Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Time is Estate Planning Time

Happy Holidays!

Yes, it's that time of year again, it happens every year, the holidays are upon us with Thanksgiving this coming Thursday.

If you follow my articles you know that I have written many times about the holidays also being estate planning time. In this article, we'll explore how that happens.

Estate planning attorneys notice what times of year that clients want to discuss and do wills and their estate plans. I have tracked this for the past 33 years. Generally from near the end of October until the end of January is the time. That tracks exactly with the holidays.

I have asked many clients about this and always the same answers come back. "Well, the holidays are time for family, and in thinking about my family I want to make sure they are protected, so let's get that estate plan done". There are many variations on this theme, yet the theme is always the same.

This is why I say, holidays = family time and family time = estate planning time. This led to a series of articles I began years ago about gifts we give at the holidays. The best gift of all we can give to our families is the gift of peace and security and the best way to give that gift is through your estate plan. You may notice me asking every year if you have given the gift of a current estate plan to your family. In fact, I'll ask you again here, have you given your family the gift of a current will or estate plan?

Since so few adults in the U.S. have a current will or estate plan, it is my goal to motivate people to protect themselves and families through the gift of estate planning.

What besides family do the holidays make you think about? Let us know and please join our conversation by commenting or by sending us an email. We wish you and your families the happiest of Thanksgivings this and every year.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Identity Theft After Death!

How To Prevent Identity Theft After Death:

As con-artists and scammers search for new targets, they have extended their nefarious activities to our deceased loved ones and friends. Identity theft of people who have died is now not just limited to Chicago, it is a world wide problem.

Estate planning attorneys offer several steps to clients to help avoid and prevent identity theft. When you are working with your estate planning attorney, make sure you cover this topic.

This article: How to Prevent After Death ID Theft published by the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys has several important and effective steps to follow.

Let us know your thoughts by joining our conversation on estate planning topics and issues. Your contribution is welcome.

Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg

Friday, September 12, 2014

Introduction to Estate Planning: A Course for Consumers Chapter 5 How to Select an Estate Planning Attorney

Chapter 5: How to Locate and Select a Qualified Estate Planning Attorney

When we started this journey into the world of estate planning, we began to learn how to approach estate planning, certain concepts about wills and other documents and why estate planning is unique to each client. Here in Chapter 5 we discuss how to select a qualified estate planning attorney to assist you with your estate plan.

Selecting a qualified estate planning specialist is important for the following reasons:

  1. While many attorneys will do a will or power of attorney for you, they may not be specializing in the field of estate planning. Not being a specialist limits the attorney's skill set and prevents you from the benefits of the advice of a qualified expert.
  2. Working with a specialist gives you the best chance to get it right the first time. For example, would you let your dentist do your heart surgery? The idea is to treat attorneys the same as doctors; deal with the right specialist for the job at hand. Here is an article I wrote on this very topic that illustrates this point: Dealing with Specialists in Estate Planning As you will learn in ths chapter, not only is dealing a specialist attorney important to your family and you, there are simple steps to follow so you can find the right one.
  3. Learn the process of choosing the right estate planning attorney. Many people mistakenly rely on a referral service such as you might have in your community. These lists are dangerous and usually hazardous to your estate plan. Referral lists are usually paid services that charge people to be listed. They do not vet the people they list and this permits someone with no true expertise and experience to call themselves an estate planner when, in fact, they are not. When you follow the steps laid out below, you can steer clear of these problems.

These images show an estate planning meeting in progress. Here are the steps these people used to find their estate planning attorney:

1. Interview and ask for referral from other professionals.

One of the best ways to locate an estate planning specialist is to ask around. Ask your CPA, your banker, your life insurance agent. Professionals know who the experts are and getting referrals from other professionals you already trust is a good starting point.

Interview each person. Insist on a free consultation via phone before you make an appointment. Remember that your estate planning meeting will usually have a charge, so do those phone consultations first.

2. Insist on real estate planning experience and expertise.

As mentioned above, do not use or rely on any referral listing service, radio or TV or internet ads. The attorney you speak with should have, at a minimum the following qualifications:

A. Full time estate planning specialization for at least the last 7 consecutive years. Estate planning is not an area for part timers or people who wear other hats.

B. Membership in the State Bar Association Trust and Estate Section.

C. An AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the international attorney rating service. These ratings are peer ratings and cannot be purchased by the attorney. The AV rating is the highest rating for ability and professionalism an attorney can achieve.

While these qualifications are not difficult to have, you should insist on them when you are choosing your estate planning attorney.

3. Have a clear understanding before beginning how the attorney bills and the time frame for completion of your estate plan.

As we are exploring in this book, there are several integrated steps in every client's estate plan. Make sure you are clear what those steps will be for you, how many meetings to expect, the time frame for the process and each step, what your homework between each meeting is, and how the attorneys fees and costs will work.

Once you have selected your estate planning attorney and understand the process for your estate plan, it is time to begin. In our next chapter, we start our discussion of the components of every estate plan and begin to dissect the tools of estate planning such as wills, trusts and related documents.

I hope you are enjoying this book on estate planning. Since the book is published in this interactive format, we are able to adjust our content as we proceed based on your comments. Please feel free to comment and offer suggestions as they are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Bernie Greenberg