterday while at the grocery store I purchased some Oriental Lilies. Every time I look at them it makes me happy. I love watching them open and I love the way that they smell. I have walked over to them at least a half a dozen times so far and closed my eyes and inhaled.
When we fall into the “lack” mentality or start to worry about “never having enough”, we are energetically contracted. It is during those times we need to recognize that and remind ourselves that the reason we feel this way is because we are forgetting our connection to something greater (a God source). Once we have that awareness it is time to do something that creates a moment of expansion in our life so that we can feel the connection again.
When you go to that space of lack or worry about the next paycheck or even the future of the economy, just take a breath. Remember it is not just on you and your shoulders. It is when we think or begin to think that we have to do it all on our own that we have forgotten that there is Divine Support and all we have to do is ask.
Part of it involves remembering that and then surrendering your fears to your God source and being present to whatever is in the moment.
So sometime today I invite you to give something back to your inner child, to you. Create some expansion and reconnect to your Divine Source. Once you start to feel your heart expanding enjoy the feeling and allow the abundance to flow into and through you. By practicing receiving on this small level you are preparing yourself to receive all that the universe has to offer you.
In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play. ~Friedrich Nietzsche
Once you have a commitment to practice receiving you can then think about giving. It is when we take time to fill ourselves up that we can more richly give back to those that we care about. Take a moment now and close your eyes and envision what you would like to leave to those that you care about when your time on this planet has come to an end. Maybe you will take a snapshot of your current possessions or maybe this inspires you to acquire more possessions.
If you were to die today what would you leave to those that you care about?
Last month we began talking about Estate Planning. Just a recap for those of you just tuning in: Estate planning is the process of arranging for the dispersal of your property, belongings and monies once you die. I know, not a pleasant topic of conversation but a necessary one. A good Estate Plan basically insures that your wishes are followed regarding who gets what and when.
This month we are going to talk more in depth about Wills and Revocable Living Trusts. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Hart, Attorney and owner of The Hart Law Group, P.C. regarding this topic. Once again a whole new world opened up to me in the process of exploring a topic for this column.
Mary was the perfect person to talk to because of her extensive background in this field. For over 21 years, she has represented a broad cross-section of clients in a variety of matters including wills, trusts, estate and gift tax planning (including estate planning for family owned businesses and large estates), long term care planning, trust and estate administration and litigation, guardianship matters, income taxation, commercial and residential real estate law (including §1031 exchanges, real estate closings, and lease/contract negotiations), construction law, contract law, and business law. Mary holds licenses to practice law in North Carolina and Alaska.
During her career, Mary has been asked to speak at numerous events on topics such as estate planning, asset protection planning, and corporate and business matters and numerous Wills and Estate Planning and Disability Seminars. Mary has a specific interest in empowering people to protect their loved ones and plan for death and disability.
Most importantly Mary talks to you at whatever level of understanding you have.
As I mentioned earlier, the interview focused on the beginning components of the Basic Estate Package and the difference between a Will and a Revocable Living Trust. The information I am about to share with you is essential if you want to make sure that your wishes are followed after you die.
Basic Estate Package:
***In some cases:
Hospital Visit Authorization Form
Revocable Living Trust
In most cases all of the components within an Estate Package can be prepared at the same time. One of the common misconceptions of preparing a plan is that it’s expensive. Often, the average cost of an Estate Plan Package ranges from $550-$3500. The higher ranges generally include Estate Tax Planning.
“You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why it’s important to at least have a consultation with an Estate Planning Attorney or educate yourself on this process.” ~Mary Hart, Attorney and owner of The Hart Law Group, P.C.
When I asked at what age or under what circumstances it was suggested a person write a will I was surprised at the answer. Mary suggested that when an individual is of a legal age (18) they should write one, even if it’s simple.
The next issue we talked about was the common misconceptions people have about preparing a will. The three we talked about are listed below:
Misconception #1: It’s complicated. Not true, attorneys have software for preparing a will and the process is pretty straightforward.
Misconception #2: It can be done on-line first and then an attorney can look over it. On-line sources like Legal Zoom only ask the first layer of questions necessary when preparing a will. They do not ask the important follow-up questions or details of a person’s unique situation and provide for the “what ifs.”
Legal Zoom is not going to ask the organic questions and discern what you really want done. ~Mary Hart
When someone does one online and then takes it to an attorney, it actually takes more time to edit and more attorney time translates into more cost to the client
Misconception #3: People believe that if they are married their property will automatically go to their spouse. This is not always the case. For example, if a spouse without a will dies and owns a home, the state will also have a say in the matter. There is a possibility that the surviving spouse will get the home and there is also the possibility that it could be split between the surviving spouse and other family members
Once we finished talking about writing a Will the topic of a Revocable Living Trust came up.
Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well. ~Josh Billing
A WILL Verses A REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST:
Will: A Will dictates how assets pass at the death of an individual. Anything owned in separate name of that individual will go to the person named in the will. If there is joint ownership with right of survivorship or a designated beneficiary, these will supersede the Will. A will has to go through probate and this can take anywhere from six months to two years.
Revocable Living Trust: An individual sets up a Revocable Living Trust during their life and the assets are transferred into it at this time, and titled accordingly. A Revocable Trust is a way to bypass probate. (The six-month to two-year waiting period a Will goes through.) Think of The Trust like a “box” that holds a bunch of assets. The assets are “owned” by The Trust. The “Trust” is the puppet and the “Trustee” manages the Trust.
Below are four examples of how something is titled at the time of a person’s death and how it will be dispersed:
A house with a deed titled in name of Lorri Gifford: will go through probate to the person named in the will.
A house with deed titled in name of Lorri Gifford as Trustee of Lorri Gifford Trust: At time of death, the trustee can sign the property over, this avoids probate and passes to the person named by the terms of the trust
A house with deed titled in name of Lorri Gifford and John Smith as Joint Tenants with right of survivorship: When Lorri or John die, the property goes to the survivor. This property will not go through probate.
A house with deed titled in name of Lorri Gifford and John Smith as Tenants in common. ½ of the House would be viewed as a separate asset and go into probate.
Because of the way the house was “titled” in case #1 and #4, the house will go into probate. In example #2 and #3, the house was titled in such a way to avoid going into probate. Depending on your particular wishes, which is a better fit for you? A Will? A Revocable Living Trust? Or Both? If you have any questions regarding this I would suggest that you consult an Estate Attorney.
Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there.
What you choose to do with them is up to you. ~Richard Bach
Mary was able to shed some light on some other FAQ’s regarding Estate Planning:
Once a will has been written, how often should it be updated?
Whenever circumstances & desires change. Once a year or every other year it is important to review it.
What is the difference between the executor of an estate and someone that has been granted power of attorney?
POA is in effect while a person is still living. When a person dies POA is no longer needed. An executor takes care of the estate after a death.
Are people generally aware or informed when they have been named executor of an estate or granted power of attorney?
Usually this is communicated to the person named. Sometimes it isn’t.
If the executor that is named has died what then?
Hopefully an alternate is named. Otherwise there is an application process and an order of priority according to the statutes in that state
What are some reasons a will may be revoked?
A person has changed their mind and written a new will. New will trumps old and automatically revokes it.
Anyone can contest a will for the following reasons: fraud, duress, undue influence, or incompetency.
If property that has been left still has a mortgage on it or a loan has payments due, who is responsible?
The person who inherits the house is responsible from the date of death.
Reasons for naming Power of Attorney?
Whenever the need arises for someone to act on your behalf: health incapacitation, traveling and out of the country, unreachable.
Can the person with Power of Attorney go against the mandates in a living will?
If an attorney retires what happens to my documents?
Someone in his or her office would handle it.
Until I started asking questions about writing a Will, I was not even aware that something like a Revocable Living Trust existed. There are so many layers to the process of Estate Planning. And it really is important to do some research on it to insure that your wishes are followed after your death.
I am grateful for the information that Mary shared with me and one of the things I liked best about her was the attention that she pays to her inner child. A testament to the importance of fun and expansion is the video posted on her website. Visit www.thehartlawgroup.com and watch it. It’s guaranteed to make you smile.
One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter. ~Lewis Carroll
Lorri Gifford has been reading Tarot Cards since 1986. While living in California, she worked at The Chopra Center for Well-being as their Spa Director and a Lead Educator. In 2009 her intuition guided her to move to Asheville. Lorri enjoys writing, giving readings, coaching and helping others develop and deepen their intuition. She can be reached at www.readingswithlorri.com or 828.505.4485